What’s next after boxXshop 2013?

BoxXshop 2013 by onahazymorning.com

BIG THANKS to all the boxxshoppers, especially for those who helped to build it up and down!
I couldn’t imagine that boxxshop would happen again this year, until Eliane jumped out to help organizing the event. This year, all the boxes looked really beautiful and charming, and I hope you all had a good time meeting people besides selling.

Every year after the event, I always had lots of reflections. When boxxshop was first launched in 2011, this small scale, handmade xmas market was still quite unique, offering products that people can’t find in the normal markets (you can also watch this short video about our original idea). In shortly two years, ‘creative markets’ have become a hype and online shops were also fast growing stimulated by the online marketplaces, such as Etsy. With so many xmas markets popping up every year, what else can we offer to people then just selling products?

I think these days people don’t want to be ‘the consumers’ only. Facts show that more and more people are actively involving in the production process; it happened in the food industry as well as in the design industry. If I may fantasize about the next event, it would focus more on the ‘process of making’ rather than the ‘end product’. This is what interests me most in all my projects, to connect people back to the production process so we can together shape the future economy!!

And you? What is your say about boxxshop? Tell me more about your idea, or simply leave a comment here.

(Thank you On a Hazy Morning for your lovely photos!)

(Thank you Marieke van den Boogaard for your lovely iphone photos!)



Dear curious readers,

It has been a shameful long time since my last blog post. Yes, there are many reasons, and now I’m going to tell you…

Besides Nest Project, I have been dedicating to Architecture In Development – an initiative that aims to contribute new ways of thinking and working in architecture practice and sustainable development. This is a non-profit & user-generated knowledge platform that welcomes everybody to share information about architecture related to the local contexts. In order to scale our impact, we are busy developing the next platform(s), including a crowdfunding website to make funding easier for the emerging independent architecture practices.

To be financially sustainable, my partner (both in crime and in life) and I decided to create a bed & breakfast (b&b) in our house. Since April 2012, our b&b is up and running and is, in fact, the thankful sponsor for all our independent projects. You can find our b&b Amstel Nest at these websites: Wimdu, Airbnb and Housetrip

In July 2012, my second child Lok was born. In September 2012, I decided to launch the 2nd edition boxXshop supported by Lloyd Hotel Cultural Embassy. Since then, It has been very intense period, and even I haven’t been able to write down some words and share some photos after the event.

So, besides all the above projects: the other big project is Bodie (2yrs old), the big sister of Lok (6mnds old). Together, they have great impact on our life and work, and are currently consuming most of my time.

So how about 2013? I was asked to contribute to another blog as well as another new website initiative; meanwhile I’d like to involve the participants to co-develop boxXshop edition III and make it a real collaborative project…all in all, there’ll be hardly any time for me to contribute to Nest Project’s blog…

Well, let’s see how it goes and please feed me news via Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook related to #TemporaryUseOfSpace #SharingEconomy #CollaborativeConsumption #bottomUp and any cool urban initiatives. I look forward to learn from you!

Hotel the Exchange – Amsterdam’s new creative nest

Left side is the OPTIONS! design store from Hotel the Exchange.

Lloyd hotel’s second endeavor, Hotel the Exchange, has recently opened its door in the center of Amsterdam. It’s literally located in the center that is notorious for its touristic café, snack bars, restaurants and souvenir shops. Many locals tend to avoid this hasty & noisy tourists’ spot, though it does have very special charm of quirkiness. Besides those low-profile hotels, there are many hidden surprises such as rooftop sauna, introverted restaurants (without street entrance) and many abandoned-, vacant- upper floor spaces waiting for the future to come.

In the past, there have been many attempts trying to intervene this area or to activate these vacant floors, but the long-term procedure (resulted from the urban legislation, the monumental law and etc.) has discouraged many initiatives. So how did Lloyd Hotel make Hotel the Exchange happen within half an year?

The first Lloyd Hotel is transformed from a former emigrant hotel, successfully creating a new cultural spot by mixing a design hotel with event spaces. Then Lloyd has launched a temporary hotel in Tokyo – Llove Hotel. After these challenges, Lloyd Hotel’s next ambition is to be the cultural catalyst for not only a marginal neighborhood and abroad, but also for the center of Amsterdam. So they acquired the second property without any hesitation when those 3 buildings on Damrak became available.

A snapshot from google map showing the former Damrak hotel and the building front were covered by signs and winter gardens.

The facade of the 3 buildings are refreshed by Hotel the Exchange, with higher ground floor spaces.

