You are the Gardener. Return to Paradise.

„THE zONA///YOU ARE THE GARDENER“ focuses on exploring the symbiotic relationships between interspecies bodies of non-humans and humans within their multispecies landscapes, with a particular emphasis on garden theory and its contextual framework. The project challenges the role of architecture in the wilderness, treating it not merely as a tool but also as an instrument for fiction and play, emerging as an open stage for gameplay, visual novel, and landscape utopia.

The motivation for this research arises from a desire to address the destructive processes of the Yugoslav Wars, the issue of air pollution caused by an adjacent refinery, and resistance against the destructive forces of modern society. The primary focus is on Jelas Polje, a natural area in Croatia that was once used for recreation, hunting, and fish farming before the wars of the 1990s.

Inspired by Gilles Clément‘s concept of gardens, the project incorporates living biomaterials, storytelling, non-colonial digital game environments, and an envisioned speculative garden space that brings together non-humans and humans, encapsulating their collective dreams. The immersive quality of the digital game and its ludic mechanics of world-making enhances the informational content and enables visitors/players to remain in a dream-like state that encompasses both their real world and illusions.

zONA comprises four gardens within experimental protective fluid borders situated on second-nature industrial and capitalist ruin sites, as well as four biotopes featuring gradually changing, waterlogged anaerobic soil. These biotopes include alluvial oak forests, swamps, and fishponds.

The Garden of Ludus: a former amusement park, Luna Park, with swimming facilities and a restaurant. It is influenced by the notion and concept of an enclosed medieval garden, specifically the typology of a hortus ludi. The first ludic hortus stands for gameplay experience, the cleaning route, and the ”pre-entrance“ to the other three gardens.

The Garden of Soil: this area has been transformed into a new garden featuring a unique assemblage of species living in symbiosis with the root system. The garden ground, covering thousands of square meters, forms an intelligent network of mycelium on which we walk, representing an entire chthonic, mineral, and secret living world of spiritual communication. In the garden‘s center, visitors encounter colossal membranous structures forming an aerial environment. These hybrid, non-engine artefacts connect earth and sky, cleansing the air through a transparent biomaterial skin powered by solar energy.

The Garden of Air: once a large rice cultivation area that produced bioavailable nitrogen and was a source of methane emissions, this garden has been transformed into a „breath farm“, a bio-anima-transformation zone, located in nitrophilous pastures. This garden includes five typologies of inflatable non-engine pavilions. These structures adapt to the seasons and host specialized biomaterial labs. They emerge from the ground, transport methane underground, and convert it into electricity through unique microbial communities known as methanotrophs.

The Garden of Water: a refuge intended solely for non-human species, particularly the cranes (Grus Grus). To fully experience this environment, one must observe it through the eyes of fish and feel the cosmic body of the water. The old fishponds have become a new communal garden and staging area for the cranes.

The ground landscape was sonified from their alarm calls, creating a protective nocturnal habitat tailored to their leg anatomy. This sonic-grus-scape serves as a communal roosting area where cranes can rest and sleep in shallow water at night.

The project envisions a post-anthropogenic epoch, the Symbiocene, and examines the environmental phenomena of soil, air, and water bodies and their interspecies relations. It proposes new speculative multi-species landscapes of hybrid symbiofilm within a free-border, non-colonial terrain that promotes habitat for both non-humans and humans, as well as nature and technology.

„BIOMATERIALS“ Inventory on SCOBY/Biocellulose

SCOBY Culture - a biofilm of cellulose-containing the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.

Different Samples of biomaterials were infused with various additives into the SCOBY culture; Soda, C Vitamin, Turmeric, Red Beet, Lavender, Biococonut Mesh, and Seeds (corn, cranberries).

In the contemporary geopolitically unstable epoch, a radical shift in fossil material narratives is essential. This shift may involve reconnecting with elemental energy sources, especially the vast potential of solar energy, and it also encompasses revitalized practices of symbiotic replanting, growth, harvesting, and treatment of living biomaterials; on a small scale, within the glass bowl, a microcosmic garden of symbiotic relations flourished in the fluid medium. The phase of life creation commenced in the „primordial green tea“. Within just ten days, a new layer of SCOBY, representing symbiotic living matter, formed on its surface. This newly created life shaped the living body, which underwent an additional ten-day drying process, ultimately resulting in the bio-cellulose fabric.