Partially Buried University

Creative Work
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Description (in English): 

Robert Smithson realized one of his first works of Land Art at Kent, Ohio in January 1970. Partially Buried Woodshed was an example of the process he called entropy made visible. At the time, Smithson said he had always wanted to bury a building. For my part, I have always wanted to unearth a Smithson. Smithson never had the time to bury other buildings. He died in a plane crash in 1973. Or did he? What if a 70 year-old man going by the name of Robert Smithson were to show up here in Europe? Is he an impostor? Amnesiac? Suppose that Nancy Holt recognizes him as her husband and the James Cohan Gallery organizes an exhibition of his new work and the Art School at the University of Paris 1 invites him to realize an earthwork on its campus... The centre Saint Charles (University of Paris 1) has a problem with rain water collecting on the roof and infiltrating the lecture hall just below. Inspired by two of Smithson's projects, Partially Buried University involves creating a garden on the roof terrace to absorb the residual water, reduce our carbon footprint and contribute to sustainable development. Since the roof was never intended to support the weight of growing trees and shrubs, it is likely to collapse. The garden can then develop on its own, with weeds springing up throughout the bulding. A 3-D model of the roof was built, simulating weather conditions and plant growth. The visitor stands inside a 3-D VR projection of the building, on the second floor overlooking the roof which has been made into a garden. Using a flystick, she can choose seeds and move through the garden to plant them. After a number of people have sown poplars, cypresses, pines, maples and chestnut trees, the garden grows quickly, the roof just may give way and visitors suddenly find themselves climbing over rubble in the lecture hall below. A prototype was shown at the exhibition La ville, son modéle et les artistes at the Bellevilloise in January 2010 on a computer screen, using a mouse and keyboard.

Contributors note: 

“Partially Buried Unversity” was produced by the Citu (Universités Paris 1 - Paris 8) as part of the TerraNumerica Program. Software development by Jordan Prot. The plant growth models courtesy of ECP-INRIA. The project would not have been possible without the energy and talent of the entire Citu team.

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Karen O'Rourke