Valentina Karga

Temple of Holy Shit

A project by Collective Disaster

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Temple of Holy Shit (Usine du Trésor Noir) at Parckdesign 2014


Temple of Holy Shit (Usine du Trésor Noir) is a public compost toilet and terra-preta sanitation system, whose purpose is to convert the biowaste and bodily waste produced by the park and its visitors into a rich type of soil (terra-preta) for the gardens in and around the area. The project has been selected for Parckdesign2014, which is a biennial dedicated to public space planning initiated by the Brussels Ministry for Environment, Energy and Urban Renovation (IBGE) and runs as a pilot project in the neighborhood for six months in 2014. Parckdesign2014 is taking place near Thurn&Taxi transforming urban wasteland into a temporary Farmpark creating an opportunity to test another method of city making. Parckdesign2014, adopted a more inclusive process for achieving the activation of wasted urban spaces than in other years, by involving local citizens in the making of the project through the facilitation of neighborhood meetings.

The original concept of the ‘Temple’ used metaphors from the milieu of religion to communicate the idea of the transformation of the secular miasma (body and bio-waste) into a holy substance (terra-preta soil) that has the ability to regenerate life. However, the local muslim community found the use of the religious element offensive and, after public voting, we renamed the project into Usine du Trésor Noir (Factory of the Black Gold). It was worthed to sacrifice the initial concept into something that the neighborhood can more easily understand, because after all, the value of this work lies in its ability to communicate the concept of terra-preta and compost and its potentiality to create more sustainable mindsets, while, at the same time, offering a social space for the neighborhood.

Temple of Holy Shit is a project by Collective Disaster.

The project is largely multidisciplinary, drawing connections between the milieus of architecture, public art installation, art and science and socially engaged art. Since the installation relies very much on its usability, the project is fully reaching its ambitions via activation of the installation. Apart from a compost toilet and terra-preta production facility, the design includes a playground with slides and a stage for performances. Collective Disaster developed a program over the course of the summer that is rendering the ‘Usine’ a social space, where the different local social groups can meet and engage together in activities. The program includes activities such workshops about composting and terra-preta, educational games for children and grown-ups, and a round-table discussion on topics such as sustainable infrastructure, human waste, socially engaged art and the relation of art and science.

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Used as stage for performances


What the Temple produces

Terra preta soil is a rich and fertile man-made soil with a high carbon content. Found in the basin of the Amazon, it contains a mixture of manure and charcoal. It is possible to make your very own terra preta. First, you separate the liquid from the solid waste in different vessels, to avoid unwelcome smells. Every time you do solid waste, you cover it with one shovel of charcoal- dust mixed with microorganisms (EM). The microorganisms, which survive better in charcoal, help to break down the waste faster, while the charcoal seals the smells off. When the vessels are full, you move them to the fermentation room and you let the solids sit for 3 months while the liquids for 1 month. When the time arrives you move them to the compost bins, where you let them sit for a year. The terra preta can be fed back in the park or to community garden in the neighborhood when all worms are gone- this will be after six to twelve months. New vegetables will grow out of of this rich soil and the loop of life will thus be closed.

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 The final step of the Terra-preta making process


The Blue Responsibility Award

This pilot project has a strong potentiality for bigger scale application of sustainable infrastructure, not by some massive change of the city’s sewage infrastructure, but rather the implementation of such social catalyzers in neighborhoods. By producing a substantial amount of terra-preta substrate, a micro-economy could be developed around this valuable resource together with some jobs for the (unemployed) people of the neighborhood. The idea of creating a micro-economy around new tendencies of society (e.g. urban farming) is a key-concept of the project. We believe to the potentiality of art to inspire social initiatives. What we proposed for the Blue Responsibility Award competition is a business model based on collaboration between public institutions and grassroots social initiatives, while making (temporary) use of non-used public properties. With an initial seed-funding from public institutions and under the management of neighborhood NGOs, such spaces can become accessible to the public as educational, social and production centers, namely providing a social space with edible forest and compost toilet, where the visitors can hang out and harvest their own fruits that are grown in terra-preta humus made out of the visitors own waste. Therefore, some cash flow will be incorporated from the selling of the agricultural products produced by terra-preta substrate as well as from educational activities offered to school and families. In this case there will be profit for the local NGO but also for the public institution that will have supported a healthy business model which bridges education, culture and sustainability.

Temple of Holy Shit won the 2nd prize at the competition. Please watch the video presentation:

About Collective Disaster

Collective Disaster is an international and multidisciplinary team who is looking for new  forms of collaboration by engaging in & creating social and participatory situations.


Andrea Sollazzo

Louisa Vermoere

Valentina Karga

Pieterjan Grandry


Terra-preta expertise:

Dr. Haiko Pieplow

Ayumi Matsuzaka


Collaboration for the Blue Responsibility

award: Ayumi Matsuzaka