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Project Proposal for Radicepura Garden Festival, Giarre (CT)

Collaborator: Johanna Syré

The site of the Radicepura Garden Festival is immersed in the vast fields of the plant nurseries. It is also integral part of the landscape between the Etna and the sea; the volcano looming in sight. Visiting the festival inextricably connects the pleasure of visiting landscape and an impressive ‘machine room’ of plant and garden production.

‘Garden’ is inherently about import and export, about the transport of ideas and cultivated plants, about exchange. But garden is always specifically related to its site. This relationship to its location is why no two gardens are alike, Gardens are producers of knowledge where we learn about our relationship with nature – and, quite pragmatically, with our immediate surroundings.

Between Giarre and Catania within some 25 kilometres the terrain drops 3.300 m from the height of the Etna crater to sea level. In order to make the mountain side utile, it has been structured by terraces. Retaining walls strongly characterise the landscape. But the region is further textured by ubiquitous walls between properties. Travelling through the landscape around Giarre means travelling between walls. The festival grounds are behind walls and are entered through a large gate.

PROPOSAL — We propose a small – yet binary – project that reflects the role of this landscape’s walls – and brings garden festival and the cultural landscape together. The landscape’s walls reflect the geographical location: more often than not, these landscape walls are artfully built from lava stone; contemporary time has conceded to mortar and concrete as addition, annex and surrogate. We would like to help re-cultivate the quality of these walls and to underline their structural and cultural role in the region.

OPENING : A site in the landscape is chosen, where an opening in a lava stone wall enables a vista from road or path over the larger landscape. Ideally this is an existing, maybe derelict opening, that might at some point later be reconstructed. The opening would be clarified by cleaning and formalising the edges and by painting them in a temporary white or brightly coloured paint. Ideally two such openings would be made directly across each other in order to underline the uniqueness of this situation. The site with the openings can be freely visited, at least from the adjacent road.
Visitors of the festival will receive a map of the location. Potentially their visit of the garden festival will be expanded by a pointed encounter with the larger, beautiful landscape.

ACCESS : Next to the festival grounds we propose building a low platform of lava stone. This ‘garden-platform’ is to serve as a tool of spatial access to the ‘garden’. We believe that, essentially, the spatial and vegetative structures of the nursery are a very impressive garden in itself. The longitudinal platform (quasi a laid down wall) would reach into a grove of potted trees: a visit into the stock of the nursery, the occasion for some moments with the plants. The platform raised at three steps (45-50 cm) gives a slightly differing perspective, it serves as safe ground. Ideally, stepping onto the platform would raise the visitor overlooking the canopy of the trees.
At the end of the platform one can find a box with the maps of the openings in the landscape.

Extra Image Material from the Faro Plant Nursery Catalogue, Google Street View