Plants have always fascinated me. I grow up in a small village close to the Alps, in the North-East of Italy. I still remember when at the age of eighteen my father started a garden in a vacant plot, a ‘contrada’ we call it in Italy, a small group houses at the foot of the mountain. During my studies in design plants become the tools to express my everyday needs while designing objects and spaces.
IN-SITU, the project I am working at the moment, is a temporary installation that offers tools and space to transform wastelands. Transforming wastelands is a complex design process because of the inter-workings of social and economical challenges.
The project investigates alternatives to heal vacant spaces in a more participatory way. The installation includes also modular sitting facilities to enhance the accessibility and use of the vacant space by passengers and citizens. By mixing public furniture and green, local residents and site developers are invited to confront during a series of open activities like workshops, lunches, talks, etc.
IN-SITU form part of the public art project DE UNIE, in partnership with CIAP, centre for contemporary art. The project initiated during the last year when I presented a movie about possible futures for the remediation of the many polluted areas that spot the area (see map below). The project will be located on strategic points along two main routes (red and green lines) connecting Hasselt and Genk.
We live in cities full of errors and soil contamination is one of them. Behind their intrinsic guiltiness, these contaminated sites often bear important aesthetic and identity qualities. Transforming these toxic land is difficult because the inter-workings of social, political and technical challenges. But this situation can also be the start of change for the better: awareness, concern, action. Cities are open fields for the exploration of new ways of living and they have the potential to become the best living environments that we can imagine.
Although wastelands are used in a negative connotation, I started to see a lot of potential in them because they allow the experimentation of new relationships between humans and nature. The clean up of an area is an opportunity to also regenerate the social fabric of the neighbourhood which suffer from the negative aspects of contamination. This process should not be considered only as a quick technical execution.
“City is not a problem, city is solution.” – Jaime Lerner
There are remarkable examples of how participative design practices can be an agent for urban transformation. Soil Kitchen by FutureFarmers was a temporary public art project that rehabilitated an abandoned building into a multifunctional space where citizens could participate in ecological activities in exchange of soil samples of their gardens. The field guide to phytoremediation of You are the city is an other example of encouraging citizens to transform vacant plots.
“We need to start out from an open playing field and making a case for ‘not knowing’, not assuming to know what the outcome might be”
Engagement is sublimated by autonomy. So we can use autonomy to improve and transform. In a recent interview Tatjana Schneider suggested methods to envisage users of space becoming active actors. The key thing is for designers to bring a holistic approach to their designs for spaces that include cultural, economic, ecological and even spiritual components and to make this process visible and physical. In this way, I started to look of how empower local persons who care about their environment in order to imagine new possibilities to use these areas. Therefore, supporting strategic interventions in these polluted areas could generate interesting scenarios because the collaborative endeavour of testing, planting, and maintaining the plants re-builds a sense of ownership and social investment among residents and other actors involved in this multi-year process.
A workshop in Differdange poses a timely challenge: when innovation by such complex issues as up-cycling, mobility , environment or space industry are balanced the desire to do something positive, with the need to understand the back story and the future innovation before we intervene?
The event has been organised in the creative hub 1535 C by the University of Luxembourg (Kilian Gericke) and Luxinnovation (Jan Glas) for the students of the Certificate in Sustainable Development and Social Innovation Course. The event has asked four design companies to pose a question and further develop solutions using a typical charette. For our group we worked around the question “Can we imagine new scenario to transform wasteland together?”.
Taking the area as a case study, the results of the workshop leaded to two scenarios of requalification of the polluted land by means of phytoremediation. After having understood the environmental and social challenges of the area we started to build a scenario with scrap materials collected around the factory. The participants were particularly attracted on connecting the heritage of the steel factory with educational facilities and green touristic routes for the benefit of the locals. The most encouraging feature of the workshop is that it posed new questions on the project and without pre-packaged solutions. In that sense, it passes a key to use more what is already there.
Farming Pollution System has been developed during 2013 in the Belgian region of Limburg with the intent of developing a design system to clean up soil pollution.
The project is on show during Conflict&Design, Triennial of Design in Flanders, C-Mine, Genk. From the 15th December 2013 to 9th March 2014.
Farming Pollution-System in short:
Conflict: 10% of the 450,000 home oil tanks used for heating purposes in Flanders leak because of corrosion.
Design: A system that empower people to clean their soil by means of phytoremediation, a method whereby plants and microorganisms are activated to clean polluted ground.
Farming Pollution Premiere during the Opening of Toegepast, in Z33 Hasselt.
For the 7th Design Triennial in Flanders we are invited from curator Kurt Van Belleghem to exhibit our latest developments in the Farming Pollution System. We will show a visualization of how the application could be implemented in small urban spaces.
Conflict & Nature: Farming Pollution System, a landscape strategy for soil contaminaton.
14th December 2013 – 2nd March, 2014
@ C-Mine 12, Genk (BE).
More info : http://www.conflictanddesign.be/
‘IT’S ALL IN THE AIR’ is an exhibition for young designers organized by Design Platform Limburg and Z33 Art Center. For this 18th edition, Toegepast gathers six young designers. I will present Farming Pollution Movie is a work that might seems dreamy, but more than ever, it stand with both feet in reality. The movie focuses on interesting social problems connected with soil pollution revealing hidden values of a region exploited by industries.
Other participants: Mats Horbach, Henry Baumann, Pieter-Jan Peter, Mattijs Brands, Isa Tez.
From 12/10/2013 to 19/01/2014