Invited commission by the city to make a research proposal to provide a fresh notion of the physical underground to the public. The proposal included a publication developed together with Ben Van den Wall, PhD Researcher at the Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven.
Maastricht, a small city in the south of the Netherlands, has invested over a billion euros in the past years, in underground infrastructures that are hidden below their citizen’s feet. Their projects vary from ongoing excavation of archaeological sites to a gigantic highway tunnel construction. As these projects unfold, the city hopes to communicate their activities with the public in an innovative way, and keep the citizens of Maastricht engaged and informed of the entities of their underground.
My research started at the Department of Ruimte (space) in Maastricht, where the decisions for organisation of space in every way within the municipality are made. I interviewed policy makers top down to the people who work in the fields. I followed the workers to the field and participated as an observer with the analytical means of a large format camera. The field research ranged from exploring three storm tunnels, which spans 1 kilometer to the last concrete quarry of the Netherlands, in Maastricht. During my search, I learned that the soil of Maastricht contains high percentage of zinc, as a result of natural sludge from the nearby river Maas and accumulated industrial activities.
The Romans were the first settlers of Maastricht in the year 0. At that time the ground level was 6 meters lower than the current plane of the inner city. Six meters of human activity has accumulated over the period of 2000 years. The intention of my proposal is to bring the citizens back to the level of the origin. The architectural language is borrowed from the underground structures encountered on my field trips. One’s body descends and the consciousness goes back in time, layer by layer. From ground level, one looks down through an opening into the ground, like water well on a square. When accessing the building, one walks through an opening into a descending tunnel that opens up more as going down. Finally one enters into a space and sees a primitive architectural tension between square and circle. Inside the cylinder, visitors experience an underground garden, like an oasis. Zinc Violin flowers are the main creatures of this garden. These flowers mutated themselves from a normal Violin on the polluted grounds of the mines of a neighbour city, and they are rare species found only in the region. In this garden, once a year, this flower will bloom.