Our Common Future Under Climate Change

International Scientific Conference 7-10 JULY 2015 Paris, France

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  • 148 Ephemeral Botanical Urban Landscape: A performative method towards resilience and adaptable public spaces



Organizers: Botanical City Inc, New York, USA, and The Maracaibo’s Botanical Garden Foundation, Zulia, Venezuela.
Date:  July 8th, 2015. Paris from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM; Maracaibo from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM.
Location:  Place Jussieu, Paris, France and Maracaibo’s Botanical Garden, Zulia, Venezuela. .
Expected number of participants:  up to 150.
Nature of participants:  Public in general, artist, scientists, policymakers.
Keywords:  Ephemeral Landscapes, Botanical Garden, Botanical City, Public Space Adaptation.
Language: English and French in Paris; Spanish in Maracaibo.

Keynote Speakers

  • F. Galletti, President, Fundación Jardín Botánico de Maracaibo, Maracaibo, Venezuela.
  • O. Grauer, Visiting Professor, University of Pennsylvania, Landscape Architecture, Philadelphia, United States of America.
  • M. Machado, Professor, Universidad del Zulia, School of Architecture, Maracaibo, Venezuela
  • L. Peñeranda, Director, Museum of Contemporary Art of Zulia, Maracaibo, Venezuela.
  • C. Urbina, Professor, Universidad del Zulia, School of Architecture, Maracaibo, Venezuela.
  • M. Villalobos, Founder Artist Creator, Botanical City Inc, New York, United States of America.


  • L. Ararat, Photographer, Fundación Jardín Botánico de Maracaibo, Executive direction, Maracaibo, Venezuela.
  • A. Belfort, Architect, TAB Lab, Architects, Paris, France.
  • N. Bofill, Artist, Barcelona, Spain.
  • L. Goméz, Director, School of Fine Arts, Universidad del Zulia, School of Architecture, Maracaibo, Venezuela.
  • D. Gouverneur, Professor in Practice, University of Pennsylvania, Landscape architecture, Philadelphia, United States of America.
  • M. Gutierrez, Architect, Fundación Jardín Botánico de Maracaibo, Maracaibo, Venezuela.
  • H. Piña, Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen, Norway.
  • E. Potié-Vivas, Paris, France.

More information

Link to a website: http://www.botanicalcity.org/act.html

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Botanic gardens are institutions specially prepared to lead the discussion on climate change adaptation strategies as well as mitigation actions at the territorial, metropolitan and local scale. As a long lasting cultural landscape typology, the botanic gardens have offered remarkable contributions to our understanding of both biological behavior of plants through the management of their living collections and herbariums, as well as the encouragement and development of the visitor’s knowledge, awareness and interest in nature. Currently the botanical gardens continue to provide valuable insight on the relationship between temperature, flowering and leaf-out, climate and physiology, as well as evolutionary anatomic transformations. Our research began in the Botanical Garden of Maracaibo built by Roberto Burle Marx and Leandro Aristeguieta in 1983. Mainly committed to the preservation of the Dry Tropical Forest around the Maracaibo Lake, in the northwest region of Venezuela. This garden serves as a system of references toward a botanical urban landscape of a global relevance, especially in a moment when it is undeniably urgent to protect and preserve our environment and the ways in which we engage with it.
Click and learn more! http://www.botanicalcity.org/index.html

The ephemeral landscape performative exercises focus on new strategies to address conflict resolution in the public space, while encouraging specific methodological recommendations to adapt and transform such spaces, in the context of a changing climate. Can performances help us to measure the invisible relationships between the individuals and the landscape? Can performances support long-term strategies of morphologic, programmatic and ecologic conflict resolution at the urban scale, by articulating the transition between “looking at” and “engaging with” approaches? This research aims to demonstrate how performances in the public space contribute to diversify the interaction between humans and nature. The research describes how the performances could:  a) induce new relations of reciprocity by breaking the established preconceptions around public behavior, b) capture imagination and curiosity from viewers, transforming viewers into actors and opening a deeper understanding of the uniqueness of the moment and, c) make visible the poetic and ethical dimensions of surfing throughout the open spaces as fields of relationships among heterogeneous living individuals. The research highlights the potential influence of performances as ephemeral landscapes to raise awareness about the importance of bridging not only social gaps, but also those between humans and nature and to understand the urban landscape as a network of representation and engagements that unfolds over time and moves toward new reciprocities that overcome our vulnerabilities.
Click and Live it! http://www.botanicalcity.org/be.html


This side event to the UNESCO’s International Scientific Conference held in Paris will include two Workshops, “Ephemeral Botanical Urban Landscape: A performative method towards resilience and adaptable public spaces”, simultaneously scheduled for July 08, 2015, both in Paris and Maracaibo. The two on-site learning experiences are expected to attract up to 150 participants. The performative workshops are the result of the collaboration between two larger studies. The first one, lead by O. Grauer and M. Villalobos focuses on the power of ephemeral interventions in the public space as tools to promote social and cultural conflict resolution strategies, as developed in multiple Latin American cities over the last 6 years. The second one begins with the idea of an operative and utopic Botanical City as developed by C. Urbina and M. Villalobos, which arises from a 5 year long engagement with the Botanical Garden of Maracaibo (JBM), Venezuela. This landscape, conceived by Roberto Burle Marx and Leandro Aristeguieta, as both a botanical garden and the first school of horticulture in Latin America for the preservation of the Tropical Dry Forest in 1983, was shortly thereafter abandoned and transformed due to the new climate conditions and institutional fragility. Having achieved the reopening of the garden in 2013, the objective of this performative research has focused on the preservation of the botanical garden, where art and science have worked together, not to achieve the recovery of an impossible past but rather as the expansion and adaptation of a unique landscape system to the larger territorial scale. We believe that isolated actions and single scale strategies of natural and cultural preservation are not enough to adapt our public urban spaces and achieve long term sustainability, particularly when dealing with landscapes of profound cultural significance.

