Thursday 27 November 2008

Transcultural Gardens

europan 7, runner up, neapolis larissa. A. Fuchs, E. Karanastasi

In the following I want to examine the introduction of urban agriculture as a medium for gradual urbanization, collaboration and integration of new multicultural urban inhabitants, especially immigrants originated from rural areas.

This essay after defining what is urban agriculture for todays urbanism, examines the terms multiculturality, transculturality, and multifunctionality in continuously productive urban voids and periurban areas.

It also describes intercultural gardens in Germany, proposes the concept of transcultural gardens and presents three not yet realized projects in Greece.

What is urban agriculture

Urban agriculture is the cultivation of land inside or in the limits of an urban entity (intra-urban agriculture or peri-urban agriculture). It has two main necessities today: the production of food and the gradual urbanization of various minorities, mostly originating from rural areas, in order to adapt in their new home.

In 40 years 80% of earth’s polulation will be urban citizens, a fact that is supposingly leading to urban poorness. Rural poorness is in fact a main reason of today’s economical migration. So we are coming to a dead end: what immigrants are now running away from, they are causing to a new location and setting.

Urban agriculture is a sustainable development tool, though it presupposes the cultivation, management and distribution of a variety of foods, the use or the reuse of resourses, products and services that are found in the nearby area and the supply of this area with products and services (1). In these terms urban agriculture interacts with the urban ecosystem, uses the citizens as workforce, uses urban renewable energy sources (grey water, organic waste), has direct access to consumers, contributes to the urban green, and is influenced and directed by urban planning policies. Efforts have been done the last decades to bridge architecture and agriculture with designs for vertical farms, that minimize the urban land use.

The aspects of urban agriculture are not only ecological and economical, but also deeply social, with the example of community gardens and intercultural gardens.

What is intercultural garden

Intercultural gardens began in 1995 in Goettingen of Germany where a group of Bosnian women from a refugee centre revived the orchard gardens of their home country.

After the success of the first garden and the realization of a second one, an organization was formed in 1998 to manage and support these efforts. Now Germany has more than 100 intercultural gardens and the idea is adapted by other European countries.

Gardens is considered a good typology for immigrants, though most of their knowledge is based in small farming and is not applicable in the German farming industry.

These gardens provide a small piece for each user and a communal piece, usually with trees, for shared gardening and happenings. The intention, except from puttting down roots and gradually urbanising (from field to garden), is to exchange tips for gardening based on their background. The results include exchanging seeds send to them by their home country, exchange tastes and flavours and also offer new varieties and teach new technics to their new country.

What is transculturality

Since Herder’s concept of “single cultures”, that sees culture as "the flower" of a folk's existence, like a sphere, autonomous and perfect in its own, societies have moved to today’s multiculturality. Or perhaps they had always been there. According to Wittgenstein, culture is at hand wherever practices in life are shared. (2)

The difference in terms between intercultural and transcultural is that

interculturality disagrees with the fact that different cultures clash, though

transculturality argues that the clash is productive.

Interculturality tends to make different cultures “get on” with each other and understand each other. But still originates from the concept of the single culture as a sphere, a perfect accompliced product of society. In this way, one culture does not need another but to enrich itself or for fun.

Transculturality represents the complexity of modern world, though it interprets cultures as a set of emergent components of one another.

Cultures today is more than an exchange, is an interconnected system of ethics, an interactive platform of lifestyle norms, a hybrid field of mindstyle fashions. Transculturality is a positive response to the opposition to globalization, and a guarantie to diversity.

In modern thinking transculturality applies in the fields of sociology and anthropology. I will show three projects that translate transculturality and urban agriculture into a device for urban planning. The first “ The forest, the hairdresser, his mother and a roof”, in Neapolis Larisa, Greece is a Europan winning project (E. Karanastasi, A. Fuchs 2003). The other two, “The cooking village” and “Urban fields” in military-camp of Markopoulos, Chania, Crete are projects of students of Urban Design in Faculty of Architecture of Technical University of Crete.

(1) definition: Luc Mougeot, International Development Research Centre. It is officially used by UN-HABITAT Urban Management programme, FAO, CIRAD.

(2) Welsch Wolfgang, Transculturality - the Puzzling Form of Cultures Today, From: Spaces of Culture: City, Nation, World, ed. by Mike Featherstone and Scott Lash, London: Sage 1999, 194-213.

