It is the time to bring nature back in our everyday life; not the romanticised, sanitised, domesticated version of it, but the gritty, wild stuff.
The current narrative around the environmental crisis offers conflicting and confusing information, it has been wrongly politicised and often induces guilt without offering solutions. This makes accepting that our lifestyles need to be dramatically transformed, a painful process: we procrastinate, waiting for a miracle cure.
In order to find the solution, perhaps, we need first to stop seeing our environment for our use, to be tamed into a garden. We need to embrace the undomesticated, feral side of nature and allow pockets of wilderness to take over, in order to live with the simplicity of the philosopher. This year for WALDEN Schloss Hollenegg for Design has invited twenty-two designers and studios to interpret wilderness through a broad range of sustainable practices.
For WALDEN Schloss Hollenegg for Design, Charlap Hyman & Herrero has created a printed mural from hand-painted artworks in the tapestry room; with it, they covered not only a formerly blank wall but also the ceiling. The wallpaper – produced by Calico Wallpaper from clay-coated FSC-certified paper – depicts the lush and verdant vines that spill down from covered walkways, staircases, and towers around the castle and teaming with a variety of insect life.
By bringing this defining feature of the facade indoors, CHH distorts the distinction between the decorated interior and the wilderness beyond, while referencing the presence of historical landscape wallpaper throughout the castle. The mural, installed amongst the furnishings of a stately bedroom and large 17th century Brussel tapestries, teeters between a romantic suggestion of man’s poetic relationship with nature and an ominous reminder that all buildings will become ruins eventually, overtaken by the untameable.
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by Sophie Dries
Commissioned for WALDEN Schloss Hollenegg for Design, Sophie Dries collaborated with the lighting company Kaia, which produces in Austria chandeliers inspired by the clean lines and geometric decoration of Vienna’s Secessionist architecture. Sophie Dries choose to juxtapose to the classic blown glass and brass typical of Kaia chandeliers a more organic material: paper. Produced in Puglia, the paper selected is an evolution of the papier-mâché process and has a raw, textural quality to it that resembles stone.
The rough and organic paper is in contrast with the smooth and transparent glass eggs and the rigorous and geometric lines of the brass structure. The way the paper appears to grow over the glass eggs brings to mind the way moss and fungi occasionally grow over walls and buildings. There is a precarious and somewhat imperfect balance in Sophie Dries chandelier between organic and geometric, natural, and artificial suggesting the possibility of harmonious coexistence.
Oyster mushrooms can be grown into a shape that is both a food resource and a functional object. During a period of several weeks, the mycelium – the root-like structure of the mushroom organism – grows together with textile and hemp fibers – an agricultural waste product – into a flexible textile. The material can be molded into different shapes, folded, and grown further into a solid composite structure. Eventually, it will be dried out to become a lightweight, insulating, organic, and compostable structure: a chair created for WALDEN Schloss Hollenegg for Design that will improve the quality of the soil when it will be composted.
Mushrooms live from breaking down the cellulose in the plant fibers, thus creating the living soil along with plants and insects. Without mushrooms and mycelium, we would have no forests, no oxygen, and no life on the planet. The Mycelium project uses a living organism to transform waste into product. It illustrates how we are connected with species outside our system in order to support our basic needs: understanding this underlaying relationship helps us reflect on our need for cohabitation with nature and how this symbiosis is able to generate a positive response in human life.
During their residency at WALDEN – Schloss Hollenegg for Design, Vlasta and Milo spent most of their time at the large sequoia table. Looking through the arched windows, the designers observed the delicate changes in the sky and witnessed sudden transformations in the weather with violent thunderstorms. The arches came to represents for them the border between two worlds, where safe meets wild.
For this in-between space, they designed a site-specific window using only two natural and sustainable materials: Nuatan bioplastic sheets as window panes, and wood for the frame. They built the frame with a traditional wood joinery system to ensure the elements would age, and eventually decompose, in the same time-span. The translucent property of the bioplastic sheets is brought out by the changing light of the day: as the sun sets the windowpane glows. Sliding individual sections of the window panes changes the aesthetics of the window or reveals the nature behind it.
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by Klemens Schillinger
During his stay at Schloss Hollenegg for Design, Klemens Schillinger often found himself at night walking around the castle in almost complete darkness. He also noticed that some of the rooms could only be used during the day because they had no electricity, or were illuminated by a dim chandelier and offered no plugs for other lamps or devices. For this reason, the castle felt like the perfect setting in which to further explore his concept for an off-grid lamp.
