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Public Art Project Costa Rica 2000


1. Introduction and Acknowledgement:

A part of the park Parque La Amistad (Park of Friendship) has been artistically remodelled in five weeks in November 2000. The park is located in the suburb Rohrmoser of the capital of Costa Rica, San José. It is close by the German school Humboldtschule and the American Embassy. The Ding-Place represents an international public art project which emphasizes typical local and environmentally friendly aspects.

This project was made possible through the invitation and a grant from The Julia and David White Artists‘ Colony (www.forjuliaanddavid.org) located in Ciudad Colón, Costa Rica. Further assistance and financial support was received by the municipality San José and from the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation. An essential part of the project was the availability of unused tropical tree trunks by the tropical wood expert Karl-Heinz Stöffler, Coseforma, Ciudad Quesada, (GTZ-Cooperation). My sincere gratitude goes to all persons and institutions, to numerous to list them all, who were involved in the successful completion of this project.

These four images show the Ding-Place, finished and inaugurated on December 1, 2000 in the neighborhood of Rohrmoser in San José, Costa Rica.
This image shows the Ding-Place in February 2004 (Photo: Kerstin Heymann).

2. Concept:

The project is based on a place of importance used by Nordic peoples (Teutons, and peoples which lived in the area around Denmark, Sweden, Norway) during the time before BC until the middle ages. Such a place cannot be fully reconstructed because the knowledge about them is limited to the sparse archaeological findings. However, the meaning is known to a certain degree through records by Romans and others. The place was called DING (TING or THING).

A Ding-Place was used for meetings, discussions, decision making, consultations, consensus finding, and for purposes regarding what we call today "law and justice". We can safely assume that such places were utilized as a forum for a form of pre-democracy decision making. Everyone in need could call for a Ding-meeting. A Ding-meeting was visited and called to order by free men. All things which needed a consensus among village dwellers were debated at a Ding-meeting. The meetings were always peaceful, held during the day, and in the open air. It can be assumed further that the people who came to the meetings were involved in the matter to be debated, others might have had some higher social function, and wise men were surely included. Matters of importance for the entire village were discussed, peace contracts were made. As far as we know it today wars were never initiated at a Ding-Place. The Ding-Place was holy to the people who used it. Meetings were scheduled once a month (depending on the size of the group of people who lived together in a village or town). The larger the group the more often meetings were necessary.
The project utilizes elements of the Ding-Place in a modern tropical setting, using today’s materials and plants.

3. Appearance:

A Ding-Place was arranged in a circle. The circle was surrounded by a wall of earth (about 3 feet high), or a ring of trees (holy grove), or by an interlace of plants. Of course, there was an entry into it. This outer circle of the Ding was clearly distinguished from the surroundings by its design and its ring-like appearance.

The inner circle was marked. We know not much about it. The research results point into the usage of rocks, tree trunks, and other natural materials.

This arrangement gave an impression of security and seclusion to the people at the meeting. The noise of the everyday life was separated from the debating group. However, the place was open to the sky. The roundness allowed the people to see each others faces.
This simple construction helped to enforce true open debate. The architecture prevented psychologically false statements and falsehood.

4. Size and Location:

The size of the Ding depended upon the size of the population in the village. The inner circle was 20 to 30 feet in diameter. The outer circle had a diameter of 50 or more feet. Large Ding-Places are known as well (100 feet and more).

The Ding was located at the outer limits of the village, or on hills, or in naturally occurring earth impressions. The center of the village was not used for such a place of importance because the centers were the points for trading and commercial usage.

5. Artistic description of the Ding-Place in San José, Costa Rica:

The project is a space and time transformation of almost primordial ideas on how to create an environment conducive to reach consensus among different people peacefully.

It is a symbol for peace. The Ding-Place is an art project which can be used by the people. It is a place for gathering, communication, and, perhaps, for small consensus finding debates among families who come to the place for contemplation.

The circle is be marked with vertical positioned tree trunks. The height is in relation with the diameter of the circle. 9 trunks in different lengths were used. The minimum lengths is 12 feet. The trunks are anchored in the earth by concrete and reinforcement at a depth of 5 feet. The diameter of the trunks varies.
Large volcanic rocks are between the trunks.
The place within that circle is paved with cobble stones (piedra bola) in a typical historical Costa Rican manner.

The outer limits of this tree trunk and rock marked circle is surrounded by plants. Plants which bloom in flowers and create thick bushes were used. The bushes should reach a maximal height of 8 feet in a few years.

Within the inner circle four benches are positioned.