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Metaal Kathedraal, or how to do things differently

I was asked to give a talk about Waag Society at the so-called Metaal Kathedraal; a former church that once also acted as metal factory and which is now a cultural and ecological breeding ground at the edge of Utrecht. It was on my 'have-to-visit-this' list for some time already, so this was to opportunity to grab to actually make a visit.

When initiator Maureen Baas started this in 2011, it was a leaking, derelict building with impenetrable brambles behind it. Destination: appartments and housing blocks. But now, six years later, after many fights with project developers and discussions with civil servants, it has become a special and magical place with alternative habitats.

Maureen and her team wanted people to reflect critically on their way of living. And to show that it is possible to live energy-neutral, that the current way of living and building new areas is outdated: the materials, the facilities and our way of building — to first demolish and then rebuild. Together with her neighbours she succeeded in creating a green space of 15 hectares that will be integrated in the new housing blocks behind the church, and which will be planted with edible flowers and plants.

The terrain offers many examples (maybe just as important, also failures) of new energy/heat sources. Like a fence of woodchips that has pipes running trough it (a biomeiler). The heat produced by this pile is about 70 degrees Celsius, of course very usable for heating your house. Eventually this will turn into fertile compost, to be used in a vegetable garden. Of course, this also has disadvantages. Not every family can house such a large amount of woodchips and growing vegetables is time and energy consuming too. But this activism, breaking up patterns and holding up a mirror to people, is something I like and want to do at Waag Society too.

Naturally, such a creative place also comprises of ateliers. You can e.g. weld your own heater and there is a space for artists in residence. There is no biolab available yet to do research. They might want to use our facility at the Open Wetlab, which could form a nice collaboration between Waag Society and the Metaal Kathedraal.

Even unfinished, I advice everyone to take a look at this wonderful place. Wishing Maureen the best in following her dreams and hoping to collaborate soon! Thanks to Roland too for the invitation.

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