What you always wanted to know about the Tabakfabrik Linz – from pioneers to finances: We put together the most important questions and answers for you.
1. What is the Tabakfabrik Linz?
The big smoke: Where once 8.000 cigarettes churned out per minute and machine, creative sparks are lit. At present, the erstwhile tobacco plant of Austria Tabak, former Austrian tobacco monopole, emerges as an urban centre for cultural and creative industries. In its redesign the revitalized industrial building, hub for contemporary technologies and creative industries, does not define itself as a conventional museum or venue. Rather, it is a workbench, stage, laboratory, rehearsal room, center for creative collaboration and ultimately, fabricating urban quarter – one of a kind.
The development of the Tabakfabrik Linz will affect the profile of the Upper Austrian capital strongly. 205.000 jobs versus 192.000 residents: a unique feature in the international competition of so-called “Second Cities”. Where “Smart” were once produced, a “smart factory” of creative industries is now being forged: a future model factory. Contemporary studies prove the augmenting relevance of the Tabakfabrik Linz in the “Smart Cities” context.
The landmarked industrial plant, designed by Peter Behrens, is not only deemed as a promising chance in town planning. It also serves as a projection screen for the cultural and economical future of Linz. As the first Austrian steel frame construction in the New Objectivity-(Neue Sachlichkeit)-style, the building is of international significance in architectural history.
Behrens, known as the inventor of Corporate Design, created a total work of art in terms of Radical Functionalism; a roofed area of 80.000 m2. With a passion for detail, he designed the buildings and furnishings, from coffee mug to colour blends. He considered the human being as the centrepiece, a concept that is strongly exerted in the present development of the “Social Design” of the Tabakfabrik Linz.
A persistent architectural gem
For more than 350 years, the building was a production site, initially of textiles, later of tobacco goods. Established in 1850 as an emergency measure to make use of the bankrupt cloth factory, the Tabakfabrik Linz became a symbol for recovery by transformation. Today’s area was built in stages during the Great Depression. In 2001, the British Gallaher-group bought the enterprise during a period of privatization and sold it to „Japan Tobacco International“. The Japanese owner decided to shut down business – one reason might have been the tight conditions of the federal monument conservation department, as most parts of the building were listed in the 1980ies.
In 2009, the city of Linz bought the abandoned tobacco plant, including the Danube park stadium, for 17 million Euros back. Defined as a top-down-initiated bottom-up process, the architectural gem will offer space for a variety of contemporary cultural and economical purposes. It is designed as a condensed reflection of a future society, speaking of working and living conditions.
Within the meaning of an autopoietic system (see below), the various sections are supposed to develop, organize and support themselves on their own terms. The guiding theme is: Clear rules, no barriers. Thereby, the Tabakfabrik acts by four principles: participation, transparency, openness and sustainability. By explicitly encouraging trans-disciplinary cooperation, the social, economic and cultural milieus ought to merge. To that effect the Tabakfabrik Linz defines itself as sum of all its parts, as the first collaborative company.
2. What does “intermediate use” mean?
A basic strategy in the course of developing and revitalising the Tabakfabrik Linz – in the short as well as the long term – is its intermediate use. A temporary flexible usage of untapped areas is inevitable for sustainable and demand-actuated site-design, especially if you look at its dimension.
The potential of the diverse buildings and spaces can be explored and prepared for its final utilisation, facilitating early and field-tested quality management, leaving room for experiments and stimulating urban life, as a generator for innovation. Intermediate use enhances the public perception and, as a result, valorizes the site. Not least, it represents an important financial backup for the owner and the development of the site.
“Open due to renovation”
For that reason, intermediate use includes various fields, from culture to creative to education. The mode of operation is to host single events as well as long-term tenants. Artists, cultural and social associations, freelancers, educational institutions, health services, advertisers and digital agencies, technology engineers and software developers, architects, designers, media ventures and craftsmen – all of them already operate in different spatial structures. They use the rooms as studios, event sites, co-working-spaces, offices, lecture halls, practices and workshops.
