Recently I was in London for the weekend with a few friends and we needed to be put up for the night. A friend of a friend said he had enough space at his and that we could crash there.
Apparently he had loads of room and so we hopped into the car and headed over to the postcode he had given.It was about 1.30am as we got out of the car we found ourselves outside a huge warehouse. A few minutes later Rich, who lived there, came trundling around the corner on his Boris Bike, flashing us a cheeky smile.
“Here it is”, he said gesturing to the building. “Give me a sec to get in and then I can let you in the back”.
Moments later we were in and wandering around. What hit me first was its school like structure with its numbered doors, labelled bathrooms and multiple staircases. His room was fairly spacious and having set our bags down there, Rich took us on a quick tour around.
And there it was – the space that took up the majority of the building – a massive empty hall stretching on and on – so big that our voices echoed.
“I can’t believe you actually live here.” Someone said to Rich, staring in wide-eyed wonder.
It turns out that his accommodation was organised under the Property Guardian Scheme that allowed people to live in buildings such as this for low rent in order to deter squatters and vandals and for basic maintenance of the property. This particular building used to be an archive of some sort but now, as all of the materials had been removed, a vast open space in the middle of the building was all that remained.
Most of the room was empty but here and there were various animal sculptures crafted out of various materials, which only added to the surreal feel of the whole place. They belonged to an artist that lived there - one of around 12 other tenants none of whom we saw for the entire time we were there.
We made our way past the felt elephants and fibreglass crocodiles to a lounge area – and sat down on sofas to relax in conversation for a bit and put on some music from a stack of old community records that were piled and shelved in one corner.
“Lets go up to the roof”, someone suggested.
“Sure”, said Rich and we followed him up a flight of stairs.
There, on the floor above, was another massive open hall exactly like the one on the floor below – causing us to wig out all over again. We found out that there was yet another similar room in the basement level. What was someone to do with all this space? Having lived in modest accommodation for most of my life this was very exciting for me.
At the top of the stairs we exited to an outer walkway and then came to a metal ladder affixed to the side of the building. Rich had gone back to get something and so my companions and myself proceeded to climb the ladder and went up on to the roof. The London night sky lay before us, clear and twinkling. It was exhilarating.
Somewhere in a different part of the roof a hatch opened and Rich climbed out and joined us. We sat at the edge of the building for a little while, not too close edge - as there was just a sheer drop and looking down would result in that funny feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Before settling down for the evening, we checked out the basement room and ended up turning the lights out and playing with a glow in-the-dark Frisbee. Come on, you know you would too.
24 July 2011