In our last installment of “Lucid Then & Now”, we looked at the early history of the Niederbarnimstr. 10 cowshed, and its importance to Friedrichshain. This week we will speak to Lucid owner and architect Felix Matschinske, to find out what it takes to transform a cowshed from its original state, into a fully functional office space.
Whether people know the history or not, it is undeniable you have an extremely interesting space here. When and how did you find the cowshed?
In late 2003, me and fellow architecture students, Florian Junger and Hardy Ketterer, decided we were sick of working from home, and thought it was about time we found a proper office. Back then it was still pretty easy to find available space in Berlin. We looked at a few finished storefronts in the neighborhood, including the shop in the front area of Niederbarnimstr. 10. This space was too expensive for us at the time, but fortunately the same broker realized the un-renovated cowshed at the back of the building might be of interest, especially to architecture students. It was love at first sight! And because at that time the cowshed had been unused for two years, it was fairly easy to sell our “office space” idea to the building owner. We started the project right away.
It’s a pretty big undertaking to renovate a cowshed into an office. What obstacles did you encounter throughout the renovation?
The project itself was a bit of an obstacle. At the time, we were still only architecture students with no money and little experience. We were great at renderings and models, but actually building proper things? Whole other story.
We also started the project during the winter. Days were cold and short. It was hard to feel optimistic about the whole thing when we were freezing. We had many thoughts of whether it was a good idea or not.
We also got a few bad vibes in the beginning from some of the people who used the shed as a hangout space. We heard they had some pretty good parties though.
Why did you go through so much work? Why not just find a finished space?
Sometimes you just get that feeling in your gut. Right place, right time, or something. There is nothing better than designing a space you intend to use. All the things you’re proud of, or created because you thought were interesting or efficient, you get to experience.
Renovating the shed was also a practical way to develop the techniques we were still learning in university. Having a “real-world” project on the go while still in school was a great way to gain insight on our new skills. We were really lucky. The cowshed just completely changed our perspective on things. But to be honest, we probably would have taken a completed space if it were cheap enough.
It is evident much of the original cowshed is still intact. Did you always want to keep the office as original as possible?
We just wanted to transform the space using the least amount of money possible. But yes, we knew from the beginning we wanted to keep as much original detail as we could. The space itself was the inspiration. It’s hard to imagine having so many interesting features and not putting them to use.
The Lucid office is a truly incredible space. How long did it take to renovate?
The whole thing took about a year. However, because we did most of the work ourselves through the winter, it seemed much longer. Sitting in a cold, dark, unfinished room in the middle of winter is pretty depressing. Sometimes it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
A project like this seems like it would take a lot of work. How many people were involved?
Mainly, it was just the three of us, and some very generous friends. At times we did have some professional contractors on site. But yeah, for the most part, just us.
That’s quite impressive. Such an accomplishment with so few people. Were you happy with the end result? Was there anything you wished you had done differently?
We were (and still are) extremely happy with the end result. A few more windows might have been nice, but we couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.
What happened when the renovations were complete? Did you start Lucid right away?
We were still students when the renovations were first complete. We needed to get some of our investment back, so we decided to start a small architecture and design company called MUH. We also rented desks to freelancers. We like to think we had a co-working space long before co-working was all the rage in Berlin (Laughs). One of the people who rented a desk was Lucid co-founder Jan Schiele. Jan and I had similar working styles and ideas, and though shortly after we met, Jan went to work for Kircher Burkhardt, we remained friends. About two years later or so Jan decided to quit his agency position. We talked about similar business ideas we had, and the rest is history.
Did you always want to start a media company?
When I was younger, I was intrigued by the idea of owning more than one company. While studying architecture, I was fairly certain one would end up being an architecture company, but at the same time my interests in media design began to form. I even started a little media design venture with a friend while still in school. So yes, I guess for the most part I knew this was what I wanted.
How long did it take to shape Lucid into what it is today?
I think Lucid is still forming, or better yet, transforming. In the beginning we were a small group just trying to figure out the role of our new company. Today, we’re a growing agency, with fantastic clients, a great team, and projects that continue to keep us interested. It’s a great place to work.
You don’t really expect the owner of a communications media agency to have a degree in architecture. Are you still a practicing architect?
I still own MUH, the architecture company I started in school. I work on projects simultaneously with my work at Lucid. Ideally I would like to combine elements of the two companies to work in more creative areas like exhibition design and scenography. I think this would be the perfect connection between passion and resources.
Lucid will be celebrating it’s 5th anniversary this January. The cowshed has been monumental to Lucid in so many ways. What will happen when you outgrow this space? Will you look for another original idea as an office?
It’s hard to think of that day. I don’t know what it will be like to call another space home to Lucid. The cowshed makes up so much of what our business is, and what we do everyday. I can’t remember anyone, client or otherwise, not commenting on how great of a space it is. But you’re right. We will eventually have to find a new home. And when that day comes, we’ll be excited to find an equally unique space to transform. I’m pretty sure you’ll never find Lucid in just “some office”.
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Stay tuned next week when we celebrate “5 Years Lucid” in our final chapter of “Lucid Then & Now”.
Gain insight on the last 5 years of the agency’s history through the eyes of the people and projects that shape the way Lucid operates today.