The Wasteland Collective

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We did, undertook what the situationists would term a ‘dérive‘, and walked the streets. ‘It is the dérive from which we expect to draw educationally conclusive results’ (Michèle Bernstein, ‘Dérive by the Mile’), and so we did.

We guarantee that you’ll notice more wasted spaces and underused streets, lost streets with no soul, spaces which are either uninviting and empty, or cluttered and congested than you imagined existed. Places void of vibrant urban life, of creativity and culture, urban wildlife and civic pride. Is civic pride a thing of the past, or is it just that we’ve forgotten how we can embrace, appropriate and really feel alive in the shared urban environment?

You can’t help but wonder how much more Edinburgh’s urban land could do, for people and for nature.


The Wasteland Collective is interested in seeing urban land work harder; perform more functions for a greater variety of people. There’s more to the problem of wasted space in the city than just vacant and derelict land, it’s everywhere and we want to reveal the opportunities which exist; what these streets and spaces really could be. The Collective began the project by presenting questions asking what wasteland is, in order to bring the value and potential of Edinburgh’s urban land to mind. The project is structured over 4 stages, and delivered through a strategy which is illustrated and tested by an ongoing series of projects and events.

Stage 1
The first satge presents the research question ‘what are wastelands’? Taking a step back to review the fundamental definition of ‘wastelands’ suggests a more challenging consideration of our urban environment. This stage sets the scene for future project action. A kick-starter exhibition was hosted inviting people from a wide variety of backgrounds to contribute to a participation workshop which asked for response to a number of street and urban scenes, from traditional ‘wastelands’ to more challenging non-conventional examples of wasted sites. The exhibition was successful in gaining public interest and there was dynamic discussion around the various types of wastelands identified.

Stage 2
The second stage will begin to ask ‘What can wastelands be?’. The perceived image and function of the various categories of wastelands will be challenged. At this stage collaborators will work to reveal and enable the true potential of wasted urban space, and design and build interventions in these spaces. An exhibition of these projects will be held engaging both the general public and local decision makers and land owners in debate about wasted urban land.

Stage 3
By stage three we hope to have established the variety of wastelands in our city and challenged the potential of these spaces. This stage will result in collaborators contributing to a larger scale exhibitions and workshops that will illustrate the incredible potential of wastelands and demonstrate that lazy urban land will not be tolerated in Scottish cities. We will extend the programme to work with local school children to re-imagine what these spaces can be, using their input to write briefs and develop further installation projects.

Stage 4
The ultimate stage, stage 4, is a planned summer-long project in 2014 which aims to consolidate the full range of ideas and actions which have presented themselves in the previous stages as a demonstration project and celebration of living urban spaces. This site-based project will transcend theory into practice on a large scale Scottish wasteland.

We will use the results of the strategy and projects to promote and publicise actions, observations and manifestos which develop over the course of The Wasteland Collective project. We hope to develop an online hub for the growing number of people concerned by the wasted space in cities, people who acknowledge the value of urban land and know it can do more. The project aims to pull together a community of interest, and document how we can collectively re-appropriate urban streets and spaces. We use the blog site as a platform to celebrate anything from permanent interventions to temporary landscape projects to fleeting momentary events – anything which gets people thinking about how they could make better use of the precious resource of urban land: promoting wastelands and promoting potential.

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