Piet Oudolf’s garden design
The Metropolis of Alliances
UR PEAKS ALTITUDE 35 ZEFCO
drawings & film stills
A Concise History of Gardens
Sammy Baloji & Filip De Boeck visit
PIER VITTORIO AURELI MARIA SHÉHÉRAZADE GIUDICI
Homage to Club Donny
A strictly unedited journal on the personal experience of nature in the urban environment
Sacred Forests and Courtyards in Southern Benin 60
Earth movements around Paris
Go Hasegawa in the Yoshino Forest 50
Plant en Houtgoed Farming-by-Design, Pioneers, Exotics, Matrix Planting and Test Gardens
Painting Fake Minerals 104
Docteur’s low-tech high-rise in Kinshasa Kunstgiesserei St.Gallen & Sitterwerk Foundation
ANNEE GRØTTE VIKEN
metals, books, moss, lemons
Junya Ishigami and the representation of nature 94
Eva Le Roi draws
the Fraternités ouvrières in Mouscron
Watch More TV! Science-Fiction, Architecting, Video-Taping & Broadcasting with Christopher Roth
The Posturban Phenomenon
Kayoko Ota asks why Japanese architects are interested in working in remote islands and villages
We Are Walking, Talking Minerals GALAAD VAN DAELE
Berlin Tiergarten 212
Small forest, big garden, agricultural field or dignitary park?
Los Bar, Strookoffer, Lax Bar 180
Deepfake Conversation Piece
This issue is based on meetings and conversations that took place over the past year. Driven by a spirit of experimentation and eager to stress the overlaps between the various contributions, we decided to replace the format of the traditional editorial by a fictional assemblage—a handmade, deepfake ‘conversation piece’ running for the next eight pages and featuring most of the direct and indirect contributors to this issue.1
UR, Peaks, Altitude — 35 and ZEFCO, The Metropolis of Alliances, prospective model
Climate change is increasingly occupying the media and the street and influencing people’s behaviour, while architecture seems incredibly slow in catching up, even though the building industry is one of the most polluting on Earth. This very complex issue touches almost everything, beginning with the economy and politics, but we want to address it from within our discipline and with the methods we are used to in Accattone. The first concern is an issue of representation: how can architecture make a different way of inhabiting the planet plausible, imaginable and, especially, desirable? In other words, can aesthetics foster a political change? Contributors have been invited to take part in this issue precisely because, in one way or another, they are all trying to establish whole new frameworks and practices that question our very sense of self and of ‘nature’, as well as our way of inhabiting and transforming our environment.
CHLOÉ VALADIÉ & GAÉTAN BRUNET
The crisis invites us to rethink our way of being in the world. In doing so, it enjoins us to renew its representations and, to use Nelson Goodman’s fine expression, to invent new ‘ways of worldmaking’ today. ACCATTONE
‘Worldmaking’, which can also happen simply by letting plants and minerals enter more vividly into our urban, domestic and work spaces. Many of your contributions
point towards a more direct relationship with the biosphere and even with the inorganic. As Junya Ishigami suggests in his book Another Scale of Architecture, humans don’t seem to be the sole users of his architec-ture, which stretches towards birds, plants, even micro-organisms and inorganic matter. From there, architecture is intended as a crossroads enabling interactions, as an interface connecting multiple environments. This idea is best exemplified by the image of a tree, as a mediating element between the small-scale world of insects, the scale of the human body, that of larger animals, and the territory. Junya Ishigami + associates, the Botanical Farm Garden in Tochigi, Japan, under construction
Different in scale but presenting a similar relationship, the tower in Kinshasa visited by Sammy Baloji and Filip De Boeck also functions as a ‘tree’... at least in the mind of its builder, Docteur. Sammy Baloji & Filip De Boeck, video still from The Tower. A Concrete Utopia
1 The conversation never actually took place. It is based on things written, said or quoted by the various participants, but the words have been manipulated, changed, compressed, recontextualized and displaced. We believe, however, that the spirit of everyone’s words has been kept intact and treated with the utmost respect.
Accattone #6 explores a renewed relationship with land, matter, ‘nature’ and localities against the backdrop of the new climatic regime. Situated at the intersection of architecture, representation and editorial-curatorial practices, the magazine is also permeated by a continuous research on methods and forms of practice. In particular, this issue addresses the use of film-making as a tool to foster and disseminate architectural positions; editorial devices and contents used by fellow little magazines; and the representation of nature in research, artistic and design practices.
Sammy Baloji, Kinshasa, from Suturing The City. Living together in Congo’s Urban Worlds
The tower as a self-containing world is a trope in architecture theory. In Brussels we have been following the repurposing of the World Trade Centre 2 tower and its temporary occupation as a ‘social experiment’, both raising a lot of questions about the role of architects, the authorities and citizens in regard to activism, realestate logics and city renovation. Before entering such a discussion, Plant en Houtgoed’s intervention in the very same tower shows another example of ‘making worlds’: they filled an entire office floor with plants and even birds, proving that even corporate, acclimatized environments can foster renewed relationships with nature. NICOLAS VANDENPLAS (PLANT EN HOUTGOED)
Part of the experiment was to learn how species interrelate, what they do to each other, how they create growing conditions, if people water them or develop an aesthetic attachment to them, etc. Today the common array of indoor plants is very small, but there are thousands more beautiful plants that could work. We also tested the use of plants that look like outdoor trees, to see if we could blur the boundary between inside and outside. It was a very nice social experiment. We imagine people walking into
Plant en Houtgoed, WTC testing, photo Alexis Gicart
Docteur envisages the still unfinished building to be a city in itself, a humanistic project that transcends the city while concurrently recreating it within its own confines, incorporating all kinds of people and activities. The tower sets the scene for a new vertical and autarkic urban community. From ground floor to spire, the tower offers a continuum extending from corporeal to mental matter: on the ground level there’s a healthcare facility, on top an observatory for the sky (and one day there might be antennas to guide airplanes in case of disruptions at the airport). Consequently, the tower’s main function is to transform its urban residents into better, more fully integrated human beings. In Docteur’s mind, the tower thus offers a strong sustainable and ecological alternative when compared to most of the housing in the rest of Kinshasa. It provides a greener way of life in the city’s polluted environment. The protruding cement roofs are designed to ‘absorb’ and ‘breathe’ rainwater out into the city’s smoggy atmosphere. The rooftops themselves could be turned into gardens and areas to keep chickens and goats. And ideally, the tower will be powered by solar energy one day as Docteur hopes to cover its surface with solar panels.
the 15th floor, opening a door and suddenly finding this type of environment. We believe that the soothing qualities of plants could positively influence social behaviour at work.
PIER VITTORIO AURELI
I agree, especially because plants have an innocent, positive appeal. Everybody likes gardens, left and right. This allows to conceal, by compensation, violent acts of appropriation and seclusion. In this sense, the calming qualities of gardens can be ambivalent. WOUTER DE RAEVE
In our practice 431, Lietje and I have been investigating the power relations that influence the making of space. And as we were in the WTC tower, we saw all those power strata unfold right in front of our eyes, how people were manoeuvred, how some infiltrated the process as a form of activism, or at least claimed to do so. All these people – the architects, developers, activists, artists – were ultimately not so abstract anymore: everyone was there, positioning themselves voluntarily or involuntarily within this force field. It was like a test case of all those dynamics we wanted to assess... Christopher Roth, space-time.tv with 431’s trailer for WTC, A Love Story
FILIP DE BOECK
For Christopher Roth’s online channel, space-time.tv, we thought of simply making a trailer for a soap opera called WTC, A Love Story as a way of relating to the newcomers in the building, who had somehow taken it over. Not in a confrontational way, but by building a story with them. We made the trailer in a single day with our phones. Suddenly everyone got very excited by this idea, almost beyond us, and it all started to become a reality, with people picturing themselves in the movie.
The film as a process is already a tool. It makes waves. It’s like a magnifying lens concentrating sunrays. If you film something, it changes what you film. These are stories that need to be told in a simple way, for instance by fictionalizing a better future we could aim for, to make people think, ‘Oh, wow, it could happen, it could be great, it could work.’ I really don’t think it’s all over. And a crisis is indeed always interesting, because after a crisis there is a chance to start over. After the Berlin Wall came down, there was a chance for Germany to build any type of country, and in the end they made a bad West Germany out of the whole thing. After 2008, once again, nobody took that chance. But there will be one more chance. A big one. In the next few years. And this will be one we have to take. ACCATTONE
Junya Ishigami + associates, House with Plants, East Japan
We hear a lot about ‘the crisis’. Maybe every day, or even several times a day. But we could actually speak of ‘crises’, as there seems to be many entangled crises, disrupting the cultural, the climatic and the political. For some of you, they actually all stem from the old anthropocentric vision we still rely on: an image of humankind mastering everything, whether animate or inanimate. From this perspective, the last hundred years of capitalistic plunder have only accelerated a pre-existing trend.
