The experiences of gardens and gardening at the housing surroundings

Abstract : How does gardening the housing surroundings –as done by the residents- contribute to rediscover a sense of time that could help to manage spatial proximity? Our research, conducted within the architectural and urban ambiances research center (Grenoble, France), focuses on this question. More precisely, we theorize that: Gardening a doorstep garden is an everyday life experiment in the modeling of sensorial materials with human relationships. This experiment leads to the “step-by-step” edification of home.
The small “doorstep” gardens, which we studied, are set as often on balconies as on 30m2 ground spaces. We present material from a qualitative in situ survey based on the collection of residents' discourse and ethnological observations. Sixty narratives have been collected through semi-structured interviews realized several times with residents during a period of 4 years. These surveys have been conducted in thirteen examples of grouped housing in two French cities (Grenoble and Paris).
Our first analysis suggests that:
A) Gardening the housing surroundings empowers the residents to create breaks in the temporal stream, to build their personal times. Doorstep gardens are “rootedness” places, where, during breaks, different stages of dwelling, residents are modeling conceptually and materially their familiar environment and the personage they would like to present to their neighbors.
B) If the garden eases the presence of neighbors and facilitates relations with them, in the everyday life, in the context of adjoining gardens, user times and user spaces could overlap and thus conflicts could emerge. The residents develop specific behaviors to conceal the protection of their territory and of their personal times, and the avoidance of conflicts.
C) The garden could shelter different individual and collective times. Multimodal perception of the garden, while gardening, and informal relationships developed upon it stimulate imagination
and develop the feeling of being away, alone or together, far away from the urban world.
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Magali Paris. The experiences of gardens and gardening at the housing surroundings. Ecocity World Summit 2008. 7th International Ecocity Conference. Academic and Talent Scouting Sessions. San Francisco : Berkeley, 22-23 april 2008, Apr 2008, San Francisco, United States. 12 p. ⟨halshs-00380123⟩

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