Radioactive Compositions: ‘El Encín’, An Atomic Garden

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Aerial View of the gamma radiation field at El Encín, Spain (20/10/2017)
Londres, 10-13, septiembre 2017

Radioactive Compositions: ‘El Encín’, An Atomic Garden
Francisco Arques
Concha Lapayese
Rodrigo de la O

ECLAS Conference 2017. “Creation/Reaction”
University of Greenwich
ECLAS – European Council of Landscape Architecture Schools
Londres, 10-13, septiembre 2017

Título de las actas: Creation/Reaction
Lugar de publicación: Londres (UK)
Páginas: 101-111
ISBN: 978-9949-536-97-9
Editorial: University of Greenwich

In 1950, ‘atomic garden’ was registered as a new term in the English language, referencing the radio-isotopic experiments at Argonne National Laboratories in Chicago. Nine years later, the Atomic Gardening Society (AGS) was set up by Muriel Howorth in the UK. In these kinds of gardens, plants respire in an atmosphere of radioactive carbon dioxide, which was popularized as a form of breeding through exposure to radioactivity in order to generate useful mutations. Muriel Howorth had identified a social benefit in atomic science: it could provide a clear solution to world hunger.

Around the same year that the AGS was founded, experiments in agriculture carried on by the Spanish government resulted in a particular atomic garden located in ‘El Encin’, a rural property dedicated to agricultural research near Madrid. This garden is a unique space arranged in a circular pattern composed by twenty concentric circumferences. The measurements of its design where based in the necessary range of a radiation dosage.

Although it hasn’t been used since the last two decades, it is a rare element of landscape architecture that needs to be brought to light as an important part of our built heritage. To that end, this paper introduces its historical context, analyses its formal, perceptive and ecological characteristics and discusses its inclusion in new programs for environmental education.

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