As the name suggests, the Off-Grid Lamp is not connected to the power grid. Instead, a hand-operated crank or a foot pedal charge a generator and allow a person to produce their own energy with physical exercise. Instead of sitting at a desk consuming electricity for long hours, one can activate arms and legs and charge the lamp. With the help of modern LED technology and a rechargeable battery, the lamp can be used as a modern torch. Both the technology and the principle are simple: whoever gives something gets something in return.
Schloss Hollenegg dates back to 1163 and its long history is reflected in its architecture, featuring medieval, renaissance, and baroque construction styles. Schloss Hollenegg for Design uses the space to inspire young, talented designers for their yearly exhibitions.
by Marlene Huissoud
The rhythmic singing of cicadas, the low hum of bees, the soft beating of a moth’s wings are the sounds of insects interacting in our daily lives, a presence often taken for granted yet fundamental to our ecosystems. Born in a family of beekeepers, Marlène Huissoud’s passion for insects is reflected in the design of her rug, made in collaboration with cc-tapis. Based on Huissoud intricate drawings, swarms celebrate the importance of insects and interprets their constant movement.
The rug is completely hand-knotted in Nepal by Tibetan artisans, using traditional techniques with 152.000 individual knots per square meter. No dyes, chemicals, or acids were used during production and only Himalayan wool was used, rich material with a wide variety of natural tones. Marlène Huissoud’s concern for the environment is expressed in her choice of materials and manufacturing techniques. Through her project for WALDEN Schloss Hollenegg for Design she intends to celebrate the importance of insects as their presence in the world is declining: in the past decade, alone 40% of insect species in the world have gone extinct.
WALDEN at Schloss Hollenegg for Design represents a desire for independence. By observing our surroundings, discovering what they have to offer, experimenting with the resources available, one can find new possibilities to make what is necessary and desirable. In this shift of observation and opportunity, we find materials that may not be an obvious choice but are however capable of providing solutions for both function and expression.
For Walden, Odd Matter focused their attention on one of the first materials to be used for making and building: mud. More commonly seen as a nuisance (and the reason why streets are paved), it can be a luxury used to indulge the body when in a spa, mud is useful in architecture, and perfectly normal when encountered in the countryside or in a forest. Using mud, Odd Matter has made planters: using soil to contain soil; from the earth comes life.
Weather Almanac is an instrument that captures real-time and historical meteorological activity and transports it into the domestic sphere. Inspired by the ways in which the external forces find their way into Schloss Hollenegg’s interiors – from the gentle rattle of light wind to the deafening sound of a summer storm – the piece aims to not only relay quantitative data but to also display qualitative experiences of movement, color, and sound.
The electro-mechanical dot display is controlled by a custom software connected to the weather station of Graz-Thalerhof airport. The wind and rain data is used as an input to change the composition of the display: with almost no wind, the colored pixel of the panel move slowly and subtly; with strong wind, a wave of flipping dots rattle like the windows of the castle; when it rains, the sound is deafening. Instead of investing efforts in regulating our interior climate, we should reconnect to the elements and embrace with reverence the beauty of what can not be controlled.
“Cosimo was in the oak. The branches were waving, high bridges over the earth. A light wind was blowing; it was […] Cosimo looked the world from the tree: everything was different seen from up there, and that was already an entertainment.” from The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino
Plants are the protagonists of the installation, but their narratives reach beyond botanical connotations. Shifting between aesthetics and experiment, Ombrosa tells the story of Schloss Hollenegg as a former summer residence. As a 19th century watercolor in the castle testifies, at that time the courtyard hosted citrus trees, palms, and agaves, which were then housed in the orangery in winter. A possibility that could become reality again as a consequence of climate change. A wild and rampant Mediterranean garden serves as an idyll, blurring the boundaries to dystopia. Thus, Ombrosa is both the place where Italo Calvino’s Baron of the Trees takes place and a realm where uncommon ideas are welcome and utopia can be invented: la selvatichezza ci salverà.
A Summloch is a buzzing or humming hole. If you put your head into a Summloch and breathe out deeply humming, the sounds you emit cause the object to resonate. If you place your hand on your neck, you can feel the vibrations. The vibrations will affect your body; depending on the pitch, the buzzing triggers a stronger or weaker tingling in the body. The result is a harmonious feeling of well-being.