MARIE CAZABAN-MAZEROLLES & JULIEN CLAPARÈDE-PETITPIERRE
During what we now call the ‘neolithic revolution’, humanity gradually abandoned the nomadic lifestyle of huntergatherers to form sedentary communities of herders and farmers. It was then that, as Roderick Nash put, ‘lines began to be drawn – on the land and in human minds.’ With the first houses and villages, previously non-existent borders and distinctions emerged: those that discriminated between interior and exterior spaces, and that which opposed the human domain to a ‘nature’ that was now kept at a distance. Moreover, according to American ecologist and philosopher Paul Shepard, the simultaneous development of animal rearing and agriculture encouraged these new sedentary people to think of themselves in an antagonistic relationship with an environment redefined as savage and
which from now on had to be controlled and dominated. With walls and enclosures, the village thus began its great evolution towards anthropocentrism – understood as a representation of the world that not only places humankind at its centre, but also distinguishes it from a non-human universe over which it asserts its power. GALAAD VAN DAELE
This discourse – which helped humans to increase their lifespan, their wealth, their comfort over the last few millennia – has obviously reached its limits: its blatantly damaging impact on the world can no longer be ignored. The material and immaterial frameworks generated by the dissociation of mind from matter are now spinning out of control, triggering cold spells and searing heatwaves, acidifying and asphyxiating oceans, melting ice caps and glaciers, wiping out thousands of species and now threatening the very species that created them.
Giulio Romano, Sala dei Giganti, Palazzo Te, Mantua, Italy
The figure of an intrinsically inanimate matter may be one of the impediments to the emergence of more ecological and more materially sustainable modes of production and consumption, feeding human hubris and our earthdestroying fantasies of conquest and consumption by preventing us from detecting (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling) a fuller range of the non-human powers circulating around and within human bodies. DIANA COOLE & SAMANTHA FROST
What is at stake here is nothing less than a challenge to some of the most basic assumptions that have underpinned the modern world, including its normative sense of the human and its beliefs about human agency, but also regarding its material practices such as the ways we labour on, exploit, and interact with nature. JANE BENNETT
Insofar as seeds, embryos, personalities, and cultures are all organic wholes, there is an isomorphism between physical, psychological, and civilizational order.
Thomas Piper: How many plants total for Durslade? Piet Oudolf: What was it? Fifty-seven or so … fifty-seven thousand. It’s a bit. When you work on a plan, you work from a bird’s eye view or from above. But when I really think about the experience, then I go around on eye level and see what people see when they go around the corner. If I doubt about parts in my design, then I put myself on the ground and see if it’s wrong. And that’s what it is; I can’t do more. If they say ‘rendering’, I say ‘Hmmm, I can’t make a rendering.’ What is the sense of making a rendering? Whatever you show your client is the moment, and not even the true moment, of experiencing the garden.
Piet Oudolf: It has to do something through the months and the seasons. But gardening is … it’s also a promise. It doesn’t have to be there. I think you’re looking forward for what will be there.
Club Donny, a ‘strictly unedited journal on the personal experience of nature in the urban environment’, was published in Rotterdam by Ernst van der Hoeven, Frank Bruggeman and Ben Laloua between 2008 and 2013. Each of the ten issues consisted in a series of landscape photographs printed on unbound sheets, held together by a rubber band. A few texts, on yellow paper, followed the same principle. Editors gathered the contents through a web page, welcoming contributions from anyone, whether professional or amateur. Following a conversation by email with Accattone editor Carlo Menon, Ernst van der Hoeven, now co-editor of MacGuffin, sent invitations to the Club Donny community asking for new images.
pp. 24, 45, Antwerp, Belgium, Ksenia Galiaeva pp. 25, 44, Pyongyang, North Korea, Ksenia Galiaeva pp. 26, 43, Loppis, Dalsland, Sweden, Ernst van der Hoeven pp. 27, 42, Guangzhou, China, Ernst van der Hoeven p. 28, Lollo rosso, IJdoornlaan, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Henk Wildschut pp. 29, 40, Begaa, Lebanon, Henk Wildschut pp. 30, 39, Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, Portugal, Petra Noordkamp pp. 31, 38, Calais, France, Henk Wildschut pp. 32, 37, Bookstore, Los Angeles, USA, Frank Bruggeman p. 41, Prins Hendrikkade, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Ernst van der Hoeven
CM We met in Brussels in October 2012, when we hosted a round table on editorial practices in architecture within the Archizines exhibition. Among the many independent magazines published over the last 15 years, Club Donny has always appealed to me in a particular way: it is incredibly simple and incredibly addictive. Do you acknowledge these qualities, and what do they mean to you? EVDH I totally agree. Part of the elusive quality of Club Donny was indeed its rather loose format: an odd selection of simply folded A3 pages of full-colour photographs (gloss) sandwiched between some yellow text pages (matt) featuring mostly commissioned short stories or essays. It was mainly held together by its urgent theme: the personal experience of nature in the urban environment. The direct open-source approach – you could send in your photos via a website which we uploaded in a public folder – immediately appealed to one’s imagination. In a way, the concept was incredibly modest and simple but, on the other hand, in retrospect its casual appearance was pretty pretentious and highbrow – and highly impractical, when you think in terms of distribution and sales. We were quite naive and never really thought about the consequences: how to sell an unstitched magazine in a kiosk?
Another thing that helped make Club Donny successful was that it started off almost as a community journal. A club formed around a close group of friends working in the creative industry. We had in common a love for nature but had, for pragmatic reasons, chosen to live in cities like Rotterdam, Brussels, London or Berlin. By sharing images of intimate or bizarre encounters with urban nature, we comforted each other. It gave a certain consolation to our lack of nature. It also helped to be more aware of the existence of sometimes unexpected nature in cities. It became a rather contagious process of finding and exchanging the right Club Donny photo, a sort of acknowledgement to become a respected member of the club. If you look back at the photos that were selected for print, you definitely witness a certain hunch in terms of the often overlooked and unplanned beauty of nature. It always had a casualness, or an alarming presence. People started to compete, trying to surpass each other’s authenticity. Who has the best observing eye? In the beginning, photos were made with a camera; later, when the first smartphones arrived, photos were made more spontaneously, on the spot. Maybe you could compare it to a good Instagram pic: nowadays many nature lovers and garden-club members are exchanging experiences via Instagram.
‘The Posturban Phenomenon’ and the video Kazuyo Sejima in Inujima were originally published on the website of the Canadian Centre for Architecture at https://www.cca.qc.ca/whatabouttheprovinces as part of the CCA c/o Tokyo project. © CCA
The Posturban Phenomenon KAYOKO OTA
More months than not, Toyo Ito makes the six-hour trip from Tokyo to Omishima, an island in the west of Japan. To get there he takes a bullet train, a long-distance bus, and then a car. Upon his arrival, Ito meets with local authorities, project collaborators, and community stakeholders. Surprisingly enough, he doesn’t have any commissions on this island, rather, his work there is entirely on the grass-roots level, contributing his architectural expertise to improve existing communal facilities or create new ones, or mobilizing projects that are not immediately architectural in an effort to help mitigate the effects of the island’s thinning population. It is unusual for an architect to be committed to a place without clients, let alone in the countryside. Like most architects of his generation, Ito long considered the city the only place to work and construct a discourse. He did not think of anywhere else.
Inujima Life Garden was realised through a collaboration between architect Kazuyo Sejima and Akaruiheya, a duo formed by flower designer Yutaka Kizaki and community garden planner Atsuo Hashizume. The staff of Akaruiheya moved to the island of Inujima, and has been engaging with a wide range of people while working to create the botanical garden. Workshops and various activities are organised to create environments and spaces for experiencing all that plants can offer, from food to fragrance, education, and recreation. The plan is to generate a space where visitors can connect to the island in new ways, learning from residents about how to harness the power of nature and vegetation in their daily life, and thinking together about future lifestyles. Roughly 4,500 square meters of land has been used to create a botanical garden reflecting the natural environment and culture of Inujima, with a long-abandoned glass greenhouse as a centrepiece. An open-air café stall cladded in corrugated stainless steel, designed by Kazuyo Sejima, enables visitors to enjoy time in the garden and buy the garden’s fruit. It is not a conventional botanical garden, professionally landscaped so that people can visit and observe plant life; but rather a place where island residents and visitors can join in the process of reviving the land, and enjoy self-reliance in areas going from food to energy, while experiencing the joy of living within the cycles of nature. http://benesse-artsite.jp/en/art/lifegarden.html
Today, however, more and more architects in Japan are looking beyond the city. Elsewhere in the Japanese archipelago, Kazuyo Sejima commutes to the tiny island of Inujima to carry out a long-term, participatory planning process focused on the landscape. In Momonoura, a fishing village in northern Japan that was affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Momoyo Kaijima and Yoshiharu Tsukamoto of Atelier Bow-Wow are coordinating rehabilitation efforts with the local community and a private fund for social recovery. In the town of Umaki, Toshikatsu Ienari of dot architects has helped reactivate a public space for residents and visitors alike, by devising a compound of wooden structures housing an open kitchen, local radio station, infirmary, goat hut, garden, and photo archive. Hajime Ishikawa, an unorthodox landscape architect and theorist, frequents a farming village on the island of Shikoku to learn from the creative skills of the old farmers who live there.
All of these islands and villages are, to different degrees, suffering from declining industrial activity and accelerated depopulation.1 Local governments are facing their limits. Poverty is severe. Even as the market economy progressively dominates the entire country, it seems to pass over these remote places located far from the big cities. In the past, an internationally recognized architect might have been invited to design an iconic building in islands and villages such as these. But now their visits to these same communities may indicate something new. In place of the conventional system of commissioning, a new kind of exchange is emerging between architects and their counterparts—local stakeholders, rather than clients. The architects seem extremely dedicated to this new relationship, fostered autonomously out of a desperate situation— not enough working population or any kind of income. What is this new form of exchange? What do architects offer to the countryside, and what do they gain from it?
