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The Unperfekthaus

The Unperfekthaus, or an imperfect house, is a converted Franciscan nunnery in Essen Mitte, the heart of Essen. It has been around since 1997 and has over 70 rooms ready for your creative use and perusal. Unfortunately, so far, I've only used it for the free wireless internet. I remember the day my flatmate, using broken English, was having a hard time explaining about it. She told me that I can go into the house, with my laptop and work from there for a nominal fee. I would also have access to non-alcoholic beverages and warm drinks. Translation: An unlimited supply of coffee. It sounded quite insane, but interesting. When I got there, and asked for admission, the guy in a green hoodie at the reception said - "If you only want to use wireless internet, you can go to Wohnraum, the restaurant-cafe, order something, and work from there." So that's exactly what I did. I ordered a large Milchcaffee, checked my email and chatted to my friends back home. Until, of course my laptop battery ran out, which as you know is not enough time to write a good node.

This continued for the following few months. On rainy Saturdays, when I didn't feel like going to the Design Zentrum just to use the net, I would head down to Unperfekthaus and surf from there. The food's great too, by the way.

So, what is Unperfekthaus anyway? And what's with the name?

Reinhard Wiesemann, the founder of UpH had noted that once a place becomes popular and hence taken over by boutiques and cafes, the creative pioneers tend to leave. He wanted to create space which keeps this so-called level of perfection down to a certain degree - high enough for the project to be financially viable, yet low enough to keep the free minds interested. The house's main source of income is from visitors' fees. You pay 5.50 Euros for a day entrance and are you are free to wander any room as you please. or, you could enter the room for free as an artist as long as you allow visitors to oversee your work. Visitors can troll around, watch a band rehearsing for an upcoming gig, talk to a computer geek finishing a difficult piece of code or get a massage for an extra fee. It is a true springboard for creativity, which works from both ends - artists get to showcase their work, while visitors get to watch art being made. Thus, the house always wins.

Once the project is completed, the now established entrepreneur, artist or group should be financially able to continue rehearsals/services elsewhere. Normally... well, at least here in Malta, centres for creativity work the other way around. They are mostly exhibition spaces - the artist works on his designs in a private space and then exhibits the work on completion. The UpH does not attempt to repeat this service, which can be found in many different places such as church halls or school auditoria. UpH will encourage and support most projects, as long as they are innovative and legal.

In this sense, it is really a museum of sorts which sometimes is transformed into a lively bar atmosphere at night.

Their main philosophy is a combination of capitalism and cultural community gain. In matters of creativity, altruism and self-interest should work hand in hand. Although they do not state this explicitally, this works out to be a good criticism of the EU's cultural policy - they do not believe that money should be just thrown at projects. On the other hand, perspiration in combination with inspiration will bear fruit. The free services offered to members, or project leaders is massive. Tools and artists' materials are scattered round the place for you to experiment with. UpH will provide, upon request, free advertising of your project on their website, use of the scrap yard as well as limited use of a telephone and coffee machine. One may also request overnight accommodation, at an extra charge. They only ask that you leave used rooms as you found them i.e. keep the room and its contents clean and intact.

What about Wohnraum? The design of this place is dreamy and eclectic. The artwork on the walls frequently changes, since it is also for sale. There is an exciting mixture of colours, chairs, tables and coffee tables without looking too overdone. My favourite area is a remote little nook in ice white and bright green which overlooks other patrons. Wohnraum boasts an original Art-o-mat by A. i. C. i.e. a converted cigarette vending machine which now sells miniature works of art. Wrapped in cellophane.

The only downside is that the house is only open from 10am - 10pm. The website states that if the project ever really takes off financially, then they will consider opening it 24 hours a day.

I don't know, guys - sound familiar?

Friedrich Ebert STR. 18, Essen 45127, www.unperfekthaus.de

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