Barricade Gardens and Hydroponic Defenses Proposal

Project Description

This project will comprise a series of makeshift sculptures that serve as both urban gardens and improvised defensive barriers. They will be constructed using the techniques and materials employed by protesters throughout the world and will incorporate materials and techniques unique to Los Angeles (fallen palm fronds, etc). The wheel wells of tires and flood control sandbags will be filled with dirt, and PVC piping with be incorporated to the  barricades to make hydroponic gardens. HESCO barriers, used extensively by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, will be become massive bulwark planters for organic tomatoes, California poppies, and other food and ornamental crops.

The ideal site for this project is a space where these structures might exists “naturally” such as an alleyway or parking lot. Ideally, they would be allowed to reside at the site for a fairly long duration so the crops can grow and the barricades themselves can begin to deteriorate.

Sketch for a Hydroponic Street Barricade

Background and Context

The last decade has seen wave after wave of mass urban protests throughout the world. From the Red Shirts in Thailand in 2010 to the 2013 Euromaidan uprising in Ukraine, one hallmark of these protests has been the defensive barricades erected by the protestors. In each instance, the protesters simply used whatever materials were immediately available. In Thailand, this was mainly old tires and sharpened bamboo poles. They used Saran wrap and cable ties to hold the barricades together. During similar protests in Hong Kong, retired construction workers helped the young student protesters use simple, available materials to built elaborate street defenses.

During the winter protests in frigid Ukraine, instead of zip ties and Saran Wrap, water was sometimes used to form sheets of protective ice over discarded wood and tires, forming a solid wall. In Kyiv, the old cobblestone streets were broken apart and hurled at the well-armored Interior Ministry forces. In all cases, the infrastructure and refuse of the city was appropriated and mobilized for civil defense.

HESCO Barriers, used primarily by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan, proved a quick and modular barricade that can be deployed and easily set up in difficult terrain. These barriers are simply wire frames with canvas linings that that unfold and are filled with dirt and sand.

Conflict and gardening may not seem like two things that go together, but historically there has been a close relationship to between domestic food production and war. During the First and Second World Wars, the United States and Great Britain developed programs to promote home gardening in order to compensate for the food being used to feed the troops. Gardening became an act of patriotism, and these gardens formed the first of what we now call “urban farming”. We now think of urban farming in starkly different terms, but just like GPS, the Internet, and Silly Putty, it too has its origins in warfare.

Sketch for a Used Tire & Bamboo Improvised Defensive Planter