Issue #002 Published: 27-10-2015 // Written by: Susanne Boger

“Like a cat on the hot green roof”

As the sun sets, the green parrots from Vondelpark and their black jackdaw colleagues know where to find their new city oasis: the roof of the cultural centre OT301. On top of this former filmacademy, between solar panels and Sedum plants, little blue flowers (Veronica chamaedris) indicate the improved quality of the air. Traditional belief says that harvesting them will bring rain. They can stay. Thistles and other weeds must go. The volunteers who maintain the roof have a healthy no-pitty-policy, and carefully take out all the weeds between the Sedum plants to ensure maximum growth. Or as the joke amongst them goes, old school analysis is good, and weeding a Sedum roof is therapy too.

In the spring of 2015 a series of solar panels were installed on top of the multicoloured and magnificent Sedum rooftop, that has been insulating the building and producing oxygene for the city since 2013. During the summer of 2015 one of the roofbalconies on the south west side will be reinforced to create a more permanent vegetable garden, after two years of pilot gardening. Also this summer, the downstairs garden will be redesigned to be more functional, friendly, green and sustainable. Some major investments that show that the EHBK community in OT301 has fully embraced going green. With the Go Green!- workgroup in the maintenance committee of OT301, and thus a permanent element in the organisational structure, EHBK has secured the development towards greener defaults and more sustainable working practices.

The Go green!-project
Other than this hip name might suggest in a more commercial context, the Go green!-project is not some green-washing public relations campaign in which businesses salute and praise themselves for investing in some ecofriendly perfumes to cover up the chemical stink of their wasteful lifestyles. It is part of OT301’s ongoing utopian quest to be a sustainable playground for the creative community well into the future.

The Go green!-project started out as an artistic statement on the sustainability of the art community by EHBK member Dusan Rodic. The project resonates his conceptual work of ‘the shelter’, a clay dome amidst a vegetable garden as a safe haven and meeting point for creative people. In a climate of cut-backs in cultural subsidies, flexible and/or precarious creative jobs, and decline of social spaces, with Go Green! he again puts the topics of ecological sustainability, community and self-sufficiency on the artists’ agenda.

To raise awareness and get community support, a campaign was launched in which people could ‘buy/adopt’ a square meter of sedum rooftop. The campaign was visually accompanied by a ring from Susanne Boger’s metal atelier, hosting a tiny sedum plant, which travelled to various international exhibitions, together with information about going green. With donations from the community, generous city subsidies, and EHBK’s own investments, and hands-on help of many people, the much desired sedum and solar rooftop is now a reality. To ensure durability and safety, rooftop & balcony access is restricted to crew members. Information will be happily given through the OT301 website. The sunny solar harvest can also be followed through the Go Green page on our website. The groundfloor garden will be all grown-up again soon and welcomes the public during the daytime to come have a look, snif, taste, and explore.

Solar, so good
While some decision finding processes in a democratic group can be rather ankle nibbling at times, OT301 always featured a strong and dynamic unity concerning all matters of durability, recycling and sustainability, and have consistently worked on ideas for going green. Considering the fact that keeping a single house plant happy and alive can be a challenge sometimes, it is testimony to the dedication of the OT301 crew, ranging from volunteers from the public spaces collectives to EHBK members from private individual or shared ateliers, have successfully realized small and big scale green ideas. 

Did you know that OT301 grows organic vegetables, herbs and flowers? Living on compost from the vegan organic kitchen in recycled greenhouses and plantcontainers, tomatoes were the clear winners of the harvest 2014. For the design of public and private spaces ecofriendly methods and recycled/recyclable materials are used. Examples are Tadelact work on the entrances; a bar built from clay, wood and bamboo; a clay wall for insulation on the north/west side. On the first floor is a give-away-cupboard and the public spaces frequently organize clothes swap events and second hand markets. But OT301 also hosts expert advice, workshops, and other support on repair, re-use and exchange of jewelry/metal, electronics, IT, textile, and bicycles. Almost anything can get a second chance, and get fixed, calibrated, adjusted or tuned up. It is inspiring to see what is possible if you stand united.

Future Go Green! plans for OT301 might include hanging gardens, insect hotels, succulent plants on concrete, bat houses, green graffiti, installations to translate dance movements into energy, educational programs to exchange our technical knowledge and expertise, re-introducing forgotten vegetables, organic perfume and soap making, robotic horses, campaigns to use gardening to beat analphabetism, a green column, a comedy...
And a film.
A funny one.
The roof is on fire. A friendly, solar fire.
Stay tuned.

Photo: Dusan Rodic