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Therme Art Announces Partnership with SUGi rewilding project

Cultural collaboration will develop native forests at Therme Group locations around the world.

Therme Art has announced a pioneering global partnership with SUGi, the premier platform for community-driven rewilding. The venture will realise a programme of forest planting to create vital biodiversity-restoration hubs at Therme Group’s projects all over the world.

As part of its core mission, Therme Art seeks to counter modern life’s separation from the restorative power of nature and foster new forms of creative experience and expression. This partnership emphasises that cohabitation with our environment is not only essential for human health, but also necessary for a new, holistic cultural attitude. By planting native trees and designing urban areas for the wellbeing of humans and nature alike, Therme Group helps realise a fundamental cultural shift. SUGi Founder Elise Van Middelem describes SUGi as “art with purpose, as we use the medium of nature itself to create the forest beauty that restores the body, soul and spirit.”

Founded in 2017, the international arts and culture initiative Therme Art forges creative partnerships, alliances and joint ventures. Through this, it realises transformative artistic projects in Therme Group’s projects and cities all over the world in order to reinvigorate the synergies between urban and natural environments. This work is complemented by a dynamic programme of talks and forums, which have been presented in cooperation with partners including the British Council, Design Miami/, Manchester International Festival and the Serpentine.

Speaking of the SUGi partnership, Therme Art’s Co-founder and CEO Mikolaj Sekutowicz said: 

“The Gaia hypothesis introduced by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis in the 1970s requires a radical shift in how we approach design processes: if planet earth is a self-regulating system creating the macro and micro climate and regulating its temperature, we need to move from “building” cities to “growing” them. This will require the same radical shift in our cultural adaptation and perspective as was provided in the 1920s through the Bauhaus movement. The “growing” is exactly what SUGi enables for Therme Group’s urban development solutions.”

Therme Art’s new partner SUGi was founded in 2019 by Elise Van Middelem, a creative strategist with a background in developing large-scale interdisciplinary art projects. Driven by an innovative technology-led model that allows subscribers as well as local communities to participate in forest planting, the company is helping to realise new biodiverse forests all over the world. In 2020, SUGi was chosen as one of the first cohort of champions and innovators as part of the World Economic Forum’s 1t.org, the historic platform set up to conserve, restore and grow one trillion trees by 2030.

SUGi rewilding at a future Therme Group resort (visualisation)

Across its projects, SUGi pioneers the use of the Miyawaki Method, a dense form of planting which counters the broad trend towards monoculture and restores the biodiversity of native forests. For one of its most ambitious projects, SUGi recently partnered with the Borough of Barking and Dagenham in London to create the Forest of Thanks. With 33,000 trees across 11,000 square metres, it is the UK and Europe’s largest Miyawaki forest, and is dedicated to the frontline workers fighting COVID-19. 

SUGi Founder Van Middelem said:

“With SUGi there is an unprecedented opportunity to transform unexpected urban areas into ideal habitats for birds to nest, for fruits to grow, for fresh air and for the magic of nature to thrive… Restoring communities both ecologically and socially is a proposition we strongly believe in, and I am delighted to now be working with Therme Art to achieve it.”

In the future, the partnership will realise a portfolio of native species-planting projects at Therme Group facilities all over the world. Driven by the need to re-integrate nature into everyday life, the wellbeing leader is already widely recognised for its sustainability. In 2016, its Bucharest facility achieved LEED Platinum accreditation, becoming the world’s first fully sustainable thermal resort. 

Therme Group is currently rolling out its global development strategy with projects under development in the United Kingdom, mainland Europe, North America and Asia Pacific. Work is scheduled to begin on the c. £250 million Therme Manchester later this year. 

Of the partnership with SUGi, Therme Group’s CEO and Co-Founder Dr Robert C. Hanea commented:

“Regenerating biodiversity in cities through the restoration of ecosystems is the main challenge of urban development in the twenty-first century. The health of our planet relies on efforts of afforestation and natural restoration exemplified by SUGi. Moving towards the goal of a wellbeing city, Therme Group wants to become a seed of positive change through the reintegration of nature in urban space, providing our communities with environments conducive to mental and physical wellbeing.”

Therme Art’s partnership with SUGi developed as one output of the Wellbeing Culture Forum, the ongoing discussion series developed by Therme Art as a direct response to the changes and challenges amplified through COVID-19. Taking a multidisciplinary approach, the series is based in the understanding that the wellbeing of the environment and the human species are interdependent and that scientific findings must be implemented through culture to become practical solutions. 

In September 2020, the Wellbeing Culture Forum invited leading architects, designers, artists and scientist – among them Hans Ulrich Obrist, Virgil Abloh, Sumayya Vally, Tomás Saraceno, Stefano Mancuso, Lucia Pietroiusti and Roya Sachs – to discuss how to move ‘From Building Bauhaus to Growing Gaia’.