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“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

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The city of Essen, this year’s nominee as the European Capital of Culture, decided to take advantage of its position to start a radical change in the Rhur, the region where it is located in Germany. Essen for the Rhur 2010 is the name of the program, which aims is to create a new metropolis in Europe, the Rhur Metropolis: no more old an abandoned industrial areas, but art and culture centres instead.

Their slogan is “Change through Culture – Culture through Change!”, as to say, they want to transform the largest coal mine in Europe into a lively district through culture and art: for this aim, three hundreds projects will be realized in various cities and towns of the zone.

An example is Still life A40: the 18th of july a lunch event was organized on the highway 40 (the most intensively used highway in Europe), which stayed close all day long to celebrate the everyday culture of the Ruhr through music, food and performances.

Image taken from www.essen-fuer-das-ruhrgebiet.ruhr2010.de

Image taken from flickr.com/photos/gerd_burchard/

Another project is the Shaft Sign, made with balloons marking the spots of former coal-mines.

Images by WAZ FotoPool (Manfred Vollmer), taken from www.essen-fuer-das-ruhrgebiet.ruhr2010.de

But the most interesting project is the Light Ruhr 2010: artists, architects and designers created light installations in different places of the Ruhr, in order to show in a very visible (and visual) way the ongoing change of the area. Some of the works are installed into the coal mines, transformed into rich and lively public spaces, like in the Landschaftpark in Duisburg Nord, but also in other sites with a different quality of space like the Zentrum für Internationale LichtKunst in Unna.

Image taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/34408161@N04/

Image taken from flickr.com/photos/everglade10/

The Landschaftpark in Duisburg Nord was an old steel and coal mine abandoned in 1985, then transformed between 1991 and 1999 into a landscape park by the architects Peter Latz+Partner. The new transformations create a strange relationship between industrial archeology, art and landscape, which looks charming and fascinating to our eyes.

Image taken from latzundpartner.de

Industrial archeology has come back to life. The Bechers would be proud.

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.