04 Apr Our Story (so far)
Recup Paris is founded by Dom Tappy and Thomas Winkel. We both have spent our professional careers in the field of sustainability and climate change. After basically advising others what to do and how, we increasingly wanted to act sustainably and be change makers in the field. The urge to have a more direct and tangible impact grew each day.
We are inspired by how in cities like Amsterdam, Berlin, London and New York, disused areas have been revived and many have become breeding grounds for culture and creativity. They are important centers of change. Paris is the city of the arts and has an extremely rich cultural sector, yet the city is facing its own particular challenges in terms of sustainability and urban regeneration. There is a real need in Paris at the moment for sustainability and rebuilding communities. We believe that the city needs this now and we want to be at the center of that.
For the past few years we have been looking for suitable sites and spaces in and around Paris. Via-via we heard that the owner of Fort d’Aubervilliers was looking for suitable tenants for several of its spaces. Creative people and (change)makers, capable of reviving spaces here at this large site.
We first arrived at the fort on a cold November afternoon. The site was abandoned, desolate and grey. There was waste everywhere. You could see that nature was fighting back all around. There was something very eery in the air. We opened these huge gates and inside what we encountered was a mess…A mixture of old car parts, furniture, old clothes and a whole lot of abandoned construction materials.
After being here that first afternoon, we walked away but this place became kind of engraved in our minds. This place has such an fascinating history. Built between 1843-1846 and used by the French military up until 1970’s, there’s been research on radioactivity carried out here, during WW II, the German army occupied the fort. So this place is literally brimming with history.
It started to emerge as this place that could become a real place of opportunity. Of course, we felt slightly overwhelmed by the enormity of the project because of its derelict state…But the seed was planted. We started to dream about renovating it, reviving it. We saw it as somewhere where we could put into practice and combine our expertise on sustainability, our curiosity for art and our passion for the revival of urban spaces.
At this unique heritage site we have so far renovated our first space (an old bunker, #3 of a total of 24 bunkers), to be used as our atelier and headquarters. Bearing in mind that had no water, no electricity, no plumbing, no windows and no facade…We had to learn pretty quick – on the job! – how to do all these things . Step-by-step and learning as we went along, we worked every day for six months to redevelop the space, while being respectful of the heritage and original function of the place and using almost exclusively abandoned materials that we found on-site. This allowed us to prove our own concept and save quite a bit on material expenses too.
And…Here we are, now being able to work in a space that is heated, has electricity, water, internet, all the essential things. It is like a small bastion of modernity amongst a tide of dereliction. However, the thing that it has more than anything, it houses our integrity – along with our blood, sweat and tears! This place provides inspiration every day for others and for ourselves, it really opens your mind to creativity. In this space, we have created our first art series based on recovered postal stamps, accompanied by hand-made frames from reclaimed pallet wood.
For us, Recup Paris isn’t just about the revival of urban spaces. We try to apply our core beliefs to tangible things. The same principles that apply to transforming or reviving a disused urban space, apply to objects, so waste is very key to us. Disused objects, furniture, machinery etc. We want to revive these to their former glory, give them a new meaning or lease of life. So we craft them into new versions of themselves and sell them as a means to allow us to keep developing larger scale, site-based urban revival projects. We love making stuff and as said, we strongly believe in the power of art to speak to the imagination and can be an important driver for change. So by making our own art and crafts we put our beliefs into practice, leading by example if you will. It is highly symbolic for what we stand for. We Reuse old stamps and we Revive them, we create artwork with them and so we Repeat their use, Repeat their purpose and enable them to live on. With them we make beautiful maps that symbolise travel, adventure, culture and communication, and most of all, the fact that we are in this world together.
We have also completed the first stages of the renovation of a second and bordering space (Casemate #4) that serves as a multi-functional event space to host a wide range of activities including art expositions, music and theater performances, photo – and video shootings, team building events and workshops.