Residents workshop Manifesta project Genk-Zuid

On Tuesday June 21st we organised a workshop with residents and other people representing residents from the area (more concrete a community worker and a social district manager). With them we elaborated further on the results of the mapping, which we did with the experts coming from an industrial, environmental, technological and social background, on how industry and living can coexist. While the first workshop revealed abstract scenarios on a policy level, with the residents, our goal was to activate them to take part in the project and engage them to reveal their concrete and personal scenarios on the subject. Learning from our first workshop, we changed our approach for this second workshop in two ways: (1) we developed a scenario to engage participants and (2) we developed a mobile lab that functions as a workspace. (1) To engage residents to take part in our project, we developed the scenario of the Cultivating Communities. The scenario tells a fragmented story about a group of people that tries to resolve their neighbourhood issues bottom-up. Their actions include protests, and experiments to develop air filters. This scenario was based on previous interviews with actors involved in the subject and on the first mapping session. With this scenario we want to trigger participants to collaboratively explore the potential and possibilities of bottom-up interventions and in this way engage them for these grassroots initiatives.

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Expert Mapping Cultivating Communities Genk-Zuid

As a starting point for the Manifesta project in Genk-Zuid we organised a workshop with experts from an industrial, technological, environmental and social background. The purpose of the workshop was to map a sustainable scenario on how industry and residents can coexist in Genk-Zuid. We developed a toolkit, based on the MAP-it kit of Social Spaces, to perform this mapping. It consists out of a set of wooden signs that represent structures from the area. All workshop participants could add graphic information to the signs using chalk, and use strings of rope to link different elements. Combining these different elements created the map.


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Manifesta Project Genk-Zuid

Cultivating Communities is part of the Manifesta-parallel events that will take place this summer in Genk. The projects’ goal is to create collaborative sustainable scenario on the industrial area Genk-Zuid.

In Genk-Zuid domestic areas and industrial facilities sit side by side. Human biomonitoring studies have shown that these industrial activities have negative and far-reaching consequences on the environment and the health of the people living in the surrounding neighbourhoods. As a result, the city of Genk has issued an emission-reduction plan that aims to tackle this pollution.

Together with local actors, like the city of Genk, the residents of Genk-Zuid and the Industry we will try to develop a collaborative scenario on how local residents and industry can coexist in a sustainable manner. To engage and enable these different actors to participate in designing the scenario we developed a set of tools and a mobile laboratory. With these tools we will go to the different neighbourhoods surrounding the industrial area and organise scenario building workshops. The collaborative scenario will gradually reveal peoples’ personal scenario’s on how living and industry can coexist.

During the project the mobile lab will be open for the public on specific dates. On these dates you can freely visit to explore these future scenarios and contribute your personal vision. At the end of the project we will organise an exhibition to communicate the results of the collaborative scenario to the public. The dates for public workshops will be announced soon! Please come back to check this website or send us an email to be kept informed.


Mapping Toolkit

This week I tested a toolkit that is designed to map out the environment of local communities. The toolkit consist out of archetypal shaped buildings, vehicles and characters. The shapes air painted black, colouring them with crayons can alter the appearance. This enables local residents to add layers of information to the map. The idea is that toolkit can be used to make a scale model of a local environment, providing a map to discus possibilities within their area.

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Mapping experiment

As part of my (Ben Hagenaars) research project  Cultivating Communities, I organised a workshop at the NME seminar (Natuur en Milieu educatie dag) in Brussels last week. 25 stakeholders within the field of environment and education participated in the workshop. The aim was to visualise a fictional map of a network between different schools. I used the MAP-it toolkit – developed by social spaces – which normally uses sticker icons to visualise a map. However, I made some alterations since I wanted to add some extra features like building blocks to make the map more tangible. This idea originates from a presentation I took part in during the Sustainable Summer School organised by REcentre last summer. For this presentation we didn’t want to use PowerPoint to visuals our concept – a food system for the city of Maastricht – but we built a miniature city out of materials we could scavenge in the surrounding area. This made it really easy to talk about the food systems with local famers, citizens and other stakeholders. It enabled us to work out a scenario of our concept, but more importantly it enabled other people to ad ideas of their own to the existing map. A fragment of the presentation can be found in this video by REcentre (starting from minute 7:41).

