Villetaneuse 2013-2014
Aromatic and relational cultivation of spaces on the margins of the city

In a context of urban renovation and the installation of a new tramway line in Villetaneuse, public space is physically disrupted by furrows, barriers, and unidentified wastelands. Aroma-Home seeks to heal these temporary wounds by re-enchanting the public space, and inviting the residents of the Allende neighbourhood to look at their communal spaces differently.

In collaboration with landscape architect Camille Fréchou, Sarah Harper proposes to foster community through a participatory and playful approach to valorising the 'wild’ biodiversity growing in urban space.

A garden of stories
“What wonderful hours spent in this garden!
Above my head, the orange trees in bloom and in fruit
burn the essence of their perfume."

Alphonse Daudet

A collective approach to nature in the city. An exploration of territory through the lens of memories of countries of origin or childhood.

The botanical survey of the wild Aroma-Home gardens furnish poetic herbaria of world flora. Memory, placed at the centre of exchanges, serves as a primary tool for reading the landscape.

Within a slightly unreal mise en scène, Sarah Harper invites a local audience to participate in transforming the public spaces on their doorsteps. The street becomes more than a space of passage, or a neutral space of transition but a shared and social place; wild plants are not merely ‘weeds’ but edible or medicinal treasures. Parallels between biodiversity and cultural and social diversity, emerge through exchange, encounter and shared creation.

A small scent-filled caravan, a mobile herbal tea-room, is installed on street corners, infusing the neighborhood with a poetic and aromatic ‘aroma zone’ of encounter and exchange.

In the caravan’s intimate interior, Friches Théâtre Urbain offer an offbeat domestic space, where passers-by are invited to share a moment of intimacy. In its tiny kitchen, stuffed with dried herbs, herbal teas, pots, jars and aromatic oils neighbours are offered tastes and smells, invited to stimulate their taste buds, discover the scents and natural flavors of unusual recipes from here and elsewhere. Exchanges of recipes and food stories occur over tasting of herbal teas, essential oils, spices, chutneys, pili-pili, liquorice or hot chili jam.

Assisted by local residents and passing friends, Sarah and her team sow their seeds on neglected verges - wastelands, cracks in sidewalks, or at the bases of lamp posts. WIth neighbours they create surprising, ephemeral gardens, enhancing existing but forgotten corners of greenery. Public space is staged through these installations, changing the perceptions of the inhabitants.

Responding to groups or individuals passing through, gardening sessions and strange snacks are offered to adults, teenagers and children: planting herbs, the making of  street furniture, insect hotels, or scarecrows, the shared cooking of plants and spices, tasting of wild or cultivated edible plants... Meetings and exchanges with the residents of this ‘aroma zone’ become sources of inspiration for artistic creations.

The caravan with its atmospheric interior is out of time and evolves over time. Sometimes perfumed, sometimes filled with sound… the everyday rhythms of tastings, planting, a dish of Rhita nuts to wash hands with... create an unexpected fiction in which neighbours slip in for a snack or to pass the time of day.

"I'll invent a garden for you...scented with wintergreen and jasmine..."

In the most permanent of gardens: the Garden of Stories, collected testimonials, anecdotes, or snippets of stories from local residents are brought to life in large-scale graphics on the walls, as background for a sound installation.  Pillars of sound, activated by solar panels diffuse interviews, poetry and surreal atmospheres into the garden, in sunny weather, completing the sensory journey of this edible garden. Now a  meeting place, the garden is fitted out with street furniture made by young people who frequent the neighboring city-park.

A poetisation of public space in a garden made by and for local residents.

“If I name with precision, it is because by naming with precision, I believe we restore to an object its personal value, as when one calls someone by their name;  […] By naming flora, or fauna, in their strangeness, I contribute to their strength, I share in their strength.”         Aimé Césaire

Creative Team & Partners
Creating the inventory of flora is a poetic and political act


Conception and Direction : Sarah Harper

Landscaping: Camille Fréchou

Public-facing botanical garden activities : Marta Bonati

Logistics and technical : Pascal Laurent and Quentin Douriez

Graphic design of botanical panels : Camille Fréchou and Sarah Harper

Caravan graphic design : Juliette Dieudonné and Sarah Harper

Sound creations : Quentin Douriez, Sarah Harper, Villetaneuse Conservatoire (MAO course)

Administration and production: Julie Philippe



Villetaneuse Council

Plaine Commune

General Council of Seine-Saint-Denis

Ile-de-France Region "Jardins Solidaires"


"I'll invent a garden for you...with scents of wintergreen and jasmine..."