AGILE ECOLOGICAL CATALYSTS
The MOBILELAND© Stalled Spaces
The phenomenon of shrinking cities worldwide has generated many derelict voids. Given the current volatile economic and speculative climate, the proliferation of urban gaps is a characteristic of our townscape and this trend is likely to continue and increase in future. If left to fall into neglectfulness and urban inertia, these spaces will have a detrimental effect on local neighbourhoods in terms of social health, wellbeing, local economies and environmental quality. However, during the last 20 years, due to recuperation of obsolete urban areas and increasing lose of green infrastructure, a revival of interest in community gardens and the implementation of alternative land uses have occurred.
The culturally multifaceted and complex nature of these community gardens makes it a relevant issue to be studied within different regional, national and European urban contexts. Generally the socio-cultural, technologic and economic functions of temporary allotment gardens offer an improved quality of life; remaking; ludic events; enjoyable hobby for relaxation and the deployment of smart agrarian technologies. For instance, collective allotment gardens provide places to play and to learn about nature and technologies as well as to do something useful for your personal development and people encounters and affordable techniques for food production, planting and harvesting in cities. The implementation of temporary uses for allotment gardens offers a variety of opportunities to deliver social, environmental and economic benefits. They can perform as a catalyst for community actions; produce an improvement in the aesthetics and rebranding of a stigmatised area; contribute to the green infrastructure of the city; and provide safe public places for local dwellers.
Nonetheless there exist some significant obstacles to developing temporary uses for community gardens. These often relate to the stigma that public spaces that become temporary will be difficult to return to development and original owners. There are also concerns that the inappropriate development or management of these initiatives will attract further problems to the beneficiary community.
A radical landscape recovery initiative called ‘Stalled Spaces Scotland’ was implemented to reactivate abandoned sites through temporary uses of vacant plots in order to deliver a range of agile actions enabling physical renewal and fostering community empowerment. By working with local communities, agile interventions are developed to reanimate brownfields. These bottom-up initiatives make effective use of sites by contributing to the urban quality of life and addressing environmental, ecological and landscape goals through community led placemaking.
This research-by-doing reflects on a radical landscape solution called MOBILELAND©, which is a Scottish eco-design initiative supported by the Glasgow City Council, Strathclyde University and the Glasgow Project Office. It consists of a free lawn situated at Gorbals (South Glasgow) that accommodate landscape, educational and ecological activities: https://mobilelandglasgow.wordpress.com
It has generated a unique play place by establishing an outdoor civic arena with ludic and recreational areas and open art events. MOBILELAND© is an adaptable, portable and modular compact landscape scheme, which has the potential to enhance other public spaces and empower community groups. Its design is based on the principles of reduce, re-use and recycle. Structures are entirely made from reclaimed materials such as containers, timber pallet boards, metals and any reused material. It houses rooms for herbs, fruits and vegetables and also provides seating, resting and recreational areas.
MOBILELAND© is also an educational activity that offers experiential learning outside the classroom. It engages students and tutors in critical thinking, problem solving and decision-making. It implies the progressive consolidation of environmental ideas, ecological fundaments and landscape abilities through systemic thinking, teamwork and collaborative design ownership.
Dr Cristian Suau
University of Strathclyde
Suau, C. 2014. The Power of Remaking: Lessons of Innovative Eco-Design in Design Studios. Cardiff, MADE Journal (Issue 7), 55-63
Suau, C. 2014. Minimum Game Plans. Ljubljana, Theory and Practice of Spatial Planning Journal (Creativity Game), University of Ljubljana ed., 34-39
Suau, C. 2011. Visionary Prefab in the Modern Age: Deconstructing Keaton’s Films, Barcelona, DOCOMOMO Journal 44 (Modern and Sustainable), 81-85
Suau, C. 2004. Pallet Housing System (PHS). Eindhoven, PLEA Conference, University of Eindhoven (Volume 1), 123-129