Sentient garden. Flowers as bio-constructors.
1.- GENERAL STRATEGY FOR THE SITE AND THE PROPOSED PUBLIC SPACE: THE OPEN SPACE NEXT TO THE RIVER JÚCAR IS ACTUALLY A FOREST AND WE CAN HELP IT TO GROW.
The new public space is generated by revealing one that already exists. At the same time it is enhanced by the ecosystem it promises us. We are located in an open space, situated between the river Júcar (to the west) and the street market and the housing development adjacent to the “Parque de Santa Ana” to the east. Revealing this place as a meeting place between humans and other-than-humans is the sign of the beginning of a different urbanity: an interspecies urbanity (designed not only for humans, but for more species). The province of Cuenca has numerous forests and it is with their materials: WOOD, WICKER and LAVENDER that the piece of public space proposed here is built, but we also propose the regeneration of the area and its successive transformation into a riverside forest in synergy with the city. The area is regenerated by facilitating, observing and enhancing the dynamics of ecological succession. “What you see here is a forest if our urban practices allow it, shall we begin?
2.- A PROTOTYPE IS INSTALLED TO SHOW US HOW OTHER-THAN-HUMANS DESIGN. WE WILL ONLY CHANGE OUR URBAN PRACTICES IF WE CHANGE OUR IMAGINARIES.
The prototype is a simple wooden structure with a lavender garden on one side and a series of available spaces (wicker planters and geotextile) for spontaneous vegetation and its associated insects and animals on the other. This prototype is monitored in its growth and maintained, but its plantings are not designed a priori, except in the case of the lavender garden. In its morphology the prototype is also a “low-tech machine” of perceptual amplification. A series of enlarged interspecies skin “scales” hang from it. The scales are made of wood and wicker and are perforated with the silhouettes of the skin receptors that bring us into contact with air, temperature, pressure, etc. Both human and non-human sensors are represented. (*See the model of these scales, their perforations and effects in the first panel next to the 3D image) The scales collect water, pour it when necessary and create with their shadows and projections the enlarged space of our supposed frontier with the other-than-human world (the skin in this case) which appears here as a primordial area of exchange, not as an insulator.
3.- SOMATIC ENCOUNTER. IN THE NEW PUBLIC SPACES, HUMAN AND NON-HUMAN BODIES TOUCH EACH OTHER, MANIFEST THEIR RELATIONSHIP. ECOLOGIES OF SENSUALITY ARE PRODUCED.
Lavender fields are abundant in the province of Cuenca, moreover, lavender is a species that clearly shows us how the plant world designs the environment for us. To begin with, they, the plants, are the designers of the air that we breathe. Lavender also generates a series of aromatic substances that especially affect our nervous system: its scent calms us down. The lavender garden is an immersion in that sensual, chemical and ancestral encounter in which humans and non-humans share chemistry, matter and planet. Our imaginaries of separation from the environment disappear here. We are together: bodies and environments are co-constituted. Bodies are their environments and vice versa. This is made visible not only by our experience but also by the series of engravings on the wooden panels of the prototype on this side of the garden. These engravings show us the invisible reality of our exchanges. They show drawings of how botanical and physiological dynamics together construct our ecosystem and our way of being in it. They show us the interactions that we overlook in our daily lives. They show us how bodies and environments are intertwined in ecological dynamics (*See drawings in the first panel next to the 3D image).
The SENTIENT GARDEN is therefore an instrument to renew our perception of the environment. This is more necessary than ever in our cities and in our public space where we must change our practices to tackle the climate crisis. The SENTIENT GARDEN is an instrument of learning, observation and transformation.
Author: María Auxiliadora Gálvez
Place: Cuenca, Spain.