Terraforming Earth and other problems the Unmonastery could address

Hey all, I am back from Matera with a couple of updates on the Unmonastery project. It seems to be progressing, though I don’t have a date yet. I am still hoping to announce in the Fall, start residencies in late spring 2013.

Edgeryders have been asking about what problems for the local community the Unmonastery could help with. Here are a couple of very tentative things we have come up with:

  • building the Unmonastery itself. The Matera crew is investigating possible buildings to locate the UM. We are thinking to turn over to the Unmonks an unfinished space: that is, a space that is safe, has electricity, plumbing and connectivity, but with the scope to be customized. This could be a great way to get the local community involved and build legitimacy for the UM: the city gets a new, exciting public space. 
  • terraforming Matera - the Matera way. Matera has been inhabited for over eight thousand years, and its climate is quite dry. So people had to learn water engineering for dry climate quite early. And they did amazing things! In 1991, new digs revealed a 5 million liter water tank built under the main square in the 16th century, and used as late as the 1940s. They had to send in scuba divers to explore it: now you can visit it (it looks live a sort of batcave, but it's all padded with some ancient waterproofing system) and still they have not completely figured out how the hell it worked. A nice project would be to revisit ancient Matera water engineering and upgrading it for the 21st century. The advantages would be higher water efficiency, more water self-sufficiency of the city, and the reconstitution of a very useful pool of ancient knowledge. A somewhat similar project could be undertaken for energy
  • urban hygiene and controlling stray dogs. This is mindblowing: the two main expenditure for the city are street sweeping and stray dog control. The territory of Matera is large enough to accomodate Milan and Turin together, but the city has only 60,000 inhabitants. As a result, the city budget is heavily constrained by fulfilling legal obligations as to sweeping and controlling stray dogs. They spend 700K euro a year on stray dogs! You guys figure out a solution, you've got a buyer. Ah, and they just started a well-run incubator (which could actually be the UM's next cave neighbour) in case someone wants to do a company on this.  
Any thoughts?

existing projects/initiatives?

i would really like if we could start finding out existing local projects/initiatives to collaborate with, as well as interesting worldvide networks which connething with we could seed local presence…

on first one i would look for NGOs, scouts?, community spaces, cultural projects, local events etc.

second, just few examples:


http://www.letsdoitworld.org/countries (trash related :wink:

we could also start with translating Matera’s http://www.comune.matera.it into english ;D

public transport website? http://www.casam.it

ok, i need to catch some sleep… let’s keep this thread alive!

Network weaving

I like the approach of connecting local and international networks, the Unmonks turning up to add some skills and enthusiasm (and hopefully creating lots of interest) to get things rolling.

I notice there is another Transition Towns map that shows initatives (groups)

The international hackspace community is another worth a mention.


Also I like the idea of co-creating a community space.  I guess somewhere that assists the community to learn and be creative in dealing with its problems.

Services and Expansion of Them

I like the idea of using unMonks to translate the web site of the comune into English. Italian comuni almost all have great web sites, but they tend to favor Italian speakers. (For obvious reasons.)

When I was in Istanbul, I discovered that the extensive cistern system is also a big tourist attraction. So the cistern of Matera can have several purposes. FIrst, though: Is the water potable? Was that the main original purpose (as opposed to water for irrigation)?

The unMonastery could consider water a mission. Water is a huge issue–certainly so in much of the Mezzogiorno and in Sicily. A question: Does the aridity combine with the cutting down of forests in ancient times? Is reforestation a (connected) project? But water as a mission (and maybe as a theme for the projects and artwork) is viable. (Or at least the unMonastery could build a fountain. Where are the sculptors?)

Is filling up and reusing the cistern system a goal for the comune?

Cleaning the streets. Grand. It is important.

Stray dogs. Back to my recent trip to Istanbul, where the municipality seems to care for the dogs. They have tags, are given shots, and live on the streets. Sort of like the cats of Roma, but in Istanbul sizable dogs–I saw a few that must have been about 20 kilos. So there may be a humane way of controlling the dogs short of trying to arrange for adoptions. Spaying?

Raw space. Hmmm. I wonder if would be better for the people of Matera to choose and adapt the raw space than for artists to turn up and impose their ideas of raw space and the decoration thereof.