100Land: ‘Walls, benches and carpets made of discarded books structure a series of rooms at once framing and dissolving into their environment. Invoking the mythic relation between knowledge and nature integral to the concept of ‘paradise’, we expose these supposedly timeless cultural artefacts to the process of decomposition. The books are organized between structural coloured plates, while their deterioration is further stimulated and accentuated by mushrooms that are cultivated on the books. The garden becomes a sensual reading room, a library, an information platform, an invitation to a different realm of knowledge.’
An email from University of Oregon Landscape Architecture professor Richard Hindle alerted me to an innovative design-build project happening on campus in the vegitectural realm. The studio course 'Horticultural Building Systems' is based on investigations into the potential to 'hybridize landscape, architecture, and product design". For today's Daily Three - a trio of projects from the site, with some supplementary information on the course. One project is a 'Soil Filled Gabion'.
Some additional information from the site: "Horticultural Building Systems find their origin in early European sodden roofs, glasshouses, orangeries, ivy clad facades, espaliers, trellises, and have evolved through time to include modern greenhouses, engineered green roofs, living walls, bio-domes, sculpture, bioreactors, and cryogenic preservation chambers. For the purpose of this studio a horticultural building systems is understood as the instance where vegetation and an architectural system exist in a mutually defined, and intentionally designed relationship, that supports plant growth and an architectonic concept."
Another project involves the implementation of a concrete substrate for a living wall. Developed by Matt Brooke and Walter Cicack, the 'Earth Bank' is an innovative use of the porous nature of the material for creating viable habitat for plantings. The concept of testing new strategies is the genius of the studio - as it allows for a range of possible solutions to be investigated that can move the entire industry forward.
Additional information gives some background on the concept - which asks many of the questions that this site posits: "The rise of horticultural building systems in speculative and built architecture leaves many questions unanswered as each new site becomes a new experiment, with diverse variables from species selection to microclimate, substrates, architectural nuances, project scheduling, and design of horticultural system. A disparity exists between the ubiquity of “green” or vegetative building systems in architectural proposal, and what is actually known about the design, construction, and longevity of these systems. Currently, innovation for horticultural building systems like green roofs and living walls is almost entirely dependent on research and development made by private companies and individuals protected by patent. "
A final project is concept for a simple interior installation 'Growing Curtain' by Eva Peterson, showing a modular installation for growing vegetables in gravity fed assembly. The curtain consists of a " chain that directs water from the upper plant to the lower. Plants grow to meet each other as the curtain evolves. The modular, flexible vessels can be used individually or connected in a rhythmic series."
"...proposed to expand New York into its adjacent waters for a grand total of 50 square miles. Thomson was neither a lightweight nor a crackpot. As a consulting engineer and urban planner for the City of New York, he had been involved in the construction of numerous bridges and over 20 of New York's early skyscrapers, specialising in their foundations, designing pneumatic caissons. It was the versatility of these caissons that would lead Dr Thomson to envisage a much wider application for them. In August of 1916, he wrote an article in Popular Science, advocating 'A Really Greater New York'."
For a full picture of the concept, check out the full post, but in a nutshell, my favorite part was the new proboscis attached to the end of Manhattan ('New Manhattan') - retaining a New York/New Jersey split. Think of the cost-benefit of this (ecosystem health and environmental impact aside) were it built 100 years ago.
This isn't to say that Manhattan, and many other cities around the world haven't expanded their footprint in less dramatic ways through landfilling, edging slowly into the adjacent lands. Is it such a crazy proposition, thinking of the value of land in Manhattan and other densely developed (and land-locked) cities, is it such as strange idea? Boston is a great example of a city built on fill, not by spreading inland, but by capturing significant amounts of land within the Charles River basin and Harbor areas.
Or instead of giving this over to building, how about restoration of the areas where we've destroyed the margins through industrialization. We could add, through land-filling, wide vegetated buffers for open space and restoration of coastal ecosystems engineered specifically for recreation, habitat, and riparian health - strips for phytoremediation between city and river - buffers for us and to remedy or ills. While difficult to generate using existing built up edge conditions, this new process of reclamation of riparian corridors, although artificial (a la P-REX), would be a hybrid ecology that may work versus a traditional, reactive, natural methodology.
John King, architecture critic for The San Francisco Chronicle, says the city’s innovative Pavement to Parks program (see earlier post), which reclaims unused stretches of streets and turns them into public parks and plazas created with salvaged materials, will needs lots more public or private support and investment if it’s going to expand from five to 25 parklets. The five parklets now in place are a form of “bootstrap urbanism,” but unless the city finds “the resources to craft resonant lasting spaces, it runs the risk of squandering the promise of the low-budget, high-concept nooks that have been conceived.” King says the new public spaces could become as unused as the earlier streets where they are sited.
Despite the pro-bono services of landscape architects and architects and free labor of the local communities, not all the parklets in place now have achieved their potential. “Three took awkward intersections and made them over into car-free plateaus. The other two [...] slap a deck on parking spaces as a way to add slivered chill space to shopping streets with narrow sidewalks.”
One parklet at 22nd and Bartlett streets sits across from three cafes. “Rebar Group takes the decking of dark-stained bamboo and folds it up and over to form seating space and a small counter, with additional room for plants and bicycle racks.” King says, in comparison with another parklet outside the Mojo Cafe near Divisadero and Grove streets, the parklet has a “strong visual identity,” but visitors are still left feeling exposed given their backs are exposed to car traffic. Also, the parklets just seem like extra cafe seating instead of new public spaces. “These aren’t public spaces so much as clever ways to add seating options to crowded blocks.”
The three others are asphalt plazas that can serve as neighborhood spaces, but there were few visitors when he went. “That pedestrian hum is what’s missing from Guerrero Park, which replaced the confusing overlap of Guerrero and San Jose avenues and 28th Street near St. Luke’s Hospital.” In addition, King says, some neighbors don’t like the salvaged material look. “Some neighbors loathe the sight of tree trunks laid on pavement to form planting beds, or the tall stainless steel tubes topped by live bamboo.” On the positive side: plantings were taking root in the parks and on the day King visited, “bees and butterflies were as plentiful as people were scarce.”
Like NYC’s experiment with making Times Square a pedestrian mall, the spaces have a temporary feel, in part created by the materials salvaged from city dumps. Recently, though, NYC’s government has decided to make the pedestrian mall in Times Square permanent (see earlier post) and invest in some big-name design talent. Snohetta, an architecture firm, is leading a design team including lighting guru Leni Schwendinger (see an interview) to actually redesign the spaces as a plaza. San Francisco may also need to decide if it’s going this route, or at least require parklets to have ample priviate support, because the concept is quickly moving from “test case to full-blown initiative this month with the release of a request for proposals from the city’s Planning Department.” If business groups pony up the funds needed for construction and maintenance, up to 25 new parklets could be installed.