Balloon mapping workshop

At Basurama we were invited to participate in the 7 000 000 000 art exhibition curated by arlandismarroqui in the EACC (Espai d’art contemporani de Castelló), and we develop a project to fit the exhibition and our purposes: we wanted to start a local chapter of balloon&kite mappers in Spain, using Public Lab tools, and awake the inactive Public Lab mail list in Spanish. To fulfil our goals we organized a 3 day workshop (January 31st – february 2nd 2014) with local groups to produce 3 local maps.

It was a great time in Castellón. We were able to show how to do balloon mapping to a wide range of people (activists, photographers, mappers) and start a small community of users, let’s see how it develops.

You can check the website with maps and photos of the “Defiende el territorio desde el aire” project (in Spainsh).

Our attempt and results

1. Preproduction

We bought 2 balloon mapping kits (with and without kites) and 2 extra balloons from the Public Lab store. We discovered a week before the workshop that the packages was held in customs, we had to pay taxes (74€).

We bought 2 compact cameras: the Canon Powershot a1300 and a1400 (165€) and 16GB SD cards and rechargeable batteries.

We bought the helium and transported it in a big rented van that could fit the balloon when inflated, so to avoid inflating and deinflating it.

2. Contact local groups

We made a public call and emailed/phone called different local environmental groups and citizens. We asked them which places they would be interested to map and made collaboratively a list with potential locations to map. We wanted to support local struggles that were already engaged with the defense of the territory. Castellón region is a good example in Spain to show the destruction the real estate bubble caused.

We got some groups engaged in the project in Valencia and Castellón:

  • In El Saler village, a local organization was fighting to revert the construction of road into a street to recover their historic access to their harbour lake. Map available.
  • In Castellón, a local ecologist group was interested in having a look to what was happening in an industrial area (El Serrallo) in the harbour that contained a BP refinery, an incinerator plant for dangerous substances, and two thermal plants. Map available.
  • A new residential area was going to be built, but it got stopped and left a “broken” mountain at the north of La Vall d’Uixó. Map available. The local group of Ecologistes en Acció is planning to use the photos for their mobilizations.

3. The workshop: theory and practice

We split the workshop in parts:

Theory (indoors):

Friday afternoon we organized a 3 hour workshop on:

  • introduction to Basurama, Public Lab and 6000km project.
  • digital cartographies (Open Street Map, GPS traces, layers)
  • aerial photography (passenger pigeon, pole photography, and ballon mapping)
  • a mapknitter session with existing photos from mapmill (Tidmarsh Farm)
  • free licensing theory, open research
  • discussion on which locations to map. Local groups told what was interesting for them.

Around 20 people showed up: ecologists, artists and local activists. Ecologistes en Acció del País Valencià y Molts Mons.

Practice (outdoors):

On Saturday (10am until sunset at 6pm) we made a session in Castellón outskirts with all the participants from Friday, We taught how to build a rig and inflate a balloon. We made our first flights in the vicinity of the refinery, El Serrallo. We only could get the border of such a huge industrial area, wind didn’t help

After a good paella lunch we continued mapping in Moncofar, in one of those places where streets have been built, but no buildigns are around. We got many motion blurred pictures (we had wrongly set the mode of the camera to aperture mode), not enought to build a good map.

After every flight we downloaded the images to our laptop and to the laptop of one of the participants. For next time we have to remember to tell participants to bring their own laptops, usb or hard drives to bring the images home with them. Later on it is much more complicated to transfer so many images (6200 images that day, 6 flights in 2 locations, 15.3GB). There was not enough wind to fly kites.


Results were great but we were concerned with the lack of sharpness of the images, check the thread about this in the Grassroots Mapping list. Cheap Canon powershot a1400 and a1300 are great, but not the best quality. The final maps looked good, though!

In some of the images, because of the strong wind (or other deffect), the camera moved inside the 5 liter water PET Bottle with the Rubber Band Rig, and we got some or the corners of the images with the bottle. we tried in the next flights to fix the camera better.

Introduction to the workshop at Casa de la Demaná, in El Saler (Valencia).

Introduction to the workshop at Casa de la Demaná, in El Saler (Valencia).

On Sunday we travelled 1 hour south, to the outskirts of Valencia city, to El Saler to map the CV-500 road that separated since decades villagers from their lake. After a quick introduction (a short version of the Friday workshop + how to build a rig) in the indoors space of the local association we started mapping. We made a boat trip to map the road and the lake as well.

