Cosum & Leila

Interview _ HdM_Nikolaï
Date: 25 th of April – 5:58 PM – 17:36
Place: In Cosum and Leila’s place in HdM

Remark: Before the interview, Nikolai showed me the place of Leila in HdM and how the shelf of things
you can borrow is made.

Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how Cosum was born?
I’m Nikolai and I’m one of the cofounders of Cosum and of the Leihladen, short Leila. My background
is that I’m eco-activist. So, I want to shift in the economic and social levels of society and I make this
project to give answers for future consumption … or to reduce the materials and to reduce the
resources. And also, to come to reduce waste. That’s very important because we live in climate change
and we want to change. And we live between poverty and wealth, and we want to make it more equal.
So, we have a wealth sharing, it’s a model we do with Cosum. Cosum is the online platform: so, you
can use it from your smartphone in a city like Berlin or in Brussels, or I don’t know. So, the software is
also a common good that you can share. And when you share it, it’s not less, it’s the same. So, software
is the paradigm of how we want to organize economy. Because, for example, when you share the stuff,
then you have more of this. So that’s maybe a little introduction in just what we do.

That maybe is a hard question: what would you say is your relationship to materials?
My relationship to materials…? At first, I’m critical of the industrial society in which materials are
objects. And my relationship to materials should be more ecological. That means that we have our
hands, and the main material is soil. So, I think we need to be more connected to the ground and the
soil. Because in the consumption society, people buy fast stuff, and they throw it away. So, this society
doesn’t have any good cautiousness with resources. So, we have to raise our consciousness with
materials and with nature resources. So that’s my point with my relationship materials.

How did you come to HdM?
I think two and a half years before the HdM started, I was one of the people who liked the idea of
having a hotspot or a framework of other upcycling initiatives or of repairing initiatives. So, here in
Berlin, we needed a place where people from different approaches can connect, for example for reuse,
repair, recycling. So, we have a bicycle recycle or repair. And I think it’s cool because being together,
we have more visibility. We have better relationship with customers, for example. We can help each
other for materials or to borrow stuff. So, we are something like an ecosystem and that’s an advantage.
We have to shift, and we have to do it right in one place. And we need places like the HdM to help
develop a society and an economic system that are fair and sustainable.

Just so I understand that a little bit better. Was Cosum here for from the beginning of HdM? Did it
exist before?

Cosum exist for four years and Leila, the Leihladen, exists since 10 and more years. So, it’s a long
development before and others, Kunststoffe or Stadtmission, they also exist for a longer time.

And so, when you came to the place, how was it? Do you have any anecdotes about setting up your
No, but yes, this house is, I think 60 years old and was used by the Communist Party. The house was
not used for 30 years and inside the city. So, we are in the middle of Berlin and it was not used. And
we went to the basement and there was no electricity and it’s very dark. But it was funny to go to
those places. And here, the electricity is done by Moritz. And so, it’s not the old house’s electricity.
So, is this new? [showing the neon light over my head]
You see, this, it’s new [showing the new tubes in which the cables of the new electrical installation
run]. And the old is like this [pointing to an old light switch]. And the other thing about the place is that
we have no heat system inside his house.

Did you build this from the first time or? [showing the place where there is this big shelf made from reused parts of the ventilation system]
Yes, it’s the first shelf. I didn’t change it a lot, I’m not good at this. This was made by Ismaïl and he’s a
very good handcraft worker. He’s an artist and he makes a lot of very good upcycling art.

Then how do you think the HdM is successful? Like why?
Success… I hope the people come and think about their relation to materials and think more about
themselves. Materials are inside you. Not as materials but as an idea of materials. And that’s very
important to this philosophy. To think by yourself: “why is this table important?” So, you think about
what is really, really necessary to your life. And I think less is better and more natural. So, I like the
space [HdM] because it allows a common vision. But on the other side, we have to think more of
greening Berlin. So that’s one part of the solution, but the main solution is greener, more plants…
OK, and so do you think HdM is also playing a role to help people think we need more plans and
green in Berlin?
No, but first you can use more reused materials. That’s good because people when they want or when
they need something, then they buy new stuff. And I think it’s very important to communicate that
you can buy used materials. And I am happy that there are a lot of artists and creative people here
because they give a lot of inspiration. So, you go inside the HdM and you think oh, that’s very nice and
very well created for second use and for you to think about materials or think about architecture.

Do you sometimes do workshops maybe?
[Nodding] Yes.

What kind?
Yes, zero waste now. The idea is to explain what zero waste is or what people from school can do to
reduce waste. And we I want to start something like zero waste boxes. So, when you have a garbage
can, people sometimes put stuff close to the garbage can, for example, a bottle and people can reuse
it. So, my idea of reuse box or zero waste box is that near the garbage can you have a zero waste box
and so people can put the reused stuff in it. So that you have decision, put it in a garbage can or put it
in a reuse box. So that’s very important to have this decision in your habits or in your normal life. I
studied sociology and I know the tacit knowledge. The hidden knowledge or the hidden practice is very
important in life. We have to make it visible that you have a decision to make: to bring your stuff to
waste or to reuse. And so, that’s what I do in workshops.

Nice and who is it intended for? I mean, is it for kids or for adults?
For everyone. Mostly schools… But I would say, I did four or five workshops in two years, so it’s not a
lot. Sometimes the other initiatives make workshops and I support them. Or I make guided tours for
people and explain the HdM. So that’s my task.

How do you see the future of Cosum and the HdM?
It’s not important, what the future of HdM and Cosum is. It’s important that we make a sustainable
lifestyle and sustainable economy. So, with HdM and Cosum it’s important that we spread into the
world to say that you, for example, can do it at your university. Maybe you start a little room or you
make a picture of how would be a HdM or a library of things is possible in Belgium. So that’s my goal.
That’s the mission that we have, that we make sustainable and circular economy lifestyle in many

My last question is a bit more open. So, you answer it the way you want. So, then what would be
your utopia?

Utopia is not so important because it’s important to live in the present. When you have an utopia that
means that you are not happy inside your present. So, happiness is utopia. Or present is utopia.
And so, do you feel like you are happy here in this word that is like it is? What would make you
I would be happier when I have less sorrow or less of climate change and we have less poverty or less
war or less war on resources. So that would be my utopia.