It is the most wonderful task of architecture to create a home.
Home means feeling yourself at home with body and soul. In order to reach this, however, we all have to show concern for our direct social and architectural environment with much more self-determination and imagination. The homelessness of today's architecture often results in the fact that modern people feel exposed to an environment which they are not allowed to change, cannot change or do not even perceive at all. However, if you want to perceive something you have to get actively involved in it.
Clay construction projects for children and juveniles at trouble spots. This helplessness becomes especially apparent in the povertystricken neigh- bourhoods of our big cities where often social need, cultural uprootal and isolation of many inhabitants are prevailing, discouraging or radicalising above all children and juveniles to a considerable extent. Yet in such cases it is especially important that citizens deal in a sensible and mature way with the environment they have created.
The architectural projects worked out by us can serve as an exceptional focal point for this. We aim to find counter-realities and to make, by means of simple and nature-friendly techniques, constructing as something delightful and architecture as a social art you can experience. The clay construction projects offer public platforms for practising and for communication, with an immense and manifold attraction for people of all classes. Here, together with other people, they can playfully form with their own hands what otherwise cannot be moved at all.
Playing culture for children and juveniles means to understand playing as a means of perception, communication and change. It does not mean to employ playing as an end in itself or as a means to temporarily calm down children and juveniles, but to actually understand it as a means to change an often petrified reality, forming a sense of identity and community. It is the central task and complex challenge of our democracy to develop this creative power in combination with other processes. This applies to a greater degree to the underprivileged classes.
Black Africa's pottery culture and its solid construction methods made of mouldable clay serve as an example for these techniques, enabling us to create works in a way much more free and independent than ever before.
If architecture was simultaneously understanding and creating, which is a basic experience of free creative processes, then this could lead to a more complex understanding of material and a totally new language of form. The challenge of free playing and the longing for creation of each individual person taking part provide the fertile soil for these open architectural projects.
Clay - an early construction material of mankind
In Europe, a renaissance of using clay for constructions came up in the past few years. Also in our country many housing developments have been made of clay. Because of ecological reasons and a longing for creating something we use this material again, a material one third of mankind is living in and living with. Up to now, clay constructions have been despised as a poor man's construction method which thus had not been developed any further. However, clay construction technologies are often highly developed in other cultural circles and the impressive constructive resources can add considerably to the possibilities we have for constructing.
If we take up the possibility to construct and build in a manner, which is saving energy and resources, providing a healthy environment, which is at the same time socially tolerable and selfdetermined, with immense creative freedom, then this can combine many of the construction utopias we have.
The material of clay is especially variable and adaptable if we consider how easy it is to work with clay generally, the considerable equality of professional and amateur work, work done by hand and work done by machines, and direct transitions between therapeutic, artistic and handicraft work as well as the possibility of largescale industrial production up to the involvement of robots. Clay is a material, which has lead to rich, individual and perfectly adjusted construction traditions worldwide, in different cultures and climatic zones. Clay is a material, which has strongly influenced the mythologies of many peoples.
However, the most impressive factor is its "social and cultural power": Due to the complex attraction of clay, which has been lasting for millennia it enables us to combine the most different aspects of experience.
With our open clay playing projects we have managed over and over again to integrate problem children and juveniles as well as physically and mentally handicapped people and people of a different ethnical and educational background.
After some clay construction projects in major housing developments and other trouble spots, together with mentally handicapped and blind people we are presently establishing a network of locations for clay construction projects at universities and cultural institutions, which can be used on a regular basis. These locations develop different focuses, are connected with each other and are used once or twice a year. We prefer trouble spots, educational and cultural institutions. We can reach a high degree of learning and complexity by regularly offering this project and by exchange and co-operation between the different target groups. Thus, we can succeed in establishing a part of Europewide exemplary construction (playing) culture.
Children Make Clay Sculptures in Schanzenpark, Hamburg
By Heike Soleinsky,
Epoch Times Germany
Jul 06, 2008
For several days in May, 1,500-plus children in Hamburg Germany sculpted and created structures out of 885 cubic feet of clay in Schanzenpark, a huge greenspace used for rock concerts and other events.