It seems impossible to connect 3 historical buildings into one (which is in conflict with the monumental law), but the possibility has been quitely created by the history. First of all, these 3 different-looking buildings, have actually already been connected by the former owner to create 2 hotels. This explains why Hotel the Exchange could be undertaken within a rather short period of time – without going through the process of negotiating with the monumental law and of changing the destination of use (e.g. from ‘housing’ to ‘hotel’). Another possibility created by the history is the entrance hallway – a ‘shaft of light’ that allows daylight to fall into this narrow corridor next to a snack bar. Tracing back to the historical drawings, it has been found out that there used to be an alleyway in the 17th century, which has been ‘swallowed’ by the building later. So eventually the city is happy to see the alleyway brought back by Hotel the Exchange.

Entrance is next to a snack bar.

In the light shaft looking towards the entrance - this was used to be an alleyway before.

Hotel the Exchange has created 61 rooms, café STOCK and one design store OPTIONS! all within 3 small building blocks. The arrangement of the rooms were mostly adapted from the 2 former hotels, though the interior has become more ‘porous’ by removing some rooms and creating internal windows. Other than most of the low-budget hotels that tend to block the views towards outside, Hotel the Exchange has revealed the views to Damrak as well as to the inner courtyard. Both views exposed more chaos rather than romance of the city, but have allowed spectators to reality-check the center of Amsterdam, which has been decaying and is now asking for more attentions and creative solutions to re-generate.

Hotel the Exchange has brought back the double height ground floor space in order to create Stock café.

Inside the OPTIONS! design store.

So will Hotel the Exchange be the catalyst for change for Amsterdam’s center? And how? It is clear that they are spreading slowly the spider web in this area…we will not have to wait for too long to hear Lloyd’s next surprises!


I’ve like to thank Lloyd Hotel who shared their experiences and offered me a great guided tour through their buildings. Above story is based on the interview with Suzanne Oxenaar, who together with Otto Nan have initiated Lloyd Hotel, Llove Hotel & Hotel the Exchange.

Pop-up! Creative use of niche spaces #2

In 2011, I have posted an article with the same title. Together with another article Rent A Shelf and start up a collaborative pop-up shop, they were the most visited posts last year. In 2012, I’d like to look at the term Pop-up not only from the trendy retailing examples but also those improvisational, informal and temporary cases spotted in Taiwan.

////// case one ////// sharing shop spaces or occupying pedestrian area //////
In Taiwanese urban context, sharing spaces is actually triggered by many private shop renters who use the space to make extra profit. Imagine a retail shop owner who rents a space for 1000 euro/ month, and then share the shop space with other two sub-renters who pay 500 euro/ month each. In this way, they share the initial investment & risks, and could possibly attract more customers.

In Taipei: two food vendors share one storefront.

The idea to generate more income is so attractive that many shop renters even claim the pedestrian zone and rent them to other street food venders. In the picture below you can see: the shop owner has moved out to become the street vendor (where the red arrow is pointing), in order to rent the storefront to another shop. He even rents out the pedestrian zone to another street food vender.

You can see the shop owner occupies the left corner outside of the storefront, and another food vender rents the pedestrian zone in front of the shop.

Occupy the pedestrian zone.

In the picture above, you can see the owner of the convenient store (which opens 24 hours) has also rented the pedestrian zone to other vendors during the day.

The above mentioned examples actually get media attention only when they are being spotted as illegal business, and are considered as planning defect. Though on the other hand, they have created shared value by intensifying the use of the space.

////// case two ////// pop-up sales and temporary stores in vacant spaces ////////
Far before Pop-up has become a trend, there were already temporary shops filling up the vacant retail stores in the cities. This kind of pop-up stores, or temporary outlets were emerged out of an economic situation: in the time of bad economy, retailers could save money on interior decoration and quickly clear their stock; property owners could profit from short-term tenants rather than leaving the space vacant.

Picture source: urbanphoto.net, by K.Y. Cheng

One of Urbanphoto’s article, Temporary Stores Thrive as Others Fade, has looked at this kind of temporary shops in the context of Hong Kong:

“Since many retailers signed contracts at the top of the market one or two years ago, rents remain high and so does the potential for bankruptcy. When shops go out of business, landlords are faced with a few options: bide their time by keeping the space empty, slash rents, or play host to a temporary store that will help them cover costs until they find a new permanent tenant.”

