I nominate Ester van de Wiel for the way she has re-envisioned the designer’s role as that of a project initiator and curator. This nomination encompasses three projects that, viewed in relation to each other, demonstrate the evolution of her way of working.
Van de Wiel’s method is characterised by the use of local knowledge and existing structures and operation on and with the scale of the landscape. Her works are cultural agendas, map legends and designs rolled into one. Several key elements recur in the nominated projects: the designer places the assignment on the cultural agenda, creates a map legend for the area, and fleshes out future scenarios and tools. Van de Wiel’s subjects of study have revealed themselves with increasing clarity in recent years: in-between time, in-between land, the readable landscape, the edible landscape and the deferred landscape. She simultaneously develops and elaborates these concepts in her life, her practice and her teaching. In this way, she produces a collective, self-propelling form of knowledge that makes a valuable contribution to the way people read and design their living environment.
With Eetbaar Landschap (2009), Ester van de Wiel set about improving the accessibility of Tilburg’s former Moerenburg sewer pumping station, which the city government had identified as a potential arts incubator. In researching local materials and knowledge, she found that food could serve as an overarching principle for learning to read the landscape. She invited selected artists and designers to create “spatial prostheses” that would bring the area to life. Elements they devised included a field kitchen (Elmo Vermijs), a mobile brewery (Henriëtte Waal) and an archaeological kitchen garden (Maarten Kolk). www.eetbaarlandschap.nl
NuHier (2009-present) takes advantage of the waiting time associated with urban building projects. Ester van de Wiel and Gerda Zijstra were approached by the PWS housing association and asked to come up with a use for an empty lot in central Rotterdam. They named the space NuHier and invited local clubs to make themselves at home on the site and use it to pursue their hobbies, ensuring involved stewardship and multifaceted use. At NuHier, public space is treated as a locus for a range of activities – cooking, gardening, sport, study and so on.
NuHier operates on a simple yet effective principle: whatever works stays, and whatever doesn’t goes. Visualising, connecting and sharing the knowledge that accumulates around NuHier is an ongoing challenge. nuhier.mmmmx.net/browse/het-plan/
Werkplaats Buijtenland (2011) is a collaboration between Van de Wiel and Marnix Tarvenier. It takes a landscape in transformation as its starting point and seeks to enhance the experience of that landscape by linking recreation to sustainable agricultural production and consumption. To investigate the area's recreational potential, they have invited designers (Studio Makkink & Bey, Henriëtte Waal, Elmo Vermijs) to develop “Buijtentools” – an outdoor brewery, outdoor accommodations, an outdoor kitchen and outdoor paths. All elements will be designed specially to work with a distinctive traditional local type of trailer, which sits unused for most of the year. werkplaatsbuijtenland.nl
In the three nominated projects, Van de Wiel expands her role as a designer to encompass project initiation and curation. Through establishing an underlying agenda, she creates a linkage between their individual perspectives. “You have to know what's going on to be able to make connections,” Van de Wiel says. “You're a sort of mediator. Depending on who you invite, you end up with an agenda, and you have to try to clear that [with the client]. (…) If you can get more precise, you can do a lot more.” Her work creates space for an essential deepening of the design profession.
Former sewage treatment installation, Tilburg. 2009
Produced in cooperation with Sigrid Calon, Maarten Kolk, Henriëtte Waal, Maaike Bertens, Liesje Diemont, Elmo Vermijs, Nick Swarth, Sander Neijnens, Koehorst in ’t Veld, K.O.R.T., and professional amateurs of Tilburg
Waste ground, Rotterdam. 2009–2011
Produced in cooperation with Gerda Zijlstra, Koehorst in ’t Veld, Ralph Kämena, Movie Action, Horeca Vakschool Rotterdam, Stichting Noord Plus, Gemeentewerken and Roteb, PWS Rotterdam, Zadkine, Deelgemeente Rotterdam Noord, Basta, and other local hobbyists
Het Buijtenland van Rhoon. 2011–2012
Produced in cooperation with Marnix Tavenier, Studio Makkink & Bey, Willemijn Lofvers, Koehorst in ’t Veld, Elmo Vermijs, Henriëtte Waal, Kunstgebouw, the province of Zuid-Holland, and local parties from the city and the countryside