The Pretty Heap
Project for courtyard design of Combinatul Fondului Plastic platform during Romanian Design Week 2022.
While wandering through the courtyard of Combinatul Fondului Plastic, we found it difficult to draw a clear line between art and remnants, organization, and chaos, valuable and worthless. This ambiguity (cultivated?) seemed useful to us. It could be a key to interpreting the contemporary city and the need to reuse, integrate, and, above all, discover potential in the most unexpected situations. Pastiche, degradation, and rust were also important in defining a method based on embracing precariousness rather than pursuing expensive sublimity.
But what did we do more concretely? The main open space in the Combinat’s courtyard was, of course, used as a parking lot. The chaotic grid of the existing parking lot became one of the starting hinges of the project. That's where we started. We reorganized and aesthetically enhanced it, marked it appropriately. In each cell of the grid, we displayed an object, or a group of objects recovered from the Combine's courtyard. Some of these were abandoned, some were beautiful junk, while others were deposited. The process of selecting these artifacts also involved exploring every nook and cranny of this huge courtyard, as well as delicate negotiations with the resident artists. Many of them refused to work with us. But in the end, the plots of the new parking lot at the Combinatul Fondului Plastic became a gallery of curiosities that challenged each visitor to accept or reject our proposals, to answer the question: is this art?
By using the parking lot as the basic spatial structure of the exhibition, we also discussed the relationship between car infrastructure and inhabited space. The parking lot is the dormant structure of the contemporary city. Created by the symbolic-more-than-the-pragmatic automobile, it now needs to be reintegrated into the city's life.
The attached diagram represents the model of the urban space we propose, starting from the spatial unit of the parking lot. It's a space that retains permeability but, in addition to cars, is augmented with art, shade, vegetation, places to sit, and a small room that irrevocably demonstrates that even the parking lot can be "inhabited," that cars, during their long periods of rest, are primarily small architectures, not moving objects.
We greeted Ruscha, Scott Brown & Venturi, and in the postmodern grid of the parking lot, we intervened with our own menagerie of objects, typical of Eastern Europe in the 21st century.
In the end, we reaffirm the purpose of the proposed arrangement: to create a working method with an open ending, rather than a unique, finished object. A method through which we want to cultivate, during Romanian Design Week, the art of erasing the boundary between art and the world inscribed in the very functioning of the Combinatul Fondului Plastic, Bucharest, and the question: how could we do the same in the city?
P.S.: For now, we call our tool the "The Pretty Heap."