© Michelle Howard

Six Characters in Search of an Author

Master Studio: Construction | Material | Technology

Michelle Howard

The scene is the province of Ragusa in Sicily, the centre of Italian greenhouse cultivation. A workshop is planned there from the 6th to the 15th of April with students from the Faculty of Architecture, Syracuse, and the University of the Arts, Bremen.

An exceptionally mild winter climate and fertile soils permit at least two harvests per year, and make it possible to use simple and cheap structures made from wood and plastic film. Some have emergency heating systems, but most lack heating altogether, and very few are equipped with ventilation. The greenhouse industry favours southern regions due to climate, lower cost of land and labour, less severe legal constraints on greenhouse building, and the availability of public development funds. It is nevertheless a precarious and low-profit undertaking because the properties are small, never more than a hectare, and privately owned without effective cooperatives. It is a completely different form of cultivation compared to the northern neighbours in the European Union.

Human Flow - Sicily has become one of the first ports of arrival for refugees, especially since 2015, when the routes via Turkey were effectively closed by a pact with the European Union.

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Six Characters in Search of an Author


Master Studio: Construction | Material | Technology

Michelle Howard

It has been remarkable in that, although it receives far more than its share of refugees, its people have not developed the same level of xenophobia as their northern neighbours, who use migration as a scapegoat for expressions of hate despite booming economies. It has often been the case that migrants arrived on the coast of Sicily, were processed as refugees, and went straight to work in the greenhouses, providing much-needed cheap labour.

As of 2015, humanity had produced over 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic. Of this total, 6.3 billion metric tons have become waste, representing almost one metric ton per human being. Most plastics don't really biodegrade, and can hang around for hundreds or thousands of years. The greenhouses made from plastic film are a major source of plastic waste on the island of Sicily; another is the sea, which brings new flotsam with every tide. The volume increases exponentially with freak hailstorms and tornadoes, which are on the rise due to climate change. Greenhouses made of plastic film are also more susceptible to damage in such storms.
Finally, corruption and the mafia play a not insignificant part.

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