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Learning From Poulati- How it all started

Last July we set a challenge in the context of the open call for Starts artist residencies for the STARTS4Water program: can we learn something from the cisterns on the island of Sifnos for effective water management? How can technology, science and art contribute to this knowledge today?

DECA architecture team was selected for the artist residency and they have already started their research in Poulati, Sifnos.

In the first report on their work in progress they share with us the following information:

"For centuries the inhabitants of Sifnos produced most of their food on their island. They had to nurture their land and carefully manage their resources. They domesticated territories where water was abundant. Poulati is one of these territories. It is has an area of of 236 στρέμματα that spans between two ridges, descending from the outskirts of the Artemonas settlement, towards the Eastern shoreline of the island.

We consider Poulati as a valuable case study of traditional water management practices for three reasons: First, because it is an example of prudent management of a public resource, with a very clear understanding of the needs of the population and with an efficient distribution system. Second, because it is an example of public infrastructure that has been delicately integrated within a landscape with aesthetic and environmental sensitivity. Third, and probably most significant, because it is a public amenity that was managed communally by the people who used it. Public amenities are usually managed within oligopolistic organizational frameworks, while Poulati is a rare example of 'The Commons' at work.

We propose to create an installation that narrates the story of Poulati and the traditions of bottom up-resource management. The installation is conceived as a mobile structure that will be moved to different public spaces on the island in the summer of 2022. Residents and visitors will be invited to interact with the installation in order to create of a common understanding of the storage capacity and of the availability of water in Sifnos.

The work will be comprised of three parts:

1. The narrative of Poulati

Is an accurate 3D printed model of the area of Poulati with a diameter of two meters. It is conceived as a table where people can sit around. The narration of the story of Poulati will be animated and projected onto the surface of the model. The narrative itself will be developed through a process of low altitude surveying using an unmanned system. The information about the monumental scale of the infrastructure built over centuries will be distilled through a film , a sequence of animated maps and footage from the site.

2. The Apparatus

Is a cylindrical movable structure that is 4 meters high with a footprint of 2 meters in diameter. It holds the model, the projector and the "water tank". This tank is on the top and is comprised of two transparent cylinders that serve as a dynamic display conveying the capacity of water storage as well as the amount of water available in the cisterns of the island. Its cover contains photovoltaic panels in order to be autonomous in terms of energy requirements. The base of the tank houses all the audiovisual and mechanical systems. It also provides shade for the 3D printed model underneath it. After its stay in Sifnos the Apparatus will also travel to other European cities within the context of the S+T+ARTS initiative.

3. The Interface

The reason that the bottom-up system of Poulati worked successfully was that all the cisterns were open-air (χαβούζες). There was complete transparency: everybody knew how much water was available. The interface is an online platform that farms information from the general public to share an understanding of the location, size and level of fullness of the cisterns on the island. The ownership of the operation of the interface will be transferred to the student of the local technical school. The interface will remain on-line as an asset for the island even after the installation is decommissioned."

Stay tuned for more details on their work in Poulati.

Read more about Starts here


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