by Robert Such

Spanish group Basurama wants to change attitudes to trash, and since starting up in 2001 at the Superior Technical School of Architecture in Madrid, the group has exported its gusto for provocative recycling projects to Europe and Latin America.

Trash Tsunami, Santo Domingo, 2009 Trash Tsunami, Santo Domingo, 2009

In Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, they turned beach trash into a wavelike plastic public sculpture. In Mexico City, they built pedal-powered vehicles from trash.

Other ventures have included encouraging kids to make music from old speakers and car parts in Miami, and making cardboard public sculptures in Argentina’s Buenos Aires.

Bike workshop, Madrid, Spain, 2011 Bike workshop, Madrid, Spain, 2011

RS: What does ‘Basurama’ mean?

Alberto Nanclares (one of Basurama’s eight core members): In English, it can be translated roughly like “Trash-o-rama”, a word game that plays with the suffix -o-rama that they use in the US for merely everything: ribs-o-rama, skate-o-rama, kart-o-rama… meaning a superlative or huge space or festival… something great, happy, etc. Basically, all you can dream of!

Early last year Basurama built the Ghost Train Park. Swings and climbing frames made from old tyres, a rope slide and graffiti art turned a mile-long stretch of elevated train overpass into a temporary urban fun park.

Abandoned two decades ago when the money ran out, construction work on the electric train line re-started in March, but not before Madrid-based group Basurama joined up with local artists, architecture students and artivists (artists-cum-activists) to design a colorful amenity space.

Playground equipment hung off the six-meter high [20-foot high] concrete and steel elevated structure, which follows a grassy median separating busy north and southbound traffic lanes some ten kilometres (six miles) south of Lima’s historic center.

Ghost Train Park, Lima, Peru Ghost Train Park, Lima, Peru

Graffiti paintings on the 4.5-meter high (fifteen-foot-high) columns were created in a 19th-century amusement park style. The graffiti gave them the ghost train idea.

Funded by the Spanish International Development Cooperation Agency (AECID), and costing some 1,500 euros ($1,900), the design and build of Ghost Train Park was part of Residuos Urbanos Sólidos, or Solid Urban Waste, a larger project that involves setting up local artist networks and “reusing abandoned areas of cities with a public event and construction programme,” says Nanclares. “We develop the network of people, and design it with them,” he says.

RS: Where did you source the tyres and other materials?

Alberto Nanclares: One of the basic objectives of low cost/low energy building has to be permaculture thinking. We actually used tyres because the work space we were let was in the middle of a big car repair avenue, Republica de Panama Av., in Surquillo. There are around 100 tyres. You can actually find old car tyres merely in every town where there are humans. There is almost no paint, see below for more information. We bought the ropes and the zip-line material: no jokes with security when using ropes!. Same with bolts and alike, although we got a lot of materials from the huge second-hand street market of Lima, called Tacora. Very few other materials were used.

Graffiti that prompted the name Ghost Train Park Graffiti that prompted the name Ghost Train Park

RS: What was the Urban Beaches project?

Alberto Nanclares: It was part of the research carried out in Lima in order to start the project: As parking lots are called “beaches” and we were looking for abandoned areas in town, we started from there: mapping the fascinating parking lots in the middle of the 475 year old lima center, one of the most important and worse preserved colonial towns in America. The best spot to work with turned out to be the abandoned electric train: the political debate and urban debate, the huge possibilities, etc.

RS: Could you tell me what Basurama’s projects share? What do they have in common?

Alberto Nanclares: They all want to have fun using trash. Not much more in common!

RS: Lastly, what would you like the public to experience and remember? and what message do you want to send to other city authorities and urban planners?

Ghost Train Park, Lima, Peru Ghost Train Park, Lima, Peru

Alberto Nanclares: In a city where 80% of the population lives in self-constructed houses, it has been interesting proposing doing the same with the public space, that is usually left alone, and in the best cases, self-built to a minimum standards of quality, facilities and creativity.

Public space in Lima is going through major changes, including public art projects of all kinds, together with a big “alternative architecture” movement, guided by different phenomena—universities of different classes, but also squats, students and “pobladores” (dwellers of shanty towns), social and urban theory, etc.

The project turned out to be interesting for the discussion and debate it aroused about the property and management of public space, infrastructures, public works, etc., including reflections about urban needs and desires, political creativity. Why leaving such an interesting place abandoned for 25 years, if they are reusing similar situations in such different places as Paris, Sao Paulo and New York? Citizen participation in urban planning and citizenship in general. And of course… do not fear trash, have fun instead. do not fear what you are told is bad, reuse it instead. Dare, take care, get together with your community, etc. The basics of community building since the 60s!.

Ghost Train Park, Lima, Peru Ghost Train Park, Lima, Peru

There is an idea we like a lot: do not have fear to try creative political solutions. Why leaving such a big infrastructure built and abandoned for 25 years? Wouldn’t it be easier to reopen to the public, as they recently did in New York’s High Line?

It is always more fun, cheaper and definitely more intelligent than fear lack of security, criticism and engineers!

Raising awareness about the harm pollution is doing to the planet, helping to build communities and kindling discussions about issues like the management of public space are key Basurama aims, but as Nanclares points out, above all it’s about having “fun using trash,” he says.

Basurama’s eight core members:

Yago Bouzada Biurrun
Benjamín Castro Terán
Alberto Nanclares da Veiga
Juan López-Aranguren Blázquez
Rubén Lorenzo Montero
Manuel Polanco Pérez-Llantada
Pablo Rey Mazón
Miguel Rodríguez Cruz

Basurama worked with several people and groups to design and build Ghost Train Park:

Christians Luna (visual artist)

Sandra Nakamura (visual artist)

Camila Bustamante (graphic designer now based in Amsterdam)

El Cartón (architecture students collectivo)

El grupo C.H.O.L.O. (social artivists)

Playstationvagon (urban artists)

El Codo (urban artists)

The collective Motivando Corazones

WA (a graffiti artist in Lima)


Collaborative City is

by Robert Such

an international look at the work of multidisciplinary groups, collectives and firms working together on arts, architecture and design projects.


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