1 Jinko gensho chizu [Depopulation map], The Nikkei, published online on 24 September 2014, https://www.nikkei.com/edit/interactive/ population2014/map.html#!/z=6. The data used for the mapping is based on research by the Japan Policy Council, the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan.
Meanwhile, the processes of thinning and aging continue outside of Tokyo and other big cities. And a reaction to this is already occurring. Alarmed by the increasing seriousness of the problem in the countryside, a variety of initiatives for local regeneration have started to emerge. In some remote islands and mountain villages, a reversal of this trend has already been observed as a result.2 The number of emigrants and returnees to the countryside is increasing, too. A change in people’s values is perhaps a key factor in this phenomenon. The generations born after the beginning of the economic downturn in the 1990s no longer see the value of concentrating everything in Tokyo. People are no longer obsessed with the city, or with owning things.
Twenty years ago, Cities on the Move, the landmark exhibition curated by Hou Hanru and Hans Ulrich Obrist, presented surprising forms of urbanity unfolding at an accelerated pace in Asian cities. Back then, we—the generations of architects including Ito, Sejima, and Atelier Bow-Wow—had a genuine curiosity for the metropolis as an infinitely mutating entity. Among the wonders of cities like Tokyo, Hong Kong, or Shanghai was their hyper-density. This excited us, and inspired our imagination. The thought that these cities would enter a phase of post-growth, bringing with it a decline in fertility and an increase in longevity, did not cross our minds.
Another factor to note is the permeability of the consumer market in Japan, which quickly responds to new or rare products. Agriculture, forestry, fishery, textile industry, handcraft manufacturing—these dying industries in the countryside are occasionally reinvented successfully by entrepreneurs, often by using advanced technology. Tourism, too, can be a magic bullet, even on small islands such as Inujima.
Two major paradigm shifts have since occurred in Japan. The first is the shrinking and aging of the population—in the countryside, but also in big cities, to which Tokyo is no exception. The demographic decline is occurring at such a pace and scale that it feels as if the whole country has suddenly slipped into a new era, leaving it standing on an uncertain foundation. According to statistics released by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, by 2035 one out of four people in Tokyo will be sixty-five or older, and nearly thirty percent of this elderly population will be living alone. The thinning of population is already contributing to vacant areas and abandoned houses in the capital, exacerbating the social and economic conditions of its neighbourhoods. Yet even with the new social challenges facing Tokyo and other large cities in Japan, architects there are still not taking part in shaping the urban environment. A major factor behind this is the second paradigm shift: the monopolization of the planning and design of urban developments by major corporate design firms and the design arms of general contractors, developers, and housing companies. In addition to these more traditional players, companies in the technology, marketing, advertising, and security sectors, as well as think tanks, are entering the market. Urban planning today is carried out according to an increasingly corporate logic driven by the market economy, and underpinned by increasingly non-architectural thinking. This phenomenon leaves less and less room for Japanese architects with individual calibre (and international recognition) to take part in the evolution of the city. Instead, they typically work on single- or multi-family dwellings, commercial complexes, or, in good years, competitions for public buildings. Renovations of existing structures have become especially common among young architects since the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
Of course, these two paradigm shifts are not exclusive to Japan. Shrinking cities and declining birthrates have been a concern in the industrialized countries of the West for a few decades. But it is also becoming an imminent condition for rapidly urbanizing countries such as China. The impact of neoliberal capitalism on urban governance and physical restructuring is another critical issue for those specializing in urban and architectural planning, regardless of where they are. In central Tokyo, for instance, the local and national governments have commissioned major urban developers to come up with master plans for redeveloping several districts (such as Shibuya and Shinjuku) since 2002. These schemes involve large amounts of space designated for public use, which allows developers to inflate building volumes thanks to deregulation. As a result, citizens earn more common space for consumption. The urban fabric becomes ever bigger and taller, despite a shrinking and hyper-aging population. The city, as the old premise and as planning context, is itself transforming. 2 Ko Fujiyama, ‘Saishin no zenkoku-teki na jinko-dotai to denen-kaiki no kanosei’ [The recent demographic movement across Japan and the prospect of moving to country life], report published 26 September 2017, http://www.mlit.go.jp/common/001203325.pdf
HOUSE IN KYODO â€” SCALE 1:50
ACCATTONE Last year we discussed with critic Kayoko Ota the issue of what she calls ‘the posturban phenomenon’. In Japan, more and more established practices have expressed some form of dissatisfaction with building in cities, preferring to engage with local communities. In the metropolises, they have increasingly taken on the role of ‘designers’ serving the real-estate logic, whereas on islands and in villages with shrinking populations, their role is paradoxically wider: architects sit on committees, participate in collective projects, exchange their knowledge with local craftsmen, and so on. A typical commission for a building is not necessarily the main issue at stake. When we met soon afterwards, we had just visited the Cedar House you built in Yoshino in collaboration with two local wood companies. The house benefits the local community in two ways: it is rented out to tourists on weekends and used as a community hall the rest of the time. Can you tell us more about your activities in Yoshino? And about the city’s appeal to you? Do you recognize your practice in Kayoko Ota’s words?
became heavily industrialized. There was less space for guests, because cities were becoming more compact. Also, privacy and ownership were given priority. Let’s say that new housing lacked the tolerance we had before.
Yoshino cedar is renowned for its beautiful delicate grain, the result of tree growth in unusually dense plantations. I visited Yoshino when searching for a place with which we could collaborate for the House Vision 2016 exhibition in Tokyo. A partnership with the town hall and the local carpenters made it possible to use this wood in this house, initially built for the exhibition, then relocated to its current site on the bank of the Yoshino River. The combination of a communal space with a guest house generates a zone where the local community is the host, so that visitors can have a richer experience of the region by interacting directly with the locals, and in turn, visitors can help to enliven the community.
Old wood industry in Yoshino
Yoshino cedar forest
GO HASEGAWA The Yoshino Cedar House was an opportunity to review the relationship between hosts and house guests, in collaboration with Airbnb. After the Second World War, Japanese houses
So I visited Yoshino quite by chance, although I knew its history and beautiful products. I was fascinated by their traditional forestry, which has been ongoing for more than 600 years. Honestly, in projects built in Tokyo, it’s difficult to know where each material comes from. Originally it was a simple thing, even in the city, but after the widespread industrialization of housing in the last century, we unfortunately were cut off from the source of the materials, especially in the urban context.
Room of the vodun Dido, 23 Aug 2015
Dido’s room. The access to the spring is on the right. Didozunme, Abomey, 23 Aug 2015
Dido’s legba, 14 Jan 2015
Continuing along the path we come to a vun vuitin tree (Ficus family), which can be found in front of many houses and temples in Abomey. The vun vuitin is a shade tree, like the mango tree, but it is rarely found in houses. Dah Djagba stands beneath it and the followers arrive in line with the pieces of pottery on their heads to take water from the spring. A few steps behind is the legba, which is a widespread vodun and which is also found in front of houses and temples (see for example Dassouvo’s house, p. 73), although
today its presence at the gate is less common. After passing the legba and following a narrow, curving path, we arrive at the room of the vodun Dido, in the centre of a clearing. In front of it, we can see the desresigɛ (Newbouldia laevis), a tree used as a kpatin, to make the fence of the house, and often found near temples because its leaves are necessary for vodun ceremonies. Prayers to the vodun are made with a bottle of royal gin that Dah Djagba had asked me to bring. He sprinkled the vodun with water from the spring, and asked him for fifa, literally ‘peace’ and ‘freshness’. The vodun itself is manifested by a termite mound. As I said, the vodun is in itself a being with a blurred presence, but who can be recognized by
Termite mounds in Dido’s bush and in the field next to Dah Djagba’s house, Didonu, Abomey, 20 Jan 2015
material, physical, phenomenal manifestations. One and the same vodun can be in several places at the same time, or in the same place intermittently. Here, the vodun Dido is both the spring and the termite mound, and it can also take possession of a vodunsi, literally ‘wife of the vodun’, a male or female follower.
Acces to the spring, 14 Jan 2015
Dah Djagba allowed me to go to the spring on a second visit. He asked me not to take pictures of the spring itself, but I was allowed to draw the layout of this part of the forest. We pass the spring, and we continue on the path. Dah Djagba stops in front of small
termite mounds that are said to have been produced by spirits to shelter there. These bush spirits are called aziza. It is said in Abomey that artistic inspiration and the knowledge of plants are revealed by aziza. The presence of these termite mounds in the forest shows Dido’s strength. We recognize the shape of a miniature human being, a family, a penis … Later, as he passed in front of a larger termite mound in his field, Dah Djagba designated it as a ‘multi-storey villa’ of the spirits. These little termite mounds are used to install vodun, some legba for example. The legba, which I have already mentioned, is generally represented by an earthen mound in which an erect penis is inserted. To install this vodun, you need these penis-shaped termite mounds which are deposited with other elements in a hole, under the mound: the force of the vodun is hidden, just as the spring must remain hidden. There is always a relationship between the visible and the hidden, as there is a relationship between inhabited space and the bush. These different contrasts are intertwined and determine a geography. We cross a teak field and arrive in a second clearing, a particularly cool place which, during the rainy season, turns into a pool of water. It is a place where certain ceremonies are held for the tɔhosu, the one that consists in ‘picking up the child from the river’. If someone gives birth to a tɔhosu, an anormal baby, when it dies, the family doesn’t say that it is dead but that it has returned to the river. Because tɔhosu, as its name literally indicates, is the king of the river. You have to go look for it again and install it in a temple at home, like the one we have seen in Legonou’s hɔnto. At what point do you talk about forests, or groves or something else? Did you ask yourself that question?