////// case 3 ////// social selling and the collaborative shop //////
A recent article in The Pop-up city has mentioned Social Selling, predicting that it will become a growing trend in 2012. In Taiwan, social selling or in another word collaborative shop, has been always a reality. Just around the corner of my parents’ apartment in Taipei, I’ve spotted a tea shop (1m x 1m space) nested in a bike store.

For a start-up business, a small-, affordable- space at a prominent location is all that it needs. For many online business, renting a small space together with others as a show point or just popping up at various locations – seem to be more effective than occupying a big high-street storefront. It’s exciting to see this happening in world-wide cities – private initiatives and non-profit organizations are starting to share retail, working or restaurant spaces. By making the spaces more shareable for multiple, mixed or temporary use, the value of spaces can thus be intensified and multiplied.

In my next post, I’ll share some international cases where collaborative shops are created with more social or non-for-profit approaches.

Ending note: I’d like to thank Boundary Unlimited who has inspired me a lot about Asian informal urban development and brought my interest back to my own Taiwanese urban experience.

Pop-up shop manual by Caroline de Jager

After tweeting back and forth for an appointment, finally I met Caroline de Jager via Skype. Caroline is a very active entrepreneur who has been one of the earliest temporary shop (pop-up shop) initiators in Amsterdam, and then initiator of online matchmaking service for vacant properties and popup initiatives (popupsqure).

Besides these, she is now very involved in adaptive reuse of vacant urban properties, such as the latest initiative, BetaHuis in Heerlen.

Below is the story particularly on the hands-on experience she shared with me about operating temporary shops.

Few years back when Pop-up Shop (=temporary shop) not yet a buzz word in Amsterdam, Caroline had already the idea to start up a temporary shop. ‘I simply wanted to own a retail shop without mortgage, and to invest as little as possible. So take a vacant shop space and run a temporary store became the most logical choice’, she said. It was also the changing moment in the real estate market when the demand of retailers started to shift from larger spaces to smaller spaces.

Exterior of Gravenstraat 12

To launch a Pop-up shop is actually more about being an activist than having the idea. ‘My friend and I started to bike around the city, looking for a vacant storefront. If we found an interesting property, we would immediately approach the property owner and tried to promote our idea with a mood-board’. You also have to be blunt and stay flexible. Their strategy is: ‘We don’t want to pay you (property owner), but we would leave immediately as soon as you find your tenant’. Sometimes they spent endless calls and visits to catch the property owner, but usually the owners agreed and sometime even gave the key immediately. Caroline explained to me still with great enthusiasm about one of their Pop-up stores, located at Gravenstraat Amsterdam. ‘That was a fabulous storefront and location, where we were told to stay for 3 weeks but eventually extended to 6 months. Our temporary shop has definitely attracted more potential tenants, so the property owner was very pleased with us.’

"We don't pay you, but we will leave immediately after you find the tenant"

"Interior? Keep it simple because you don't know when you need to leave"

"Cardboard is a versatile & low-budget material to use for temporary store"

Concerning the restrictions of urban regulation, it seems that launching a Pop-up shop is much easier than we could imagine. When you are running a temporary retail store in a space that is designated as a retail space, then there’s not much to worry about. Then, I had to think about one of the events that I tried to launch in a retail space. At that time I proposed an event with cooking related activity in a forgotten Chinese shopping mall – catering in retail space – which brings up more conflicts with the urban regulations.

What makes me really interested in these temporary uses of space, is about being in between the informal model (squatting / occupying illegally vacant spaces) and the formal model (signing contract / paying legally as a tenant), being able to subvert the vacant urban properties and testing the market. But don’t forget – people still keep throwing and attending parties, markets, garage sales, auctions…besides, there are plenty of pop-ups as corporate marketing tool.

So what are the tips and lessons to make a genuine pop-up store? Perhaps it’s important to amplify the effects – effects on the location and on the vacant property – that your shop will create. Turning vacancy into a new possibility #subverting #re-inventing #being activist

Ready to start up your own pop-up? Get Caroline de Jager’s ‘Handbook: How to open a pop-up store’ by mailing to info@popupsquare.nl

Rent A Shelf and start up a collaborative pop-up shop

In my previous post about space sharing, I’ve mentioned the idea of flexible ownerships of a shop space; for example, anyone can sell/ promote products on a shop’s wall. It is a growing retail store concept – instead of investing a shop space by one’s own, more and more artists, designers and start-up retailers are investing together and become ‘temporary co-owners’ of a shop. This new trend of Owning a Shop Together not only helps the small, start-up retailers to invest less, but also creates great product varieties for the customers.