With the proceeding renovation and adaptation of single parts of the building, permanent usage will become possible, as has already happened in the re-adjusted “Bau 2”, which ist the workplace for 200 people since the end of 2013.
The Tabakfabrik Linz was built in stages during the world crisis, now a similar strategy is applied. The reactivation of this gigantic area is coming about gradually. It’s “open due to renovation”.
3. what are the criteria for taking up residency?
SMEC © Kneidinger
Combined visionary forces
In the beginning of 2021, the rental requests for the Tabakfabrik added up to over 600 – with space requirements of about 150.000 m2. Proof enough that there is a need for a future urban space.
According to the formula „selected visionary forces“, individuals, small businesses and companies in the field of art and research, culture and creative industries, engineering and craftsmanship have taken up residence as „pioneers“. They identify with the overall vision and contribute, as comes with their expertise, to the further development of the site.
After intense talks, in which the needs of every interested party as well as their participation on the site-design are understood, milieus that benefit from each other are created. In more specific terms, by the creation of optimal storage, networking and frame conditions as well as the positioning of these businesses in a certain topology, a production chain will evolve: Art and research serve as generators for innovations, novel products and services, which are then studied and produced by creative industries. Craftsmen and industry produce these goods, which are displayed and conveyed in showrooms.
Instead of a premature constraint of potential usage, it is necessary to carry into effect as many types of utilization on site as possible, especially in the first revitalization phase. Thus, society’s requests and aspirations are not only positioned, but also put to test.
4. Who is producing in the Tabakfabrik?
Tabakfabrik is home to about 250 organizations variating in size that offer about 1,850 workplaces in various branches. The companies and people operate in different branches – they are artists, start-ups, social societies und programs, advertising and media agencies, business angels, founders, investors, students, social workers, technology and software developers, architects, designers, manufacturers and many more – they use Tabakfabrik as their office, studio, co-working-space, lecture hall, workshop, meeting room and event location.
The Tabakfabrik Linz is a laboratory for its pioneers, in which the contemporary principle of producing in networks and loose communication structures comes alive. The potential of the CCI (cultural and creative industries) is revealed remarkably by the digital sector, which merges genres as film, video, music or animation.
Among the pioneers of Tabakfabrik are:
- Ars Electronica Solutions: media lab and business division of Ars Electronica Linz GmbH
- Netural: digital agency
- Lunik2: advertising and marketing agency
- Smarter Ecommerce: offers industry-leading paid search solutions
- Creative Region Linz & Upper Austria: organization for support, networking and consulting of creatives
- University of Art and Design Linz: degree programme “Fashion & Technology”
- GRAND GARAGE: maker space
- Kleboth & Dollnig: architects
- RedSapata: contemporary dancing initiative
- B7 Arbeit und Leben and B7 Fahrradzentrum: Social organization for professional or personal challenges and associated bicycle shop
- Cloudflight: software expert
- Haratech: plastic engineering
- startup300: business angel network
5. What is so special about its concept?
The Tabakfabrik Linz defines itself as a universal factory of the future, a compression chamber of art and research, science and creative industry, engineering and handicraft, statement and discourse, education and training, a new urban district with the creativeness of the human being in its centre, a place zero, initiating by self-ignition.
From “cigarette booth” to production palace
In terms of “neo-industrialization”, due to a well-balanced mixture of non-commercial and commercial utilization, the site works as a perpetual motion machine of emerging technologies, handcraft, research and education, art, culture and creative industry. Profit-oriented private businesses as well as non-profit initiatives and federal facilities or individuals cover these sectors.
They are dynamic and heterogeneous by nature and form procreative synergies by exchanging generative synergies. Only the diversity of potential use and its preservation guarantee a long-term locational attraction for all social stratums and age ranges, on the contrary to homogenised interests.
