Skip to main content
European Union logo
New European Bauhaus Prizes 2024

Shaping a circular industrial ecosystem and supporting life-cycle thinking

The Station
Crafting a working station in a forest garden to jointly transform the harvest into local products.
In a Belgian meadow cared for by volunteers for ten years, trees are now productive and many fruits, nuts, materials and herbs are harvested every year. Those are shared amongst the community to be processed individually at home. Based on a design by Anna Luz Pueyo, the group wishes to build a prototype for a workshop station fuelled by renewable energies, to collectively transform seasonal harvests into food, colours and materials and explore the full potential of the plants surrounding them.
EU Member State, Western Balkans or Ukraine
It addresses urban-rural linkages
It refers to a physical transformation of the built environment (hard investment)
Early concept
As an individual partnership with other persons/organisation(s)

Forest gardens are gaining ground across Europe, bringing together people from different backgrounds to transform public or private spaces into multilayered ecosystems, providing tasty food and beautiful materials to the community, and allowing biodiversity to come back.

La prairie d’Hedwidge is a community-owned space located in Dilbeek, in the outskirts of Brussels. It was inherited from the grandmother of the “guardian” Christine, and was initially a 2 acres meadow, surrounded by hedges and a wood called "Begijnenbore", fragrant with wild garlic in spring. Since 2010, the field has been rewilded by a group of volunteers planting fruit and nut trees, vines, berry shrubs and aromatics adding up to a total of 141 species. The system works as an informal exchange: caring for the field once a month gives the volunteers access to a vegetable patch, if they wish to grow their own food.

Anna Luz Pueyo has been active on the field since Spring 2023, stoked by the diversity of useful plants. For her master of industrial design at Ensci in Paris, she had designed an autonomous working station made of a rocket stove, a basin and a mortar, to carry out basic transformations of plants with the renewable energies of rainwater, wood fire and human force. She presented this open design to the enthusiastic group, with the idea of building it together from local materials and few construction tools in the communal area of the space.

If we can finance this participatory construction, it would allow the garden to be more productive and social, holding space for users to experiment collectively with the local plants through workshops on seasonal transformations of the harvest, based on the community’s knowledge. Publics of all backgrounds and generations would join for the production of valuable products such as colours, food and materials, activating the space to bring back the spirit of public infrastructures of the past such as communal mills or bread ovens.
Autonomous Open Workshop
Social Fermentation
Local Transformation
Shared Vernacular Knowledge
Circular Production
1.The context of a forest garden
Rewilding fields into forest gardens has climate-friendly perks: a living ground full of microorganisms, clean air, water drainage, regulation of temperatures, absorption of sounds and CO2 and a stable ground thanks to the network of roots. The biodiversity has settled to our field with countless birds and insects thriving from the free food. The closeness to non-human species is crucial to seeing ourselves as a part of nature, and to grow environmental consciousness.

2. A sustainable design
The public facility of The Station is built on a screed made of a mix of lime cement, local sand and soil, a breathable material that has far less environmental impact than concrete, as lime is considered to be one of the cleanest materials for construction. The modules are built of repurposed clay bricks, covered with a lime plaster mix, made locally by an artisan on site. The station is directly repurposing the pruned wood from the surrounding trees as a building element. The few metal parts are riveted together, making them easy to disassemble and recycle. Sustainability is also seen in the statement of building something architectural, that is made to age with time. But all construction materials can be recycled if needed.

3. Clean transformation circuits
Once the station is ready to be used, it requires no external energy sources since everything is processed through manual labour, rainwater and a woodfire stove. Pruning wood is a good way to keep the saps of the trees close to their trunks in cold months, and this is already a process that we have going on seasonally. Branches and harvests of fruits, vegetables, herbs and nuts are the main materials needed for the activities of the station, apart from second hand materials (e.g. textiles for dyeing workshops) and manual tools. All products created at The station will be biodegradable and become food for the ground after use, closing the cycles between production and consumption.
1. Understanding nature
Making people work with natural materials reinforces their connection with nature, and the understanding of how they can domesticate it in a regenerative way. Exploring vernacular knowledge on forgotten crafts will therefore change the perception of plants, as organisms to work with rather than to look at. Transforming materials can help citizens be actors of the full production chain of what they consume, with feelings of pride and satisfaction rising through the process.