1 A former union delegate, in Benjamin Hennot’s documentary La Jungle Etroite (the narrow jungle, 2013), Gilbert, declares: ‘I would rather eat shit with several people than eat good food alone.’
Les Fraternités ouvrières is an association created by Josine and Gilbert Cardon in 1969 at their home, Rue Charles-Quint in Mouscron. Today it represents several fruit and vegetable gardens, free gardening courses and a grain library of nearly six thousand varieties of seeds. Their garden at home is a narrow jungle, a truly experimental garden maintained by Gilbert until recently. All permaculture lovers in the north of France and Belgium, all those who want to join the social and natural aspect of gardening come to this place, to rub shoulders with Gilbert’s pugnacious spirit and his lush garden.1 On 6 June 2019 we visited the garden with artist Eva Le Roi, whom we challenged to represent the wilderness of nature in contrast with the clear lines of the architecture she is used to illustrate. She created a series of five black and white drawings, here reproduced at their original scale. Ignace Bruneel, an old friend of Gilbert who gives regular courses on gardening, led us through the garden, permaculture, domestic economy and seeds.
A WALK THROUGH THE GARDEN OF FRATERNITÉS OUVRIÈRES IN MOUSCRON
‘If you have a greenhouse, put large cans of water in there,’ Ignace explains as we step into their Californian greenhouse. ‘There are two advantages to this: one, it will moderate the climate inside and two, you will always have water at the right temperature for your seedlings. Water that is one degree colder or warmer can inflict great stress on young shoots, causing them to attract fungus.’ ‘Ah yes,’ he exclaims as he opens another door, ‘here we have the seedling room for the plants that can’t take the cold very well … Except the tomatoes.’ He shuts the door and leads us back into the garden. ‘Apricot trees, kiwis, khakis, in the garden there is a little bit of everything you need. Gilbert, over there – Ignace points – is sitting under a Triloba lemon tree. It gives very small fruits but it’s a type of lemon tree that can handle down to minus 30 degrees; we have grafted all our citrus on this tree.’
A rich leafy tree meets the eye as we follow Ignace’s finger in the air as he continues ‘There above the chestnut trees we have a European walnut, and here we have an American one, you can see the difference if you look at the nuts and the bark. One for us, another for biodiversity! Almost everything here is edible. The mulberry tree produces small fruits, which look like blackberries and we pick its leaves to feed the silkworms. Over here we used to have a square of pear trees but then we planted all kinds of cherry trees. They are grafted onto a rootstock that keep them small, three or four metres maximum. And here you have lemons hanging down.’ We are surrounded by fertile mass, in parts unruly in parts humbly serving our walk
‘Here is the original undergrowth, even if the whole garden is becoming undergrowth, here especially it has become difficult to grow vegetables because the foliage blocks out too much of the light. The undergrowth is oriented northeast to cut off cold winds and ensure a proper microclimate. Gilbert planted smaller types of all the fruit trees on that side – plums, cherries and so on – to make a barrier against the cold winds. Then he noticed that the wind was blowing under the crowns. With lines of raspberries and gooseberries the wind was definitely stopped ground level. There was a difference of three or four degrees.’ ‘Here, see the apricot trees invaded by a vine, brambles, of course.’ Ignace turns and adds, ‘In this garden there are 400 varieties of apple trees and 250 pear trees, serving both biodiversity and taste, following Gilbert’s principle: striving to have as many varieties as possible from the same family, whether fruits, vegetables or trees.’
542 541 540 539 538 537 536 535 534 533 539 538 537 N｡-T 73 N60 ミズナラ
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Botanical Farm Garden, Tochigi, Japan, 2013–2018
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2 Peter Hutchinson, Dissolving Clouds (Provincetown: Provincetown Arts Press, 1994).
5. Botanical gardens follow a culture of grafting, hybridization and transplantation. In your Home for the Elderly project, the cabins extracted from the old houses function as exotic plants that are now forming a new garden. They are still ‘alive’, at once carrying the memory of their original site and recovering new meanings in their new setting. How would you illustrate this principle?
6. ‘The garden of a quarter of an acre may seem hermetic or provincial as well as represent a much larger area: the world as a whole. (…) The plants come from Chile, India, all the mountain ranges, Switzerland, England – in fact, from all over the world – and also from small recurring environments in the ecosystems, that symbolise the largest ones.’2 We are particularly interested in this idea of a garden as a place outside the world, but which can potentially bring the whole world together. Could you show us some documents in relation to this idea?
Home for the Elderly, Tohoku, Japan, 2012–
Family House, East Japan, 2013–
104 ChĂŞne: ronce (oak)
We are walking, talking minerals. GALAAD VAN DAELE
As devised by early archaeology, the pre- and early history of humans can be classified by association with the prevailing material used for a given period of time. From the Stone to the Bronze and finally the Iron Age, entire space-times of our species are characterized by the matter they extracted, refined, shaped and used. That is a lot of significance for a collection of minerals and, beyond considerations of the kind of material our own era might retrospectively be associated with – silicon? oil derivates? lithium? rare earths? – the Three-Age system points to the very close relationship connecting us to the matter we exploit, a matter whose variegated capabilities and performances allowed the emergence of all the tools and objects that made us just as much as we made them. THE UN MEDITATION ROOM In a modernist building belonging to an extended Iron Age, a slick tower dedicated to world peace, a small shrine manifests the ambiguity and complexity of our relationship to matter. Located on the ground floor of the General Assembly Building of the United Nations Headquarters in New York, a Meditation Room was installed by Dag Hammarskjöld, second Secretary-General of the UN. Hammarskjöld personally oversaw the project, and the room opened to the public in 1957: a small, stone-paved, wedgeshaped space offering a row of benches for visitors to sit on, find silence, and ponder the two elements inhabiting the room. The first, painted on the back wall, is a colourful abstract mural by Swedish painter Bo Beskow titled Altarpiece. The second element, standing in the middle of the room, is a six-and-halfton block of iron ore, raw on the sides, and polished on top, reflecting the light shining from the ceiling. A surprising choice. What is this lump of raw matter supposed to inspire us to do? Stare into the ore? Worship the Iron God? The Matter God? Or some version of the devil, as conspiracy theorists suggest online? This block was donated jointly by the King of Sweden and a Swedish mining company and Hammarskjöld, a deeply spiritual man, describes it as follows in a handout still distributed to visitors: ‘We may see it as an
The UN Meditation Room. credit: United Nations (Office of Public Information)
altar, empty not because there is no God, not because it is an altar to an unknown god, but because it is dedicated to the God whom man worships under many names and in many forms. […] The material of the stone leads our thoughts to the necessity for choice between destruction and construction, between war and peace. Of iron man has forged his swords, of iron he has also made his ploughshares. Of iron he has constructed tanks, but of iron he has likewise built homes for man. The block of iron ore is part of the wealth we have inherited on this earth of ours. How are we to use it?’ According to Hammarskjöld, the room should thus inspire an almost mystical immersion into the metal and what it can become, prompting visitors and members of the UN to reflect on how they can steer its use. Placed at the peak of world diplomacy, this space represents a striking acknowledgement of the tremendous potency of matter. But an ambivalent one, as the block, partly raw and partly crafted, is also presented as our neutral ‘inheritance’, rightfully ours, and full of a potential that is only revealed when touched by a human hand: a reading, provided by the very commissioner of the room, that turns it into a clear monument to the secular legitimation of human mastery over matter.
Anthropomorphic engraved pebbles. MET Museum, New York.
The Penteli marble quarry, used to build the Acropolis and most Athenian monuments, and active to this day.
The Sala dei Giganti, depicting the Giants that come crashing down from Mount Olympus. Painted by Giulio Romano. Palazzo Te, Mantua.
