Sustainable City – Re-imagining the future

High Street, Northcote, right near where I live, is turning into a humungous art gallery at the moment, as local artists install their magnificent creations.

Last night my family went along to the launch of ARTiculate – the launch of of Sustainable City – re-imagining our future. Everyone is invited to contribute to an inspiring installation of a sustainable city of the future. My sister, Cal, and I have been working all week on our piece: Food Not Roads.

Sustainable City - Re-imagining the future

it was far from finished when we arrived, and we kept working on it. Heaps of people contributed and it’s really turned into a community art piece.

This is an installation showing my street, how I would like it to look in the future. The front part shows a map of my street: all the cars have been moved to each end of the street, and the centre section dug out and turned into a huge food garden.

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In the very middle of the street is a community hub (on the map this is surrounded by a blue dotted line). The community hub has been enlarged and shown in 3D at the back of the installation.

Here are some close ups of the installation. My sister made all the 3D pieces and I think she’s amazing!

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There’s a mandala garden. As the sign says: This labour-saving system of integrated annual garden beds, chooks, fruit trees, permanent plants and a central pond was designed by Linda Woodrow. A singple person can make a full-time living from a seven-mandala garden. One mandala can easily feed a household with a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, eggs and fruit all year round.

Check out the gorgeous chook house my sister made! (Sorry to our mum, about the sieve she chopped up.)

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There’s a humungous marquee with a bench containing hotplates for cooking, sinks, and a couple of washing machines. Residents can hang out here, get some cooking and washing done, or do other work/socialising, while the kids play. Every saturday morning the marquee is home to a market, where produce from the street garden is sold. Residents can order in advance, but anyone can buy.

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While the adults are hanging out, the kids have the playground. But there’s more – they can play in the gardens too, harvest eggs, feed worms to the chooks and pick food to eat.

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There is a greenhouse, a potting shed, a worm farm, a composting toilet, and lots of compost piles. Residents are invited to bring their own kitchen and toilet wastes for composting. There’s a letter to the residents:

Dear Resident,
Would you like us to transform your front yard into a food garden? We can help you get started growing your own food, or we can rent your plot to grow food for the weekly market.
– The Caretaker.

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There are also several one-room studios available for low-cost rent, where residents can work on crafts that will be sold at the local market. Preference is given to those who are happy to be mentors for others to learn their skill.

More studios:

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There’s also a workshop room for hire. Yoga classes, kids’ workshops and more…

And here it is:

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I loved working on this. I loved the community feeling as everyone got involved – someone made us a woodlot, someone else made a bike. I loved the conversations that happened – someone went away and brought back someone else specially to look. May this inspire someone, somewhere to make the street I want to live in!

The sign on the wall says:

Food Not Roads

About this installation…
Recently the street I live in, Bower Street, Northcote, was
redeveloped. The council spent
$400,000 to replace the road and add an island down the middle. Once I saw the sum involved, I started
dreaming about other ways it could have been spent. This is how I wish the council had redeveloped Bower Street. Imagine… if every time a small street was scheduled
for redevelopment, it was turned into a food garden and community hub,
providing a place for residents to hang out together, kids to play, and
craftspeople to create goods that are truly local and sustainable. How much nicer for an elderly person to
sit under a marquee and watch everyone at work, than sit isolated in their own
homes. Parents could cook a meal in
the outdoor kitchen while chatting with a neighbor, and supervising another
neighbour’s children. Is it feasible?
With a budget of
$400,000 the capital works shown here could be accomplished for $200,000. Over the next three years, each year
$60,000 could be spent on caretaker/gardener wages and $6000 to buy essential
materials. After this the garden
should pay for itself via the weekly market. Without this money available,
residents could raise $10,000 to remove the relevant portion of the road, create
a committee of volunteers to tend the food garden, and then add buildings and
paid workers once the market starts to bring in money.

In the meantime, it’s there, at Northcote Uniting Church, for two weeks, as part of Northern Exposure. Pop in and take a look if you are interested (and live in Melbourne!)

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