The idea for the project was the brainchild of artist and architect Nepomuk Derksen, the head of the Bunte Kuh Association. For the past 20 years, he and his wife Karen have provided children with the opportunity to express their ideas with clay and be recognized for their efforts through the association. Awards are given to the children who can work cooperatively.
"This construction site fills the children with pride in their accomplishments," said Derksen.
"At last, something constructive for children that doesn't cost anything!" said Daniela Z, a single mother with two sons (four and six years old). "We love to come to social activities because participation is free of charge." This family participates in such activities because the youngsters don't like to destroy things. Here they can employ their abilities to create something.
One of the children's sculptures was a ballerina. (Karen Derksen, Bunte Kuh E.V.)
Each project costs about US$31,000 (20,000 Euros), which equates to about US$15.70 (10 Euros) per child. The association raises all monies from sponsors, local governments, and through competitions. Donations are also accepted by this non-profit organization.
One group of children sculptured an 11.5 ft. tall ballerina with a wide swinging skirt, which the children climbed on and crawled under.
"I made the dents!" yelled Paul, a blond toddler of about four, pointing at the many circles and indentations that could be seen on the skirt of the clay ballerina.
"Did you also help?" someone asked elementary student Celin. She pointed at a bathtub that was adorned with the head of an elephant with a long trunk. She responded, "I made the border of the elephant bath tub, but not by myself."
Next to the bathtub were a robot and a bull. They had long, half-round, hollow legs that were big enough for the children to stand inside.
More than 1,500 children used only their hands to shape sculptures from clay, which they proudly presented to the public and their families. (Karen Derksen, Bunte Kuh E.V.)
On the first day, the children designed models of their structures. Experts in structural design, including architects, explained to the children what was doable and what was not. Three nine-year-old girls designed a ballerina. When it came to the position of the arms they were at a loss. They said, "How are we going to do this?" Nepomuk Derksen suggested, "Why don't you dance for a moment?" The girls did a short dance and then knew exactly how to proceed.
In the mornings, students from elementary schools, nursery schools and kindergartens worked with the clay. The older children joined in the afternoon. Soon, a group of 1,500 to 2,000 big and little builders were working together on the projects.
The children were given 12 days to work with the clay and build the sculptures. Then, they proudly presented their collectively built artworks to their families and friends on a Sunday afternoon. They truly achieved something outstanding–grown-up sized structures that were sturdy enough for people to walk on.
More than 1,500 children used only their hands to shape sculptures from clay, which they proudly presented to the public and their families. (Karen Derksen, Bunte Kuh e.V.)
Social and Cultural Adaptation
While working with the clay the children were learning about team building as they obtained the clay, designed and made models of the structures, pounded the clay with their fists to firm up the structures, and when they smoothed and decorated the completed structures.
Every child found a place to work and try out his/her abilities. Each saw and experienced what they could accomplish. The children worked hand in hand, older children with younger children, and with children of all different skin colors.
"The clay building material forms social and cultural adaption," said Karen Derksen. It fosters social qualities and a more inclusive society. Even some of the parents participated with their children. The feeling of togetherness is felt when the mother's hands are just as dirty as the daughter's."
German Children Awards Support the Project
On May 20 actor Marek Erhard kneaded and pounded the clay along with the children. "I will gladly get my hands dirty for such a fantastic activity," said Erhardt with a laugh in his voice. He came as the godfather of the 2008 German Children's Award.
This is not the first time the Hamburg Architectural Project was recognized. In 2007, it received the German Children's Award that recognizes activities specifically for children.
Bringing Something New to the World
Opportunities to do something out of the ordinary are rare for children. "Yet, it is the duty of children to bring to the world something new," said Derksen. "And it is the duty of the grown-ups to provide them with the framework."
Children can immediately learn a lot from the clay projects. "Children are world champions in the field of learning. Therefore, we feel great urgency in having the children develop something new."
The sculptures were removed on May 31 to make way for other activities in the park.