Onedayshop in Amsterdam. image source: popupcity.net

For example, Onedayshop is a furnished ‘vacant’ retail space open for short-term (1 day – 1 week) lease. A recent post by Pop-up city says:
For customers this initiative is great to test a brand’s products and to find out whether it would be a good idea to rent a shop on their own. Like with exhibitions, the opening party is the best moment to sell creative products, as the artist’s own network is present at that moment.

Here I’d like to share with you three other interesting retailing stores around the world. They are not necessarily representative; but they have all tried to create marketplaces that effectively connect individual sellers & buyers together. These are emerging retail spaces that are collaboratively run by individual sellers / temporary shop owners.

1. Tokyo Pass The Baton Vintage Shop:

Shop space of Pass The Baton in Omotesando, Tokyo.

Launched with an opening party together with an online webshop, some say it’s the best second-hand store of the world with a statement:

The modern marketplace contains a vast diversity of commercial products…….creating something new is a wonderful thing, but taking good care of an object that is already there can be magical.
Pass on your personal culture.
It’s a new way of recycling.

At Pass The Baton, you’ll find Items for sale presented not only by images, but also by a brief profile of the seller. Beyond the flea markets, this is a marketplace both physical and online for buyers and sellers to exchange their ‘personal culture’.

2. Singapore CACTUS Farm:
This is a good business model of boxXshop – as I have mentioned many times in my previous posts – a concept that prevails many Asian cities including Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taipei. It’s slogan: ‘get a prime location for $5.00 a day!’

Cactus cubic shop in Singapore.

For young designers, Cactus Farm an affordable and fully serviced retail space in a shopping mall to showcase their ideas and products. Together with other temporary co-owners, you can rent a cubic space for a reasonable fee (and for a short time) to test the market of your product!

3. Muenster / Munich Rent-a-shelf:
I came across this article ‘Rent-a-shelf: a new way to sell and advertise – including yourself’ that tells the new trend of Rent-a-shelf in Germany which was spotted by Pop-up city (yes, again!). I’m sure that there are more examples of Rent-a-shelf around the world, since it’s a more spontaneous action and might not be properly documented. Anyway, what’s interesting in this article, is about a young man who withdrew from facebook and rented a shelf in a shop to advertise himself as an available single. Do check this article which contains some good thoughts and interviews about these space-sharing initiatives in Germany. As the article says:

A simple shelf in a small store is really all a person needs to advertise and sell their products and services…
If you have a shop and would like to generate more flows and curiosities, why not share your shelf and create a collaborative pop-up shelf shop?

My space is also Your space: Space Sharing

This morning I came across the blog collaborative consumption (manifested as ‘What’s mine is Yours’) then I have chatted with a friend about P2P sharing cars, and besides I’m busy with pop-up store by using available boxes at Lloyd Hotel.

We will borrow these boxes from Lloyd Hotel

These seem like random topics but they all shake up the way we think about ownerships.

Gradually, we are creating new values to exchange services or properties – besides money. These days, more and more new initiatives are enabling everyone to share available resources with the others, and turning My properties into Our properties: examples like share un-used cars (ex. LiftShare), share spare spaces at home (ex. AirBnB), share vacant desks in the office (ex. deskwanted) or simply share working space together (ex. The Hub).

New off-line marketplaces or on-line platforms are stimulating flexible ownerships, and creating new opportunities by sharing. One interesting reference is this infographic: the Collaborative Home, posted by FastCo Design, reporting all the spared things you can share from home:

image source: FastCo Design

This flexible ownership of properties, is one of the major inspirations behind the initiative of pop-up store boxXshop. This is also what Nest Project aims to do – mobilize individual makers of arts and crafts by connecting them to available spaces. There are plenty of spaces left vacant or available to share in our cities. With the current web technology and mobile phone applications, it’s possible to enable any individual to launch a pop-up store spontaneously. Imagine that a shop owner can tag a piece of sharable space, such as a piece of wall. So people who received this push notification can walk in this shop and say “hi I want to sell this, can I hang it on the wall??”

Further reading:
1. Pop-Up Coworking: A Way To Work Anywhere (with interesting photos), published by Shareable.
2. Home-Sharing Programs Offer Longer-Term Housing Solutions, published by Shareable.
3. I have started to collect some examples of marketplaces & platforms that enable individuals to connect their available sources (time, properties, services) to others that need them. Let me know if you know other interesting marketplaces & platforms. I’d like to keep collecting this information and share with you at Pinterest!

From mass production to Home Made.

