23 January 2024
Lightning Talks II

Ilkay Tanrisever
Romero Schaefle Partner Architekten, Zurich

Tracing Potential in Water

Independent Researcher and Architect

Banyalbufar 1959. Josep Truyol. Apud Clara Caldes

Banyalbufar is a small secluded island village surrounded by the Balearic Tramuntana mountain range, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which due to climate change, is often suffering from severe droughts. Although partially unused today, in the 10th century it was inhabited and cultivated by the Islamic culture, who created a complex resource management system for irrigation with more than 2,000 terraces, fountains, aqueducts and cisterns, a body of knowledge acquired and adapted from their antecedent experience in Yemen. To build the many terraces, a complete circular construction system was developed reusing the stones that would impede the planting and using them as retaining walls. Dry connections were used to enable their further disassembly and reuse. The latter Christian conquest of the island in the 13th century, profited the system to give rise to dry farming practices focusing on olives, tomatoes and wine cultivations, creating a unique agricultural system today partially unused and with an extreme potential to be reused and repurposed. As the village has experienced in the last years a regrowth of the population with a younger generation moving back, the village school has reopened, the fishing coming back to life, and the local wine specie, Malvasia, which had disappeared in the 19th century due to different plages, has been reinserted and recultivated. Through a series of research workshops, we are exploring the architectural, infrastructural and urban heritage of Banyalbufar, as well as its potential future as a prototype for future sustainable circular communities which can be reactivated learning from their vernacular knowledge and traveling South to North. The research is realized in collaboration with Kosmos Architects, Isla and Guillem Aloy.


Vulnerable Heritage: the undeniable value of past craftsmanship in Romanian villages and the biodiversity-friendly architecture

Independent Researcher, Artist and Curator

Copyright: Casa Maramureșană

While researching for my thesis about art and olfaction with a focus on the particular smell of hay in Transylvania, Romania, a region with one of the most biodiverse grasslands in Europe, I have found a direct correlation between topography, traditional land farming, and architecture.
Traditional low-intensity farming has died out in almost all European countries and, due to its scarcity, studies focusing on traditional land management and architecture are also rare. Romanian traditional houses have acquired their style in a mainly agricultural economy and in an excessive continental climate. The traditional village landscapes have undergone transformations due to socio-political and economic developments, which have led to irreversible losses in biodiversity, authenticity, and aesthetics. Traditional architecture is often undervalued and therefore becomes increasingly vulnerable in the current context, where modern comfort is preferred to traditional construction methods.
Surdesti, Şesuri, or Botiza are still places in Transylvania where biodiversity is well-preserved. These villages differ in topography: Botiza for example is situated in a valley and therefore contains defined zones for houses and gardens, wherein in Şesuri the houses are spread and harmoniously integrated into nature. The primary occupation of the locals is agriculture and animal breeding (most products are kept within the family). The original houses, which have a lifespan of 70 to 80 years, are traditionally constructed from wood, clay, and straw. Some of them have even been transformed into comfortable cottages. With a high thermal transfer coefficient, these homes have shown resistance to earthquakes without collapsing and often only with minor damage.1 The surrounding meadows and the grounds mow by hand, therefore you can still find a rare and protected flora with orchids, wild gladioli, and carnivorous plants, among others, and equally impressive is the fauna with brown bears, wolves, lynxes, otters, deer, and a large variety of rare birds such as hoopoes and orioles.


Veil Reveal

Independent Researcher and Architect
Architecture historian and art critic

Bottom: The whitest white: Interior of the titanium dioxide factory Kronos Titan AS, in Fredrikstad, Norway. Photo: Marte Johnslien, 2019.
Top: A local street turned red from toxic iron oxide sludge leakage from the factory in Kollam, Kerala, India. Photo: Kshitija Mruthyunjaya, 2022

White is ubiquitous. It is conventionally associated with cleanliness and purity. However, its complex nature is less understood. We have somehow since the modern times perceived white spaces to be clean, comfortable and safe. When we sit or stand against a solid white white wall, write on a white piece of paper, brush our teeth with the stark white toothpaste, etc we rarely or mostly never think about how it is produced, its contents and its impacts if one were to zoom in on its hidden dimensions. The arrival of a white involves digging, modifying, reforming, rearranging, mining and so forth causing destructive divisions between humans and between humans and other-than-human forces.

Nowadays, synthetic white pigment like Titanium Dioxide (also known as TiO2, Titania, Pigment White 6) is widespread. Its rising demand in construction, automotives, textile, cosmetic and other industries as a dispersing agent, flocculent and most importantly as a whitening agent is spurring the demand worldwide. As the demand rises, its disconnected production networks have impacted the local ecosystems, causing grave geo-environmental problems, affecting socio-economic development and creating severe health threats in areas where it is produced.

Skondal, Norway

In 1910, a Norwegian chemist filed a patent for the production method for a pigment that aesthetically changed all modern surfaces. The white pigment TiO2, called “the whitest white,” revolutionized the global color industry by bringing onto the market a pure white paint that resisted discoloration due to dirt and rust. After a hundred years of mining, the extraction of TiO2 has left an irreversible change in the local landscape in Sokndal, Norway. The environmental traces of mining modernism consist of a vast cut through the surface of the earth and a grey artificial desert of mining waste. Each year 13 million tons of ore are excavated in the open pit mine, which results in the land deposit growing by 2.7 million tons every year.

Kerala, India

Countries like India produce mammoth amounts of Titanium Dioxide to meet its annual demand with almost more than three quarters of the requirement fulfilled through imports from China. The pigment is mainly sourced from ilmenite, which is the most widespread titanium dioxide-bearing ore and its presence in certain parts of India have made these key production hubs for pigment white. In order to avoid imports, four key organizations developed around these key areas are aiding India to become self-sufficient. While on one hand India is trying to move towards self-sufficiency to meet the required demand of TiO2 by reducing imports, on the other, the extractive production methods causing build up of unfathomable levels of iron oxide, one of the by-products is causing grave geo-environmental problems.  As per reports 2,00,000 metric tonnes of iron oxide sludge and 2,00,000 metric tonnes of ETP sludge has been generated since 1984-2008. Currently there is no safe process to dispose of the toxic iron oxide waste. It has impacted the surrounding and distant areas: wiping off villages, agriculture, animal husbandry, aquatic life, and has continually been a cause for health concerns among locals who live and work in the shadow of the TiO2 industry.

In order to rethink resource use and reuse, we need a radical change in the way we understand our material surroundings. How can we make visible what is hidden in the white pigment that surrounds us everyday? How can we create new narratives that understand the web of mutuality within production and consumption of the white pigment? This talk will explore how art history and arts-based methods can be used in thinking through white which does not lead to a nostalgia for cleanliness, purity and pristineness, but moves towards a future where white engages with its waste both materially and socially.

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