Dry stone wall of a Jardinu Pantescu, a traditional circular structure designed to water without water on the island of Pantelleria, off the coast of Sicily. It consists of a 1-metre-thick enclosure that creates a temperature difference between the inner and outer sides of the wall, creating the conditions for water to condense and drip into the ground.

Not only the sun, but also tunneling and terracing the Sicilian landscape—to channel and retain water—has led to one of the largest agricultural engines in Europe. Control over water in Sicily though gave origin to the first extortion structures back in the 19th century. From the Palermitan underground qanāt tunnels to contemporary ad hoc pipes that bypass the city’s infrastructure, water and politics have developed hand in hand.

Camera dello Scirocco at Villa Naselli Ambleri in Palermo. These 'chambers of the wind' excavated beneath aristocratic residences in the 17th-18th century are naturally cooled down corridors and cavities designed to avoid the scorching summer heat. They channel fresh air through underground galleries carved into the stone, tapping into water streams uphill.

What would it mean to water without water as a form of emancipation from weather, whether there are water cuts, irrigated vineyards, appropriation of collective resources, increasing temperatures or recurrent droughts?

On a volcanic enclave between the Tunisian and Sicilian coasts, circular dry-stone walls enclose single-tree gardens. In Pantelleria, an island without fresh water sources, the dependence on rain and air humidity is crucial to grow a citrus tree per household—historically used to avoid scurvy by securing a supply of vitamin C all-year round. Without that microclimatic confinement for humidity and wind protection, the precious citrus trees inside would otherwise never fruit.

CLIMAVORE, inspired by the microclimatic garden typology of Pantelleria (Jardinu Pantescu), created a series of installations that set a stage around trees in Palermo to envision how to water with stones. To flourish on dry waters.

The microclimate at Bastione S.M. dello Spasimo, in the old city centre of Palermo, wraps five existing citrus trees with an enclosure built with perforated ceramic blocks (blocco laterizio). Rotated sideways, they provide shading and wind circulation.

Three structures scattered around the city repurpose easily available materials, while monitoring the live performance of the trees. The chosen sites were : Bastione di Santa Maria dello Spasimo (a garden behind a roofless church), Giardino dei Giusti (a recuperated Medieval urban orchard), and Volpe Astuta (a confiscated property from the Sicilian Mafia, recently opened to the public).

Developed in collaboration with agronomists from the University of Palermo, they sense the water stress inside and outside the new microclimates. In response to the growing instability of seasons, the installations screen those datasets online.

Throughout the exhibition a network of local food establishments offered a CLIMAVORE Secco al Sacco (a takeaway meal using drought-resistant ingredients) to collect and be eaten by the trees. They featured ingredients such as manna, carub, moringa, drought-tomatoes, local nuts, or heirloom drought-resistant Sicilian grains, in the form of panini, pizza, or ice cream.

What Is Above Is What Is Below, Site-Specific installation, Manifesta12, Palermo (2018)
The microclimate at the Bastione S.M. dello Spasimo is one of the sites to enjoy the Secco al Sacco drought picnic box.
Working in collaboration with agronomists from the University of Palermo, the performance of the microclimates and their trees was recorded and visualised through data gathered from the sensors set up inside and outside of the structures over the six-month duration of Manifesta12.
Landscapes are not only built environments shaped to secure harvests; they are also territories subject to political corruption. The microclimate at Volpe Astuta is located in an agricultural property, which was confiscated from the Sicilian Mafia. There are also two other historic underground structures in the garden that reduce ambient temperature by means of air ventilation.
What Is Above Is What Is Below, Site-Specific installation, Manifesta12, Palermo (2018)
They “water without water”: a camera dello scirocco (chamber of the wind) from the 16th century; and the medieval qanat Xibene, a water supply canal connecting the hills outside the city to the urban hydric network. Reusing some of the catusi (traditional tubes used to transport drinking water) found on site, the installation repurposes them to direct humid air towards an existing mandarin tree to reduce its water stress.
The microclimate at Giardino dei Giusti uses agricultural nets to create a shading enclosure around seven existing orange trees. Formerly known as il Giardino dell’Alloro, the site of this new microclimate had a monumental bayleaf tree until it was uprooted in 1704. Today, it is an open space surrounded by the remains of walls bombed during WWII that emulate medieval xirbe—Arab-Norman productive gardens planted in neglected urban areas or among ruins.