‘A House that Collapsed onto Itself’

Program Fellows were busy in the PPEHLab at WetLand open house on Saturday afternoon, 10/17. They welcomed people on board and helped passersby, joggers, and bikers find the gangway to the public dock, otherwise kept locked. (We soon realized showing visitors to the “gangplank” was making them nervous.)

On the boat, Fellows gave tours of the lab, talked with people at length, and helped visitors record their names in the log.

22102308849_9b4eb94644_kLook who was there! Barry Bessler (“Dr. No,” see previous post) and his wife, Carol, with Penn’s Director of Sustainability, the irrepressible Dan Garofalo for the photobomb. #Welcomeaboard. On board, Barry sat down to talk with WetLand’s creator, artist Mary Mattingly,  about City Parks and Philadelphia’s efforts to open them up to everybody. We’ll cut the footage down for the second of our doc shorts about the project.

Undergraduate fellow Shams Haidari (C’16) is a Political Science and History double major, interested in Middle Eastern governance, energy production, and energy trade as well as Arabic poetry. She guided visitors skillfully through the lab. She had this to say:

Mary Mattingly’s WetLand Project docked alongside the Walnut Street Bridge this past Saturday. Part-home, part-boat, and part-studio, WetLand boasts a bathroom—complete with bathtub, toilet, and sink—two bedrooms, a living room, and kitchenette. Solar panels attached to the roof—now coated in wood beams—provide electricity, and a rainwater filtration system ensures a supply of clean water. However, one attendee at Saturday’s open house provided a more succinct description, commenting that WetLand looks like “a house that collapsed on itself.”

It’s an accurate statement—partly because it describes the first thought that ran through my mind when I spotted it from the bridge on 24th and Chestnut, but mainly because it suits the project’s purpose. An example of the intersection between sustainability and humanistic studies, WetLand aims to deconstruct the traditional home and to redefine the boundaries between a living space and the environment surrounding it.

Watching people walk through WetLand for an open house, I also couldn’t help but find the comparison oddly on-point. Couples, joggers, and young families took their time touring: asking how the boat runs—it doesn’t—and where the floor boards come from—a gym in Iowa. One excited child asked if he could sleepover—yes, but only for short stretches of time in the spring and summer. At the end of the day, visitors left—and WetLand moved back to its home at Bartram’s Garden.”


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