Basurama is a forum for discussion and reflection on trash, waste, and reuse in all its formats and possible meanings. It was born in the Madrid School of Architecture (ETSAM) in 2001, and since then, has evolved and acquired new shapes.
I interviewed Pablo Rey Mazón, member of Basurama, about 6000km, a project about the concept of trash applied to new constructions and land use, the metabolism of the city.
1. How did you get to the practice of mapping? What led you to the practice of mapping?
We use mapping, a geo-spatial representation of things, to understand and display complex situations. Maps have always been interesting to me: subway maps, the Callejero (the streetmap book from Madrid), and later in architecture school, I was using and producing maps quite often. Google Maps and Google Earth came later…. maps are one special part of all the data visualizations tools available.
I have also participated in the development of meipi.org, an open source software for collective geo-location of information (texts, photos, videos, and audio) online, that we have used in many projects.
2. How did you choose the object of your mapping?
A map is a tool to decode certain information. Depending on the project, we would use one visualization or another. When we’re interested in the location of things, we use maps. In Basurama, we’ve used maps for many different projects apart from 6000km:
In Ruhr, we used geo-located photos that we took, and a special instance of Meipi, to show the location of possible reusable waste. In spermola.org, we tried to give the opportunity to exchange an object by providing information about where the object was.
6000km started as an exhibition of 10 big format panorama photos from the Madrid outskirts: landfills, highways, scrapyards, and abandoned places. The project was part of the exhibition and was named Basurama Panorámica. It shows the public different places to envision the consequences of the urban expansion that was occurring at the time. Each photo had a short text attached to it, that served to contextualize and give basic information about it. We didn’t just want ‘awesome’ photos, we wanted to make people understand where and what those locations were. The exhibition had two related maps: urban growth and highways, apart from a location map of all the photographs. Displaying urban developments together with landfills and empty toll highways was the way to show the relation among all the urban metabolism related situations. Empty buildings made for speculation purposes where as waste made for scrapyards. That was 2006, 2 years before Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy.
Later on, when we addressed this project in a country scale we studied and mapped all the situations in 6000km.org. “6.000 km” were the kilometers of highway that the government was planning to build until 2020.
3. In which way do you want this work to affect the people and society?
It is difficult to say how a particular project modifies the perception of a situation. In 2006 the real estate bubble was about to burst, but the public perception was saying “prices are never going to drop”, “we are the biggest growing economy in the world”, “keep building, buying, and selling, make money”. Mass media and politicians were basically denying the real estate bubble or saying that the process of land destruction was not sustainable. It was uncommon to address this topic. Nowadays, we can watch and read multiple news, documentaries, and exhibitions about a contemporary ruin or the economic crisis, but that was not the case back in 2006. It is impossible to measure that impact.
However, we were not alone in this task. There were other people talking about these issues as well. An example, El tsunami urbanizador español y mundial from the late Ramón Fernández Durán, or Ramón López de Lucio, that used our exhibition, among other things, to talk about the urban expansion and the backdrops of the star system architecture. A year later, the Observatorio Metropolitano published a complete study of Madrid that delved deeply in the economical, social, and urban aspect of the situation. Madrid ¿La suma de todos? Globalización, territorio, desigualdad, and Derivart published casastristes.org.
4. Which is the next phase of growth/development your research is undergoing?
We went from the regional scale, Madrid conurbation, to a country scale, Spain, in 6.000km. We created an online map at meipi.org/6000km to display how our research evolved and to open both the information and participation to the public. We went to many of those places to document the sites. We have a full list available of all the studied locations, as we have realized before in Meipi, that maps are not the only way to show spatial information, and that lists can also be very useful.
Global scale: Since we’ve been travelling often to America with Basurama in the last years, we are now exploring ways to talk about these situations on a global scale in PAN AM, Panorama Americana.
Photos from the sky: We are also exploring new ways of exploring the territory with cheap balloon mapping technology. Our first results from Spain could be seen in the ruins at PAU del ensanche de Vallecas. Since last year we’ve been collaborating with the Public Laboratory in Boston, where we are mapping the evolution of an ash landfill in the suburbs of the city, Incinerator Landfill in Saugus, MA, USA, as well as mapping the waste locations from Cambridge, MA.
Civic maps: I am involved in a tool kit about civic mapping that will be released this year by the Center for Civic Media.
5. What are your personal references for the theme of mapping (from ancient to contemporary ones)?
References come from many places: data visualization researchers like Edward Tufte; open hardware and cheap tools by Public Laboratory; Ushahidi and Crowdmap for collective info about maps; vojo.co for collective reporting from cheap phones; and online cartography tools like OpenStreetMap, where we are contributors and try to draw landfills and other non represented places in the map.
All the photos of the article are under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License and are made by Rubén Lorenzo Montero and Pablo Rey Mazón (Basurama). See legal notice.