A DISCOURSE ON MATTER
Torso of a female Cycladic figurine of canonical type. Early Bronze Age. Archaeological Museum of Naxos. credit: Zde
1 Diana Coole and Samantha Frost eds., New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), p. 34.
For whether it comes from Aristotle’s theory of a passive matter that only comes into being when given form, from Genesis presenting us as the last creation, the most perfect, meant to reign over the Earth, or from Descartes describing us humans as ‘masters and possessors of nature’, the religious and philosophical West seems to agree that humans stand at the top of the cosmic hierarchy, free to exert their natural and unquestionable sovereignty over the world, to use and put in shape anything they might find on or under its surface to fulfil their needs – or their cravings. A common faith in the human exception thus unfolds – a posture called exceptionalism – based on an unwavering faith in language and reason, and in a ‘natural’ order of domination of those who possess them (we humans: the subjects) over those who don’t (animals, plants, minerals: the objects). This boundary placed between the human and material realms is one of the founding gestures of our self-definition, and subordinates anything that is not us into a marginalized group that cannot think or do, and on which any kind of appropriation or violence is thus legitimized. This discourse on matter does what discourses
do, as explained by political theorists Diana Coole and Samantha Frost: it creates a ‘nonreflexive habituality’ which ‘imbues objects with [a] familiarity that makes artefacts, commodities, and practices seem so natural that they are not questioned’.1 They are not a mere description of what is, but a constant production and reproduction of what can be, a reflection of the dominant paradigm formulating what is ‘us’, what is ‘not us’, and our position towards it: a practice rather than an absolute reality, a historically and socially situated condition, supporting specific needs and orientations. Discourses have indeed a purpose, and an effect. Yet this discourse on matter – which helped humans to increase their lifespan, their wealth, their comfort over the last few millennia – has obviously reached its limits: its blatantly damaging impact on the world can no longer be ignored. The material and immaterial frameworks generated by the dissociation of mind from matter are now spinning out of control, triggering cold spells and searing heatwaves, acidifying and asphyxiating oceans, melting ice caps and glaciers, wiping out thousands of species and now threatening the
artbooks and manuals, drawers and stacks of skins and waxes
ENCOUNTERS OF A THIRD KIND
JULIA LÜTHOF The material library started about 12 years ago. Various representatives of Sitterwerk, the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHDK), the Gewerbemuseum Winterthur and the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU T&A) sat down to ponder the possibility of creating a tool in which information is conveyed by physical samples. They came up with the idea of setting up a network consisting of a database and an archive. In the beginning the goal was rather utopic – the library was to describe all the materials in the world – but they had the courage to start and began with the database. So it all started with this big idea about collaborating, then came the discussions on how to do it, how materials can be described and who we wanted to collect them for. This was a very big discussion, as each institution had their specific audience and vision, so in the end we came to the conclusion that it would be better if each institution were free to collect in whichever way they wanted, while feeding information into the collective database. Now we see each other quarterly to discuss. By now we are eight institutions, but we are all in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, so all the entries in the database are currently in German only. [Picks up a book we pulled out of the library: Lessons on Objects, Designed for Children Between the Ages of Six and Fourteen Years by Elisabeth Mayo, 1830] This was a project based on gathering objects for children, to introduce them to new ideas and give them a better understanding of the world. She made collections of materials together with this schoolbook, as an educational tool. It is interesting that we belong to a tradition of making collections that have always faced the same challenges— how to document and subsequently how to communicate it in the best way. You not only collect materials, but also gather information about the techniques associated with them. Is that right? Yes. For example, at the moment I am researching metallic surfaces and artificial patinas. Our idea is that it should not only be a collection of products, but rather a collection that opens up knowledge about how materials can be used, while giving people the opportunity to find their own solutions—not to shut it down and say this can only be used for this or that. There is a kind of magic to opening a drawer and discovering samples that have not been given a standardized
presentation: cast or 3D printed objects like lemons, bottles, and so on. How do you decide what enters the collection? We have two ways of collecting. First, we have a lot of materials and items that come directly from the foundry next door. When I started, most of the materials came from there and I still get a lot of samples, sometimes without even knowing what it is. But many are so beautiful that I keep them. The other way is research-based: after some time in the library I started my own research projects and looked for funding to expand the collection. For example, one of these projects was on wax. It was very systematic, looking at what kinds of wax exist and relating it to the foundry. As it is a very important material for them and a material we don’t see that often in other collections, in terms of research it was very helpful as I could tap into the knowledge that is already here. Other times, a specific collection or research can be based on chance encounters, someone who becomes interested in something. This makes our collection very specific in certain areas, but with blind spots or nothing at all in others. We share knowledge and research with the other institutions too, and a lot of materials have come into the library in this way, by means of exchange. At the moment we have around 2,000 material samples, and around 1,000 of these have descriptions on our shared database [www.materialarchiv.ch]. Some descriptions can be very vast while others are quite precise. I find the vastness very interesting; if, for example, an architect comes here to look for a specific material and I know an artist that has worked with it, I can put them in touch and something new can emerge. Quite a lot of drawers are still empty. This piece of furniture here is quite specific. What is your relationship to it? Maybe this is the actual reason the material library started … Felix would be the one to ask because he found these drawers in a truck repair workshop, but I don’t know whether the idea of the library came before or after [Felix: the shelves came first]. They are very sturdy, so I can put heavy objects in them. It’s perfect. Many are still empty because I work slowly: I need time to do research and choose specific things. Otherwise I could have filled them up quite fast: at a certain point everything from the foundry came in here and it was necessary to become more selective, so I decided that it was better to keep a separate archive to store all the materials and techniques directly related to their projects. It was important to make a distinction between
the two: this library is public, while the foundry’s archive in the basement is private and stores specific and sometimes sensitive information for each project. I used to work at the foundry, which made the exchange easier; now things are more organized and in addition to collective meetings once a week, everyone has lunch together every day, which helps keep an overview of what everybody is working on and what could be interesting for my research. Sharing knowledge is important. We also do a lot of tests ourselves: an assistant is now busy doing some surface tests in our back room for a presentation on patinas. The collection also contains some rather surprising elements, like feathers, skins, shells … How did they end up in the collection? They belonged to Daniel Rohner. A woman called me one day, saying her son had been in contact with him and that he had stored Rohner’s collection of shells. I decided to add them to the library because I think they belong in here and resonate with a lot of his books. They were very important to Daniel Rohner, but also in relation to art and architecture: as nature is the basis of so many things, they provide curious connections and opportunities to generate new ideas. Object descriptions are not always very clear or noticeable: is this deliberate? It depends. Some materials are easier to mark than others. For example, some come from a product archive, so they have a standardized way of being presented; but it is almost impossible to properly label certain materials we have, like waxes. I find touching them more important, so I don’t wrap them in an archival plastic bag. Sometimes we only put numbers, to distract as little as possible from the materials, as the description is sometimes bigger than the object. In this way we can liberate the materials from their description. All the materials that carry an RFID also integrate with the books, so you can place them on the magnetic table, combine them with books and have everything registered and visible in the digital workspace. It’s quite intriguing, this attempt at ‘non-classified classification’ used in the library to echo Daniel Rohner’s very personal and organic way of organizing his books. Are you defending a specific vision of knowledge with this absence of classification?
Masters of popular painting, Holger Cahill BOOK
Cave art, Jean Clottes BOOK
Shelter, Lloyd Kahn
Descriptio omnium operarum quibus ad fundendam ex ære, una emissione metalli, Ludovici decimi-quarti statuam equestrem. quæ a civitatis parisiensis magistratibus in ludovici magni platea erecta fuit perventum est, Germain Boffrand BOOK
Edward Ruscha – stains, Edward Ruscha, Peter Schjeldahl, John Cheim BOOK
Lebenszeichen, Peter Fischer
Die Dekoratinonsmalerei, Karl Eyth, Franz Sales Meyer BOOK
Opium, Jean Cocteau BOOK
Eva Hesse, Lucy R. Lippard, Eva Hesse BOOK
Franz Gertsch –die Holzschnitte, Franz Gertsch, Balthasar Burkhard
Encyclopaedia anatomica, Monika von Düring, Georges Didi-Huberman, Marta Poggesi, Saulo Bambi
Trix + Robert Haussmann, Fredi Fischli, Trix Haussmann-Högl, Robert Haussmann BOOK
Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Christo, (Künstlerin) Jeanne-Claude
Arts sauvages, Claude Roy
Lessons on objects, Elizabeth Mayo Kork, Georg Hänisch BOOK
Writing = Schriften, Jenny Holzer, Noemi Smolik
Oswald Oberhuber – Möbelskulpturen, Christa Steinle, Peter Weibel, Oswald Oberhuber
Ursula Stalder, Maria Vogel, Ursula Stalder BOOK
Eva Hesse – sculpture, Elisabeth Sussman, Fred Wasserman, Yves-Alain Bois, Mark Godfrey, Eva Hesse
Heidi Bucher, Heidi Bucher BOOK
Die Erfindung der Natur, Karin Orchard, Jörg Zimmermann, Max Ernst, Paul Klee, Wols BOOK
Métamorphose de l’artiste, André Masson
First Nation Builders – Lloyd Kahn
Nancy Graves, Nancy Graves Magritte, Harry Torczyner, Bella Bessard, René Magritte
Museum Wormanium, Ole Worm
A Sculptor˙s World, Isamu Noguchi
The October 2018 IPCC report appended to the flood of harmful predictions a sentence that will now colour the policy choices facing us: ‘avoid the unmanageable, manage the unavoidable.’1 The crisis invites us to rethink our way of being in the world. In doing so, it enjoins us to renew its representations and, to use Nelson Goodman’s fine expression, to invent new ‘ways of worldmaking’ today.2 These new representations must enable us to requestion not only our ‘weak’ share – to quote Peter Sloterdijk3 – in the exchanges between anthroposphere and biosphere, but also to connect what the ‘great divide’ had disconnected.4 Step by step, humankind has detached itself from its environment and has sought to make it an exterior to be tamed, to be controlled. We now know that there is no way out of such a treatment of the land we inhabit and the atmospheres we breathe. ‘Nature’ organized in fact by modernity recovers, in the coming climatic order, a legitimacy and more broadly modalities by which to surface in the overly anthropocentric debates on the construction of metropolises as artificial universes. Even if we wanted to close the door on nature, it would find a way to sit at the table with us. Therefore we might as well invite it as a new actor in the metropolitan project and consider a system of alliances and a mutual commitment to
protection. Indeed, climatic changes represent a terrible and stimulating opportunity to glimpse, behind the old divide, the possible pairings and coalescences that establish the first lines of a weaving of the common world. A roof that collects and stores rainwater to irrigate agricultural areas; a building with multiple activities (services, workspaces, micro-industry, logistics) in the heart of residential districts, in order to bring together production and housing; resilient and reversible developments in the major bed of a river; a public swimming pool set within a geothermal power plant; a soil depolluted over time through agroforestry; water networks exposed above public spaces; habitats shared by people and animals … Such could be the microstories taking shape in the hypothesis of an ecological city: a metropolis that agglomerates and associates species, that mutually enhances objects and functions, that takes advantage of the multiple scales and times that shape it by striving to constantly produce spaces of the common. This is the hypothesis of a fundamentally ecological perspective on the contemporary city, a perspective liable to face the challenges of a habitability that is currently in crisis and that would seek in this unprecedented condition a desirable and intense horizon.