2. Sensorial experiences
Working outside with natural materials provides surprising sensory experiences: unforeseen smells and colours emerge, textures appear and tastes amaze, on a backing soundtrack of birdsong. The design of the station makes it a sensory place in itself: connection with the elements of fire and water are at the heart of the processes and actions such as mashing, peeling, scrubbing or soaking can almost be meditative. Manual work in nature becomes an aesthetic experience, as plants become collaborators. The tree is a provider but also a taker when materials are returned back to the ground, and being part of this slow interaction is enchanting.

3. A comfortable design
Wild nature can be overwhelming sometimes. The clear space defined by the lime slab provides comfortable pathways for users and the warm edges and shapes of the station are satisfying for the eyes and easy to clean. Warmth can be found near the stove and freshness near the basin, which makes the space somewhere we will like to be all year round. The heights of the modules follow the design standards, making it comfortable to all users. The platform can stand out or visually merge with the environment depending on the lime mix using local materials from the site. The group can choose to mix the plaster with local pigments or to tile it with mosaic, making the design open to their preferences, and bringing a sense of pride and belonging to the group.
1. Openings to the public
Building The Station is a way to open our space to a broader audience, following the group's pedagogical ambitions. Events will welcome anyone interested in learning about plant transformations : medicinal, culinary, tinctorial, etc. The station is big enough to host a group of fifteen people, and the circular setting allows everyone to feel included in the process. The soft finish provides a reassuring sensation for fragile users like kids or elderly people and heights are designed for the ergonomy of each use: a higher stove for the security of children (4 bricks), a comfortable work plan (3 bricks) and a low basin for accessibility (2 bricks). The open design enables heights or spacing in between units to be adapted for specific needs.

2. Inclusive activities
The building principle, simple columns of standard bricks, makes the idea of a collaborative worksite possible. This moment will be the first communal activity, together with a lime artisan. Digging the ground for the slab and the table to be poured are participatory activities, providing people with the experience of placemaking.
The programmation of the space will teach easy manual activities to anyone, making way for future vocations. Any cultural knowledge of trees has its space here, so anyone will be welcome to host an activity and share plant stories, rituals and recipes. The space also provides the chance to learn about agroecology and arboriculture, for work reintegration purposes.

3. Affordable inputs and outcomes
Energy sources and most materials for the workshops will come from the site itself, making this project affordable for the community. The seasonal harvests require communal processing and sharing, because they come in large quantities, such as apple trees in good years. The group has already initiated actions of solidarity with the underprivileged by donating surplus fruits and vegetables, and the processing activities will follow up on that.
Co-designing together
Building The station starts with a co-design process, where the volunteers pick its precise location on the field and its configuration. Further, led by the designer Anna Luz Pueyo, the group will identify the local materials on site that can be sourced, work with artisans to try out different lime mixes and make adjustments to the original design depending on its planned use. This will make the implementation tailored to the context and the desired activities.

Empowering locals
Volunteers and interested locals will be equally involved in the programmation of the space, as they can propose seasonal activities through an open call. This calendar will be published on an online platform, after a regulation by the main stakeholders to ensure diversity and safety. The municipality of Dilbeek, local schools and cultural spaces will be invited to the space for the first time with those openings, directly benefiting from this initiative. Through this process, the group wishes to establish themselves as a cooperative, welcoming more people to join and voting a governance model and house rules.

Testing professional activities
The group already counts professionals specialised in plants such as Tamara, a herbalist and Anna Luz, a material designer. They both cultivate their own parcels to grow medicinal plants and tinctorial species. This dynamic opens the idea of The station as a platform to test workshops and develop professional activities, a stepping stone towards the accomplishment of personal vocations. And of course, the space and its biodiversity will benefit from a broader variety of plants being grown there.
1. Local beginnings
The story of La Prairie d'Hedwige is linked to personal childhood memories of Christine’s grandmother Hedwige, who lived in Dilbeek in a Swiss chalet surrounded by animals. Until recently, the meadow was private and managed by Christine and her partner Maurice, who began a long process of restoration between 2010 and 2015. They planted a diversified double hedge for birds, followed 3 years later by the planting of over a hundred fruit trees, nut trees and other species, providing a strong base for the concept.

Regional development
In 2010, when they opened up the space to volunteers from the region of Brussels, the project started gaining a regional reach, and became a protected area by the Flemish region. Volunteers from the neighbouring communes of Anderlecht, Molenbeek, Ixelles and St Gilles started participating in the concept, following the rule of the monthly communal workday.
The group has fuelled a vision to turn the meadow into a diversified forest garden.