Buzzing can be traced back to prehistory, as an early means of communication with a calming effect. Such sensory experiences make us more sensitive to our environment and more conscious of our senses. In the exasperated context of the 21st century, we need tools for everyday day life able to help us harmonize our bodies and nature. Summlöcher are participatory sculptures that, in the digital age, remind us that we are sentient, perceiving beings. They promote a primal experience that goes hand in hand with meditation and adds an aesthetic image to the existing ecological discourses.
It is a long-honored and recurring tradition of artistic practice to salvage and repurpose discarded and common use objects. For Sander Wassink, it is an attempt to infuse value and appreciation for the humble and mundane things in life. The lamp Bucket Spilling the Sky developed out of a photographic project in which mirrors were cut to fit into daily, discarded objects. The objects were then photographed outside on sunny days, to look as if they had stolen a patch of sky. Later some of these objects were transformed into lights projecting drawings of the sky.
By bringing the sky into a room we are letting in a tiny bit of the outside world, playing with the norms that regulate inside and outside, natural or artificial. A spilled bucket is a nuisance, a small accident that disrupts efficiency and order, and perhaps by allowing irreverent objects in our home we become more accepting of a little wildness.
The Design project realLimited focuses since 2008 on endangered insect and fungi species. The latest addition to the series, limitedGrasses, focuses on flora. Agropyron Cristatum is a species of crested wheatgrass, of which the number of specimens in Austria’s natural environment is estimated at a maximum of 200 plants. Rendered in patinated brass, each individual blade of grass is numbered to represent a living counterpart.
As they enter the living room in the form of furniture – a blue wire and lacquered ash low table – they bring human artifacts and wild growth into dialogue. The five limited-edition tables will each have about 40 crested wheat grasses, reflecting the real limited number in nature. Ten percent of the price of the object will go to selected nature conservation projects by the Naturschutzbund Austria (Society for the Conservation of Nature Austria), which acquire and preserve meadows and natural areas and keep them in their wild state.
Cleaning as a practice is a first step towards the understanding that our own survival depends on the survival of our planet. We need to re-conceptualize our relationship and maximize our connective participation. Through cleaning, we express our respect and appreciation towards ourselves, others, and our direct surrounding. We learn to reconnect with our physical environment and internalize it by actively engaging with it. Cleaning changes our awareness and perception. It promotes independence, helpfulness, and consideration. Moreover, we learn to correlate our actions with their cause and effect. Necessary to maintain a healthy equilibrium, cleaning is part of our life as a recurrent cycle.
Studio B Severin has developed three pieces of jewelry for daily cleaning routines as a holistic approach to life. A necklace that incorporates a sponge for cleaning the face; a bracelet which unravels to reveal a glove for cleaning the home; a set of thimbles for cleaning the environment and picking up trash in nature. One wonders how these conceptual objects will develop in the near future as fear of viruses and illness affect us all daily.
Marc Leschelier’s project for WALDEN Schloss Hollenegg for Design should have been executed during the course of the exhibition, starting on an opening day and being conducted until the end as a ritual construction. The worksite would have been set up close to the entrance of Schloss Hollenegg. The architecture that was to be constructed, made primarily of wood with machine-made junctures, would have had the sole function of representing a precarious equilibrium between natural materials and human technology.
A totemic structure of freshly cut trees is kept in place by an armor of chains: a kind of skeleton where all forces that are penetrating the matter would have been directly visible by the flexion of wood and the tension of chains. The premise of the project is based on a refutation of construction as a rational enterprise and imagines it instead as a process made of intuitive and irrational assemblages. The result would have worked as a re-articulated body representing the struggle between man and nature.
One of Lina Bo Bardi’s most famous architectures – the SESC Pompeia in Sao Paulo – was the inspiration of this project. For Destroyers/Builders, organically shaped windows, embedded in a brutalist concrete building, are a way of bringing wilderness in everyday life. In a parallel way, shaping the rounded forms that make the small stool, is a way of finding a balance between the fluid and the regular, qualities that you find side by side in the city.
Expanding the series Windows of Bo Bardi for WALDEN Schloss Hollenegg for Design, the new piece takes a primitive way of making things one step further: the gestures are connected to youth and a natural state of curiosity, an urge for building. The ivory color is the natural color of wood dust, leftover from the sanding of the wood, and used as the final coating layer. The structure and color bing to mind bones, horns, beeswax. Through a simple piece of furniture with architectural potential, the origins of making are brought in harmony with nature.
