Outdoor classroom and permaculture garden Jume is a project within a larger informal education research and design initiative "Cēsis Pluriversity" established in the medieval town of Cēsis, Latvia. Jume is a community driven and curated outdoor classroom that is co-designed and created as a permaculture garden in order to critically respond not only to the conditions of pandemic and climate crises but also to bring into reality new ways of accumulating and sharing knowledge through permaculture.
The idea for an outdoor classroom and permaculture garden "Jume" was conceived during the first "Cēsis Pluriversity" summer school back in 08.2020 (Cēsis, Latvia) as a result of long week visioning and designing workshop.
The idea was to make an outdoor classroom that could respond to the tightening physical gathering restrictions due to the pandeminc combined with innovative approach to make community garden and collective permaculture gardening as a new way of coming together, sharing knowledge, generating new skills and to explore the conditions of making care.
The location mapping and design phase lasted from 09.2020. - 04.2021 when two different sites where examined and discussed with the local community and municipality. The chosen final site is located in the old manor park besides the artist residency Rucka. The site was historically used as an allotment garden (1960s) for the hospital that was located in the manor building that is now the aforementioned artist residency and cultural space. This social linkage, close proximity to already existing creative space and historical relationality served as a meaningful context to be explored and given the futuring potential.
The core design imperative was to rediscover the garden itself and for it to become not only the place for the outdoor classroom, but the outdoor classroom itself should organically grow within the garden by organizing community events, gardening activities, social nights and of course - collective food preperation and enjoyment.
The whole physical construction process was based upon philosophy of permaculture with implementation of raised beds, sustainably sourcing local soils, heritage seeds from local activists and workshop based skill-raising learning process.
Later in the summer of 2021. "Jume" became the central place for the "Cēsis Pluriversity" experimental and informal learning events to happen, especially the summer school "Unfolding Pluriversity and Kinship" from 15.-22.08.2021
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context
Speaking from eco-design and circural economy perspectives the outdoor classroom and permaculture garden "Jume" was as much as possible designed and built from the "source local, upcycle and recode" point of view. The materials we could not upcylce from local sources, we ordered from nearby saw-mills or manufactured / consructed on the site.
Prime example would be the whole system designs for the raised beds that consist of many layers of different substrates including old branches and leaves collected from the park, weeds and grass from the garden itself, old donated cotton clothing, locally sourced compost, and soil itself that was transported from the local sites as a leftover debris from road construction works. No chemical colours were used and only pine tar was applied as hydro treatment for the planks and boards used in constructions.
Having said that, the hand instruments such as hammers, spades, showels, hoes, saws, knives, axes, pliers, scissors and etc were purchased new as a long term investment and highest possible quality and value, for they now make long lasting and open for community instrument toolbox to be shared.
As the whole process of making the garden as outdoor classroom was the core syllabus and curriculum for the classroom itself (i.e. following learning by doing approach), we paid utmost attention and importance to what is being grown there. That is why we consulted no only with local permaculture organisation but also gardener from the medieval Cēsis castle gardon who provided us with heritage seeds and local plants that compliment each other in order to relationally design self sufficient ecosystems that in time could become even more resilient to any kind of environmental conditions and provide local communities with biological non-hybrid seeds and plants for years to come.
In terms of sustainability the social and learning dimension were also a priority as garden with its complex dynamic systems provides powerful education platform.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context
The aesthetic of the project can be defined as natural, untamed yet artistic in a sense that it is undoubtedly a man made garden designed as a permacultural environment - meaning it is focused on materialising and manifesting ecosystem relationships made visible and therefore actively cared for.
Jume is approximetely 250m2 large with distinct vegetation bordering it from three sides and a gravel road maintaining a free accessibility to the location. As it historically has been a garden and therefore there were already layers of soils and old bushes and trees, it was not a brownflied or similar industrial site to be first retrofitted that allowed for much more gentle organic approach aesthetically as well.
It was awaken as an old garden through physical, social design and placemaking became to be a classroom, something that resonates with New Bauhaus agenda and values to the core - work with existing, dont build anything new if not necesseary, integrate, connect, design from margins and focus on the process.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context
"Jume" starting from the inception until its physical construction and operation as garden classroom has been cocreated, being free to access, and open to all and completely public project. The core objective of it being an outdoor classroom located in the garden and being as a real garden was to share knowledge and skills how to come together, enjoy working together, vision future collectively and learn from the plants growing there in order to see similar connections as they are in natural ecosystems as well in social urban fabric.
In order to do so we used an innovative academic framework where we brought together dimensions of geography, design and philosophy not only to conceptualize the methods being used and developed but also to articulate and communicate what this place is, and how it is made by and for the local community.
During open calls to join in, we managed to build community of some 15-20 people (mostly young families with small children and local seniors) who regularly met there either for workshops, lectures, learning events, some gardening or collective cooking, sharing stories or just spending time around bonfire to enjoy yarning circles.
