Diminishing varieties of farmed salad leaves inspires humble project in Amiens, France
As part of the annual Imaginez Maintenant - a yearly festival in Amiens which encourages young creatives to experiment in the fields of architecture, poetry, theatre and fashion - landscape architects Atelier Altern, Sylvain Morin and Aurelien Zoia formed a thought-provoking active installation to draw attention to the mass reduction in farmed species of salad leaves.
The collaborative group designed a modest 300 sq m structure for €10,000 which was placed on the islands of Hortillonnages and accessible to the public by boats known as ‘barques à cornet’. These stunning floating gardens spread over 300 hectares and are connected by a 65km network of canals. Working market gardens since the Middle Ages, the Hortillonnages have become a popular attraction with tourists and locals alike as they open on Saturdays for the gardeners to sell their wares.
Atelier Altern’s concept stretched the boundaries of traditional leaf farming as they proposed to cultivate certain varieties of salad that had been banned by law: “We wanted to take up two small and abandoned islands of the Salad Harbour and to make them a medium of development and communication for old and forgotten varieties of salad.
“Not far from here, we have contemplated producing few thousands of different salads and, between the first and the fourth of July, distributing them for free because these varieties are forbidden to be sold by the farmers in France.” The verdant greenery is highlighted with a metal banner which reads ‘on vous raconte des salades’, translating as ‘we told you salad’s story’ with the double meaning ‘We spin a yard’, earning the project its abstract title.
As the images to the left show, the seedlings were laboriously planted and tended, slowly flourishing into a luscious green carpet of salad protected by a canted frame and protective netting. Atelier Altern announced their petite project with the unconventional release of ‘a death announcement of a lettuce’ with the intention to educate the visiting public about the ‘loss of interest of the agricultural industry…in direction of old vegetable varieties’.