John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Designer Thor ter Kulve transforms garbage cans into communal fire places, lampposts into swings, and more.
The Dutch really know how to celebrate New Year's – by blowing up every non-living thing with fireworks. The nation's pyrophilia burns so fiercely that municipal crews have to fan out on the streets to remove trashcans, mailboxes and other fun-to-explode objects.
How bad does it get? At the end of 2010, firefighters had to extinguish hundreds of flaming garbage bins in Amsterdam alone, leading authorities to impose huge fines for incinerating trash bins. But designer Thor ter Kulve thinks he's found a way of engineering revelers to act more responsibly. Why not transform the garbage boxes into heaters, he wonders, so that when they're set alight they actually perform a productive social function?
Here's his prototype:
Thanks to this heating attachment, never has garbage been so homey. And the glowing receptacle is just one of the ways in which the 23-year-old ter Kulve wants to improve his country's outdoors experience. For a recent graduation show, the Oosterbeek-based designer unveiled a grab bag of strange, funny systems that reimagine ordinary street objects. His aim is to give public space back to the people, as he explains on his website:
The term public space somehow suggests that urban environments are open to our free use. The reality is that public space is over regulated. There is little room for free use, no room for play. A serious obstacle is zoning or urban planning with the attached discussions on what is permissible where and the ambition to regulate on this for the long run. To make public space free and [alive] again I propose temporary intervention making short term use of the plastic possibilities of specific places....
It’s my strong belief that in a time of economic hardship and individual isolation we should address ourselves to public space as a collectively owned domain and possible ways to use it to our joint benefit.
Joint benefit, like a joint shower? That's certainly possible underneath this hacked fire hydrant, which conjures images of a community rejoicing in the summer heat as the neighborhood burns down around them:
Can't get a view of a scenic river burbling yonder? Hitch this wood-seated swing onto a lamppost and pump your way up to a good vantage point:
This weird, bulbous bit of street art is a modified lamp. The designer added the turquoise balloon-shade to transform it into a local landmark that illuminates the area in a "very atmospheric way":
Photos courtesy of Florestan Korp