Category Archives: urban corridors as social sculptures

garden

GROWING FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY CITY: IS IT STILL ART?

More and more people are living in the cities. We have to search for new modes of sustainable living, new ways of food production. Re-examine the link between the city as consumer and the countryside as provider. In this context, we are researching how to make a network of intensively cultivated city rooftopgardens where we can grow our own food for the neighbourhood.
Besides the food-function, the UrbanArtFarm is set up as our open air laboratorium. In this project, we want to blend the natural and the digital in one and the same nature. We study and document how to set up a middle sized rooftopgarden (± 700 m2), all with recycled materials. Continue reading

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METHODS FOR CREATING ECOLOGICAL CORRIDORS

Ecological corridors rely partly on methods of urban agriculture, guerilla gardening, ecological management and social anthropology. Corridors can also make good use of avant-garde technologies, so that such projects become experiments on the edges of art, science and technology: Embedded systems, novel sensors, low energy computing and sensor networks are useful for monitoring soil quality, plant growth processes, animal activity, pollution and the movement and interaction of people within the local environment. Mobile communication and geoinformatics are useful for aggregating sensory data and projecting them in real time onto maps. Complex systems analysis, cloud computing, and machine learning are useful for detecting patterns to allow prediction and the shaping of ongoing social and biological processes. And novel user interfaces are needed to make embedded technologies accessible and usable without requiring sophisticated background or training.

corridor-map

gardens participating in the case study

  • edible rooftop garden / so-on
  • urban ArtFarm / so-on
  • thurn&taxis
  • kaaitheater
  • okno
  • gemeentehuis molenbeek
  • libanese garagehouder
  • semaphore asbl – péniche Jean Bart / pierre renault

corridors as a social sculpture

  • social sculpture ref. Beuys: The idea being that every decision you make should be thought out and attempt to make or contribute to a work of art which in the end is society. This point of view invites followers to humble themselves by realizing that they are an important part of a whole not only an individual. (link with the honeybee colony)
  • corridors as a social sculpture ⇒ community, bottom up (the social, cultural and political function and potential of art) occupy public space
  • potential of art to bring about revolutionary change (Beuys) transformation (metaphore = honey)
  • participating gardens ⇒ active creative expressions of the participating inhabitants, communities, neighborhoods
  • social awareness raising : human activity that strives to (re)structure and (re)shape society and the environment
  • knowledger building of cities as complex ecosystems
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A LABORATORY ON CONNECTED ROOFS

For the artist, the empty rooftop is a blank canvas. It is embedded in the city and offers a perception without geographical limitations. It’s up to the artist to combine the artistic eye with scientific observation. The public has to travel to the location and has to put effort and time (= engagement) to discover the artwork.
New forms of sculpting the public space can be found in rooftop hacking and squatting, transforming rooftops into urban fields, short chain agriculture. These are interdisciplinary activities situated between art and the broader social and political world. Their aim is to provoke a change. It are forms of site-specific art. The natural environment as in a process of a constant change, the city layers overwritten by various urban systems: socio-political and historical but also industrial and economical systems. The work involves natural processes, but as well elements of technology.
Important is the recultivation of the land/location, the historical act of rewriting, of adding new layers, with the help of earth/art methods, DIY instruments and technology. This new world is perceived from the perspective of the 3 ecologies as stated by Guattari: social, mental and environmental. The eco-logic can be found in everydays’ life. The existence for the art world is confirmed as covered by film, audio recordings, photographs, maps, diagrams, drawings and storytelling.

Open Greens : marginal zones where culture and nature overlap and enter into a symbiotic relationship.
The project researches different bottom up approaches for designing human environments that have the stability and diversity of natural ecosystems. Integration of renewable energy systems, energy efficiency, food/gardening systems, natural building, rainwater harvesting and urban planning along with the economic, political and social policies that make sustainable living possible and practical.
The Kabinet of the OpenGreens (padma, COG and other databases) is a repository for all the documentation materials on city gardens, abandoned agricultural and industrial spaces, miniature parcs on balconies and window sills, participating in the OpenGreen project. Discover how you can expand your creative space by participating in this ecological network, studying the interactions between organisms and their environment.

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VIRTUES OF A FOREST GARDEN

A forest garden is a garden modelled on a natural woodland. It has 3 layers of vegetation: trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. In an edible forest garden the tree layer contains fruit and nut trees, the shrub layer soft fruit and nut bushes, and the ground layer perennial vegetables and herbs. The soil is not dug and annual vegetables are not normally included unless they can reproduce by self-seeding.
It is usually a very diverse garden, containing a wide variety of edible plants.
Many gardens contain the same things as a forest garden, but usually each is grown separately, as orchard, soft fruit aerea, vegetable patch and herb bed.
What distinguishes a forest garden is that all are grown together on the same piece of ground, one above the other.
Gardens like this have long been cultivated in many tropical countries, and are still in places as far apart as Central America, Tanzania and the Indian state of Kerala.
There are no hard rules about what a forest garden should be. In fact, every one should be different, tailored to the needs of the individual gardeners and their family, and to the unique environment of each garden.