The central concept of developing a creative, neo-industrial-producing urban quarter offers the potential to internationalize Linz. It focuses on the four pillars creativity, social, labor and education.
Promotion of the creative industry
The Tabakfabrik Linz is a hub for creative industries. Sole traders and businesses in the fields of architecture, design, arts and crafts, media or advertising are producing on site. By specifically promoting this growth sector and bundling it on-site, Linz catches up with an international trend: the creation of value and employment in the creative industry is continuously rising, despite any economic crisis.
For that reason, the network platform “Creative Region Linz & Upper Austria” took up residence in an early stage of development. The more attractive the area is for creative businesses, the bigger the Tabakfabrik’s financial tolerance to promote cultural initiatives and create open spaces for artists will be.
Events: Exhibition shipyard and compression chamber
Due to its unconventional and spectacular room layout, the Tabakfabrik Linz has already evolved into a sought-after exhibition space for international shows and potential box office successes. These exhibitions form an effective tool for democratic knowledge transfer by using a low-threshold approach, thereby appealing to a broad level of the population. They have passed Linz before due to missing a fitting accommodation. Now, there have been several blockbuster exhibitions at Tabakfabrik in the past years, ranging from “Titanic” over “Körperwelten” to “Tutenchamun”, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors.
The Tabakfabrik rents spaces to external organisers – it undertakes autonomous events only in cooperation, for example with “Ars Electronica”, Brucknerhaus, the universities, voestalpine, Linz AG, etc. The scope ranges from classical to pop to subculture. These intercultural projects and events in fields as cutting-edge-technologies, creative industries, politics, health, sociology, science or education, recreational culture as well as the commercial field, if nothing else, raise the money needed for the promotion and support of artistic projects.
Congresses, lectures, workshops, readings, trade shows, pop-up-stores, markets, product presentations, photo shootings, movie screenings, trainings, performances, festivals and corporate events cover the needs and categories of urban life according to the overall concept of the Tabakfabrik as a multipurpose quarter.
An echeloned “Robin Hood”-like rental system in the event section, that divides between commercial, cultural and special rates, assures the inclusion of financially weaker organizers. In principle, the orientation of the Tabakfabrik correlates to most of the goals of the development program EU 2020, which enforces “intelligent, sustainable and inclusive growth” by means of new technologies, education and creativity.
6. How is the Tabakfabrik located in its urban surrounding – and how is it perceived internationally?
As a pristine urban hub the Tabakfabrik has a distinctive position in the fabric of Linz. It bridges a gap between the centre, the adjoining cultural and recreational space of the riverbank and the continuously developing dockland area.
Its progress accompanies the basic urban planning strategy to expand the inner city towards the east, alongside the industrial zone of the docks and the area of voestalpine.
International example for “best practice”
7. What about the money?
At present, the Tabakfabrik requires public money primarily for maintenance, renovation and adaptation of the landmarked basic structure as well as its development with regard to content. The ongoing business operations in the event sector plus the leased areas generate profit already.
For the maintenance of the emerging areas and the conceptual developmental work, the corporation receives a subsidy of the city of Linz. The town council confirms its maximum amount every year. Reversed, the Tabakfabrik pays rent to the city of Linz – all the more, the more the owner, the “Immobilien Linz GmbH”, invested construction-related.
Internal-financing during all-out operation
For the constructional investments within the Tabakfabrik, diverse committees of the city are responsible. They decide on the budget in a multi-staged procedure.
The board of directors of the Tabakfabrik and the board of directors of the “Immobilien Linz GmbH” discuss the development team’s draft. The city’s facility management plans and technically develops this draft. As a result, the town council of Linz enacts the draft.
The Tabakfabrik draws neither in the ongoing operating activities nor for its investments from cultural funding, on the contrary: Already now the event sector generates payment surpluses. With the earnings of these commercial events, low cost rates for artistic and cultural events are made possible. Moreover, rental income increases by the growing number of pioneers. To some extent, businesses already arrange for refinancing of the fees invested in replacements. On the long run and after the completion of the most important redevelopment measures, the Tabakfabrik will fund itself fully via rental income and events revenues.