1 Filippo Giorgi, a member of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and head of the Earth System Physics Section of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics of Unesco, October 2018. 2 Nelson Goodman, Ways of Worldmaking (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1978). 3 Peter Sloterdijk in Les atmosphères de la politique, dialogue pour un monde commun, Pasquale Gigliardi & Bruno Latour eds. (Paris: Les Empêcheurs, 2006). 4 Philippe Descola, Beyond Nature and Culture (2005; Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2013). 5 Paul Shepard and David McKinley eds., The Subversive Science: Essays Towards an Ecology of Man (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1969).
The Metropolis of Alliances
UR (GAÉTAN BRUNET & CHLOÉ VALADIÉ) WITH MARIE CAZABAN-MAZEROLLES AND JULIEN CLAPARÈDE-PETITPIERRE
A term coined by German naturalist Ernst Haeckel in 1866 from the Greek noun oikos (the home, the house as well as all its human and non-human inhabitants) to designate the study of organisms as they exist in relation to their environment. Although this definition is widely known, it nevertheless conceals in the modesty of its enunciation what makes ecology a profoundly ‘subversive’ science.5 Revealing that no organism exists autonomously, yet is never anything but the labile product of the exchange of matter, energy and information that it engages in with its environment, ecology revolutionizes what we called ‘being’. Against the old representations that populated the universe of very distinct, separate, inwardlooking entities, persisting in time and well defined in space, ecology exposes a world in which every living being is a permeable
and metastable knot, subordinate to the events, flows and configurations that make it, transform it and break it. Hence: an ecological worldview does not know ‘objects’ and gives ontological primacy to relations and processes; an ecological vision of humankind does not grant us any regime of exceptionality and re-unifies with to a world that, much more than just surrounding us, co-constitutes us. CRISIS
The climate changes already underway, and which tend to increasingly disrupt the atmospheres and environments that make up our habitats – whether gaseous or material – are creating a world without assurances and without any predictability. Making this painful observation means recognizing that the practices that seek to determine what in the future will shelter and hold us together have been hit by a crisis of action.
pp. 180–182 Lax Bar, Wiener Festwochen, Vienna, 2019, ceramics, steel, glass, wood, plaster, plastic, concrete, electric, paint, ice, alcohol, sound, 750 x 525 x 263 cm Photos Ute Müller pp. 183–185 Los Bar, Mackey Apartments / MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Los Angeles, 2015, wood, cardboard, plastic, paper, concrete, steel, brass, aluminium, rubber foam, acrylic, tape, paint, electric, alcohol, smoke, ice, 671 x 252 x 258 cm Photos Henry Cherry (above), Christoph Meier (next spread) pp. 186–187 Strookoffer, Etablissement d’en Face, Brussels, 2017, wood, steel, reed, bamboo, plastic, electric, straw, canvas, sisal, paint, anti-flame fluid, ceramic, ice, alcohol, ash 400 x 440 x 725 cm Photos Ute Müller
In summer 2015, Austrian and German artists Christoph Meier (glasses), Ute Müller (short hair), Robert Schwarz (black hair) and Lukas Stopczynski (tall with long hair) found themselves all together as MAK Canter’s artists-in-residence in Rudolf Schindler’s Mackey Apartments. Out of boredom and lack of inspiration they decided to create an artists’ bar for the neighbourhood in an empty garage of the building. Their model was Adolf Loos’ famous American Bar in Vienna (1908). Realising that the space had a comparable length, but was 0.65 shorter in width and height, they squeezed time and space in adapting Loos’ bar to its new location. Not only did the square columns’ base and floor tiles become consequently elongated; also time accelerated, music being played at 1.5x speed and the Happy Hour lasting for 40 minutes. We spent an incredible time when they replicated the experience in Brussels two year later, in the basement of the art space Etablissement d’En Face, this time stretching Loos’ original project by 1.44, because the room was longer. As a consequence of music being played at 0.7x speed for the same reason, making ABBA sound like Death in June, and light becoming dark yellow probably for a similar downscaling of wavelength, the Happy Hour turned into the Sad Hour: for 86 minutes, prices for drinks went up by 1.44. The third iteration of the project, all in white tiles, looks as maniac and mesmerising as the precedent.
CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER ROTH, LIETJE BAUWENS AND WOUTER DE RAEVE
We Believe in (Science) Fiction, the Realism of Our Time
Film set for one of the scenes of WTC, A Love Story. Photo Galaad Van Daele
ACCATTONE You are all currently collaborating on a film about the Brussels World Trade Centre, a partly vacant tower that was opened up for temporary use for some years and that hosted artists, architects and urban planners, some of whom then worked on a scheme for its conversion. WOUTER DE RAEVE Lietje and I actually had an office there, on the 25th floor, which we gave up in December 2018. The tower’s temporary use had been started three years earlier by a group of artists who had struck an agreement with the owner of that floor. When we arrived, the other occupants of the building, like banks, were gradually moving out, until it was almost completely empty. After two years of occupation, LabNorth, an initiative launched by the biggest real-estate owners of the Brussels Northern Quarter, moved in to think of ways to revive the area in order to increase the value of their buildings and the Northern Quarter as such. Lietje and I have been investigating the power relations that influence the making of space. And as we were in the tower, we saw all those power strata unfold right in front of our eyes, how people were manoeuvred, how some infiltrated the process as a form of activism, or at least claimed to do so. All these people – the architects, developers, activists, artists – were ultimately not so abstract anymore: everyone was there, positioning themselves voluntarily or involuntarily within this force field, and everyone had a face. It was like a test case of all those dynamics we wanted to assess… LIETJE BAUWENS Then we were asked by Christopher Roth to make a small video contribution for his online TV channel, space-time.tv. We had never made one and didn’t know how to. But then we thought of simply making a trailer for a soap opera called WTC, A Love Story as a way of relating to the newcomers in the building, who had somehow taken it over. Not in a confrontational way, but by building a story with them. We made the trailer in a single day with our phones. We then discussed what we were doing with friends and different institutions, and everybody was very much interested in the topic and our approach, such as CIVA, the Brussels architecture centre, which proposed to co-produce it, the Brussels Kaaitheater, and Kunst-Werke in Berlin. Even the owners of the tower somehow heard about the plan. Suddenly everyone got very excited by this idea, almost beyond us, and it all started to become a reality, with people picturing themselves in the movie. So we thought that it would be much more interesting to actually make a movie about all the people involved in this transition and about what they projected onto this film.
CHRISTOPHER ROTH The film as a process is already a tool. It makes waves. It’s like a magnifying lens concentrating sunrays. If you film something, it changes what you film. If there was a camera filming us right now, I would think much more about what I’m saying. Talking to all those people with the promise that a film would come made them react differently. They liked the idea, and it was like a mirror for them. It accelerated everything. A For the film you propose a very specific format, in which you look at all the people involved in the WTC conversion project in a rather indirect way, by having actors play them. LB Indeed, we chose eight people involved in the tower’s conversion process; we call them ‘characters’. We invited them all to brief a film actor, to explain their role and position to them. Filming this briefing is a way of showing how all these people see themselves as participants in that process and how they want to be perceived. And that’s what’s interesting for us. So the briefing becomes the first stage, and then comes the performance of the actors in a fictional, improvised plot. In the third and final stage we expose the ‘characters’ to what their actors made out of their briefing. Wouter and I share an actor, because we are also part of this debate and by now, beyond our critical stance, we also have a proposal concerning what the tower could become. We would like to use this fiction to expose this proposal and convey an idea. A Christopher, it also relates to what you do in your films with Arno Brandlhuber, which are always based on interviews, but in which you also provide extra layers of information, with facts, fiction, figures, graphs, highlighted words superimposed on the speakers, all of this building up a kind of augmented discourse. CR Yes, this started with a film that was not about architecture called Hyperstition. It is a film I made with Armen Avanessian on the Accelerationists, a group of philosophers who derived from the ‘Speculative Realists’: Ian Hamilton Grant, Ray Brassier, Quentin Meillassoux, whom I adore, and Graham Harman. The Left Accelerationists had a gathering in Berlin, during which I shot that film. Then we added a narrator, Suhail Malik, who talks to us from the year 2026. One interpretation of hyperstition as a concept is that the future makes itself real. ‘Truth is Science is Fiction’ is our tagline.
