Project named On Concrete and Trees: Soil sealing in Austria (Über Beton und Bäume. Flächenversieglung in Österreich) was created and produced for the international exhibition in Vienna Biennale in 2021. The event founded in 2015 is aimed at combining art, design, and architecture, with the aim of generating creative ideas and artistic projects to help improve the world. These big ideas are partly put to life in MAK – Museum of Applied Arts as well as numerous partner institutions and collateral events with growing impact.
The wide team has created visually appealing installations based on research that are not only artistically valuable, but also make it possible to experience important aspects of our resource consumption in a sensual way. For the exhibition in the MAK, four installations were created that deal with the data collection for the research project itself, large-scale maps of the building substance in Austria that exceeds the biomass, or representations and comparisons of biological stocks and the materials accumulated by humans.
As for this particular project, the team from the Institute for Social Ecology at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (BoKu) Vienna surveyed the material stocks used in the construction industry in Austria as part of a scientific project with unprecedented accuracy. The Viennese design offices EOOS NEXT and Process Studio implemented the findings, among other things, in an expansive artistic installation in the MAK Kunstblättersaal.
The scientists used data from the European satellite earth observation programme Copernicus to analyse the regional distribution of building fabric in Austria with the help of modern machine learning approaches. Thus, every road and all other infrastructures and buildings in Austria were recorded three-dimensionally and their type, mass and material composition. While the built-up area looks like a neural network, the pure natural map resembles noble Italian marbling. In addition to a marble game that divides materials taken from the earth in a ratio of one to one to eight (one part is recycled, one is returned to the earth and eight are consumed), a special eye-catcher is a mobile that shows the current imbalance in an impressively simple way. The total weight built into roads, houses and infrastructure is twice as heavy as all of Austria's (drained) trees, plants and flowers put together – according to the data.
The linear economy, which ultimately leads to increasing land consumption, environmental damage and the accumulation of all kinds of materials that can no longer be used. This bigger picture should help the decision makers to see the land as a whole and start finding more gentle solutions and stop irreversible damages. Important part of the project was also an accompanying lecture and discussion.