Urban agriculture

The cooking village, M. Nikolakaki, A. Kapsalis. AVEA area, Chania Crete. Urban design II studio 2007, Dept of Architecture, Techn. University of Crete. Studio tutors M. Marmaras, P. Karamanea, E. Karanastasi

Urban Farms, P. Athanailidou, Z. Frizi, V. Maistralis. Markopoulo military camp, Chania Crete. Urban design I studio 2007-8, Dept of Architecture, Techn. University of Crete. Studio tutors M. Marmaras, P. Karamanea, E. Karanastasi

All-in-one: Urban/suburban/rural leaving, E. Grigoriadou, T. Relias, N. Hassiotis. Markopoulo military camp, Chania Crete. Urban design I studio 2007-8, Dept of Architecture, Techn. University of Crete. Studio tutors M. Marmaras, P. Karamanea, E. Karanastasi

Periodical Urban Landscape, N. Asimakis, G. Vlahiotis. Markopoulo military camp, Chania Crete. Urban design I studio 2007-8, Dept of Architecture, Techn. University of Crete. Studio tutors M. Marmaras, P. Karamanea, E. Karanastasi

Urban green densities. X. Alexopoulou, S. Papatriantafyllou, A. Terezaki. Markopoulo military camp, Chania Crete. Urban design I studio 2007-8, Dept of Architecture, Techn. University of Crete. Studio tutors M. Marmaras, P. Karamanea, E. Karanastasi

An effective time cartography

Time in Athens, Athens in time

The Landscape of Attiki is changing due to the new infrastructure.

Locations that used to be a Sunday trip are reachable in one or less hour. Locations formerly blocked with traffic are reached in a quarter of an hour with the metro.

More and more people are using and change different means of public and individual transport, exploring new nodes and new rituals of movement. Infrastructure justify its importance in the Metropolitan landscape as example of the cognitive dimension of urbanism, appropriated in diversion of multiple levels of use and habit.

The whole experience of the city is shifting. Watching the city enclaves from the highway, experiencing different scales in a short time through movement and exploring a rhizome in a metropolis which is expanding thanks to new displacements and connectivity, form the new territorial space of the everyday life.

Space for New ways.

New rituals of movement.

Multiplication of interchanges.

Marginal spaces out of formerly important nodes.

Land that was produced by old rural grapevines.

At the same time Athens is preserving a historic future. This sounds in contradiction with the unprecedented infrastructure lines cutting through the mountains, the former borders of Athens. A memory of ancient routes is barely present in the large scale plans associated with new canalization of flows, large scale consumerism and leisure, enchanting of the touristic attractions, new colonization areas, and new residential space.[1] The way a historic future is directed is that the new routes empower and designate the shift of the economic centre along the highways, ‘cleaning’ in stages the former centre towards a ‘downtown themepark’.

Time as scale unit for understanding Athens Metropolitan complex

The assignment for the participants of Terraventure was to re-map the city of Athens according to an individual time-space trajectory. Four groups were directed to four locations with a common starting point, the National Technical University in the centre of Athens, and simultaneous starting time.

Different technics were used, dividing distances up into small time slots.

The groups were based on the 2d maps, their re-reading and marking by action, movement and transportation means, in order to create maps which don’t appear as an icon and a signifier of the apparent but as the signification of the mutation of the planned infrastructure to the momentary instability, mixture, shifting and personal drift.

The product was time diagrams produced as new maps of Athens according to acceleration-delay, wandering, distances, transit points and intersections, real time and experienced time (duration).

The second step of the assignment was to map the four locations themselves, with a cognitive localized map[2] and a graph produced by stratified or intermingled time definitions.

References on an effective (time) cartography


A timeline in space, a cartography of time

time and mapping infrastructure:

- history map

- stroll map

- point-to-point map

- smooth space

Athens, as an enormous and ever-growing web in space and time, hosts criss-crossing pathways, each one of these is a timeline[3]. While clock time is continuous, experience time (duration) is an equivalent to a bubble that inflates and decreases.

While clock time and experience time, despite their continuity or discontinuity, are going forwards, historic time gateways are making this web a multiple-experienced space, where time jumps back or forwards.

James Burke reads this web as an abstract subspace, as a sphere at the centre of it is the ancient beginning[4]. The surface of the sphere expanding and growing as every moment goes by, is the modern world. Extraordinarily, there are some pathways that link the modern world to the very ancient, central parts of the web. If everything, any individual has some effect, then as the massive high speed networks come to realisation, the product of this synergy with us will add up to infinitely more than the sum of parts.