European design process
The concept of The station was designed by a volunteer, Anna Luz Pueyo for her European master of industrial design at the French design school Ensci Les Ateliers, partner of the NEB. Her work is based on a background research of three years on agroforestry, fed by field research in public food forests and informed by input from a wide array of french experts. Her internships in public policy design (Vraiment Vraiment, Dallas collective) in Brussels gave her the skills to unite citizens around participatory constructions. The station was mentored by Henriëtte Waal, a Dutch social designer, and artistic director of Atelier Luma in Arles, whose ambition to enhance bioregions has clearly influenced the project. Designers and teachers at Ensci helped with its technical elaboration and the group learnt about transformations of plant materials through an active international web community, allowing them to elaborate their own experiments from local trees.
The volunteers taking care of the space have been growing their plant knowledge along the years, bringing in their own experiences. Thomas and Anna Luz share an expertise on forest gardening while Laure, Signe, Jules and Max share a know-how for permaculture with the vegetable patch that they care for since 2018. Tamara is a qualified herborist and Christine shares a special relationship with the trees that she planted thirteen years ago, with her unique historical perspective. Around this core group, gravitating volunteers are always welcome to bring their own backgrounds to the field. Local ways of caring for the soil are also carried out by the group, with the traditions of picking up manure from the neighbour’s horses or that of making shred from fallen branches in autumn.

Vernacular culture and traditions
The municipality of Dilbeek, in the Pajottenland region, is historically renowned for gardening and fruit trees. In the last years, the group has been sharing recipes and processes with each other, based on their own cultures or on vernacular traditions of the area, such as chestnut picking and apple juice making. The therapeutic uses of aromatics are promoted by Tamara, who has been sharing remedies and rituals with the group.
Anna Luz’s research on lost crafts of local trees such as lime bark textiles, acorn and lime leaves flours and tannin-based dyes opened up the topic of tree-based products to the group. Her background research on agroforestry embodies ethnobotany, with the study of historical interactions between mankind and plants influencing her practice.

Participatory Design
This research on vernacular modes of production extended to the field of architecture when it came to designing The station and exploring the old craft of lime plasters. Low tech design was also involved for the design of the rocket stove. Methods of participation and citizen consultation are also at stake when it comes to the implementation of The station.
1. A precious ecosystem
The organisation of our group at La prairie d’Hedwige relies on informal relationships that have been weaved across time with word to mouth networks. In contrast with traditional urban allotments or NGO initiatives, no official hierarchy is established, and monetary exchanges are not relevant. Our garden is based on values of trust, equity and respect, using natural resources as our trading currency. The fact that the field is privately owned gives us full freedom on its design, which is a rare, precious component of the project.

2. An open space for collective experimentation
The space is open all year round, all day and every day, for anyone that wishes to come to the garden. Members of the group can also decide to come camping for a weekend, to fully embrace this calming, rich environment. This openness is made possible by the fact that the garden is located outside of the city, and requires a certain motivation to reach it. The accessibility is defined by the motivation of all participants, and makes sure that the social fabric of Dilbeek can be integrated easily.

3. A slow approach
Slowness will be at the core of our activities: it will take its time to light a fire, for the rain to fill up the basin and to process the harvest by hand. The local fuels are not only a choice for ecological reasons, they are also ways to understand the value of transformation processes, away from the delocated production rhythms of the industry. Social interactions and connection with nature are the defining elements of all of our activities, redefining the lines of what production is about.

Our project lies in rediscovering plant knowledge and confronting it with our contemporary uses, updating vernacular culture to reintegrate local products into our lives. This reinterpretation is a form of innovation, looking back at processes that were more sustainable, inclusive and beautiful than our current practices.
We are applying to the New European Bauhaus in order to finance a first prototype of La Clairière and its implementation through workshops for all at La Prairie d’Hedwidge. The aim is to test the system in the Brussels Metropolitan Area, in partnership with the territory, the volunteers and the local fabric.
This means that the approach of the project is experimental, with the intention to try out new models of production and consumption.

All phases of the project are collaborative, in different ways. The skillset and interest of each volunteer will feed into the project, for the design phase, the construction site or the activation of the space. This rich process wants to help all talents to find their space in our vision, and allow participants to learn from each other.
Nature itself is considered as a collaborator, as it is providing us the environment and the resources for the project.

