Parckdesign 2012: Garden

The most recent edition of the biennial dedicated to public space planning invited designers to stage interventions in more than ten abandoned and disused spaces around the peripheries of the Belgian capital.

"tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely"
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet , Act I, scene II

The city of Brussels is not the first to credit the garden as a font of drama, intrigue and surprise. References to the garden since biblical times have credited it with a sort of wild culpability that must of course be tamed. The failure to do so, Shakespere's Hamlet maintains, indicates a ruined world, without care, as an unkempt garden signifies disharmony and malfortune. So what do we make of a project that seeks to use these unweeded gardens, not in order to rennovate them, but to introduce an element of surprise to urban life? In the latest edition of Parckdesign , titled "Garden", the dramatic trope becomes a source of excitement, curiousity and potential in what are essentially wastelands, zones urbanes déçues .

In the 2012 edition of Parckdesign, Brussels Environments in cooperation with Architecture Workroom Brussels, Véronique Faucheur and Marc Pouzol, Eric Troussicot, and Karel Martens, invited ten design teams to stage interventions in abandoned and disused spaces throughout the peripheral districts of Cureghem, Anderlect and Molenbeek. The results were not always pretty, but certainly playful and surprising. Borderline by Stéphanie Buttier and Sophie Larger plays with optical illusion by replacing part of the fence around a place with grey cords made of wire, hung to appear as the fence itself. It takes a few moments to understand that this is in fact an invitation rather than an exclusion, inviting us to violate the boundary around a small quadrilateral space and have a look at what lies beyond.

The artists, designers and studios who created the ten interventions responded to a call out asking for ideas to design and exhibit in these spaces, situated in a cut off area spanning each side of the canal and featuring a high concentration of migrants, but also to engage locals with activity and participatory actions.
Top: Studio Basta & Wagon Landscaping, <em>Jardin de l’esSKYlier</em> installation view at Parckdesign 2012. Photo by Stefanie De Clercq. Above: Lara Almarcegui. <em>Open Empty Lot</em> installation view at Parckdesign 2012. Photo by Stefanie De Clercq
Top: Studio Basta & Wagon Landscaping, Jardin de l’esSKYlier installation view at Parckdesign 2012. Photo by Stefanie De Clercq. Above: Lara Almarcegui. Open Empty Lot installation view at Parckdesign 2012. Photo by Stefanie De Clercq
The interventions are incredibly diverse. In Source de Friche , OOZE (Sylvain Hartenberg & Eva Pfannes) & Marjetica Potrc constructed a wetland from a source of purified water sitting in a depression under the disused terrain, which they brought to the surface, cleaned and filtered using a variety of processes. A bacteria known as saprotrophs eats the pollutants contained in the water, so that it is drinkable for birds and wildlife.
Raumlabor, <em>Curo Garden</em> installation view at Parckdesign 2012. Photo by Philippa Nicole Barr
Raumlabor, Curo Garden installation view at Parckdesign 2012. Photo by Philippa Nicole Barr
Lara Lamarcegui's Open Empty Lot project is simpler but still very effective as a form of engagement: the artist cut holes in the fence of a small disused area so that people could climb into the empty lot, featuring dense foliage, a seat, and a terrace. On a sunny day it is the perfect place to sit down and eat your sandwich (or make out with your lover) — a private space for public use. In Le Jardin de l'eSKYlier , Studio Basta and Wagon Landscaping constructed a platform to stroll down and sit on in order to take a full view of the Brussels skyline. Other projects are more ironic and critical than instrumental. In Where is the dog of Erasmus? , artist Ralf Witthaus made graphic cuttings in the lawn of the Erasmushogeschool which are almost impossible to see, as the site features only one entrance on the Quai D'industrie, questioning why a unused private plot is not adapted for neighbourhood development.
By staging intellectual interventions, the city invites people to use or participate in these spaces, but also to think about them, to stop their ugliness fading away into a sort of quotidian view, which we just accept as failure, the failture of poverty, of the periphery, politics and each other
Stéphanie Buttier & Sophie Larger, <em>Borderline</em> installation view at Parckdesign 2012. Photo by Philippa Nicole Barr
Stéphanie Buttier & Sophie Larger, Borderline installation view at Parckdesign 2012. Photo by Philippa Nicole Barr
None of these projects attempt to weed the garden. The interventions are not beautiful, though Cascoland Triangle Parcking , Cascoland planted vegetables and staged workshops for cultivation and consumption by local residents. Each is a simple attempt to play with space, making it usable or at least interesting for the public, thus promoting the value as well as the availability of urban public space. By staging intellectual interventions, the city invites people to use or participate in these spaces, but also to think about them, to stop their ugliness fading away into a sort of quotidian view, which we just accept as failure, the failture of poverty, of the periphery, politics and each other. Using the sense of surprise, Parckdesign 2012 — Garden recoups the wasteland. And by staging these scenes it invests it with drama, excitement, and potential for improved life. Philippa Nicole Barr
Sign for Parckdesign 2012 — Garden at the Erasmushogeschool
Sign for Parckdesign 2012 — Garden at the Erasmushogeschool
Raumlabor, <em>Curo Garden</em> installation view at Parckdesign 2012. Photo by Stefanie De Clercq
Raumlabor, Curo Garden installation view at Parckdesign 2012. Photo by Stefanie De Clercq
OOZE + Marjetica Potrc, <em>Source de Friche</em> installation view at Parckdesign 2012
OOZE + Marjetica Potrc, Source de Friche installation view at Parckdesign 2012
OST Collective, Studio Public, collective ETC & Tiphaine Hameau, <em>Plaine X70</em> installation view at Parckdesign 2012. Photo by Stefanie De Clercq
OST Collective, Studio Public, collective ETC & Tiphaine Hameau, Plaine X70 installation view at Parckdesign 2012. Photo by Stefanie De Clercq
Jeanne Van Heeswijk & Marcel Vander Meijs, <em>Wastelanders, occupation of transformation</em> installation view at Parckdesign 2012. Photo by Jeanne Van Heeswijk
Jeanne Van Heeswijk & Marcel Vander Meijs, Wastelanders, occupation of transformation installation view at Parckdesign 2012. Photo by Jeanne Van Heeswijk
Ralf Witthaus, <em>Where is the dog of Erasmus?</em> installation view at Parckdesign 2012. Photo by Harald Neumann
Ralf Witthaus, Where is the dog of Erasmus? installation view at Parckdesign 2012. Photo by Harald Neumann

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