The road CV-500 that separates EL Saler villager from their harbour's lake.

The road CV-500 that separates EL Saler villager from their harbour’s lake.

The regional association of associations Avinença had announce the workshop and many people (around 50) came to the workshop. It was difficult to manage such a big group. Our plan was to use the 2 kits and split the group in two, but one of the cameras was missing! It appeared later inside a bag… keep your cameras close!

After a brief meal in a bar we tried to find a place were to show the photos and make a quick demonstration with mapknitter. (5 fligths in one location, 5291 photos, 14.7GB).

Mapping from a boat going to l'Albufera

Mapping from a boat going to l’Albufera

4. Postproduction

After 3 days of intense flying and workshopping we still had to select and knit and print the maps for the exhibition. We made an extra flight in La Vall d’Uixó to be sure we had good images!

Though every night after flying we had ordered the images, we still had to select the good ones and decide which ones could be good enough to build a map. We wanted to make this process collaboratively with local groups, but due to the short time we had left we had to do it on our own (we had to come leave Castellón) Rubén and me, the Basurama team at Castellón.

After a long mapknitting session until late that night we started exporting the three maps. We had some problems with the tool crashing, better export them one at a time.

Next morning we continue fixing some errors in the maps and exporting. Later on we used Inkscape to prepare the maps for printing: add scale, north and explanatory text. Ready for print in 1.2×1.2m paper and hang onto the wall.


For next time it would be better to to some extra time to make a mapknitting session with the participants, otherwise they don’t get a sense of the whole process (though we have explained it) and maps appear magically finished!

5. Exhibition

The results of the workshop at EACC in the 7 000 000 000 exhibition

The results of the workshop at EACC in the 7 000 000 000 exhibition

The collective exhibition was opening on Friday night, the day the workshop was starting. We displayed previous related maps and a note on the wall saying that we would print the results of the workshop.

Public Lab balloon Mapping kit at the exhibition

Public Lab balloon Mapping kit at the exhibition

Our section displayed:

  • Previous maps: Saugus Landfill (MA, USA), Ruins of PAU ensanche Vallecas (Madrid, Spain).
  • Balloon and kite mapping kit
  • Google maps and Bing aerial photographs of the locations local groups wanted to map.
  • List of the locations local groups wanted to map
  • Screen with photos of the workshop
  • Maps, results of the workshop
  • Balloon (while the helium inside lasted)


Polígono industrial El Serrallo #
Castellón de la Plana. 1 febrero 2014.

El Serrallo (Castellón)
In Castellón, a local ecologist group was interested in having a look to what was happening in an industrial area (El Serrallo) in the harbour that contained a BP refinery, an incinerator plant for dangerous substances, and two thermal plants. Map available.

Carretera CV-500 a su paso por El Saler
Valencia, España. 2 de febrero 2014

El Saler and the CV-500 road

El Saler and the CV-500 road

In El Saler village, a local organization was fighting to revert the construction of road into a street to recover their historic access to their harbour lake. Map available.

PAI inacabado en La Vall d’Uixó #
Castellón. España. 3 febrero 2014

Mapa de un PAI inacabado en La Vall d'Uixó.

A new residential area was going to be built, but it got stopped and left a “broken” mountain at the north of La Vall d’Uixó. Map available. The local group of Ecologistes en Acció is planning to use the photos for their mobilizations.

The public Public Lab balloon mapping kit

Kit para hacer fotos con globos y cometas de uso público

One of the main goals was to build a local community of balloon mappers. One kit with a camera and a bottle rig remained in the exhibition space, and the other ready for the participants to use during the 3 months that the exhibition lasts, until April 27th 2014. Many people got excited during the workshop, but then we know that it is not easy, even when you have the kit, to organize a flight. Let’s see how it works.

The project has participated inen

The propject has taken part in different forum and exhibitions:

Thanks to / Collaborators

Public Lab  community for helping us think and organize this set of activities
Locations and research: Avinença, Ecologistes en Acció del País Valencià, Molts Mons and Casal Popular de Castelló
Photos: Lot and Lucía helped with the documentation.

This text is partially crossposted at

Dissecting Objects

Analyzing and visualizing how much waste we buy everyday. Co-organized with Dietmar Offenhuber in the Guggenheim Lab at Berlin.

How much waste do we buy?

We’ve been asking ourselves the same question since many years ago. We’ve been thinking different ways how to show the world the absurdity of buying and wasting so much material. From the objects in Basurmantes exhibition Nacidos para morir (Born to die, 2004) to the video Chainwork (2008), to mention some, we’ve been trying possible ways.

