Challenge #5: Connecting Plants and People
Maybe you have the idea that botanical gardens are simply beautiful and extravagant green real estate in the middle of our cities. However, in reality, their function is to catalogue and preserve a country’s plant life.
University of Ljubljana’s Botanical Garden challenged the participants to find ways in this “plant library” to digitize the Index seminum (a seed catalogue that serves as a kind of Wikipedia of plants) and try to expand its capabilities to be able to hold information on plants. They also had to come up with solutions for the way entries into the catalogue are grouped and displayed in order to give Index seminum the function of both a teaching accessory and a facilitator of plant conservation.
The next challenge was to find innovative ways to organize bottles of seeds in seed banks in order to arrive at new solutions for an organizational distribution that follows specific categorization patterns.
Mur-Mur-Murs from the Hi-Hi-Hills: How to Understand Reflected Echoes from the Forest
How can we view the Botanical Garden otherwise? How can we understand it as a reflection of echoes from nature, rather than a maintained research institution? How can we transmit the knowledge and wisdom of people who interact with plants as part of their everyday? Questioning the ways in which knowledge about plants in specific environments is constructed, produced, and transmitted, the project Mur-Mur-Murs from the Hi-Hi-Hills seeks to embrace experience as an equal and crucial component of the learning process. The Ljubljana Botanical Garden is being transformed by introducing interactive objects, sounds, and words, all of which together help in engaging with the environment sensorially and emotionally on top of the hard data that describe it.
Kamila Kantek (Poland) studied process design at the School of Form in Poznań, and she is currently a graduate student at the Commoners’ Society at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam. She is a multidisciplinary designer, working on a project implementing AR and VR merged with environment observations.
Marcin Liminowicz (Poland) is a multidisciplinary artist mainly working with video, photography, and publishing. He is an alumnus of the Fabrica communications research center in Treviso, Italy, and currently a student at the Institute of Creative Photography in Opava (Czech Republic). Liminowicz is part of Krzak Collective, a nonprofit collectively run garden and cultural space in Warsaw, which publishes the magazine Krzak Papier.
Olga Roszkowska (Poland) is a photographer and video-maker. She is currently completing her MA studies in photography and society at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague. Rozskowska is also part of Krzak Collective, which focuses on translating environmental care into arts and culture as well as into everyday practices.
Pola Salicka (Poland) is an artist and designer, currently finishing her MA in industrial design at Lund University. She helps coordinate the communal garden in Lund. In 2017 she took part in BIO 25 – Faraway, So Close. She is also part of Krzak Collective.
Simona Volaj Rakušček (Slovenia) is a lawyer with extensive experience in banking and as a legal adviser for the Arbitration Court for Sport at the Olympic Committee of Slovenia. She is also an honorary consul general of the Kingdom of Thailand in Slovenia and a member of the executive committee of the Slovene Consular Corps.
Futurefarmers is a group of artists, activists, farmers, and architects with a common interest in creating frameworks of participation that recalibrate people’s cultural compass. Amy Franceschini, an artist and designer, has exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Whitney Biennial in New York, MoMA, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Canadian Center for Architecture, and the 2014 Venice Architectural Biennale. Lode Vranken is an architect and philosopher. He has been teaching since 2005 as a Ned delegate at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain.
Jože Bavcon has been the director of the Ljubljana Botanical Garden since 1995. He studies Slovenian native flora, had authored many books and articles, and has worked on various projects, including ones on breeding certain endangered Slovenian plant species and endemic plants in substitute habitats. He is responsible for establishing the gene seed bank at the Botanical Garden. In 2015 he received the Marsh Award for international plant conservation.
Blanka Ravnjak has been a researcher at the Ljubljana Botanical Garden and an assistant for botany since 2009. She organized the European Botanic Gardens Consortium Meeting in 2010 and 2016, and she was in charge of collaboration with the Kew millennium seed bank project in 2013. She has authored several papers about plants in various journals and has coauthored books on native flora. Currently she is part of the project Life Naturaviva, which focuses on protecting biodiversity.
The Ljubljana Botanical Garden is the oldest Slovenian cultural, research, and educational institution. It was founded in 1810, at the time of the Illyrian Provinces, as a “garden of native flora” and as a department of the Central School (École Centrale). It was designed by its first director, Franz Hladnik. Since 1920, the garden has been part of the University of Ljubljana. It has enjoyed protection as a monument of landscape gardening since 1991. The principal activities of the Botanical Garden are research, teaching, and disseminating information on horticulture. An important task is the cultivation and study of species endemic to Slovenia. The garden cultivates plants that are endangered in the wild or even extinct in Slovenia, and it also serves as a test area for experimentation on plants that need to be cultivated for a longer period of time. Every year the seeds of the garden plants are collected for its needs and for exchange with other botanical gardens. The garden has a seed bank, which exchanges a seed index with 293 other gardens every year.