For last week’s workshop, I’ve tried to merge the MAP-it toolkit with some tangible elements. The participants where divided into three groups, each group was accompanied by a moderator who used scenario cards to guide the session. Structural elements like building blocks, link materials like ropes, and pens to add extra information could be used to build up the map.

The participants had to map a fictional network of school ‘laboratories’, which made the workshop a bit more challenging. The laboratories could be defined as spaces where school communities can experiment and come up with solutions to environmental issues. At the start of the workshop, ideas of networked school ‘laboratories’ emerged: schools that experiment with renewable energy, a network that uses bike messengers to transport materials, self-sufficient water laboratories, …

Halfway through the workshop, the groups switched to another map. After a short presentation of the map, the new group could ad remarks, brake down structures and build new structures. This generated interesting discussions about the importance of spaces where people could gather and share ideas. The spaces weren’t necessary physical structures as they could also be digital or even hybrid structures.


Overview March – December 2011

I summarised my research process from March till now in a poster. The starting point is; How to design for sustainability? and ends with my new research question: How to create a collective scenario of a sustainable future? Based on the poster I also created a new abstract.

Systematic issues such as climate change or resource depletion form massive challenges for our and future generations. Centralised design practises based on linear material flows are part of these problems. A transition towards a design model where resources and knowledge are shared between designers, users and producers, shows a lot more sustainable potential. The role of the (meta)designer in this model lies in engaging and enabling people to be part of this participatory design practise. Therefore I will investigate how designing collective scenarios, executed as a series of (critical)artefacts, of such a networked model could make this possible future more tangible and create a platform for interaction between the different participants. The central question of this research is: How to create a collective scenario of a sustainable future?


Strange Carrots

In a conversation with some of the students I’m working with for the Cultivating Communities project I discovered that their quite interested in how food can be altered. One student told me about the exhibition he visited in Z33 Hasselt. The exhibition is called Alter Nature: We can. It explores how recent discoveries in biosciences and technology effect our daily lives, by showing artistic works that lie on the crossroads between art and science. I also visited the exhibition and one artist duo Driessens & Verstappen struck my attention. In their project Morfotheque #9 they show a collection of 32 artificial carrots, the shapes of which are based on carrots that were rejected in distribution centres. Their work refers to the selective cultivation methods required to give and preserve carrots present day typical orange colour. The evolution of the wild carrot to the cultivated carrot is linked to a very interesting History. Carrots used to be available in a variety of shapes and colours. But In the 17th century the carrot underwent a radical transformation. Dutch botanist grew a specific orange carrot as a tribute to the Dutch king Willem of Orange. In one generation time all different varieties turned orange and evolved into the strait orange carrot we know today.

This story tells us something about the way we shape nature to fit our needs. Undoubtedly the orange collar must have made quite an impression on the king. And a straight carrot is easier to peal than a crooked one, but are these standardised crops still completely natural? After all they weren’t subjected to the principles of natural selection. They were more subjected to aesthetic selection. Their is a downside to this designed vegetables, the lack of diversity makes the crops more vulnerable for diseases. Recently scientist are trying to overcome this issues by inserting genes in the crops to make them resistant to diseases. Artist Adam Zaretsky reacts to the act of inserting genes into living organisms. He went a step further then the orange carrot and tried to create orange pheasants that could be used as targets for the royal hunt. He proposed this in a letter to Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. With this projects he tries to raise questions about how far one can go in creating a royal aesthetic? I’m thinking about how the carrots would have evolved  if the Dutch botanists didn’t intervene into the evolution process of the carrot? This is why I did some experiments with shaping carrots into altered species. I’d like to present these artefacts to the children and ask them about diversity of plants, the risks and benefits of altering the genes of food, …