This time we wanted to add some numbers to the equation. We didn’t want ‘numbers’ extracted from data bases generated by governments and recycling companies. We just wanted to know how much waste we buy. We’ve figured out a simple equation:

Waste Packaging Index (WPI) = Packaging / Total Weight of the product

Products with no packaging, like a tomato, would have a 0% WPI, and merchandising products that are onlye packaging would be 100% WPI.

Workshop, hands on!

We started with a small amount of products in our first “Dissect Waste” workshop. We went to the supermarket and bought different articles: what a joy to know that we are buying waste! Our purpose was to weigh the products and their packaging to make a straight forward visualizations of the data obtained.

Data were collected and shared publicly, so that everyone can use or add more information to them. We decided to use only available online tools, no need of programming skills: a simple spreadsheet at gdocs.

Weighing and labeling all the products took us a long time: we were ‘forced’ to eat and drink milk, beer, cookies an juice in order to not spoil the items purchased! Once we were finished we could arrange the products in order related to the Waste Packaging Index. With the help of a projector we were displaying on the table the bar chart with the different data from the WPI.

This was just the first visualization that we’ve planned to do with the participants. We wanted a question to arise naturally, and it happened: “Is it enough to measure the weight? Depending on the type of material some products are more harmless than others. How to compare the tetrapack (aluminium, plastic and cardboard put together) with a cardboard coated box? Is weight the only measure?”

Actimel, a kind of yougurt sold in very small plastic bottles, was among the objects with less WPI. Some participants in the workshop suggested that it should be taken out the visualization, to not mislead suggesting that Actimel was a “good” with not much packaging product. We know that this product had plastic, cardboard and aluminium.  We prefered to let it be and comment the flaws of the systems. One visualization, one data set, one equation, one index is always limited but it is still a powerful tool.

We knew we needed to go deeper, and that is what we want to research. We had prepared a series of other WPI that took in account things like:

  • the volume of the materials (both compresed and uncompresed)
  • the price of the materials, both up and downstreaming (materials as raw products or the price you get when recycling)
  • the footprint of the materials (we were thinking on using footprinted API)
  • materials depending on where are they going to end theirs lives (recycling, reuse, burnt, disposed in a land fill)

Anyway, we still love the Waste Packaging Index: it’s simple to measure and you don’t rely on other third party data to calculate it. It’s true that it has its limitations, but it still helps understand the quantity of waste we buy.

At the right of our bar chart were the raw materials: an apple, at the left light products with a lot of packaging, like the tea bags. We are so used to them that we do not realize that tea bags,tea lables, tea strings and tead boxes are not needed: we just need some good tea leaves to enjoy a good tea!
Both the workshop and the Waste Packagin Index are good ways to explain the importance of creating and sharing our own data sets. We live surrounded by data, in the information age, but we still need to generate our own data sets to measure what we need. We can not only rely on data provided by recycling companies (in Berlin those data tell that 100% of the plastic is recycled, obviously controversial if the only plastic that it’s being measured is the one that arrives to the recycling plant).

That’s why initiatives regarding #opendata, like the collective efforts of the Public Laboratory to realease available aerial photography information or a specrophotomereal data base, are so important to give citizens the information they need.

We are now planning future workshops and creating a digital tool to gather data to make Waste Pacakging Index available for everyone. We are also planning how to represent it. We encourage you to try, all you need is a scale, products and time to upload your data!

Related info

The presentation we used in the workshop.

Link to this document (data resources):
Link to presentation slides:
Link to spreadsheet and data collected:

List to data resources on Life Cycle Analysis and waste management:

Related posts: Weighing a scale

You can find  about the workshop on Dietmar’s website or at Guggenheimlab one.


Taller Trash Mappers en Nueva York

In September 2011 Basurama organized a workshop at the BMW Guggenheim in New York.

The aim of the project was to give the participants an idea about waste. We wanted them to understand waste as a resource of knowledge, that can teach us about economy, anthropology, sociology, as well as to be a resource for creativity. During the workshop we had different approaches to different kinds of trash.We discussed the wide concept of waste in contemporary society, ranging from the personal waste we directly produce, to the one in a city scale at a landscape level.
We spent the rest of the time “hands on” waste, as we think it is the best way to address the topic.