8. What does „collaborative Group of Companies“ mean?
The principle Tabakfabrik
The operation principle of the Tabakfabrik is a fusion of various aspects: On the one hand it functions like the Swiss horologist city La Chaux-de-Fonds, whose streets are structured innately like a factory. On the other hand it works like a corporate headquarter, whose production chain is formed and built like a closed loop, inspired by local artist and architect Herbert Bayer. Remarkable, considering that Apple’s new corporate headquarters will function exactly like that.
The Tabakfabrik is an interdisciplinary production facility, a collaborative group of companies with clear processes, in which as many different specialist fields and initiatives as possible cooperate and add to each other. Due to the size of the property and the circumjacent city, the creation of a monoculture would neither be sensible nor possible. Furthermore, only gradual designing and siting will guarantee organic and sustainable growth.
By the Tabakfabrik’s boundary transcending orientation as a modern manufacture it can respond flexibly to social engagements and requirements. Behrens already new that in order to experiment, open spaces are required. He implemented this knowledge during the planning of the factory by designing big, adjustable, open spaces.
A modern transparent manufacture
The working environment changed drastically in the past decades. Nowadays people are mobile and time-independent, self-employed, working in inconsistent team constellations and without regular employments. These assignments need new, flexible, cross-linked spaces.
The Tabakfabrik, as a collaborative group of companies, stays abreast of the economical structural changes. Exploring ground-breaking collaboration modes is not only an essential part of the concept but will also ensure Linz power in its future competition as an international production site. Just now, providing neo-industrial jobs, which will attract highly qualified employees, is a major chance for urban development and indispensable for being equal to competitors.
9. What are the next steps ?
In the first stage of development, the site, which has been inaccessible for a long time, has been deliberately highlighted as a spectacular venue in order to increase the awareness level, commitment and broad acceptance of the public as well as to gain important insights into the spatial potential of the premises. As a result, the Tabakfabrik has become a centre of cultural urban life: More than 2 million guests have visited events at Tabakfabrik since 2021.
From event habitat to creative biotope
In the second transformation phase, the Tabakfabrik changes from a event habitat to a creative biotope by settlement of cultural and creative industries. It transforms from a consumer to a producer venue.
With Bau 1, Bau 2 and Magazin 3 great parts of Tabakfabrik have already been developed and are rented to the currently 250 tenants. In the upcoming years the last buildings of the historic site, the storages “Magazin 1” and “Magazin 2” as well as the power plant “Kraftwerk” will be revitalized.
10. How can we imagine everyday life in this Futuristic manufacture ?
The Tabakfabrik Linz is visionary not only from an architectural viewpoint, it also defines itself – in spirit of its creator Peter Behrens – as a dynamic manufacturing plant, a research centre for visions and the palpable realization of a socio-political or socio-economic model of the future.
Therefore, the development team of the Tabakfabrik is not only concerned with the present, but also works on concepts for the year 2040. In this year, the number of inhabitants could have doubled. People will live by different principles.
The job market is turning more and more towards freelance workers. While many consider individual autonomy in labour positively, this autonomy is often dearly paid for by high financial risks and chronic competition pressure. These developments shall be counteracted in the Tabakfabrik.
Inspired by the ideas and concepts of the think tank “NANK” (new work – new culture) by social philosopher and founder of the new-work movement, Frithjof Bergmann, the agenda of creating and testing new occupational environments for creative micro-businesses is set.
The terms “co-working” and “community production” define as collaborative working structures, which enable effective local and international synergies, and promote a decentralized production divided into small sections, by providing high-tech infrastructure and sharing resources. Cooperation instead of competition shall determine everyday life.
