[im]possible living | Rethink the abandoned world

Rethink the abandoned world

[im]possible living is a website dedicated to vacant property all over the world. It provides tools and services for people who try to raise, discuss and, potentially, solve the problem represented by the underuse of real estate, sharing their knowledge and creativity. 

[im]possible living is a young start-up, born in January 2011 from the founders’ interest and desire to give new value to the global stock of abandoned buildings, in open contrast with the constant land consumption we witness in most of the world, where the ongoing trend is to build new property, often destined to remain vacant. The solution to this problem is taking an altogether new approach: abandoned buildings are not liabilities but assets that need to be made the most of. 

The web is the natural habitat for [im]possible living, because it represents the only environment where the critical mass needed to face the problem of abandonment as a whole can come together (in Italy only, there are an estimated 2 millions of abandoned buildings). 

We started from a simple observation: all over the web there are numerous examples of individuals engaged in similar projects, mapping differently sized areas, aggregating communities and getting public and private associations involved. Each one of these local units have a website, a community that needs to be kept up to date and fostered. The work involved in creating and maintaining online tools takes time and expertise that are not readily available to everyone. In addition to time and expertise constraints, the multiplication of projects makes the world revolving around the topic of abandonment very fragmented, incapable of networking. 

We want to be enablers and simply wipe away the hurdles that make it difficult to carry out rescue projects, from mapping to redevelopment. It is an ambitious goal, but we believe in it and we are investing everything in this dream!

The first step ahead is the construction of the biggest, most complete database of abandoned buildings in the world, and to get things started we have developed the beta version of our service. 

The product is a website designed to be the simplest tool possible to browse the abandoned buildings that have been mapped all around the world and view the descriptive schede. In each scheda there is a general description of the building and a few important details, such as construction year, abandonment year, floor area, number of floors. For users who want to be proactive, the website makes it possible to add new vacant buildings, rate those already present, and contribute to the completeness of each scheda by adding media content (photos and videos).

In a few weeks we will release a mobile application designed for instantly reporting a new vacant building. Once logged in, the app allows to shoot a picture of the building on the spot or pick one from the media library, and add basic information, while automatically capturing the geographical data associated to the building’s position (street, city etc). The geographical info can be edited by the user if incorrect. What really makes the difference with our website and apps is how fast and seamless they make the upload of new information: we believe that this is essential in order to maximize the users’ contribution, and to make it possible for everyone to join us in our mission to give new life to abandoned buildings all over the world.

The functionalities we have released so far represent the very core of our service, but the product we have in mind is much more complex: in the future, our users will be able to contribute to each scheda using a wiki system; they will be able to add new ideas and projects for the redevelopment of the building, team up with other users, access a knowledge base that will guide the choice of the architecture and management models in the first steps of the project, connect to a network of professionals, view information in languages other than english, and much more.

Our vision is to become the global site-to-go-to on the subject of abandonment, and a tool that will remove all obstacles between redevelopment ideas and projects and their successful completion. 

The process is long and can take many ramifications, but we are convinced that, thanks to our enthusiasm and expertise and the contribution of our community we will create and foster a system apt to give significant contribution to the solution of the vacant property problem, and to open a completely new perspective in this sector.


[im]possible living has been so far completely self-funded, and is looking for capital which will be employed to complete the design and realization of a professional web/mobile product, and to sustain the company’s development in the first stages until economical efficiency is reached.

www.impossibleliving.com   |   email: mail@impossibleliving.com    |   twitter: @impossibliving   |   facebook: [im]possibleliving 

You’ve got yourselves a new member.

Hi Andrea and Daniela,

I just signed up and even added an important cultural building in the center of Cluj-Napoca, my hometown, that’s been vacant for 6 years now…

I’ll definitely follow you and curious how this redevelopment process will go. The main issue that I see is caring for these spaces and invigorating them in a non-invasive way, that doesn’t pose problems or generate conflict by reclaiming something that’s at the intersection of private interests and social value. Again we turn to the commons:  as long as the spaces are deeply connected with property rights, their potential may be locked. The real question is how to unlock it?

Unfortunately I missed the #edgecamp, I was wondering if you were there and have more ideas from the meeting of Edgeryders experience. …

Very promising idea

I’m especially interested in the potential for repurposing abandoned commercial property during an ongoing collapse. Cory Doctorow, in Makers, had his protagonists running a Maker shop out of an unfinished shopping mall that went bust. Driving around the parts of town that are dominated by big box stores and strip malls, I wonder about the potential for leaving the basic load-bearing structure intact and turning the inside into mixed-use residential and commercial communities, with (say) one corridor devoted to a local bazaar and the others comparmentalized into housing. Generally malls and chain restaurants are surrounded by much more asphalt and landscaping than the internal building space, so could the parking and landscaping be converted to horticultural use? A big shopping mall, with its parking lots covered in raised beds, and its interior housing a “downtown” and living quarters, would amount to a small town.