What is the difference between a forest garden and permaculture?
Permaculture is an approach to food growing -and many other aspects of life- which takes natural ecosystems as its model.
Both learn from natural ecosystems. In case of the forest garden it is much a direct copy: a forest gardens looks like a woodland.
In contrary, permaculture is not modelled on the outward forms of ecosystems, but on the underlying principle which makes them work: a web of beneficial relationships between the different plants and animals, and between them and the rocks, water, soil and climate of their habitiat.
Natural ecosystems can be very productive, and they don’t need all the inputs of fossil fuels and other materials that are needed to support our present-day agriculture, industry and infrastructure, nor they emit any pollution.
Permaculture seeks to create systems which have all the desiderable characteristics of natural ecosystems but which provide for human needs. The key to achieving this is to set up a network of beneficial relationships between the different elements we need in a garden, on a farm or in a whole community.

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the permaculture garden of Gilbert Cardon (fraternité ouvrière, Mouscron)

Forest gardening and permaculture are not the same thing, but there is much that they have in common. Both are about putting components together in an harmonious whole, so both have a strong element of design, and both are firmly rooted in a sense of ecology.
Permaculture covers a much larger field than (only) gardening. It includes farming, forestry, town planning, financial and social structures and much more. A forest garden may be a component in a permaculture design, but it is also more than just a part of permaculture. It is a way of gardening, indeed the basis for a way of living, which arose quite indepentdently: it can be practised by anybody who has access to a little piece of land, and who has the desire to try something that is relatively new and yet as old as life itself.

Why should we grow a forest garden?
The most sustainable way to grow food is the way which is most like the natural vegetation of that area. Let’s list some global benefits of growing a forest garden. The greatest ecological problem we face is climate change caused by the greenhouse effect. Growing new trees is one way to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by turning it back into living wood. There is no reason why many of these desperately needed new trees should not be fruit-trees, planted by the owners of town and suburban gardens – who, at the same time, would gain the bonus of growing nourishing fruit. The ecological benefits of trees do not stop at being a sink for unwanted greenhouse gasses. They also enable the soil to store more water and then to release it slowly, preventing both flood and drought. They protect soil from wind and water erosion.

How a forest garden works.
First the vegetable layer comes into leaf, then the soft fruit and finally the top fruit. By working in layers, the lifespan of the growing season is extended. The whole volume of the soil can be used, without the plants competing with one another for water and nutrients. A forest garden can make much better use of the available resources –both above and below the ground- than a single layer garden.
The three main products of a forest garden are fuits, nuts and leafy vegetables. Often the distinction between vegetables and herbs is not really made. Anything that is edible and green, cultivated or wild, is welcome in the forest garden. We go for diversity! Many of the plants which are suitable for a forest garden are either taken straight from the wild or have only been slightly modified by plant breeding. Wild plants are on an average much higher in protein, vitamins and minerals than conventional vegetables. Most of the produce of a forest garden (fruits, nuts, salads) can be eaten raw.

There is no digging involved in a forest garden. Soil is not an inert mineral substance. It is an intricate blend of mineral, air, water, organic matter and living organisms. Crumb structure is an important element in fertility. The micro-organisms in the soil are the powerhouse of soil fertility. A lot of essential chemical processes are going on in the soil all the time, processes carried out by bacteria, fungi, algae and other micro-organisms.
In a forest garden, mulch plays an important part in weed control. There are not so many weeds in a forest garden anyway, as digging is the main thing encouraging weed seeds to germinate, and also because any plant that is useful in one way or another is welcome in a polyculture. Many wild plants are edible, and deep rooted ones work at bringing mineral nutrients up from the subsoil. Compost is not digged in, but placed on the surface as a mulch.

The diversity of a forest garden helps to keep it free from serious levels of pest infestation, due to the rich mixture of species and varieties within each of the layers.
Where each kind of plant is mixed in among many other kinds it is much more difficult for pests and diseases to build up. In addition to the benefits of general diversity, there may also be specific interactions going on. Some plants provide food for insects which are predators on plant pests. The greater the diversity of plants and the more they are intermingled the healthier the garden.

Make your own backyard ecosystem. It’s about the fascination of being a witness and a participant in the growth and the development of an ecosystem. A forest garden has a longer cycle. As trees, shrubs and perennial vegetables all grow at different rates they all have different lifespans. They spread and shrink in response to age and different seasons. Completed by the wild plants and animals that move into or out the garden as conditions change, a kaleidoscope of changes is unfolding as each year unfolds.

A forest garden is foremost a home garden. But with its combination of tree fruit, bush fruit and vegetables on the same piece of land it provides in the needs of its gardeners. And more, with the yield of a forest garden we can make a direct connection between growers and consumers, as home gardening avoids the costs of packaging and transport and allows for the return of all nutrients in the food by means of composting directly to the soil that grew that food. It is indefinitely sustainable. It is the basis of any truly ecological way of living that where we do things is at least as important as how we do them.

A forest garden does not need a lot of work, but it does need attention. It needs someone to wander through it regularly to see how it is getting on, it needs someone to inhabit it. This can happen without effort if the garden is at the gardeners’ workplace or living place.

Text inspired by Patrick Whitefield (How to make a Forest Garden)

wired-cities

NEW NARRATIVES ON URBAN ARCHITECTURE

Wired cities is a project on non-linear storytelling, exploring the city as a balanced and tactile ecological system.
The map of the city is erased and reconstructed from scratch.
How do artists experience a specific city? Edifices, old and new, that are considered landmarks can be reconstructed and arranged along one’s architectural fantasies. Old and new stories weave maps of collective memories. Analog and digital input are mixed. New skylines emerge out of folding architecture. Photographs and movies become new textures.
Soundscapes and bits of spoken word and written text complete the story of the emerging city. Continue reading