Our project is called Wheelbeing, and it’s from its name that we want to start to tell you its story. In its creation we wanted to recall the concepts of well-being and circularity, represented by the wheel. It is conceived as a temporary response to what is happening in this particular time in history. Sudden changes of global scenarios – partially modified and accelerated by a natural evolutionary process – force us to adapt to new models and lifestyles.
Those models are changing faster and faster, due to a globalized society that thrive with a capitalistic model, which is poorly conscious of the incompatibility between infinite growth and limited resources. As if it was not enough, the pandemic – just like a new 9/11 – has irremediably changed our certainties, by causing a constant sense of temporal and emotional disorientation. This causes changes in the patterns linked to brain, body and social activities.
This unexpected condition – which is almost dystopic – is linked to the complex management and livability of cities, which are, at present, excessively densely populated urban areas, that do not interact with the surrounding environment. Nowadays, cities are places that lack a balance between natural and artificial spots; they are inadequate in their ability to face sanitary emergencies and, for this very reason, possible scenarios for new spillovers.
Wheelbeing is the product of a close examination of the complexity which characterizes our time. Time, space, void, slowness, edibility, food sufficiency, sharing, ecosystems, humanity, and technology are some of the words which allowed us to imagine a project capable of creating a link between skills and experience. We have used computerized systems and contemporary architectural skills to create an interactive experience, where people can meet and find themselves, with the aim of reactivating all senses and contributing to the wellbeing of people, plants and insects. The project consists of two intertwined systems: a wooden structure and a garden, delimited by a weaving. Our interdisciplinary team is composed of three architects, a structural engineer, an agronomist, a composer/sound designer, and a sociologist.
The wooden element is the supporting structure/backbone of the entire project. It is composed by the twine of 25 branches of Siberian larch, with a non-uniform section which varies between 10 and 12 cm. The arches alternate with linear elements, in order to create a circular architecture: the base consists of a 12 meter diameter circle, connected to another 16 meter diameter circle, placed 3,55 meters above the ground. Each element is milled at the hedges, in order to create all connections which sustain the structure through steel knots.
At the center of the structure, it is placed a big knitting machine, which is 8.5 meters in diameter and is powered by a small engine that activate the whole system. Its mechanism, obtained by a modified system of industrial knitting machines, is composed by 90 steel hooks (needles) and wooden parallelepiped shape guide pins. These pins move top-down and trigger the knitting cycle by creating a tube-shaped fabric. The strand is made by bio-fiber obtained from plants, with a 5 mm section. This section is gathered and guided by eyelets arranged in a circle on the top of the wooden structure, which passes through the mandrel and powers the needle, just like a traditional knitting process.
The agronomical project
At the center of the structure, it is placed a big knitting machine, Initially, the machine will produce a fabric that will create an intimate space within the circle. There, a number of seeds will be planted, to create, during its two-year lifetime, a therapeutic garden for all, especially for people with special needs. The garden will grow more and more each day, thanks to the microclimate generated by the fabric, which will protect it from the wind and generate water from the atmosphere by using the dew condensation collected during the night. This natural space will be composed by a large number of plants, which will be useful and edible: there will be a small field of apple trees and many local plants, such as snowdrops (Galanthus), winter aconites (Eranthis), tulips (Tulipa), daffodils (Narcissus), peonies (Paeonia), iris (Iris), and lilies (Lilium). The aim of the machine’s mechanism is to collect the strand so that, once it will be fully released, the garden will be grown and ready to donate its fruits to the local community. Once the project is dismantled the garden will continue to exist, leaving a strong trace of the installation.
The musical project
Wheelberg is equipped with a self-defined musical system. Thanks to the environmental data (such as temperature, humidity, wind speed, turnout, number of interactions, tweets/hashtags, day/night shift), there will always be a track playing. In the wake of the architectural and constructive vision, the musical project is also based on cyclic elements, which generate a 360° immersive environment, where every audio/instrument track moves circularly among the speakers, following the shape and movements of the structure. This way, all speakers will play simultaneously, but the musical content will cyclically vary from one another. The music will produce a meditative and introspective atmosphere, in order to get in contact with oneself and the surroundings. Long and relaxed sounds will slowly take form, recalling the concept of Slow-Food and Slow-Building.
Wheelbeing will be conceived together with the citizens: it will promote local handcraft through the use of parametric softwares, which will allow to maximize the production and involve a cross-generational mix of professionals. Artisans, young architects, designers and citizens will work together to a project which will be slow and efficient.