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The Wishing Table

location: Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau
project status: Completed, 2013

THE COMMONS were traditionally elements of the natural environment: the forests, rivers or grazing land shared and used by many. But beyond a natural resource the commons were a social contract—a community’s shared interest for a sustainable future. Inspired by the idea of shared ownership, the project explores how beyond the dichotomy of private and public, individual interests can be articulated in such a way as to constitute common interests. Thus this project pursues the culture of giving as a catalyst for building trust, cooperation and community and ultimately tests possible alternate economies.

“C’mon C’mmons – Tischlein deck dich!” is part-farm, part-outdoor kitchen and part-pub- lic dining place. A continuous table provides a platform for growing vegetables and herbs, cooking and eating, celebrating and play; a place for sharing seeds and plants, food and recipes, knowledge, experiences and ideas. It acts as a meeting point for inhabitants, stu- dents and visitors alike. Here everybody is both host and guest, for the installation is the result of a true collective endeavour.

Weaving a wide network of commoners, the project was realized entirely based on gifts: in a “Kraut-funding” effort all plants were given by citizens of Dessau, construction material were either recycled or donated by companies, local institutions and the municipality contributed by making available infrastructure and facilities. The garden as Commons gains a social dimension: It is not only to be enjoyed or consumed, but invites citizens to actively engage, appropriate their environment, take on responsibility and contribute in constituting an alternate public sphere.

Much rather than the actual table/garden object, the essential product of the project is the processes it triggers; social processes and interactions resulting from making things— building, gardening and cooking together. If at all, only these social processes can ensure the sustainability of the project. The “design” simply underscores its manifold cyclical nature: cycles of growing, harvesting and preparing organic food as continuous materialand energy flows; cycles of gardening, cooking and eating as both perpetual ordinary routines and sophisticated rituals; cycles of giving as inherently reciprocal.

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