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Laying down Cultural Roots

During Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, the public will enjoy the ‘on the move’ fruit and vegetable plots designed by Design Academy masters graduate Gionata Gatto.

By Katie Dominy /asdf 27-08-2009

For his final project on his Man & Humanity Master course at Design Academy Eindhoven, Gionata Gatto created the Cultural Roots project - How can design increase communication between people’s different cultures by sharing a common urban public space?

Gatto explains, ‘Today’s world cities are experiencing demographic changes with the increase of people from different cultural backgrounds. Where numerous multi-ethnic groups cohabit, collaborate and dialogue together, this contributes to the affirmation of new communities.’ Gatto looked at how he could develop a project that would stimulate discussion and co-operation between different cultures and researched ‘unloved, left over, transit spaces’ around Eindhoven where ‘People could transform those unused spaces in areas completely dedicated to socialisation, where they can both cultivate their own vegetable garden and at the same time meet new neighbours and create relationships.’

Cultural Roots uses the concept of food as a sign of cultural identity. The fruit and vegetable seeds or plants that each person grows reflects his or her culture. Gatto researched the allotment gardens and the produce cultivated by different nationalities, from Indonesian lettuce and Surinamese peppers through to Moroccan tomatoes and African cucumbers. Gatto notes, ‘the very interesting thing about food concerns the aspect of personalization, since all the people involved in this type of activity visualise their personality through gardening: not only the seeds, but also the way of planting, the irrigation system or the presence of scarecrows. Consequently the actions of sharing and exchanging food can become very present and visible, bringing people and culture together in a very positive and stimulating manner.’

The plants are grown in a huge bag on wheels that is inspired by the suitcase – used as a symbol of cultural background and movement. The bags are filled with soil and families can grow vegetables and fruit on each side of the bags: each bag supports about thirty-six different plants, which can grow vertically along the fabric. The soil is covered top and sides with materials made from natural fibres that have been provided by Italian company KEFI and also by Italian Recycletherm, which is made from recycled fibres. Both keep a high level of humidity within the soil, which is ideal for plants and fruit trees. The wheels of the suitcases also allow people to move their plants through the area as they please.

Gatto has been sponsored by Eindhoven City council and is developing his project in de Wilgenhof (between Gasthuisstraat and Jorislaan) and Bennekel, and is working with the council to include other locations. Look out for the project during Dutch Design Week.

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