Author Archives: francescovedovato

“In March of 2007, when we found ourselves face to face with the possible handing over of the containers, I thought, instead of using all the containers at once for constructing a new large scale project at some pre-determined location, (…) why not distribute them among collectives with different locations and interests. And thus, a multiple, heterogeneous, and common experience would arise.”

The Role of Santiago Cirugeda in Trucks, Containers, Collectives, is basically the one of a technical consultant and provider of resources, materials and constructive know-how. Working in flexible use of constructing elements, buildings and sites, he and his team gained a thirteen-year-long experience on the topics of occupation and temporary structures. In the book, Cirugeda becomes a narrator of the lively experiences of Recetas Urbanas (Urban Prescriptions), which was founded with the aim of “putting down on paper the management elements we would need to achieve a clear objective” in building and/or improving underused sites with services for the citizens.

Two years after starting the experience of Camiones, Contenedores, Colectivos (Trucks, Containers, Collectives), the book develops a narrations in essays and project files through the complex experience of building a network of relationships ad interchanges which acquires the level of an experience-based architectural infrastructure. Each of the projects aim to plant a critical seed in a difficult urban context, underlining the lack of some services (or some civic spirit) in the area where the intervention is located. As very simple architectural installations, their power is indeed far from being small. Involving around 60 collectives in the process of defining a use, a location, and a shape for each of the containers which was used is a strong demonstration of how an architectural process can be open and based on practical activism instead of dull design obnoxiousness.

Articulated in four main sections, with contributions from various architects and theorists who went to know Cirugeda or worked with him during his career, the book of essays comes with the project files in an elegant but strong white cover with a QR-code on the front. The statements on the back warn us about the book being untrue, partial and useless and one of the first pages declares the volume incomplete and still open to contributions. Nevertheless, it can help the reader asking questions about the nature of the architectural practice, investigating facts and aspirations of this fascinating network.

Preview and buy the book here

Two weeks ago, we took part to a workshop leaded by Jan Vormann, artist and creator of Dispatchwork, a nice, colored urban “hacking” practice which consists in filling holes in stone or brick-made wall with hundreds of lego bricks. It was a nice afternoon and we had the chance to talk a bit with the artist about this practice. He came to know very well the pieces he handles and can easily fix whatever kind of hole he finds with a fine, superior technique. It is interesting to notice (or maybe to remember) how much craftsmanship these small bricks need to be wisely combined, but it is even more to learn how to interface them with reality.

Building worlds made entirely out of lego is a reminiscence of our childhood but using them to “fix” wall in a urban hacking practice sounds kind of more grown-up game, maybe closer to contemporary street art practices, but in a reversible way, since legos can in any moment be removed, dismantled and turn back to their original shape. That is why we believe it is an of course more ephemeral, but also somehow less arrogant technique, to color and play with the city.

Photos by The G. Canyon in a Crack

We thank Jan Vormann for the time he spent sharing with us his art and his technique.

Let’s open another little retrospective to explain a project we believe could be an ancestor of the modern Seed Bomb, a common practice of Guerrilla Gardening, which we already described in this post.

The project is part of a wider collection, Eco Redux, which is the name given to an archive collecting “architectural” projects and thinkings which appeared in the 60’s and 70’s, from sketches to more complex manuals, mainly trying to redefine the notions of “shelter” and “habitat”. Some of them are maybe just fashionable “anti-buildings”, as Peter Cook of Archigram thought about many projects of those years described as a “conglomeration of environmental elements”. But we believe we can see an effort to propose experimental techniques that go beyond architecture and design, to reach the level of performances or installations, mainly for the radical connection between materials and time, in a dynamic use of the succesive stages of formation.

As an example, we can bring the Chesterfield Armchair (1964-65) or the Grow Your Own Furniture (1973, recently reproposed in this version)

But what we would expecially like to bring to your attention is a project named Artificial Burrs, from the designers James Harold and Jolan Truan. In 1968, they invented a foldable small biodegradable plastic structure imitating the “hook mechanism” of particular kinds of seeds. These objects are capable of combining in order to create a dam of vegetation through time thanks to seeds and an hydrotropic nutrient solution spread over their surface.

The original goal for which this particular design was achieved was stopping the erosion cycle in arid areas through aerial distribution of the macroseeds, a practice already known since 1930. But what we suggest is considering this object as an earlier prototype of the modern Seed Bomb, which included also few intresting design characteristics like the hooks and the folding structure, that would maybe be interesting to re-propose in the current practice of Guerrilla Gardening.

Images taken from the Eco Redux archive

Let’s jump a little back to the past and talk about a project which is not exactly art and not exactly gardening but which comprehends somehow parts of both disciplines.

The project was made in the 70’s by an italian collective named “9999”, which was kind of breaking out in the radical design landscape of the moment. The persons who took part in this group were Giorgio Birelli, Carlo Caldini, Fabrizio Fiumi and Paolo Galli and that’s how they describe their work:

“Our project must be understood, therefore, as the model of a real object, which must find its place in the home. It is an eco-survival device, to be reproduced on a global scale. It is itself a habitable and consumable place in accordance with the principles of the recycling of resources. Intentionally, it makes use of very simple elements: a garden, water and an air bed.”

“[through this project] Man is in direct contact with nature: he follows its growth and development; […]. He establishes a symbiotic relationship.

[…] If technology keeps on destroying nature, the possibility of having contact with the vegetable kingdom in its integral cycle will assume even greater significance. The vegetable garden will become the sacred place of a new religion.”

The Vegetable Garden House represents, we believe, an early and important effort to re-evaluate and change the feeling that an environment transmits through the use of the natural element, in this case applied  in the interior spaces of a domestic background.

The project we are presenting was first exposed in the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, in 1972, in an exhibition called “Italy, The New Domestic Landscape”; a great happening where many of the most valuable example of italian design were shown and that, we believe, gave an important shift to Italy’s role as a cutting edge of the discipline in those years. The exhibition is currently being re-proposed in the Swiss Architecture Musem in Basel.

Here you can find some interviews of the designers (in italian)

Group 9999 conceived this project in their early thirties, in between other performances such as a “Design Happening” on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence or interior studies such a multimedia environment for a local discothèque “Space Electronic”. They were co-founders, with Superstudio, of the Separate School for Expanded Conceptual Architecture in 1971.