ACCATTONE We are particularly intrigued by your experimental approach to gardening: we have talked to several architects with whom you are collaborating on different projects – from planting a tree in an individual house to developing green space in industrial areas, using hotel balconies as stepping stones for urban biodiversity and populating office buildings with plants – and they are all enthusiastic about the knowledge you bring to the reflection on the project. Your work seems to be as much handson, like a gardener, as it is imaginative.
nature towards a completely different design. A Mediterranean garden didn’t really fit. At the same time, we didn’t want to replant the garden entirely, so we are wanted us to use indigenous species steering nature. For instance, we’ve introduced a Geranium phaenum, an indigenous species which at the moment is thriving in these conditions. We’ll soon have to remove part of it to make room for other species … It evolves.
Frost-tolerance test plot: Tetrapanax papyrifera amidst indigenous species.
Forest edge vegetation test, combining high aesthetic potential with high levels of biodiversity.
Sometimes things don’t go well. Last year we planted martagon lilies in one of our test gardens. They grow naturally on mountain
NV We carry out a lot of experiments and tests at the farm or at our house. If you look at the garden we have at home, it’s not what you would expect from the garden of a landscape architect. People expect a nice garden. To me it’s more interesting to constantly try out new things and see how they develop over time.
The soil is very much alive, which is key. Three years ago, when we were developing the project for Tirana, we started our first gravel garden experiment at our place. Today it doesn’t look like a Mediterranean garden anymore, because we’re slowly guiding
Snail predation on martagon lily in a test plot for self-seeders.
meadows, in Switzerland for example, where it is too high for snails to attack them. We thought they would turn out nicely, but they didnâ€™t: snails really like them too much. More recently we have been getting a lot of requests for natural swimming ponds.
Usually it is a swimming pool with a natural filtering system. At home we experimented with a more biodiverse version with no pump. Its filtering system works in a cyclical manner: when the water warms up in spring, the ecosystem takes over again and algae grow, turning the water completely green. Small animals feed on them. First there is a peak of
algae. This is followed a few weeks later by a peak of small insects, then by bigger animals, and so onÂ â€Ś until the beginning of May, when you obtain perfectly clear water, with oxygen plants serving as the only means of purification. We designed the pond with a gravel beach around it, so that the water comes up gradually, which is ideal for nature: birds come and bathe, and insects can reach the water with exactly the right temperature to flourish.
Gradual transitions create additional (micro) habitats and growing conditions.
Potamogeton luscens, a submerged plant serving as a natural filtering system in spring.
Mentha aquatica (water mint), colonizing the shallow areas of pools. A very dynamic species removing excess nutrients and providing habitat for wildlife.
Our approach is a blend of biology and landscape and, more broadly, matters of design. We believe that the crossing of the two disciplines can be very powerful. I used to work in forestry and wildlife conservation, which makes me notice a great lack of ambition in the field of landscape design: the main focus is usually aesthetic, while so many possibilities in terms of biodiversity and appropriation are left untouched. For us, the biological aspect of our profession is the core of what we do.
To grasp our work it is important to understand the context in which we operate. We are currently experiencing the sixth big wave of biodiversity loss. Climate change gets a lot of attention today, and one of the major effects of this change is a massive loss in biodiversity and a steep decline in the quality of habitats. It’s worse than what the general public thinks. Seeing this happening is a very powerful incentive for our practice. Biodiversity is often portrayed as a summation of species, but this is only a small part of the story, otherwise one could start a zoo with all the species and the problem of biodiversity would be solved. The key to understanding biodiversity is the notion of ecosystems: interconnections of species that work together and co-evolve.
The ruling theory used to describe the functioning of our fragmented natural system is called the island theory, derived from a study by MacArthur and Wilson on the richness and diversification of natural habitats.
Broadly speaking, the island theory is used to predict habitat quality, population size, or a species’ vulnerability to become extinct. A metapopulation model can be set up, combining the population of all the islands. Often species go extinct on one ‘island’, or habitat patch, but they can be repopulated from another. This constitutes a strong form of resilience, because it allows for broad genetic diversity; otherwise inbreeding would become a problem. Research showed that the smaller islands are important for a species’ survival, because even on the bigger islands, species go extinct every once in a while.
This very important theory within the field of biology created the traditional development model for urban ecology and its practice: the big green areas like parks and big gardens are seen as bigger islands, connected by ‘green corridors’. But without knowledge of the species and habitats these connections are made for, they won’t be functional to the system. They just look green. This is one of the big issues of the traditional model: you can look at a map and see what’s green, but it doesn’t work like that for biodiversity. And most species don’t appear on photographs.
A pioneer is the complete opposite of a forest species. A forest ecosystem is very balanced. Pioneers are the species that in nature appear first, for example after a big landslide in a forest. Pioneers are very powerful species that are mostly short-lived and very resilient. It is a very beautiful group of plants. In cities they often appear on construction sites. You can see them on the earth piles that are typically part of these environments. These are also the species you encounter in the cracks of sidewalks or on roofs. By growing, they prepare conditions for climax species, the kind of species you typically encounter in a balanced (forest) ecosystem.
If you look closely at a city, it’s more of a patchwork of habitats, and within the translation of the island model to urban environments, a lot of the patches are left aside. The big green areas in the island model are so large that they behave in a similar way to the countryside, because they are big enough and stable. But the typically urban species, the mobile ones, those who like heat, and the pioneers, are not taken into account.
All species will have to move up eventually because it is becoming too warm in their original habitat. If we don’t create spaces to welcome them, they will become extinct. In this sense, initiatives like Natura 2000 which create networks of protected areas throughout Europe are very important. On the other hand, this often goes against the dogmas of nature conservation, which is very conservative in these matters. For instance, we’re still not allowed to plant trees from southern France, because they are considered exotic. DESIGNING IN THE CITY
So your agenda is to actively create conditions in which indigenous and foreign species can adapt to a new habitat. It’s curious that the city is given a new, ‘positive’ role against the backdrop of the new climatic regime.
Within our practice we have been developing an alternative model, in which non indigenous species with an anthropogenic expansion play an active role. This represents reality much better: the entire palette of habitats, species and genetic diversity is considered. This shift also places the city at the core of the climate-change discussion, because cities are actually the first environments in which new southern species that migrate towards our geographical context can survive, because they are the warmest. In a way, the migrating species are like climate refugees.
All plant species have a certain strategy to survive and expand. The map collecting this information is shaped as a triangle: the corners are formed by the competition species, the ruderal species that depend on disturbance, and the stress-tolerant species. Most species combine two or more strategies, so they are located towards the middle of the triangle. If you know your species, you know how they are going to behave. We design with this map in mind. We use some species as gap fillers, for example, because they add a dynamic aspect to the vegetation over time. Another example is what we call ‘macho’ plants, like persicaria. They will occupy the entire space over the course of a year and no other plants will grow. They are very strong plants, perfectly suited for public planting because they require little maintenance. And they are very interesting in terms of biodiversity.
Cities are an extremely dynamic context and they are crucial to our vision: we not only want to improve biodiversity, we also want to work towards a more liveable and accommodating environment for people. The more people inhabit urban spaces, the more space is liberated for nature in the countryside. Space is what nature needs. In terms of densifying cities without losing quality of life, we are convinced that green is a big part of the solution.
Usually, when landscape architects take part in an architectural competition they only choose interesting trees. Biologists are also sometimes integrated in design teams, but their role is usually reduced to working on species.
TIERGARTEN — SMALL FOREST, BIG GARDEN, AGRICULTURAL FIELD OR DIGNITARY PARK?
In 2014, Berlin-based architects Sandra Bartoli and Silvan Linden (Büros für Konstruktivismus) dedicated the fourth issue of their little magazine AG Architektur in Gebrauch to Tiergarten. It presented 59 takes on the park, some of which are reproduced here. The book Tiergarten, Landscape of Transgression (This Obscure Object of Desire), edited by Sandra Bartoli and Jörg Stollmann, followed in 2019 (Zurich: Park Books).
Hut in the Dolomites, Silvan Linden, 2013
Tiergarten New Year’s Eve in Berlin, over one million humans gather in the middle of Tiergarten, on the ‘Festmeile’ of Straße des 17. Juni. Thousands of fireworks and rockets go off for hours and have been already detonating for days. Many of the birds of the city fly higher than this spectacle of cold and hysterical joy, floating in the dark air, they move in spirals like airplanes on stall, waiting for the silence, to descend, return and take over the ground. Tiergarten is an artefact which happened by chance in Berlin, it includes and reconciles animal, vegetal and human worlds. A sci-fi prototype for the city, with a thriving life, rich in species, evoking the unusual ethics and aesthetics of sublime, horrific and rococo decay. Tiergarten is inclusive, beautiful and messy, interpretable in use and generous in sharing. Tiergarten is an oracle of a future that might be, will ever be, might never be, in Berlin. A promise of lichens and moss in the midst of burnt hydrocarbons. The horizon is short on this endlessly colonized planet where humans dilate and implode like novas in the universe.
