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Over the past ten years the original village square in Junget has been demolished; in all seven houses that previously formed a natural gathering place in the village including a bakery, a local shop, a kiosk, a wooden-clog maker and a haulage company. The residents of Junget had jointly transformed the resulting empty spot into a little green oasis.
Our idea was to build something new, together with the residents, with the bricks from the demolished houses; to transform something that had lost its value (the unsaleable houses) to something new. We wanted to investigate whether we by focusing our attention, time and resources on something that was no longer considered valuable would be able to revive a bygone appreciation and thus a lost pride in rural living.
We wanted to involve the residents, who would be the end-users of eventual art works, in the decisions surrounding what should be built from the reused bricks. It turned out to be not quite so easy. Our suggestion was to use the bricks as paving stones. That we together paved a new village square with the bricks from the houses where everyone would be able to put their personal touch on the paving patterns.
At the meeting where the proposal was to be presented, a new item had come on the agenda; the village’s cooperative shop was to close. The atmosphere was, to put it mildly, grim and many who had not previously been a part of the process came to discuss the closure of the shop. The mood strongly affected both the reception of our proposal and us, the messengers. It would be an understatement to say it was not well-received and we drove home almost in shock at the treatment we had experienced.
So after an extended time-out, we resumed the dialogue with the residents in an attempt to reach a compromise that would satisfy both the residents’ wishes and our artistic ambitions and commitment. Under pressure then, momentum, if not agreement, was created for the construction of a new town square that would include a covered picnic area, a viewing point and a space for bonfires. A new meeting space with plenty of room. The village square would be constructed using the bricks from the demolished houses, and art was to be the mortar, both in a literal sense, by combining the bricks together in a new way and in a more poetic sense in relation to attempting to re-establish a sense of village community.
We now faced a different challenge than what we first had expected. There were construction challenges, questions around site safety, blueprints for the tradesmen, not to mention how we could get a barbeque and an art work to coalesce.
We applied to the Realdania Foundation for financial support and received it through the program “A Denmark of Opportunities”. We had already received funding from the Danish Arts Foundation, Skive Municipality contributed from their Village Rejuvenation Fund and the local Spar Bank West also agreed to support the project financially. We entered a partnership with the architectural firm Cubo, who in addition to input in the design of the village square could also assist us with the more practical tasks. It became a successful collaboration for everyone involved. Led by enthusiast Ulla Simonsen, the residents of Junget entered a ten-year land lease from the Skive municipality. The residents became the new village square’s formal owners, assuming maintenance obligations with some help from the municipality.
Work on the new village square commenced in the summer of 2017. Experienced bricklayers Hans and Brian (and father and son) examined every single brick, ensuring that they fitted into the four cylindrical shapes, each 5 metres in diameter. By September, the village square was as good as finished. The village held a large unveiling ceremony where the Mayor of Skive, representatives from Realdania, the Danish Arts Foundation and Ulla Simonsen gave speeches, Salling Camping sponsored sausages and soft drinks and the local catering firm Charlottes Hot Pot provided champagne and canapés.
As one resident mentioned, he had worked out that it was forty years since there had been a building site in Junget. And that it was not every day that the “others” from the neighbouring villages participated in local celebrations in Junget. The pride, and perhaps some surprise, was tangible.
So now the village square stands there. Built from bricks that stand and whisper about all the events that the houses have seen down over the years. Whether the village square will be used and provide a framework for a renewed spirit of community in the village or if it will stand idle as an abandoned monument in the landscape long after the demise off the village only time will tell.