Red Jobs – employment of the future
A long-term goal on-site is the installation of a centre for production and innovation research. Thus, present and future entrepreneurs, initiatives and the public are economically facilitated at the best possible rate – and future modes of production can be actively researched. An early integration of first-hand knowledge and expertise is ensured as a result, and an economical and technological head start is secured. In this context, the declared intent of creating new educational systems for new job profiles in the Tabakfabrik can be seen.
There are green jobs and black labour – a universal practical traineeship could become the foundation of “red jobs”; fulfilling work in the multifaceted field of the creative industries. And the Tabakfabrik Linz becomes an educational collective: Replenished by “education” as a resource, the operation mode of space and structure will merge with social requirements.
Tabakfabrik and autopoiesis
Systems organize, develop and transform within the scope of a certain intrinsic logic. They require different elements of which they consist and cross-link to different structures. The term “autopoiesis” is used when these elements and structures are produced and reproduced by the system itself. An autopoietic system creates and sustains itself on its own terms.
However, the concept of autopoiesis does not imply the avoidance of communicating with the environment. Interaction is significant to the system, but it doesn’t dictate the system. The system itself regulates the degree and form of dependency or independency on its surrounding. In that sense, the system preserves its relative autonomy, acts based on its own system-intrinsic logic, and is thus not assess- or controllable from the outside.
With regard to the set-up of social systems the term “contingency” is prominent. There is the prevailing phenomenon that only a few relations come about and give distinction to the system, not only in the relations with its environment but also in-between the elements.
The connections between the elements never follow any fixed rule, there are neither mandatory nor impossible combinations, they are contingent. This results in very similar systems that are, in view of some elements, still very contrarily organised.
On its own terms: A model for the development process of the Tabakfabrik
In the concept “4020 Linz – Tabakfabrik 2040: Strategy for the further development of the Tabakfabrik Linz” four pillars are named, which will be implemented as base elements of the new urban quarter: creativity, social, labour and education.
These elements form a structural specification for the development with regards to content. Another structural demand for the development process is a contemporary understanding of public space.
This term does not refer to publically subsidised space, but aims at the momentum of adopting this space for social, cultural and political matters. In detail, the concept itself turns into a matter of development and differentiation in the overall process.
The responsible political agencies and the management of the Tabakfabrik are main players working on that concept, but the four activity zones are involved in the development work as well. From a perspective of system theory, all players – political representatives, management and pioneers – form subsystems of an overall system and develop in relative autonomy.
Regarding the process of internal growth as well as the reciprocal actions of the subsystems, autopoiesis and self-organization depict important factors.
The benefit of seeing the development of the Tabakfabrik as autopoietic is the realistic and innovative management and development strategy, which accrues from this viewpoint. The traditional approach would be to view the Tabakfabrik as a lifeless object, being at the mercy of interventions from the outside.
An in-line process of creation collects ideas, draws a draught and executes changes. In doing so, the designers often assume that they know all factors – in general this is an unrealistic assumption.
Learning processes in which new experiences are perceived and recursively introduced to the process by corrective measures are not scheduled. This fuels the risk of a design that does not recognise internal and external conditions.
An approach, which is inspired by system theory, however, acknowledges the organisation and development of players by idiosyncratic logics in their particular capacity and sector, within the meaning of subsystems in an overall system.
Whichever relationship the players establish within or in-between the various divisions is relinquished to the relative autonomy of the subsystems. Thus, space for a diversity of contingent alliances between all players involved is generated. This approach is much more realistic as it recognises the momentum of contingency in all development processes. It incorporates correspondent phases of reflection and re-organization in the process of creation.
An approach in terms of system theory also uses the specific creative potential, which is generated when systems are given space for self-organisation and the approval of the productive moment of contingency.
The regulation of the overall system is not abandoned: On the one hand it focuses on the implementation of political, economical and technical environment to which the subsystems are geared to, on the other hand it makes the steering players perceiving themselves as a part of the overall system, who in fact hold a certain position of power but in this position are subject to mutual reactions and dependency from the subsystems.
This sense of self usually conveys socially briefed, capable and reflexive leadership.