Even though The Station is designed to occupy the space on the long run, we are not excluding that its utilisation and occupation will evolve with time. According to seasons and harvests, it can become a space to host meals, to hold demonstrations or to organise assemblies. We want to think of this space as the core of La Prairie d’Hedwidge, leaving its appropriation by its users as open as possible.
1. Open construction principles
The station is an open design, suitable to all kinds of planted environments with a production perspective. The space of implementation should be easily accessible, on a rather flat ground, close to a rainwater collector and activated by a community. The building principle of The station relies on pruned wood and local soil or sand extracted directly from the site so access to those is preferable, making each station unique according to its territory. The only standard elements are the bricks for the structure of the modules, and the zinc sheet for the basin, but those are available widely.

2. Adaptable to local floras
Similarly, the transformation activities to make food, colours and materials can be adaptable to local floras, multiplying the potential for vernacular products. If the initiative spreads to Europe, this movement can be the starting point of local circuits of foods and materials, as alternatives to industrial products. This will mean that professional activities can start happening there, opening communities to self-sufficiency and resilience in the long run. Production as it was practised before the industrial revolution will have to be confronted to our times, but this can be a first step to rediscover the value of our plants.

3. Social fermentation
Social fermentation, which sees communities as ferments in a human induced transformation, is at the heart of the project. The ambition to make people autonomous goes along with the pedagogy in all steps of the process: citizens get empowered as they get involved in a design process and learn how to make things for themselves. As opposed to most makerspaces, we are working in nature, away from offices and computers. This model stages new activities in our society, where we can learn to use natural resources in a reasoned way. In the long run, the project could establish a network of these stations, demonstrating its scalability across Europe.
All four categories of the NEB are represented here : the connection with nature, the sense of belonging, giving priority to green spaces and shaping circular economies.

Regenerating green spaces
The long term project of La prairie d’Hedwidge gives the example of a diverse rewilded green corridor, a home to many nomad or sedentary species. The focus on trees directly addresses the challenges of air pollution and climate change. Low energy processing of plants in The station means that less imported products are consumed by the community growing their products there, impacting CO2 emissions on a global scale.

Promoting community
Building The Station will turn our field into a more social space, activated by a dynamic where processes of inclusion and solidarity can take place, away from classical social interactions. The act of making something from a common resource and sharing it will unite people and give them a sense of belonging and resilience.

Reactivating lost knowledge
If more and more public processing stations make it possible for locals to access tools of transformation, it will also highlight the wide array of species that we take for granted.Citizens can find meaning in using the plants around them and linking back to their cultural heritage. Gardening activities following agroecology principles will help them establish a better relationship with nature by changing their perception of good practices, spreading those to a wider audience.

Sustaining local production chains
The station intends to integrate production cycles inside the fragile ecosystem of a recreated forest by experimenting with interactions that are respectful of the plants’ seasonality. Making openings for production chains to cohabit with nature will show that a local circular economy is possible, where manual work is valued and appreciated. In the long run, a social economy around plant-based products can emerge, where nature is magnified through the works of the group.
Co-designing (spring 2024)
The group of volunteers already taking care of the space will follow the co-design process by deciding collectively where The Station will be located in the field and what parts of the station are necessary. As a designer, Anna Luz will support the co-design process by producing technical drawings to adjust the original design and designing a tent for rainy days. The group will list and source the different components, in preparation for the construction days. This will ensure that the installation is well suited to its context.

Building (summer 2024)
The building process will be conducted together with lime cement artisans such as Artibat Staff & Stuc s.p.r.l. The group will identify local materials on site that can be supplied and work with craftsmen to try out different lime mixes. The bricks will be sourced from the Brussel-based second-hand shop Rotor, using the vehicle of a volunteer. Bolts, grids and zinc sheets will be sourced from the local hardware store.
The construction site will involve the full involvement of a group of people for two weeks, but participants will be able to take turns, and Anna Luz will ensure continuity.

Activating (fall 2024)
A protocol involving local stakeholders goes along with this activation phase.
Stakeholders include the municipality of Dilbeek (with our close contact Björn Verhofstede, expert in spatial planning & economy ), local gardening associations that could also make use of the workshops (KorteKeten, Boerenmarkt Dilbeek and Boeren & Buren) and schools (such as the closeby primary school Speelplein Begijnenborre). Those will be invited to the inauguration of The Station and the upcoming events. A first series of six workshops will be animated by the group of volunteers in the first three months, and people can start proposing more.
  • ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTATION_AnnaLuzPueyo_TheStation.pdf
    (16,94 MB - pdf)