What appears to be a totem is in fact, a dry toilet. The main principle of a dry toilet is to collect human waste for compost and fertilizer use instead of flushing it. While some people can reuse their waste composted directly in their garden, there are already companies specialized in collecting human waste from dry toilets.
Looking closely, one can notice stories embedded in low-relief on the surface of the toilet, which is made of recyclable materials. Inspired by engraved Romanesque columns where animals and plants symbolize abstract ideas, the 3D printed reliefs on the toilet celebrate the importance of the waste and water cycles. In this way, the toilet becomes a monument to an older system hacked to fit a new idea. Somewhere in between an archaeological relic of the future and an alternative for the present, this toilet bares the processes usually hidden behind the smooth curves of the object pushing society towards change.
Fertile soils are becoming increasingly scarce, leading to an escalating competition worldwide for this undervalued, but a precious resource. As various discourses and conflicts around the ownership of soil are rising worldwide, it is urgent to address soil in a more complex and nuanced manner – not just as an ecological problem but as a cultural, social, and political issue.
Chromatography, a soil imaging laboratory technique, is mainly used by farmers of the global south; soil transplants are only tested behind closed laboratory doors. Soils in Residency combine the two methods and introduces them to our community. Soils of different origins and agricultural treatments are analyzed through a chroma image that reveals its specific qualities and flaws. With this information, the soils are inoculated in a test plot that is designed as a biogeographical map. The results, create an interdisciplinary platform facilitating the exchange of knowledge and the sharing of the resource of soil.
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by Study O Portable
Any technological development in human history derives from our ability to see new possibilities in the way things could be used. At the same time, it is evident that the way we use resources it is changing the environment to an extent that nobody thought possible. With the modern technologies available to us now, we can turn almost anything into something we can consume.
Branch Eraser makes us reflect on what happens when something disappears. Is there anything we can learn only after erasing something? After all, when we erase a pencil line, it’s almost always followed by a better, more considered line.
A to Zanthoxylum is a set of pencils made of 26 timber species arranged alphabetically by their scientific names. Wood has been the material of choice for writing and printing words and letters for centuries. The pencils are based on the work of George Loddiges, who, in 1840, planted an alphabetical arboretum along the perimeter of Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington, London. Through replanting, propagation, diseases, and other disturbances, the arboretum has now turned into scattered letters and accidental words, resembling chance poetry made by nature.
In the last months, as the health emergency caused by Covid-19 has brought daily life to a quasi standstill, many have rediscovered the sound of birdsongs. Since Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962, it is a well known and sad reality that, in many regions of the world there has been up to a 30% decline in the bird population, mainly due to habitat loss and wider use of pesticides.
Marylou Petot has created a sixteen-minute piece with birdsongs from the Camargue, instruments, and voices in four narrative chapters. Originally intended to be recorded in the woodland around Hollenegg with an orchestra of local species, the birds’ interlude can be seen as experimental sound cartography within the exhibition’s space. It aimed to reveal the territory around the castle in a sensitive and pedagogical way, encouraging an intelligible listening of the area’s soundscapes and a sensitive sound walk within the castle. Marylou Petot’s soundscape makes us reflect on the importance of preserving real sounds because no technology will be able to substitute nature.
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“Tiny and close”
There is hardly any other living creature with which humans have such an ambivalent relationship as with insects. From time immemorial it has been marked by curse and blessing, benefit and harm, fascination, and phobia. They have always been there, will always accompany us, and ultimately survive us. No other creature is so close to us, yet wrongly overlooked, mocked at and fought against as vermin. Insects play an essential role in many ecosystems and belong to the basis of human existence.
The Fly Room presents a varied portrait of the apparently unnecessary insect – the fly. It stands symbolically for the restless, nonsensical and useless. No other animal comes as close to us as the fly: it lives in the same room, has similar preferences, and eats from the same plate. It is only given attention when it disturbs or even molests us. Without any compassion or bad conscience, we kill the annoying fly.
This project for WALDEN Schloss Hollenegg for Design shows why we should be less disturbed and disgusted by this animal and rather more fascinated by it. It does not only take a close look at the insects but also at the people. It illustrates the close and ambivalent relationship that connects us with these small, buzzing, and flying creatures. At the end of our days, maggots will eat us.