The Great Crate

Artist: Plus One
Location: Alexandria, Sydney, Australia

Year of completion: 2012
Researcher: Kelly Carmichael

The Great Crate was a temporary installation commissioned for Sydney's Art & About public art festival. It took the form of a 10-meter square, giant, green cube made from 256 plastic crates and planted with thousands of edible greens. While the flourish of vibrancy and green plants was temporary, the project aimed to have a life beyond the actual installation period by focusing on community engagement, participation, and communicating sustainable green approaches to living. Created soley from living and recycled materials, the project was situated at Green Square Rail Station, the largest urban renewal site in Australia, which is set to become one of Sydney’s key retail, commercial, and cultural hubs. Plus One member Telly Theodore commented on the project: “We’re hoping the crate resonates on a few levels. For example, this precinct was once the city’s food bowl—so we’re encouraging people to remember this heritage by giving away all the edible plants at the end of the installation for them to re-pot at home. It’s a great way to keep the crate growing after the festival ends.”

While central Sydney might not revert to horticultural farmland any time soon—and the physical form of The Great Crate is an obvious play on the name of Green Square train station—the project was effective on multiple levels. A platform for connection between people and place, the project evoked both the history and future of the site and brought the local community’s attention to, and engagement with, significant changes planned for their neighborhood. The Great Crate project is also very much of the moment, reflective of current thinking and closely aligned with trends in wider society. Food culture has shifted to promoting local production and sustainable farming methods and The Great Crate is a project that mines similar territory in the manner it mixes agriculture with activism, reflecting the growing global trend for guerilla or tactical urbanism. While only temporary, the presence of The Great Crate aimed to encourage ongoing discussion about how public spaces are used and how they might incorporate sustainable living policies.

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The Great Crate was collaborative in essence—Plus One itself is a collaboration of creative studios and individuals, including design studio Telly Theodore & Associates, architect Andy Macdonald, and curator Danella Bennett. In addition, at the heart of the project was the goal of involving local people and their communities. As an area set for intense change, this work aimed to encourage thinking about what kind of village Green Square was, and what it could become. Thousands of packets of fast-growing broad beans were distributed by mail to residents and businesses in the local area, along with easy to grow instructions to raise the plants on balconies or in gardens. Plus One encouraged the community to nurture the seeds until the Art & About festival began at which point they were gathered and transformed into a giant green living square. Other edible plants were also welcomed for contribution, the public was encouraged to bring them to the installation on Saturdays and participate in planting and discussion. At night, the living sculpture and fully recyclable installation was lit with solar-powered LED fairy lights.

In a final act of collaboration and community involvement, at the end of the project Sydneysiders were invited to take a plant from the cube and continue nurturing it at home, or alternatively eat it. 25,000 edible plants were harvested including parsley, sage, thyme, strawberries, chervil, pakchoi, tatsoi, basil, purple basil, oregano, coral lettuce, applemint, spearmint, lemon balm, pea bounty, yellow beans, vietnamese mint, kale, red cabbage, cabbage, and watercress.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency