Free radicals

Free radicals
Vojtěch Veškrna
Mapping our city flora from the medicinal point of view.

Team members
Julien Antih
Field of work
Curating, Communication, Research
Project category
Raising awareness
Project submitted

Haenke is a research and design studio focused on the use of plants and plant-derived ingredients in pharmacy and human well-being. By developing educational content, public space installations, practical workshops or outreach activities, we work with communities from various social and cultural backgrounds all over the world, using arts, culture, and digital media as a vehicle for social change, helping to shape a more resilient future that values nature and culture at the same time.

In medicine, "free radicals" is a term used for molecules naturally produced by the human body. They serve important functions to our health but if overabundant, they can cause serious illnesses including diabetes, heart disease or cancer. To balance this out, our body uses antioxidants - chemical compounds present in whole foods, coffee, green tea as well as plants commonly found in cities - either as part of community gardens or in urban spaces such as parks, riverbanks or brownfields.

In such settings, though, plants are often unwelcome, overlooked, “controlled” - they need to be weeded out to make space for a new construction; trimmed or well-maintained parks and other green public spaces (often using synthetic pest control), or disposed of as is the case of plant waste. Yet this material - dead or alive - has immense value: its medicinal properties known either through traditions or scientific research.

With “Free radicals", we would like to map out the city flora from the perspective of pharmacy and human health. By analysing plants commonly found in European cities, we can describe their medicinal properties and propose new applications in the context of new materials or product design. The final outcome would have a form of a collaborative toolkit with the aim to provide a clear, evidence-based analysis of the medicinal value of the city flora and its possible uses beyond standard imagination. Aside from its educational value, the toolkit can serve as a blueprint for architects, designers, and other practitioners in the field in order to work better with plants that surround their work in the making.