Temple of Holy Shit

Temple of Holy Shit (Usine du Trésor Noir) is a public compost toilet and terra-preta sanitation system, whose purpose is to convert the organic and bodily waste produced by the park and its visitors into a rich type of soil (terra-preta) for the gardens in and around the area. The project was selected for Parckdesign2014, a biennial festival dedicated to public space planning initiated by the Brussels Ministry for Environment, Energy and Urban Renovation (IBGE), running as a pilot project in the neighborhood for six months in 2014. Parckdesign2014 took place near Thurn&Taxi, transforming an urban wasteland into a temporary ‘Farmpark’ and creating an opportunity to test out other methods of city-making, involving local citizens in the making of the project through the facilitation of neighborhood meetings and events.

The original concept of the ‘Temple’ used metaphors from the sphere of religion to communicate the idea of transforming the secular miasma (body and bio-waste) into a holy substance (terra-preta soil) with the ability to regenerate life. Following dialogue with the local muslim community and public voting, we renamed the project Usine du Trésor Noir (Factory of the Black Gold). The decision to sacrifice the initial concept for something the neighborhood could more easily relate to was clear, since the value of the work lies in its ability to communicate the concept of terra-preta and compost, while at the same time offering a social space for the community.

This transdisciplinary project drew connections between the milieus of architecture, public art, science and community-based practice. Since the installation relies entirely on its usability, the project is only fully realised via public activation. Apart from a compost toilet and terra-preta production facility, the design includes a playground with slides and a stage for performances by members of the community. Collective Disaster also developed a program over the course of the summer co-ordinating the ‘Usine’ as a social space, where different local social groups met and engaged in activities together. The program included activities such as workshops on composting and terra-preta, educational games for children and adults, a ‘Saturnalia’ feast and roundtable discussions on topics like sustainable infrastructure, human waste, socially-engaged art and the relations between  art and science.

 

WHAT THE TEMPLE PRODUCED

Terra preta soil is a rich and fertile soil with a high carbon content. Found naturally in the Amazon basin, it contains a mixture of manure and charcoal. It is possible to make your very own terra preta. First, you separate the liquid from the solid waste in different vessels, to avoid unwelcome smells. Every time you produce solid waste, you cover it with one shovel of charcoal dust mixed with microorganisms (EM). The microorganisms, which survive better in charcoal, help to break down the waste faster, while the charcoal seals the smells off. When the vessels are full, you move them to the fermentation room and let the solids sit for 3 months and the liquids for 1 month. When the time arrives you move them to the compost bins, where you let them sit for a year. The terra preta can be fed back in the park or to community gardens in the neighborhood when all worms are gone- this will be after six to twelve months. New vegetables will grow out of this rich soil and the loop of life will thus be closed.

 

Acknowledgements

Terra-preta expertise
Dr. Haiko Pieplow
Ayumi Matsuzaka

Collaboration for the Blue Responsibility award
Ayumi Matsuzaka

Thank you for volunteering and advise

Mascha Fehse
Tessa Zettel
Alessandra Esposito, Zinneke
Rasa Alksnyte, Foam
Manuel Pueyo, Open Kitchen

The biggest thank you of all to Marcello, for taking such a good care of the toilets on site.

Location:

Farmparck (Behind Tour & Taxis) Brussels

Date:

From: June 1, 2014
Until: September 20, 2014

Initiators:

Collaborators:

  • Ward Delbeke
  • Sonia Saurer
  • Tcharmela & Big Ben
  • Ane San Miguel
  • Sandra Guimaraes
  • Maria Ilia
  • Farmtruck & Rirbaucout
  • Jonathan Ortega
  • Caroline Claus
  • Mohamed’s Teehaus
  • LUCA school of architecture

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