East of Tiergarten, Klaus Lehnartz, 1983 (Landesarchiv Berlin)
Ghosts The east side of Tiergarten, the one now facing the Holocaust Memorial (2005), used to lie in proximity to the Wall and was severed from the rest of the forest by the Entlastungsstraße. For 50 years this area grew wild, sandy and dry, where many dirt trails run through tall grasses and rare plants. From the early ‘60s up to the late ‘90s quiet gardeners and bird lovers considered this place an asset and took care of it by letting it be. A favourite among Berliners and a black hole in the awareness of the Berlin administration. Christian Petzold intensely uses this side of Tiergarten when shooting the film Gespenster in the summer of 2004, as the savage counterpart to the civilization of Potsdamer Platz; it is the place Nina turns to, at the end of the movie, walking into the unknown and magic freedom of a dirty trail, off into the woods. In 2006 an expert of on Tiergarten, the botanist Maria-Sofie Rohner, thoroughly maps this spontaneous, lush vegetation, claiming it as an unexpected and precious dry grassland, a miracle of bloom and biodiversity just across from Brandenburger Tor and the Holocaust Memorial. In 2011, after the removal of the Entlastungsstraße and a crude laying of new paths and irrigation pipes on this area, she repeats her botanical survey, finding a depleted environment. The dry grassland has disappeared due to the zealous diligence of the Tiergarten management planners reconstructing Baroque paths and straightening this unruly part of the forest.
Tiergarten, Sandra Bartoli, 2012
Dark and Dense This is the most beautiful place in the core of the city: 210 hectares of dense forest. It is traversed by wide roads, but along with its sanctified paths there are mysterious, almost invisible trails that run through dark woods. They serve a large wild population. Cunning and stealth are intrinsic to their character. One sees them if the eye is trained to natural patterns. One sees them. Tiergarten is originally a construct of marshes close to the river Spree, with swamp forests, backwaters, scattered open fields, pits and meadows. Baroque salons, allées and labyrinths are later literally cut through it with the purpose to make it accessible to people and horse-drawn carriages. All the rest remains hard to penetrate in the thickness of mosses, lichens and sponges. Peter Joseph Lenné who, between 1832 and 1839, tried to domesticate this place by introducing many clearings and controlling the marshes, stated that Tiergarten is a forest with a mere park character, and not the other way around as the current city administration would like everybody to believe. Tiergarten can’t be tamed. It’ll always be dark and opaque.
Farming in front of Brandenburger Tor, unknown author, 1948 (Landsarchiv Berlin)
Farming In 1946, when practically no food was available in the city, a large part of Tiergarten was divided into plots for sustenance farming. Photographs of people harvesting vegetables in front of the Reichstag or cutting hay in front of the Victoria convey a sense of closure. In 1949, the reforestation begins with the support of the Berliners.
Bobby, Lutz Heck, 1930
The bunker, unknown author, 1946 (Landesarchiv Berlin)
Zoo Built at first for the purposes of scientific research on the south west side of Tiergarten, the Berlin Zoo transforms into a hybrid place, hosting animals but also catering to the general public’s entertainment. It becomes more and more the focus of royals, diplomats and politicians, as a place representing colonial possession and political geographical influence. Several zookeepers are killed by elephants and hippopotami in the process. By 1925, the zoo itself is organizing its first expedition to the Ethiopian Empire to capture even more wild animals. In the ‘20s, many parties and balls are organized on the zoo’s large restaurant terrace. The night scene during these occasions is mesmerizing, with people dancing between the lights of tall lamps and the glow of sleep-deprived flamingos lit by long-range reflectors. During the day, loads of tourists, painters and photographers of animals, regular visitors and beautiful people stroll around the premises. In 1928, a young gorilla makes a sensation by coming to Berlin in a first-class D-train compartment and grows during his years at the zoo into a 262-kg powerful animal. He becomes the zoo’s iconic image. His name is Bobby.
Zoobunker The second anti-aircraft gun tower is a massive concrete cube, designed by Speer and built in 1940, north of the zoo’s hippopotamus house, in Tiergarten. Square and 40 meters high, it is called Zoobunker. Built to contain 15,000, when the sirens scream 30,000 people gather in front of its doors, run through the large staircases and fill the first two stories of damp and sick air. Inside there are three level bunk beds, a barberstand and a canteen: the vital pretence of a normal routine in a fucked-up situation. Goebbels’ idea to have music playing when meals are served is categorically declined by the refugees. The third floor is a treasure vault keeping the Pergamon Altar and other precious artefacts together with the gold from different museums. A silent elevator brings the wounded upstairs, to the military hospital on the fourth floor, with surgery and X-ray rooms. On the fifth floor and roof are several operative guns to shoot down airplanes. By 1943 they are operated by teenagers who receive school lessons between attacks. After the end of the war the Zoobunker is still in use as a hospital for some time; the patients are seen on the roof breathing fresh air between ruinous guns. In 1947 the British Army attempts many times to demolish the Zoobunker with dynamite, but it remains mostly unfazed, while the shock waves from the explosions destroy several other buildings in the zoo. Eventually the Zoobunker cracks in half, its concrete is sold to build roads, and soon enough, on its place stands a fragile aviary.
Le Désert de Retz near Paris, Le Rouge, 1975
Still from eXistenZ, David Cronenberg, 1999
Rocks Rocks can evoke many different feelings. At the Désert de Retz, deep in the forest of Marly, there is a legendary opening through a long stone wall in the woods. Through this portal, the wall expands into a convoluted rock formation. Famished spruce trees, bent by numerous tempests, cling onto the stone surfaces. Turning around and looking back, that entrance is lost in the steep rugged mass of rock and a thousand indents. William Chambers, a Scottish architect, travels to China several times between 1742 and 1749 and reports at length about the way constructed Chinese landscapes are divided into scenes linked to emotions: pleasurable anxiety, horror, magic. He describes long sequences of scenes where a visitor is subjected to a rapid series of strident and violent sensations: on trails that descend toward subterranean holes, entering tenebrous forests, leaning on a ledge on top of a precipice, looking down deep black valleys and murky rivers. The choice of fauna for these scenes, Chambers writes, would be monstrous mammals and birds imported or obtained through insane breeding. All these animals are also watched by giants and Tibetan dogs. Chambers’ wildly exaggerated descriptions become viral on the taste of the time: architecture that triggers imagination that triggers architecture, and so on.
Fauler See There are two water springs running from Landwehrkanal. Bubbling, they rush in from under some thick bushes, making waves briefly. After that, the water flows at reduced speed, exploiting a sweet gradient towards the river Spree. Artificial streams and ponds gather and converge in the dampness of the marshy woods, which this place would otherwise be. There is a pond in Tiergarten that is loosely planted with reed. A test area from the 1980s for cleaning the water, with a fence to keep humans out. Many more of these tests are needed, with or without a fence. On the north west side, below the Hansaviertel is the Fauler See, ‘Rotten Lake’, that is always opaque, slimy, its surface covered with small round algae. The lake looks like a solid grass field and produces a variety of gases. Lacking any oxygen, one never knows what is inside it.
In the current landscape of non-commercial publications, Accattone’s originality lies in the strong visual orientation and in the close association of methods, editorial devices and featured contents. Through these experiments, the magazine addresses critically a fundamental aspect of architectural thinking and practice: the working document and the changing status of the image.
Accattone #6 presents projects and ideas about a renewed relationship with land, matter, ‘nature’ and localities against the backdrop of the new climatic regime.
Accattone is a project by two architects (Sophie Dars & Carlo Menon) and two graphic designers (Ismaël Bennani & Orfée Grandhomme)
Rue du Conseil 28/6 B-1050 Brussels email@example.com www.accattone.be
Editors of this issue: Sophie Dars & Carlo Menon in collaboration with Galaad Van Daele
Editorial design: Orfée Grandhomme & Ismaël Bennani
Additional editorial work: Anne Grøtte Viken (Sitterwerk, Mouscron, Editorial), Maximiliaan Royakkers (Sitterwerk, Plant en Houtgoed), Camille de Jerphanion (intern)
Copy-editing and translations: Patrick Lennon
Special thanks: Kana Arioka, Nathalie Brison, Giovanna Borasi, Milena Charbit, Albert Ferré, Olaf Grawert, Antoine Grumbach, Sotiria Kornaropoulou, Estelle Lecaille, Mrinal Rammohan, Éléonore Saintagnan
With the support of: Wallonie-Bruxelles Architectures Pierres et Marbres de Wallonie
Accattone explores minor practices in art and architecture through the specific means of the printed magazine. As an exhibition on paper, each issue is a montage of contributions whose shared positions towards reality, history and representation resonate with one another.
Magazine on architecture Issue 6, September 2019
Printed in Belgium by Graphius
This magazine is financed, published and distributed by Accattone asbl/vzw, a non-profit organisation registered in Belgium (BE 0550.585.163)
The editors have been careful to contact all copyright holders of the materials appearing in this issue. If you claim ownership of any of these and have not been properly credited, please contact us and we will be happy to print a formal acknowledgement in the next issue.
© Accattone, the editors and the featured authors. All rights reserved.
Accattone #6 presents projects and ideas about a renewed relationship with land, matter, ‘nature’ and localities against the backdrop of the...
Published on Sep 18, 2019
Accattone #6 presents projects and ideas about a renewed relationship with land, matter, ‘nature’ and localities against the backdrop of the...