“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

In april 2011, the artists El Tono and Momo were invited to participate in the event Nova Rio Contemporary Culture, organized in Rio de Janeiro by Rojo. They worked together to create some colorful sculptures at the Parque Lage. They decided to create something ephemeral and realized a modular wooden sculpture that could change its shape in an almost infinite range of possibilities. They model 23 pieces of wood that would be combined in different shapes and compositions. Then, after a week of work over the structure, they colored each piece and placed the sculptures through the park, in the middle of the jungle and its local fauna.

With their simple but provoking colorful structures, the artworks of El Tono and Momo have a familiar look to my eyes: they remind me some of Calder’s installations and sculptures. The sparkle of vivacity created from their works in the park is bright and attracting, and, although being non-natural elements, it seems like they were born in the park itself, together with trees and flowers.

Images taken from www.eltono.com

Image taken from urbanfields.wodpress.com

The New York Times recently published a list of the 41 things not to be missed during 2011. Between them there was also the new Museo del Novecento, in the very heart of Milan. So, some weeks ago, when we where traveling there, we decided to visit the museum, giving a chance to the world-renowned newspaper.
During this visit, we had the chance to see a temporary exhibition, organized in a hall of the museum and dedicated to the relationship between art and urban environment In Italy from 1968 to 1976. The exhibition is called FUORI! (Outside).

 

As the curators explain in the nice catalogue, around 1968 artists started to act outside galleries and museums, to face the real world and involve more and more people in their performances, installations and sculptures. While analyzing this movement, they especially focused on four historic events and exhibitions; in between them, Arte Povera + azioni povere, organized in 1968 in the old dockyard and in the streets of Amalfi, Campo Urbano, that took place in Como in 1969; Festival del Nouveau Réalisme, which happened the city of Milan in 1970, and Volterra 73 in the homonymous little town in tuscany during 1973.

Even if these events where different between each other in the specific interventions they presented, they all had a common line based on ephemeral performances happening in the streets of the cities, a sort of first step towards that feeling of appropriation that characterized the following years and the early seventies. One of the main goal was to create a closer relationship between artists and citizens, as well as to encourage people to participate to the life of their cities, as it was demanded by the social and political atmosphere of that time.
All of these events had basically an ephemeral soul, and that is why the exhibition prefers to tell this story with historical videos, pictures and slides. Visiting the exhibition, it was interesting to notice how what we are nowadays investigating has old and distant roots, also in our own country’s history.

A few years ago, the landscape architecture office CMG was asked by a group of citizens to create a special garden in a precise area of the neighborhood. With the project Crack Garden, they created a green space from an area mainly made out of concrete, by removing some strips, cracking the material with a hammer drill and leaving this way only the naked ground of soil. Then, various type of flowers, herbs and vegetables were planted in these strips. This is how the authors explain the project:

The Crack Garden is a hostile takeover of a concrete urban backyard by imposing a series of jackhammer “cracks.” Inspired by the tenacious plants that pioneer the tiny cracks of the urban landscape, the formal rows of this garden create order amongst the random and mixed planting of herbs, vegetables, strange flowers and rogue weeds.

Images taken from www.cmgsite.com

Crack Garden reminds us about two other similar interventions. The first one is the artwork Cut made by Franziska and Lois Weinberger in 1999. The project was realized in Innsbruck University square and consists in a “cut” that crosses all the square, thanks to a straight removal of the pavement, in order to create an interruption of the public space. Inside the cut, flowers and little plants were inserted. Along with time, the pattern became homogeneous with spontaneous green grown in the crack. As for Crack Garden, this artworks was inspired by all these plants that grow in the hidden corners and cracks of our city, the famous third landscape of Gilles Clément.

The second project we were thinking about is the one of Depave, a group of activists and citizens based in Portland which goal is to remove unnecessary asphalt in urban areas, in order to replace it with plants and flowers. They also recycle wrecked concrete to make up little enclosures where to plant different seeds.
In lots of cities, the majority of ground surfaces is covered by streets or parking: Depave, through the removal of pieces of pavement, wants to re-establish natural environment, leading the way for green spaces in the city.

After spending few days in jail for spray-painting graffiti on public walls, the street artist couple HOTTEA got redemption, and so decided to switch to knitting and started to do yarn-bombing actions around the city, changing paint for colorful threads.

“The HOTTEA knitting project was born after our journey in jail, but it was also heavily inspired by past experiences: A grandmother teaching the skill of knitting, anti-gay bullying from kids at school and, most importantly, the relationships that were developed along the way. The HOTTEA project embodies the similarities and differences in all of us. I wanted to base the project off an idea that had room for growth. We are always growing as people and the dynamic between us give birth to endless possibilities.”

We love knitting in the streets, from the classic yarn bombing applied to street furniture and plants (Magda Sayeg, Janet Morton and many others) to other actions like the ones HOTTEA performs: it is a simple, silent, playful and reversible technique to hack the streets and add some color to our urban panorama.

Images taken from flikr.com/photos/hotandtea

The dutch Fedor Van der Valk created an uncommon kind of hanging gardens. The project, named String_garden, consists in growing out from a ball of soil or moss any kind of plant, from small trees to strawberries, from simple grass to colorful flowers. These balls are hanged with strings to the ceiling – if indoor – or to other platforms. They are a redesign of the original japanese botanical style called Kokedama.

Even though we don’t know if the author of these “installations” is an artist, a gardener, or none of them, we think that the beauty of these images speaks by itself.

Images taken from http://www.stringgardens.com/