After recommending many people to watch ‘The century of the self‘, recently I have also revisited it. The first episode, ‘Happiness Machines’, digs into the beginning of our consuming-orientated society, manipulated by ‘the positive propaganda’, namely today’s media and advertisement. Since then, the local production and consumption have becoming more and more dependent on the global production and consumption.

It is especially meaningful for the people in the design industry to review it at this particularly moment, while the system-we-are-used-to is under-going a fundamental change…lots of changes are already visible, such as:
Fast Slow;
Commercial Social;
Factory produce Home Made.

About Home Made, I have to think about the time back to the 60s in Taiwan.
Back then, there were lots of ‘home factories’ where the whole family members making products by hand. Though, it is considered as the history of our economic development, and is becoming marginalized in Taiwanese society. Since ‘Home Made’ is often associated with ‘cheap’ and ‘out-sourcing’, it was suddenly out of date.

A typical scene in the 60s in Taiwan: all the family members participated in the production line.

However in-fashionable it has been, Home Made is surely coming back in the Netherlands! There is an increasing amount of home makers: it is proven by the pop-up gift shop I organized (boxXshop), where a ‘call for hand-made arts and crafts’ was announced in my modest network of facebook and twitter. Surprisingly, the overwhelming reactions were far beyond my expectation…(sneak preview of boxXshop)…

Perhaps it’s the time for me to pay more attention to the emerging home economy: besides Etsy, more and more markets, online application & communities are organized for this emerging group of home makers…Home is, anyway, the best place to start for hand made arts and crafts…

Ps. Let me know if you know other interesting marketplaces & platforms for Home Made. I’d like to keep collecting this information and share with you at Pinterest!

Pop-up! Creative use of urban niche spaces

With this post, I hope to give an impression on the current trend of pop-up initiatives who turn urban niche spaces into temporary attractions. Here you can find international initiatives that take ‘nomadic’ as a strategy (such as Comme des Garçons). You can also discover projects that initiate time-share to intensify the use of space (such as Mission Chinese Food). It is worth-noting that many of them rely with social media (twitter, facebook, RSS…) which keeps their followers/ fans updated about the next surprising event/ location.

////////// Nomadic //////////

Comme des Garçons is the pioneering example of pop-up shops. Launched at unremarkable locations in Berlin/ Glasgow/ Reykjavik/ Helsinki/ Singapore and just to name a few – it has attracted curious crowds by the fusion of high-end fashion brand and the low-tech interior space. The picture above shows a recent pop-up store in Warsaw that has transformed a former fruit and vegetable store in to a temporary retail shop.

Henrik Vibskov – the danish designer launched ‘The 100 days store’ in SPRMRKT Amsterdam, as the first stop for his traveling fashion show/ retail store. Traveling around the major European capitals, each store will be an experiment with spaces and installations. Here you can find an interview about the designer and his initiative.

Continue reading

Recycle second-hand retail spaces

I found it fantastic that there are all kinds of online/ offline marketplaces helping us to get second-hand furniture, cars, baby stuff and clothes. These platforms encourage consumers to sell, buy or swap ‘used goods’, which goes along with our sustainable life mission.

So how about recycling retail spaces? Especially those fashion stores, who usually spend much efforts on creating exclusive interior to lure the consumers. Behalf all the investments, fashion stores have usually a short life. The retailers pop-up and then disappear, leaving some furnished vacant storefronts in our city.

image source: http://www.iwan.com

I used to look into this shoe shop, Jan Jansen, an exclusive designer brand with elaborated interior. It’s a beautiful shop at a prominent location, though I don’t know how many people could afford this exclusivity and have actually stepped in. Before I made a decision to enter it, the store has already closed down leaving the interior with vacant red shelves.

What a pity. Several times I thought about contacting the owner of the space, and organizing an indoor crafty market to re-use this storefront. It’ll be so great to see this space being used and occupied by the crowds. But the task is to convince the owner with a plan that has little budget. Before I could take action all the red shelves were taken out of the wall and the red interior has turned white.


The red interior has been removed.

I am probably not the only one. There must be many entrepreneurs fantasizing to temporarily use these kind of spaces – to be the second-hand users before the new retailer comes and demolishes everything.

Would it help, I thought, to develop an online marketplace to recycle vacant retail spaces to second-hand users? This can facilitate the communication between the individual amateurish initiatives and the real estate agencies. The two parties can connect to each other more easily and come up with a win-win solution. This could help us to be more involved in a sustainable urban environment, besides recycling personal belongings.

Second-hand retail space. For our pocket and for our city.