Please highlight how this approach can be exemplary
Sustainability, aesthetics and inclusion could be seen as relationally integrated three dimensions of the whole project "Jume". We as a community of scholars, practitioners and local residents envisioned this place where reconnecting with the nature could happen and make place uncommercially, post-developomentally, beautifully, against the colonial matrix of man dominating over the nature (hence the permaculture) modes of extraction and through the learning from garden as it slowly takes shape, therefore the whole project from start to finish has been an exemplary dedication and theory put into practice.
We designed it structurally sustainable because that what a classroom within garden is meant to mean, be and teach - that there are systems need to be sustained in order for us to sustain, i.e. the garden that offers food if taken care of and a classroom that offers knowledge and understanding if being shared with and within.
We made it as aesthetically pleasing as possible, though from the permaculture and designing in time perspective where the designed structure and system itself has this ontological design capacity to carry on and design the designing of itself over time - slowly, organically and materially respectfully. We used only natural and/or upcycled materials as much as possible and worked together with designers and architects to follow the highest standarts of site specific construction where all the smallest details were carefully thought about.
We integrated it all in socially inclusive process where the borders of user-designer-facilitator got blurry and liminal, and in doing so brought together dedicated members of community, local residents and just accidental bypassers as well as local arts school teachers and children as the place became the home for the annual two week open air workshop dedicated to land art during 06.2021. Some of the art pieces are still there.
"Jume" is finished but being it garden and classroom it will continue to live on and on, and slowly develop into even more self sufficient and open for all environment for sharing, caring and learning by doing. By implementation of such a project we have reconnected not only the site itself to its past, but also to the future by giving it mission to be an outdoor classroom where futuring skills can not only be learned but also developed.
In that sense we also have reconnected with nature in urban environment by bringing up new narratives what is a relationality of nature and man made landscapes, and how the natural can be found in the artificial and vice verse.
We also have reignited the spirit of garden and now growing community have a free and accesible space to grow their own food, even if now in small amounts, but steadily the output will grow, and in doing so we are also "fighting" for the food security and taking care for biodiversity, as "Jume" is a small urban safehaven for pollinators too.
Please also explain the benefits that derived from their involvement.
The whole construction phase of "Jume" was possible only because of the local community involvement even if it was relatively small (15 - 20) people. For many it served as a therapeutic environment to reconnect with the nature, for some it was long awaited opportunity to learn some basic woodworking, carpentry and gardening, and for all the people it was a place for gathering and being together during the second and third waves of pandemic.
The most important benefit from such an involvement was this manifested sense of belonging and being together with likeminded people in safe environment during the period of time that was, and will be mostly charectirized by social and physical distancing, remote and purely digital work and just simple challenge of moving further when the hope and the sense of the future were slowly deteriorating
We definetely addressed the climate change by re-envisioning the mission and principles of urban community gardens beyond simple socially-ecological dimension: in order to critically respond for the climate emergencies we need value and learning based places where glocal thinking and actions can take place that inspire for local infrastructure to be taken care for.
As mentioned many times before by designing "Jume" as outdoor classroom we also directly addressed pandemic restrictions and the heavy load of distant and remote learning, working by offering safe environment to come together, and we also maybe indirectly by combination of the first two addressed the isuee of skill-loosing society where especially young people are starting to loose basic "analogue" skills and know how.
Last but not the least we addressed something that we think New Bauhaus stands for, and it is "imagining the unimaginable", as this combination of outdoor classroom and permaculture garden at the first site can be seen as simple, yet it is full of potential to discover completely innovative forms of not only being in the nature while being in the city, but above all else - to imagine urban public green structures as places of and for learning.
The most innovative character of this project is that in enables how to percieve urban landscape completely from different perspective. As especially in North-East Europe (the Baltics) our demographics are in decline we need to start envisioning radically more sustainable approach how we see the given infrastructure. We do not need to build new constructions, we need to redirectively give another life to existing ones, being them buildings, streets, parks, gardens or overall so called green and blue structures.
In that sense "Jume" is an invitation to explore community gardens through the permacultural approach to become outdoor classrooms as because of the pandemic the given education system is also under the shock and can be critizised for being outdated and without critical connection to futures arriving, and knowledge and skills needed to adapt them.
As "Jume" is small and simple in its form, it is massive in the long term scope and transformative in all the sustainable dimensions - economics, society, culture and environment.
Please provide clear documentation, communication of methodology and principles in this context.
Europe is historical region with many urban parks and greenery located nearby heritage sites or even being one of them. The conceptual framework of self-sufficient permaculture garden that nurtures the aspects of growing food and taking care for the environment narrative, by adding a learning dimension and becoming urban outdoor classroom is simple and can be replicated almost anywhere.
The greatest value of "Jume" is that it is humble and kind project, it invites to explore the unknown beyond the colonial matrix and it is gentle and carefull for the site it is being established within. Literature of permaculture is in great abundance, as well as we have learned lessons from the pandemic and we all are well informed that urban bio-diversity, food security and community building is of greatest importance.
"Jume" follows simple design principle that "the whole is greater than the sum of parts", and it also implements design philosophy of placemaking that implies all the places are events of gathering where the space, landscape, borders, limits, sensory strcutures, care, skills, atmosphere and time as medium come together.
Above all else and putting it extremely simple "Jume" offers new perspective how to design and build cities simultaneously as gardens and schools.
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