Craft & Design Energy & Sustainability

The modern gymnasium is very much a 19th- century creation, no matter how much the fitness freak is kitted out with bad hair, retro headbands, and spandex, or contemporary embedded LCD interfaces and computer-generated body plans. Gyms harken back to a world of classical mechanical physics, plugged into equations of work and energy.

To the strains of Olivia Newton-John’s aerobics anthem, the puritan work ethic is transformed into a sweatshop for the body beautiful. The slick machines, treadmills, and cross trainers merely serve to disguise antique apparatuses more at home in a world of steam engines, and to stifle enquiry into thermodynamics and economy.

Then there’s artisan Manuel de Arriba Ares. Under the sign of his “eco-gym,” Gimnasio Ecológico Lumen, Arriba has turned the demon of entropy on its head. Making use of the very waste and byproducts of the modern entropic economy, Arriba has created a truly practical monument in the form of a supremely low-tech gymnasium. Its fitness machines, created with a good deal of physical effort over three years from raw and junked materials such as wood, rope, and rubber, directly mirror both the design and functionality of those found within its wasteful counterpart.

Located in the small town of Valdespino de Somoza in the north of Spain, Arriba offers free access for all to this functional work of Art Brut, a wonderful Heath Robinsonesque assemblage constructed from remnants of strollers, boats, bicycles, and automobiles salvaged from neighboring dumps.

Helpful signs, painted on the tarnished white remnants of refrigerators, instruct the would-be eco-gymnast on exercises and operation of the intricate machinery, reflecting Arriba’s knowledge and experience over many years as a physical education teacher.

Lumen is a “gymnasium that was born of the nature, (and which) will return to her,” Arriba philosophizes. The cycle of waste, embodied by so many aspects of the smogged-out city gym, is closed.

From the column Made on EarthMAKE 12, page 17 – Martin Howse.

8 thoughts on “Eco-Gym

  1. ifreecarve says:

    This guy’s heart is in the right place… but that’s about it.

    Eco-Gyms already exist, except they’re called “Farms”; I’ve never met a farm hand that felt the need to exercise after work. Nor a building contractor, nor a landscaper for that matter.

    Think about it: the whole point of a gym is to be able to work your body in ways that nature intended, in a place that’s space-efficient enough to fit in a city.

    Why should it be commended to spread junk from the local dump over one’s backyard? Is it because he’s created an outdoor version of a gym, which itself is an indoor version of the outdoors? Please.

    Clean up your yard before all that garbage gets in the soil.

  2. chrissy says:

    ifreecarve beat me to the punch, and you said it better than i’d have too!

    you’ve properly articulated why this is such a dumb idea to me – “an outdoor version of a gym, which itself is an indoor version of the outdoors”

    this is what happens when old men with great skills and lots of energy aren’t given enough creative work to do – they turn their efforts into really bad ideas

  3. Phillip Torrone says:

    @ifreecarve & chrissy – i’m dissapointed in both of the comments you’ve posted – MAKE is inclusive, not exclusive — maybe this project isn’t for you, by why fly in and poop on it?

    it’s functional art, how is this different than a garden with art made from found materials?

    any way – please don’t call what a maker does a “dumb idea” — i don’t remove comments, so i’ll just ask you be a little more constructive (and kind). thanks–

  4. Dan says:

    Errk! What a mess, better to use that space for a vegetable garden, which will provide you with food and all the exercise you need.

    There are enough good ideas for living Green without needing to promote some crazy idea, just because it stimulated your novelty detector.

    Que no es verde de vida, es basura!

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