The journeys followed in the workshop are expected and unexpected paths, because of the combination of the planned canalization of flows and the individual stimuli. As a result, is the end product of millions of these kinds of serendipitous interactions of time, infrastructure and commuters, happening over thousands of years.

We will try a small retrospective indication on ways of urban mapping related to the technics of the workshop, attempting to separate all these interconnected time definitions that influence the ‘web’’s surface: the historical montage (Collin Rowe’s figurative temporal planes, Historical Geography), strolling in space (situationists, Atlas of Experience), point-to-point map (Peutinger table, time-space convergence and distanciation) and smooth space (the example of a Terraventure group’s route: the fluidity of a space and its consequence on time)

a. History space map

‘The only radical difference between human history and ‘natural’ history is that the former can never begin again.(…)This means that you pick up, and try to continue, a line of enquiry which has the whole background of the earlier development of science behind it;’ [5] Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter understood the urban situation figuratively, through gestalt figure ground composition and historical montage. The city was seen as a collision of temporal planes, signifying a range of attitudes.

Historical Geography nowadays is concerned with reconstruction and interpretation of spatial patterns of the past and their significance for understanding contemporary human landscapes[6]. The characteristic of Historical Geography is the belief that conventional studies in Social History neglect the non-accidental association of most historical phenomena with specific places, environments and landscapes. And that place cannot be understood without reference to the dynamic restructuring processes binding the former to the latter[7].

As Eviatar Zerubavel demonstrates in Time Maps, we cannot answer burning questions without a deeper understanding of how we envision the past. In an attempt to map the structure of our collective memory, Zerubavel considers the cognitive patterns we use to organize the past in our minds, the mental strategies that help us string together unrelated events into coherent and meaningful narratives, and the social grammar of space over conflicting interpretations of history. And this happens by constructing historical origins, by organizing time into stories.[8]

b. Stroll space map

The first reported case of city walk as generic principle is of the 19th Century opium eater Thomas de Quincey, the prototype of the obsessive drifter[9].

The surrealists in the 30ties, the Lettrists in the 50ties and the Situationists in the 60ties elaborated on this urge by transforming it into a systematic practice. The last developed the science of the dérive, the drift. These dérives were not random, but persuaded for the use of imagination to experience the urban surroundings in a new way[10].

The typical flâneur in Athens gives his place to the explorer, the act of strolling to this of “signposting” as Manuel Gausa characterises it[11]. Confronted with the simultaneity of different scales and the rapid shifting we are forced to create individual landmarks. Moving in the dynamic environment of the Metropolis includes a mapping itself. It is not a act alone but a thinking and creative process, a registration of experience.

An interesting example of large scale ‘incidental maps’ is that of Louise van Swaaij and Jean Klare, two Dutch cartographers, that produced the 'Atlas of Experience' [12]. The book shows a selection of maps reflecting human experience. For example, it includes villages named "Expectation" and "Wait", the Swamps of Boredom and the Airport of Escape.

c. point-to-point map

At the beginning of the 1st millennium, Julius Caesar put his son-in-law Agrippa in charge of a mapping project which resulted in the 'Peutinger table' in the third century. The Peutinger table was similar to today's London Underground map: it eschewed much geographical information and concentrated on information useful to the traveller: for example major roads were drawn as straight lines, with no scale or attempt to show their true course, however distances are written in, as are cities, temples, lighthouses, spas, bathing facilities, forts and imperial residencies. The geography is completely distorted, but the landmarks and distances would have proved useful to a medieval traveller.[13]

Time-space Convergence is a concept used in Historical Geography to denote the space shortening that takes place as breakthroughs in transport technology enable distant points to become nearer to one another. Each technological transformation engenders a revolution in travel time, thereby facilitating the ever wider spatial organisation of people and activities.

