55 Great Suffolk Street

In London, one of the most expensive cities in the world, there are 72.000 empty houses, often due to land speculation. England is one of the few countries, in which it is legal to squat empty buildings. We wanted to take advantage of this legal loophole in order to reinterpret this situation and structure of the city itself.

We squatted a house!

While in Berlin, we used google streetview to locate empty buildings in London, then created a map we could
then use upon arrival to quickly find a place to stay. In the end, we had an archive of empty buildings, which served as the basis for our further projects. Our aim was to activate the un- or underused potential of these buildings.
We tested our own utopia in a Victorian warehouse, that has been empty for more than 25 years without running water or power, by adapting the available space and free resources to our needs. Diving into a unknown world, we explored a theoretical construct, beginning with the reality of living an unfamiliar lifestyle – without conventional shelter, guided by our curiosity and leaving behind many of the habits of modern day society.
Our existence in the house at 55 great Suffolk st. was assured if not a bit uncertain at the beginning. The internal world began to open outward only after our presence as squatters was confirmed by a visit from London’s finest police officers. The border between the house and the city, between the private and the public began to disappear.

We had the right to stay!

In need of defending ourselves at Lambeth County Court (22.06.2012) because of an interim possession order (IPO) from the landlord (Mr Beaumont), our utopia entered the legal world of the British justice system. A name to represent us was quickly found. Guerilla Architects were born. 

Mr Beaumont claimed his supposed intentions to build new apartments on the site. Nevertheless, our lawyer (Mr Zapel) was able to present our analysis of 55GSS that showed that the property had already been empty for about 25 years. Our proposal to reclaim the old warehouse and open up the discussion of its future use in the neighbourhood was eventually more convincing. The fact that the landlord had denied us access to decisive documents that showed that the property was partly owned by the municipality undoubtfully facilitated our cause. These documents also became the basis of our final art show that featured local and our own art work in response to the legal and political restrictions of 55GSS.

55GSS revisited!

In November 2017, we visited the site again to update ourselves with the latest 
(re-)developments. The hope was not great that the site had actually changed. Unfortunately, these worries were very right and 55GSS stayed empty until the end of 2017 (at least). However, the backyard has become part of a construction site. It was occupied with huge scaffolds that supported the neighbouring building which was turned down and about to become a luxurious apartment tower…

Team

  • Sophie Fetten
  • Anja Fritz
  • Silvia Gioberti
  • Tobias Hattendorff
  • Denica Indzova
  • Henriette Lütcke
  • Nike Kraft
  • Benedikt Stoll
  • Lucie Waschke
  • Eric Zapel

with

  • Pablo Wendel

London

  • 2012