The two days’ workshop consisted in different parts:

Understanding waste
Saturday, September 3, 2011, 11–2 pm

What is waste, and what can waste tell us about who we are? Join creative collective Basurama in this presentation and hands-on workshop to analyze trash from New York City and gain better insight into the city’s consumption processes. Participants are invited to bring their own nonorganic waste produced in the previous 24 hours. Bring your paper cups, wrappers, and cans to the Lab and participate in an insightful discussion about the inherent creativity of trash, where waste comes from, and where it ultimately ends up.

Trash Safari
Saturday, September 3, 2011, 2–5 pm

Participate in a trash safari in the vicinity of the Lab and learn about domestic and public waste in the area. The safari will be led by Basurama, a creative collective based in Boston and Madrid whose work focuses on the study of waste.

Denise Scott Brown in Conversation with Basurama
Saturday, September 3, 2011, 7–9 pm

Architect, writer, and urban planner Denise Scott Brown, a principal of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates and an author of the influential book Learning from Las Vegas, engages in a conversation with Basurama’s Juan López-Aranguren and Pablo Rey Mazón. Join them in a discussion about waste, its role in our lives, its place at the roots of our creativity, and its artistic possibilities in architecture and urbanism.

Garbology: A Trash Tour
Sunday, September 4, 2011, 10–4 pm 12-5 pm

Leaving from: BMW Guggenheim Lab
Mode of transportation: bus

Join creative collectives Basurama and Trashpatch on a bus journey through the five boroughs to investigate the life of trash in New York City. During this narrated tour, explore the consequences of our consumer actions by tracing the routes that trash takes through our urban landscape and the natural environment.

This tour is a public arts tour that investigates the life of trash in New York City. Focusing on plastic waste and the implications that stem from this type of pollution.

Trash takes several routes; household discards are routed through a defined public collection system, street and subway litter follows a pathway through sewers systems, often with the end result of being deposited into local waterways. By navigating the routes that trash takes, we aim to paint a picture of the interplay between trash and the environment. Investigations and public interactions will occur along three routes, each ending at a coastal location where trash is temporarily collected and prepared for further shipping to a processing/dumping facility. By traveling through these routes, we offer an opportunity for people to understand the energy and resources devoted to trash, as well as the degree to which what we produce and use is designed and intended to be disposable.

USW Jordan. Suf Refugee Camp

Project to improve the conditions of public space in the Refugee Campo of Suf in Jerash. During a week we worked involving the local community of Palestinian refugees to build a childrens playground and a shading area at the Woman´s Centre.

Project funded by Spanish Embassy in Jordan and AECID with the support of UNRWA

Ciclos Locos

Más fotos.

Proyecto de construcción de ciclos a partir de desechos de bicis. Durante una semana realizamos un taller de experimentación y construcción dirigido por Mara Berkhout. Durante la Semana Naranja se realizaron diferentes acciones en el espacio público.

Construcción de bicis.

Las bicis salen a la calle.

Acción en la plaza del Reina Sofía.

RUS Cordoba: Urban weavers

Urban Solid Waste in Cordoba. Argentina. Marzo 19th to 28th 2009.

During the MercoRus tour, the convoy stopped in Córdoba where we meet some urban weavers and worked with them in a collective urban installation.
This project related the traditional basketwork with palm leafs from Cordoba mountain range together with the plastic PET that picks up the cirujas (informal waste collectors).





RUS México. Make your own cart

 More images

The objective of this project was to highlight the ecological, social and urban importance of the work that the informal trashpickers do. They are the ones showing the different elements that define the cycle of garbage in Mexico City. Our aim was to make visible the contrast between the carts that scavengers and street traders used for their daily work with the widespread use of private transport, which becomes the epitome of pollution air in the city.



Leftover Design in Seoul Design Festival

More images

South Korea is the 13th economy of the world, based in the manufacturing of electronic consumer products. Inside every cartboard box sent to foreign countries, there is an appliance packed in bright white styrofoam.

Korean design publisher ‘Design House’ invited basurama to Seoul Design Festival to drive an experimental design workshop with the most important korean packaging material, estirofoam, as raw material.

Workshop estrategy consisted in using the collected styrofoam in Seoul streets for all the design process. During four days, a group of korean and spanish designers explored different ways of reusing the material by making different graphic interventions, furniture construction and light design. As the group work evoluted, another target appeared: how to transform the workshop booth into a comfortable place so visitors of the festival could come into and feel the difference between the exhibition space and an interactive environment where playing and creating was possible.