At the same time Giddens speaks about time-space Distanciation as a feature of Modernity, though particular forces that shape locations are geographically distant.[14]

The subjective positioning of points on a map freed from their geographical setting is challenged by Layla Curtis[15] in her work “A familiar place”. She fictionalises the world, taking a road map of Britain, cutting the map up and reassembling it with the cities relocated in relationship to the outer edge. ‘By subverting the map I undermine the trusted yet subjective system of mapping. By creating a fictional combination of cities and towns within a familiar form, I am denying the viewer the ability to properly satisfy their urge to locate themselves and thus questioning the very simple presumptions about what comes next. In this re-shuffled world new and often un-easy juxtapositions are created, referencing both modern and ancient international relationships.'

d. smooth space: polyvocal interruptions in the canalization of flows


- There is planned infrastructure in Athens. And there are big scale left over places, places that appeared out of displacement (old airport) or connectivity (Stavros) or unplanned places-in-transition (Markopoulo). Due to their scale, there is mobility INSIDE them, a sometimes different one than the one to get there. Not in accordance with cardinal directions or determined vectors but in a “polyvocality of directions”. Here the forces move not in lines in a grid-like space but in spiral and vertical motions in concrete places. Motion in such space is not from point to point, not from location to another[16].

- Example: the route of group 9, see FormZ non-linear paths.

- Example: being lost in rural lands in Mesogia

- Contradiction: what is design as cityscape - a node, an airport, land on the edge of becoming a plan - when freed from function, works with the mechanics of fluids.

- ‘The variability, the polyvocality of directions, is essential feature of smoothspace, it alters their cartography. [17] As D and G put it occupy space without ‘counting’ it ‘can be explored only by legwork’ . [18]

Definition of an effective time graph

A map

Denis Cosgrove defines mapping as 'a graphic register of correspondence between two spaces, whose explicit outcome is a space of representation […] to map is in one way or another to take the measure of a world, to figure the measure so taken in such a way that it may be communicated between people, places or times.' [19]

Function of a map

In the Dictionary of Modern Thought, the word ‘mapping’ cites the heading ‘function’. Maps are used to define and declare territory, and describe function relationships between that territory. Mapping an area involves learning about it. Not everything can be included on the map. How that distortion is made (what information is selected) depends on what the final map will be used for. The Map is thus NOT the Territory: and the map is self-reflexive (it becomes part of the territory).

A graph

The mapping can be thought as a ‘black box’[20]: one drops a number in, turns a handle and out comes a probably different number. To organise this you need a supply a formula, such as x2+2x- , in former times. Nowadays it can operate referring to a graph.

Elina Karanastasi, October 2003

[1] See also M. Gausa , Metropolis to Metapolis, New ways of mapping the contemporary city, Quaderns 213, p.10-17

[2] cognitive map, as an interpreting framework, presupposes that any interaction between a person and the environment changes also the knowledge or information about the environment. The term was first used in 1948 by E. C.Tolman, investigating behaviour understood through accumulation of incoming stimuli into ‘cognitive maps’, and later by Kevin Lynch investigating the urban situation understood through the cognitive map. However, the idea of cognitive maps dates back to 1913, where Trowbridge carried out investigations in cognitive maps, which he called "imaginary maps".

[3] Timeline is defined as a series of points that represents moments when someone or something is acted.

[4] J. Burke, The Pinball effect, Canada: Little, Brown & company, 1996, pp. 4-5

[5] Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter, Collage city and the Reconquest of time, Collage city, MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts, p. 118-9

[6] The New Fontana Dictionary of modern thought, ed. A. Bullock, S. Trombley, Harper Collins Pub., London 1999

[7] R. Butlin, Historical Geography: Through the gates of space and time, Arnold, London 1993

[8] Eviatar Zerubavel, Time Maps: Collective Memory and the Social Shape of the Past, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 2003

[10] The Situationist International used 'detournement' and the dérive to produce art works / performances and maps about the physical and psychological relationship between man and the urban environment. 'Detournement' (in English 'diversion') was plagiarism where both the source and the meaning of the original map was subverted to create a new map.
The dérive ('drift' in English) was an activity in which the deriveur would wander through the city soaking up its ambiences. The term psychogeography was used to describe the study of geographical settings effects.

[11] M. Gausa, Metropolis to Metapolis, New ways of mapping the contemporary city, Quaderns 213, p.10-17

[12] L. van Swaaij and J. Klare, ‘Atlas van de belevingswereld’, Dijkgraaf & van de Veere, Amsterdam 1999

[14] A. Giddens, The consequences of Modernity, Cambridge, Polity Press 1990

[15] Layla Curtis is a British artist. Most of her work are collages made from maps.

[16] Edward S. Casey, The fate of Place, University of California Press, 1998, p. 303

[17] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A thousand plateaus, trans. B. Massumi, University of Minnesota Press, 1987, p.382

[18] ibid. p. 371

[20] The New Fontana Dictionary of modern thought, p. 342