WHY AND HOW DID THE PROJECT CHANGE?
Protection – vs – experience
The project is part of a learning environment, which started with the School Forest, where schoolchildren of the elementary school in Neuenkirchen plant trees and monitor their growth. But they need a gathering place that is separate from the hands-on activity and is part of the open landscape.
Gradually the project changed from an architectural structure to a biotope made of two energy-exchanging elements (water and soil) collectively creating an open shelter, which combines the benefits of both concepts. The pond and the hill are relational objects as they build a relationship between people and nature. When you sit and rest on the warm hill, you become attentive to the surrounding and you want to understand why the hill is warm. The two relational objects open a dialogue with nature and create a system that does not aim to correct or improve nature, but instead, expose the interdependence between natural elements and flows of energy in the landscape. It is not about an object, it is about the process. Therefore the project’s system enhances a process that exists in nature and raises awareness to it by making it tangible.
IS THIS AN EDUCATIONAL PROJECT?
Object – vs – learning environment
The whole process of the project is educational for everyone involved. By talking to the children, creating the pond, conducting workshops, and building the prototype with them, they have become active participants, influencing the outcome of the project.
The Open Shelter is like a magnifying glass, allowing one to take a closer look at the surrounding landscape and rethink its value as a manmade structure. It appreciates biodiversity and is creating a learning landscape, enabling both, the zooming in on little microsystems of plants, animals, soil and water right in front of you, and the zooming out, considering the environment as a system of powers that can be facilitated to create a place for living and visualizing the alternative use of energy in an unexpected way.
IS THE PROJECT SUSTAINABLE?
Virgin nature – vs – Anthropocene
Nowadays people have interfered so much with nature, that they have become a natural force, themselves. We live in a cultural landscape, not a pristine one any more. This changed position towards nature is called Anthropocene. The fear of having technological interference in the landscape is a romantic position, which assumes that nature exists separately of human beings (the idea of wild nature, true nature, virgin nature). But we are, in fact, a technologically advanced civilization. Neuenkirchen’s environment is the result of coexistence with human beings. The nature surrounding us is representative of the coexistence of man and nature.
While the project itself is not about sustainability, the techniques used to generate warmth are and will be sustainable in terms of the energy used within the project’s system. The project itself rather opens a thinking scope on sustainable energies and is about experiencing the forest while being sheltered by warmth and nature itself.
Furthermore, the Open Shelter is a long-term project and represents a contemporary, cultural time frame. Therefore, we will insure that the external material is recycled after its use.
WILL WE HAVE A ROOF?
Overprotection – vs – coexisting with nature
The Open Shelter does not include a roof, because “schoolchildren need a place, not a roof'” (Heinz)“. Besides, thinking about the essence of a shelter, we came to the conclusion that what really matters about a shelter is that it is warm and not necessarily that it protects you against natural elements. Aiming to create a place to experience the forest and the landscape, an architectural structure would be the contrary; it would shield the people from nature rather than exposing them to it. The Open Shelter Project removes the protection. A warm open place invites people to gather, spend time in nature, and to pause and observe it.
IS THIS AN ART PROJECT?
Factual knowledge – vs – participation
It is a social sculpture; the collective creation of a place, through relations and participation. The project is an intervention that creates a situation where people can experience nature in a different way, without the necessity to accumulate factual knowledge. There is already so much factual knowledge in circulation. There is rather a need to create a sensual, emotional and aesthetical experience, which helps us to intuitively understand and internalize knowledge. Our project is not explaining the value of nature, natural resources, manmade interventions etc., but combining all these topics and making them available to experience within the small biotope of the hill and the pond.