From our perspective, the challenges in relation to the JBM seem to be similar to those facing its garden-siblings in other contexts, for instance, botanical gardens as a historical landscape typology. Does preservation mean restoring these living landscapes to their ‘original condition’? What kind of an ‘original condition’ is possible when dealing with a living landscape facing constant climatic, biologic and cultural transformation? Can we instead imagine a middle ground, which seeks not to restore a finite product, but rather to steward the essence of a changing creative experience supported by strategic principles? Such questions lie at the core of this action/research; they address the futility of seeking permanency of a particular cultural landscape condition, which is essentially unstable and constantly transforming. Instead of considering such landscapes as artifacts fixed in time and space, the quest shifts towards processes that can sustain a transformative botanical and aesthetic equilibrium in the long term. Thus, this process of rehabilitation/transformation not only addresses the legacies of Burle Marx and Aristeguieta, but also the botanical garden as a model of artistic and botanical performance itself. In this sense, the case study has the potential to serve in similar situations in other contexts.
Methodologically, the workshops are aimed to encourage scientists and artists, botanists and designers to continue the conversation on how - beyond the opposites of nature and culture, - we can articulate pedagogical fields of encounter among conflicted disciplines. For decades, there have been efforts to make visible the role of public space in reducing social gaps, for example, in the World Urban Forum "The Right to the City: Bridging the Urban Divide" (2010), in Rio de Janeiro. However, other recent research work such as that of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment in the UK (CABE), has advanced recommendations on how public spaces should adapt and respond to climate change. The ephemeral performative exercises in the public space look at both perspectives. On the one hand, they question how new strategies of social conflict resolution can influence the future of the urban landscape. On the other hand, they focus on how general recommendations for climate change adaptation of the public space can relate to historically significant landscape typologies where art and science work together. As part of the conversation on ‘The Landscapes of Our Common Future’, the Ephemeral Botanical Urban Landscape Performances contribute to the conversation about alternative approaches to what makes us vulnerable and what makes us resilient, both within and as a product of, the public space.

The workshops consist of two parallel outdoor performances where participants will have the opportunity to transform the public space into an ephemeral botanical garden, based on Burle Marx’s unique invention of a landscape type that builds itself while teaching its constructors how to do it. The first workshop will take place in Paris, at the Place Jussieu, as a perfect middle point between the University Campus Pierre et Marie Curie and the Jardins des Plantes. This event will take place from 12:00 to 14:00 [UTC+2h]. This location could also be interpreted as a strong metaphor for a relevant encounter between educational and botanical landscapes of learning, preservation and dissemination. The second workshop will take place at the JBM in Venezuela, where the First School of Horticulture of Latin-American was founded (1983). The event in Maracaibo will take place from 14:00 to 16:00 [UTC-4:30]. We will meet, talk and draw our collective visions on how to face risks and vulnerabilities, taking the botanical garden landscape typology as the point of departure. As artists and landscape specialists, we believe that such ephemeral engagements could encourage long-lasting pedagogical transformations and promote greater understanding of the critical roles that art and science need to have in our future landscapes.

Key outcomes

The Paris Workshop took place at the Place Jussieu from 12:00PM to 2:00PM. This public space was identified as a perfect middle point between the University Campus Pierre et Marie Curie and the Jardins des Plantes. This location was meant to serve as a strong metaphor for a relevant encounter between educational and botanical landscapes of learning, preservation and dissemination. The Paris performance shared the same methodological structure with the performance in Maracaibo, it was structured in five simple steps: Discover, Plant, Grow, Be and Reproduce.
In experiential terms, the participants brought to life an active botanical, physical and programmatic connection among the river, the Jardin des Plantes and the University. The blue fabric was moving with the wind; people passing by were reading the labels, discovering the species, imagining how the river could enter the garden, the campus and the square.

In specific terms, the two performances followed the same structure of five activities and the same theme, while preserving open the format and content of the actions and the outcomes in each location. In both instances, the performative research was there to provide the structure and the freedom to make legible and understandable both approaches: a) one that is synthetic, that compresses and summarizes and, b) one that is analytical, that expands and articulates.

Therefore, as researchers, the one key highlight we can offer is perhaps a methodological one. One that finds elements to encourage the research on methods of learning and engagement that moves beyond the oppositions between the scientific and the artistic. The ‘performative essence’ of this study is not a subversive ambition against academic conventions; rather it is a true interest for understanding processes that intrinsically seek balance between what is of artistic power and that of scientific value, as it happens in Burle Marx and Aristeguieta’s Garden.

In such cases, practice is research, action equals theoretical findings, findings are products, and the acceptance of products leads to validation. Such paradigms transcend the systems of cause-effect deduction. Moving from “looking at” to “engaging with” approaches, the performative interventions entitled ‘Ephemeral Botanical Urban Landscape’ became routine-breaking methodological tools, behaving as ephemeral landscapes of social encounter. This type of performance aims to capture what keeps us apart from public space and what and whom do we fear as a group of individuals, while navigating the public space.

Finally, the ephemeral performances offer the designers and scientists instant information that may influence the design process and policy making mechanisms, thus the way the sites may look and perform over time. Moving forward into the future exercises of this performative nature, have taken on the potential to analyze the applicability of the performances in relation to three different aspects: a) as a mechanism to evaluate design proposals, b) as a tool to influence the design process, and c) as a method to enhance the implementation of the proposals.


Please find the report of the event hereunder.