with Marc Pouzol
Photos: Thilo Folkerts (3)/ Burkhard Paetow (1, 2 4)
Stay tuned for Part 2.
Accordingly, the question of what nature could be in and as part of the city is always present. Both do not exclude each other! The great divide between the city (as culture) and landscape (as nature) has long been diluted, bridged and obscured. While of course city and nature have always been intertwined, today we are becoming more and more aware and accepting of their fragmented, complex, and multi-leveled relationship.
Jardins Temporaires 2001
Quartier de l'Eure, Le Havre
Photos: Thilo Folkerts
For me urban nature is not an object or spatial category (for example a flower pot on the window sill, a neighborhood park, or even the technicalities of micro-climate or water management). Designing with urban nature is about conceptualizing this complex presence. This means discovering and utilizing for our urban lives as much of the immediate nature as possible. The contemporary city is the acting ground of the gardener and the landscape architect.
The text on your website describes the installation as an "archaelogy of urban space".
What do you mean by that?
The installation was intervening minimally, yet adding a radiant narrative moment, in order to create curiosity for the rediscovery of the site. For one, the twenty-five mint varieties that were cultivated among the unkempt rural vegetation created a little hunter’s impulse to visit all the strange, exotically named varieties, such as chocolate mint, Bergamot mint, or ginger mint.
In the field scaffolding rods served as plant labels and mark the mint patches. Mint is a traditional, yet international plant, easily recognized for its characteristic smell. It is a charismatic plant that instantly enchants almost everyone. The mint thus fostered the personal uncovering of the site’s history. At the same time, the installation did aim to not be just retrospective. It was also a projection of the site’s potentials and possibilities; it was about unfolding the agency of beauty for the recognition of a brownfield as valid part of the urban tissue.
And the strips in the street in Flying Zebras?
I believe that we are on a continuous search to discover beauty and cultivate sensibilities. This must have an effect for materiality: The garden entails the shaping of the raw material of place and nature. We should not limit our joy to the perfect beauty of a rose. Working in urban environments suggests the use of urban materials.
For me scaffolding rods or traffic marking are very close to central garden issues: They involve temporality, they signal and embody change. In the case of the VETEX mint garden, the scaffolding rods, fitted with the names of the mints are over-dimensional botanical markers as much as claim stakes, signaling immanent change. There’s a similar background to the materiality for accessing a vacant lot and interstitial spaces with the Garden Bridges project in Brussels last year. The Flying Zebras project (together with Marc Pouzol) was about validating traffic dynamic and pedestrian movement as a necessary and aesthetically rich part of urban liveliness.
PART II of the interview to follow in the next post.