Fruitful Futures Publication from the LiFE Group, Manchester

16 Feb 2017 | Fabrizio Cocchiarella

Fruitful Futures: Imagining Pomona & Pomona Island Design Lab: OPISO CITY

Pomona Island has been a focus for the LiFE ‘Living in Future Ecologies’ research group at Manchester Metropolitan university since March 2016 where Masters students at Manchester School of Art were initially invited to become part of a cross faculty research group project in response to Pomona. The research, debate and community that generated in response to the project developed into a collaborative psychogeographical walk/ performance as part of Manchester European City of Science in the summer where participants encountered research projects en-route around the city center leading to Pomona Island. After the walk the LiFE group worked on a publication with Gaia Project and local graphics collective textbook studio called Fruitful Futures: Imagining Pomona to document and present the research from the project.

Following the walk and publication the LiFE group initiated a 2 day workshop as part of Design Manchester partnering with the MMU symposium New Generation: Design for Living as a ‘Satellite Island’ from the main symposium base that focused on generating proposals in response to questions posed by researchers at MMU, external research partners and practitioners, design and landscape architecture students and the local Pomona Island Community of residents, campaigners, ecologists, artists and designers.

The 2 day workshop Pomona Island Design Lab project: Opiso City, established primary focus questions around acknowledging the city as a transitory state, with its fast information and digital nature, citizens move through the city landscape overlooking the past, present and future state of the places they embark. Thinking about the city as a place for intergenerational connection, the word Opiso as a title for the brief is used as a way to frame thinking. Opiso is the ancient Greek word that means behind or back, but refers not to the past but to the future. Early Greek imagination envisaged the past and the present as in front of us, something that we can see. The Future was viewed as invisible, meaning that we are walking blind, backwards into the future (B. Knox, 1994)

Using Pomona Island as the inspiration participants collected, analysed, interpreted and explored social, historical, inter-generational and cultural stories to translate the ever changing multilayered city. Through use of an on location workshop design students were able to use materials as interfaces, to translate ideas into objects, experiences and interventions that articulated thinking and proposals for new intergenerational prototypes to effect the ‘city’s citizens’ to embrace a new method for living.

Questions asked during the workshop were framed as…

- What if ?
- Why not !?
- How might we ?

Along the following themes…

Nature’s Metropolis

How can nature generate new sensing, solutions and vision for future cities ?

Responses to engage city dwellers with the nature of the city. Objects, products and interventions that allow humans to converse with nature. A collection of ecocentric responses that help to re-imagine the ‘concrete Jungle’ as an abundant natural metropolis.

Mini Monuments?

What ways of marking the landscape create direction and orientation to a new fictional city?

Places to rest, reflect, direct, divert, subvert and inform. Mini monuments will provide a renewed orientation of the city space. An engagement that displaces and replaces meanings on how we navigate the city. Mini monuments are Pomona’s branches that act as markers connecting city points and urban communities to city nature..

Wild Futures

Does there exist a feral future city ?

Taking inspiration from forgotten spaces such as Pomona’s untamed and unruly takeover of unmanaged land. Look for intervention opportunities to design, define and facilitate wild(ing) experience through objects, products and tools. Acknowledge the context, imagine the future and change the notion people explore the wilds of Manchester.

Investigations over the 2 days through lively debate, experimentation, research, brainstorming, location testing and making used the outside spaces of Pomona Island as the laboratory. Students (young designers), Researchers and the Pomona community through the ‘lab style’ workshop imagined, invented and explored ?Art & Science methods to re-invent everyday experiences and objects, instruments for navigation, exploring narrative through matter, object making, people watching, data foraging, loitering as serendipitous, space specific modeling, public interaction, environment mapping, sensory/ sound and media to explore and establish new measures of city experience.

The results form both days were presented and exhibited at the Pilcrow Pub. The first evening saw participants present ideas to a panel of tutors, researchers and symposium delegates. This allowed a physical connection with the symposium and a point to discuss and debate the day’s workshops and seminars.

On the second evening again linking with the symposium delegates, Design Lab participants presented their work in an exhibition in response to Pomona Island alongside a book launch by researchers who had been facilitating the 2 day workshop. The exhibition collected together and proposed future visions for Pomona Island within the city context. Every city has a brownfield site like Pomona Island. These spaces are often subject to regeneration and become the points of focus for developing new city infrastructure. The point of the Pomona Island Design Lab was to question the choices we make as citizens, designers, planners and developers and envision a ‘sensitive’ city that is designed through the interconnected, intergenerational perspectives of the many stakeholders who live within it (human/ animal, social, political and ecological).

Links to Media coverage related to the project:


Workshop Participants:

MMU Researchers (LiFE ‘Living in Future Ecologies’ research group)

Professor Stuart Marsden (Science and the Environment)
Eddy Fox (Architecture)
Fabrizio Cocchiarella (Design)
Sally Titterington (Design)
Dr David Haley (Art and Ecology)
Valeria Vargas (Science and the Environment)
Judith Wehmeyer van den Boom (Design)
Gunter Wehmeyer (Urban Development and Strategy)

Academics & Students

BA(Hons) Three Dimensional Design Students
ArtEz Product Design, Arnhem, Netherlands
MMU MA Landscape Architecture

Pomona Community

James Walsh (Ecologist)
Hayley Flynn (Writer)
Dr Luke Blazejewski (Ecologist)
Adam Prince (Activist)
Peter and Gillian Byrom Smith (Composer and Writer)
Laurence Green (Local Business owner/ use of shop)
Josh Dodds (Designer)
Joe Hartley (Designer/ use of workshop space)
Peel Holdings (Developer/ access to Pomona Island) 

Related Categories

Linked Blog Entries

The Wasteland Sculpture Park: A book project by Beth Bramich

14 Apr 2014 | Rebecca Beinart

Text by Beth Bramich. The Wasteland Sculpture Park A Collection of Proposals for Derelict Sites The Wasteland...

Fruitful Futures: Imagining Pomona

15 May 2017 | Jim Brady

Fruitful Futures: Imagining Pomona  The book we made embraces the spirit of citizen activism: one of its purposes...