<strong>Why are you dancing in a warehouse? – Industrialist Architecture & Adaptive Reuse in Music Venues</strong>

Why are you dancing in a warehouse? – Industrialist Architecture & Adaptive Reuse in Music Venues

Most weekends, I find myself in some sort of former factory, garage, or warehouse that has been renovated (and of course gentrified) into a music venue/club. The exposed iron beams, stripped down interiors, and prominent concrete that you can find in these spaces have become essential characteristics of any club or music venue in the contemporary quasi-underground scene. From Berlin’s infamous Berghain, a former thermal plant, to London’s Printworks, a decommissioned printing press, reclaimed industrial spaces turned music venues are not only abundant but also tend to host some of the most well known acts and spaces. Although this pattern could be reduced down to a current trend or sudden popularization of the industrialist aesthetic, there is a deeper and much more fascinating history behind the widespread use of decommissioned or abandoned buildings in the cultural sector. Furthermore, while the architecture of a music venue may seem irrelevant in comparison to the music being performed within the structure, the building blocks of these spaces can serve as a viable lens to examine the culture and ethos of the party happening inside.

The Rise of The Warehouse Scene

This story, like many of the histories of counterculture music in the 20th century, begins in the 80s. As music journalist Caroline Stedam describes,“By the late 80s, the sound of industry in the warehouses of the cities had been replaced by a new sound resonating against their derelict walls: the music of the disillusioned, the displaced, the unemployed and the downright bored: the amplified sound of repetitive beats.” (Macindoe 2011, 10). Particularly during the heat of deindustralistic Thatcherism in the UK (but also prevalent throughout many 1st world countries at this time), an increased amount of factories and industrial sectors began to close their doors, leaving many cities with a new host of abandoned buildings. In contrast to the Radical Design Movement of the 60s and 70s, these structures were bare, their rents were nonexistent, and their capacity was much larger than one could hope for in the city (Erramni 2022,7). Soon after, warehouse parties and events were on the rise as these buildings found a new life in the musical communities that inhabited them. These new territories mobilized and enabled musical experimentation as there was no door fee or management of these spaces, this freedom allowed for disc jockeys and artists alike a space and an audience to explore new sounds as like the venue there was no regulation on what was or was not heard in these buildings.

 Down with The DIY & Repetitive Beats

However, the DIY nature of these spaces was neither legal nor necessarily safe either. Due to the lack of regulation, the capacity as well as the maintenance of these spaces did pose a significant hazard to the safety of the artist and guests inside, let alone the zoning, trespassing, and noise regulations that were inherently broken when reclaiming these spaces. By the early 90s law officials began to crack down these unlicensed venues and seemingly the experimental electronic music scene at large. The most notable and quotable example of large-scale government action against the warehouse scene was Section 63 of the 1994 Criminal Justice Act in the UK which reserved police the right to shut down any music event that was “characterized by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats” (Baines 2017). Although this law was largely fueled by moral panic and hysteria surrounding the counterculture at large, ultimately this bill marked a subsequent downturn in the scene. Despite many protests against this law, similar legislation followed suit around the world and these spaces were either forced to obtain licenses for the buildings or were made to turn to alternatives, such as outdoor or underground spaces. Ultimately resulting in the archetype of a music venue that we see today, one that is a more clean, polished and bureaucratic version of the beacon of freedom and experimentation that it once was.

Learning from the Building

As club architect Bernard Khory explained, “Clubs are never usually given an architecture” (Kafka 2020). The architecture of the industrial venues we have been discussing are as much given as they are found. Although the structures were not initially built to house musical or cultural events, the building blocks of these venues still continue to speak to the cultural ethos that has been ingrained in the founding and formation of these spaces. This trend of reusing spaces in entirely different ways than which they were originally built for is now called “adaptive reuse”. However, the original founders of these spaces did not do so to fall in line with a sustainable trend in architecture. Rather, the conservation of these structures even decades after their lawful ownership speaks to the innovation and reinvention that is central to the art being displayed in these venues. Instead of changing the structures into a venue that is fitted with proper acoustics and modern amenities, the preservation of the original industrialist architecture has continued to honor the fundamental origins of warehouse culture, showcasing the strong ties between the music and values of heritage. Furthermore, the reclamation of spaces once intended for labor to now be a site of recreation is subversive action in itself. Although it may not always be intentional, reclaiming spaces such as factories that existed solely for the mass production of product and turning them into a spectacle for art, a medium that resists being commodified is pretty punk even if the majority of these venues are now operating firmly within a gentrifying cultural industry that continues to churn a significant profit while now marketing to mainstream audiences.

In all, by examining the building blocks and architecture of music and cultural venues we can not only shed a light on the history of these institutions but also the values and ethics these events are centered within. Furthermore, although the target audience and scale of these operations has grown significantly in the past 20 years, the remnants of the 80s counterculture warehouse rave scene can still be seen in the literal and figurative foundations of these clubs.



Errami, J. (2022). Rave Spaces: Designing for interpretation.


Frankie Mullin, Photos: Matthew Smith. (2014, July 15). How UK Ravers Raged Against the Ban. Vice.


Kafka, G., (2020), How Architecture Transforms the Clubbing Experience. Retrieved from;

How Architecture Transforms the Clubbing Experience

Macindoe, M. (2015). Out of order: The Underground Rave Scene 1997-2006.

Gabriella Meshako is a first year bachelor’s student of Global Arts, Culture and Politics at the University of Amsterdam. Moving forward with her program, she plans on perusing a concentration in sustainability. Gabriella enjoys contemporary art, experimental films and fashion. For Inter, Gabriella is a quality controller as well as a writing editor.

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