European Union: The Gardens of Fantastica

European Union: The Gardens of Fantastica

“Concepts such as “far” and “near” are completely subjective, as are the times of the day and the seasons. Moreover, the latter are determined by different laws than in our own world: one may find a frozen polar landscape right next to a burning desert...visitors to Fantastica, whose traces the traveller may encounter {include}: Borges, Lewis, Magritte, Dali, Archimboldo and many others”
- Michael Ende’s Fantastica as described in The Dictionary of Imaginary Places, A. Manguel & G. Guadalupi


It was the suicide of Carlos Casagemas in Paris 1901, which sent Pablo Picasso into a deep depression; his paintings over the following four years were almost entirely blue. His ‘Blue Period’ is regarded as a pioneering achievement for symbolic use of colour to evoke sadness, sorrow and regret. Picasso is the most famous and prolific innovator in art history, pioneering styles from Collage and Cubism to Found Objects, Dada and Surrealism, all from his base in Paris.  

The Gardens of Fantastica is an imagined past that causes us to look back in regret at the development of the 20th century and parodies the seemingly surreal political, economic and infrastructural landscape of 21st century cities.

The project asks, what if the raison d’être of the European Union (EU) was food and energy security? An allegorical masterplan for Paris radically re-imagines the formation of the EU after World War II. Here the parliamentary headquarters moves every 5 years; spreading the influence of sustainable living and celebrating the special qualities of the host cities. An urban catalyst that deals with urban agriculture, renewable energy, clean water, and fresh air; Fantastica is revealed in the streets, tunnels, parks, skies and waterways of Paris, the capital of art and culture for the first term of the new EU.


Under a sky of regimented clouds the wide boulevards of Paris are relieved of motor traffic, community allotments pack out all but a modest cycle lane, the mechanical clouds work to irrigate the food boulevards whilst also providing accommodation for the hundreds of volunteers from all around Europe who have come to contribute to the EU cause. The beautiful panoramic views are the silver lining for all the hard work they do. A vast energy ring surrounds the city like a defensive wall, safeguarding against the threat of increasing energy demands.

On the Champ-de-Mars the Members of European Parliament (MEPs) are the keepers of Fantastican gardens and have a duty to the public to communicate the ambitions of the newly formed EU; they stay in communal accommodation hats, which double as storage archives. Biomass is delivered and along with food waste and sewerage it is fed into apple shaped digesters where bacteria break down the material into methane biogas, this collects in inflatable leaves on top of the apples, which act as shading canopies for seating in the maze above. The methane is stored in gasometer mountains, and are each decaled with a national flag of an EU member state. The mountains double as pigeon towers used to collect tons of droppings for the anaerobic digesters. A vast chemistry set cleans the biogas before it is burned in combined heat and power generators, condensers then separate out polluting carbon dioxide from the emissions and re-direct it to intensive greenhouses.

An underground reservoir purifies river water and forms a protective moat around the base of the Eiffel Tower which is transformed into the parliamentary headquarters; a hanging food curtain veils the 300m structure and attenuates the internal microclimate, it is drawn back ceremonially as the MEPs assemble in umbrella boats. The river seine is bridged from the Champ-de-Mars to Trocadero by a frozen layer; the by-product of water source heat pumps. An artificial sky is painted on the underside of a canopy of water collecting umbrellas, which captures and controls rain in the evening apple orchard.


  1. Hi Steven,

    I saw your work at the summer show and thought your drawings were very impressive. Well executed. I lost your card so I added you on Linked In to discuss some business if you're interested? Under the name D Shek.
    I look forward to your reply.

  2. Hello Steven,
    I'm an architecture major in the US and I would love to use your thesis material as part of the bibliography for my own thesis. Do you think it would be possible? How can I contact you? Of course your work would be properly credited and tired.
    I look forward to hear from you.


Post a comment

Popular posts from this blog

Shortlised in RIBA Competition