22.4.21
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Anneli Xie

Meet the Speakers: Aaron Greiner – Founder and Director of CultureHouse

On the Swedish CBC Finals on the 19th of May, xPlot welcomes Aaron Greiner, founder and director of CultureHouse, to speak about the importance of social infrastructure and how free pop-up community spaces can make a lasting impact.

Behind the Boston-based non-profit organization CultureHouse is Aaron Greiner; an urban designer, creative, and change-maker. When I first met Aaron in the fall of 2017, he was a junior at the Olin College of Engineering, having just returned from a semester studying abroad in Copenhagen. During his free time, he was active in our colleges’ joint rock climbing club, which is how I got to know him. We quickly bonded over our longing for Scandinavia, as well as our love for bicycle urbanism and accessible public spaces. Little did I know that during his free time, he was also planning for the start of CultureHouse. Four years later, CultureHouse is a quickly growing enterprise that focuses on improving the livability in local communities by transforming unused spaces into vibrant social infrastructure.

Aaron Greiner, founder and director of CultureHouse.  Photo: Private/Aaron Greiner.


Whereas CultureHouse is currently established in the Greater Boston area where the organization has created several successful indoor and outdoor pop-up community spaces – one of the biggest sources of inspiration came from Studenterhuset at Købmagergade in Copenhagen, a student-run not-for-profit café and bar that Greiner encountered during his time studying abroad. A Somerville-native, Greiner was eager to bring a version of Studenterhuset back to his community.

“When I was living in Denmark, I found this dedication to public life that I felt was lacking in the US. I wanted to bring that with me when I returned. We started CultureHouse with the aim of creating third spaces – or community living rooms – in which people can meet, create, collaborate, and learn from each other,” Greiner explains. “Now, people from all across the world have reached out and said they wish something similar to our pop-ups was accessible to them. It’s funny how, as I adapted the inspiration I drew from Copenhagen and Scandinavia into the US context, we see inspiration traveling back again, the other way.”

In 2019, CultureHouse opened two 8-month long pop-ups in Boston, filling a former news kiosk in Harvard Square and an empty storefront in Kendall Square with vibrancy, warmth, and community engagement. With around 100 average daily visitors, both pop-ups activated previously unused space by being mixed-use, offering a place to hang out, read, play board games, take part of workshops – and, most importantly, meet others. 

CultureHouse Kendall brought vibrancy to a previously vacant storefront. Photo: CultureHouse.


CultureHouse Kendall was a big hit for group meet-ups. One of the most consistent groups that came into our space was a group of new mothers from the neighborhood. Every week, they’d bring their infants and spend time at our pop-up talking about parenthood and exchange parenting tips; and every week, there would be new mothers joining the group. It might’ve been the cutest thing we’ve ever prompted,” says Greiner, smiling. “But in all seriousness, having this growing group of mothers come in on a consistent basis really demonstrated the lack of social infrastructure available in Kendall. We need places in which groups like this feel comfortable spending time.”

Similarly, CultureHouse Harvard demonstrated the importance for spaces in which unhoused people could be treated with dignity and warmth – crucial during Boston’s cold winter months. 

“Like all our pop-ups, CultureHouse Harvard had no policies regulating how long you could stay. The point is that our spaces are completely unobtrusive. No one is expecting you to make a financial transaction just to be in the space,” Greiner explains. “I feel like, at least in the US, a lot of our public life revolves around cafés, bars, and restaurants; all of which have a paid point-of-entry and expect you to stay in the space for a limited amount of time. At our pop-ups, you can stay for free for however long as you want.”

CultureHouse Harvard added warmth and shelter from the cold Boston winter. Photo: CultureHouse.


Like all, Greiner and CultureHouse have been forced to re-think and adapt their work to the challenges of COVID-19. 

“Obviously, with COVID-19, it became hard housing indoor community spaces, so we’ve been focusing on activating outdoor spaces,” explains Greiner. “With COVID, CultureHouse Harvard had to close, so we had to look for alternate ways to keep the space dynamic and alive. For Harvard, we turned it into a public art installation, hiring two local BIPOC artists and shedding light on the BIPOC community. We’ve also done a lot of partner projects. For example, we helped the Somerville Public Library construct an outdoor wi-fi zone. We’ve also worked on what we call the CultureHouse Kits, which contain gear that allow for placemaking outdoors. For example, last winter, we created the Winter Kit. It had heaters and outdoor chairs and everything else you might need for social gatherings outdoors. Now, as we’re heading into summer, we just launched our Game Kit, which is fitted with outdoor games – like kubb!”

In the past year, CultureHouse has focused on bringing their expertise to the outdoors, to allow for socially distanced activities – here bringing art and play to  the Starlight Square in Cambridge. Photo: CultureHouse.


As we continue talking to Greiner, we can’t help but be curious about the potential of a CultureHouse Lund. What would it look like; where could it be located; what impact could it make? At xPlot, we are definitely intrigued by the idea and are happy to see CultureHouse align with so many of our own core values; and to Greiner, well...

“Making a CultureHouse Lund would really be a dream come true. It’d be so much fun. Let’s make it happen!” 


–––

Aaron will be joining us on the 19th of May for the Swedish Finals of the Creative Business Cup, to tell us more about the origins of CultureHouse – as well as a potential plan for a CultureHouse pop-up here in Lund! We are so excited to introduce Aaron to the Swedish ecosystem and to bring him back to the region in which it all started. 

You can read more about Aaron Greiner and CultureHouse on their website: http://culturehouse.cc/.
12.5.21
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Jonathan Wintoft

Meet our DJ: Elin Beckman

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Anneli Xie

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Anneli Xie

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30.4.21
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Anneli Xie

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23.4.21
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Jonathan Wintoft

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19.4.21
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Anneli Xie

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Anneli Xie

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Anneli Xie

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Anneli Xie

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16.3.21
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Anneli Xie

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10.3.21
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Anneli Xie

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Anneli Xie

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Anneli Xie

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Anneli Xie

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Katarina Scott

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Anneli Xie

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Lars Mattiasson

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Hossein Lavi

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Lars Mattiasson

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Elinor Valfridsson

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9.1.20
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Lars Mattiasson

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Elinor Valfridsson

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Hossein Lavi

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30.9.19
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Nida Aslam

Nida from Pakistan collaborates with xPlot in opening a new Creative Business Network in Pakistan.

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10.9.19
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Lars Mattiasson

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Lars Mattiasson

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Lars Mattiasson

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Lars Mattiasson

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10.5.19
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Hossein Lavi

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Lars Mattiasson

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Hossein Lavi

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25.4.19
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Hossein Lavi

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27.3.19
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Hossein Lavi

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15.3.19
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Lars Mattiasson

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