Urban Vertical Mushroom Farms at ARCAM Food and Architecture Fair – 1st place Jury selection

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Jacques Abelman/groundcondition in collaboration with Marijke Bruinsma/de Stuurlui stedenbouw

This projects aims to capture a part of the urban waste stream in the form of used coffee grounds and transform it into food— delicious oyster mushrooms.

At the same time, the project aims to makes the process of recuperation, transformation, and harvesting visible by locating it in public space.

Our point of departure was the fact that Amsterdam has over 4000 cafes, hotels, and restaurants that generate around 20,000 kilos of coffee grounds every day.  The spent coffee is normally mixed with other trash and landfilled.

Mushrooms are such efficient biological machines— 100% bio-efficient according to mycologist Paul Stamets— that a quarter of the mass of the used coffee becomes mushrooms. The end product of growth, besides the protein rich oysters, is a rich humus that’s a sort of super-compost.

Our idea is to partner with restaurants and cafes in central Amsterdam and use the many narrow, protected, and shaded alleys or stegen to site our vertical mushroom tubes. Our intention is also to beautify the space, and make ignored and underutilized alleys in to magical, mysterious, and nutritional destinations.

We showed the prototype at the “Appetizing Architecture” / ARCAM Food and Architecture Fair and were selected as winners from among eight finalist projects.


WILDPOINTS: urban biodiversity network


Jacques Abelman, Celine Baumann  (celinebaumann.tumblr.com), YukaYoshida


The Wildpoints strategy creates a new form of urban green by actively seeking out new places for nature to colonize the city. The end result of found nature and design interventions adds up to an urban biodiversity network.

Discovering Wildpoints

The small presence of uninvited nature in the city – where wild grasses and plants come up through the cracks, providing food and shelter for insects, birds, and other small urban animals, are almost never created intentionally. They spring up at construction sites in disturbed soil, in quiet alleys where wind-borne seeds settle and thrive between bricks, or under bridges where mosses and ferns find the humidity and darkness they need.

These sites are reservoirs of genetic diversity as well as habitats for uncounted species. They are also moments of unexpected beauty that could become a new form of “wild” garden, to provide visual pleasure in otherwise sterile and mineral urban environments.  The Wildpoints concept augments the way nature already infiltrates the urban fabric by studying and replicating nature’s own strategies, augmenting the sites where nature can take hold through specific design interventions.  The result is an urban biodiversity network of micro-habitats that adds a living layer to the city.

 What is biodiversity in the city?

Biodiversity can have many interpretations. Three key elements of biodiversity are species diversity, ecosystem diversity, and genetic diversity. For instance, the green lawns of city parks or planters filled with one or two species of decorative plants are not biodiverse. For biodiversity to occur and become part of a larger ecosystem network in a given location, to actually become vital nature, we must look farther than traditional conceptions of green in the city.

We define biodiversity in the city as the network of urban biotopes where indigenous species of plants and animals thrive, and natural ecological processes occur with or without the influence of humans. We propose that by carefully examining the places where nature colonizes the city, in urban cracks and out of the way places, we can amplify nature’s potential to be present in the city. The accumulation of many small zones that can be considered pocket parks establishes a network through which an ecological web of relationships can be established.

4 New Biotopes for Urban Sites

 The foundation of the Wildpoints concept uses biomimicry as a design strategy. Biomimicry is the examination of structures and processes in nature in order to find inspiration for solving human problems. In this case the first part of the Wildpoints strategy is looking for places where nature is already colonizing locations in the city, and creating species richness and diversity with no help from humans. The second step is finding other locations with similar conditions but where nature is unable to take hold. The design interventions provides a growth substrate which is modular in nature, upon which plant growth can occur. Our initial research into exisiting Wildpoints shows four primary potential sorts of new urban biotopes.

The Wildpoints strategy intervenes in two ways to create a biodiversity network.

First, wild sites where local plants and animals are thriving and creating spontaneous habitats are located and researched to understand what conditions exist there to allow nature to colonize the city.

Second, other sites where similar conditions exist but where plants and animals cannot take hold are located. Lightweight natural fiber panels are placed on façades, on hard surfaces, or floated in the water and hold a layer of soil that will seeds to cling and germinate. The correct plants and seeds can be brought in from the wild sites in the city, and augmented with other indigenous species.

The lightweight modular panels can be cut and assembled in a variety of patterns. After several seasons the panels will be covered with vegetation that requires no maintenance, creating habitats for insects, birds, and other small animals.

Results and Benefits

The biodiversity network of found and new Wildpoints allows insects, birds, and small animal species to establish themselves in micro-habitats across the city. Because the territories of birds and animals will be extended through the network, as well as seeds being transported by animal and wind, the Wildpoints will continue to evolve in richness.

This new living urban layer will also have additional functions. Floating plants will play a role in keeping waterways clean. Climbing green will absorb rainwater and help to cool buildings. The accumulated affect of vegetation surfaces will help remove particulate pollution from the air, as well as producing oxygen and acting as a carbon sink.

For humans, the Wildpoint network will be a new way to experience nature in the city. The web of life and ecological cycles will gain a new visibility. Abandoned lots will give way to colorful meadow patches. Unused infrastructure and building surfaces will feature beautiful green surprises around unexpected corners, teaching, relaxing, and delighting.







Ecologically Emergent Leisure Landscapes

One of the remarkable characteristics of The Netherlands, especially from the foreigner’s point of view, is the amount of carefully protected open green space surrounding densely populated urban centers. The Dutch are extremely keen on verdant fields with placidly grazing cows and sheep always being within a bike ride away from the city, and this is true in most cases. However, as space becomes an ever more precious commodity, the preserved status of these green zones is being called into question. In many cases these peri-urban areas are carefully managed by several partners in order to preserve their rural appearance, yet they no longer function as viable agricultural spaces for a variety reasons. In some areas soil has been too contaminated by dioxins, pcb’s, and other pollutants to allow food production. In other areas it is no longer economically viable. An enormous amount of energy and coordination is necessary for the maintenance of these spaces which appear to be agricultural but are in fact a kind of park landscape reminding inhabitants of their farming origins. As urban populations increase and diversify what future role will these once vital farmlands play?

The Krabbeplas initiative set out to investigate if these green zones could be “put back to work.” The task of the designers was to investigate meaningful re-purposing of place. The EELLs project point of departure was the desire to immerse visitors in the sensory pleasures nature has to offer by creating new outdoor leisure space, a lounge-in-a-field that creates opportunities to be in touch with sights, sounds, and smells of nature at close range as well as offering a window onto ecological cycles. The project was driven by the use of agricultural processes to create a flexible form of ecological architecture. Hay and straw from the site were stuffed into biodegradable plastic tubing and then arranged into different configurations to create temporay shelters and organic lounging spaces.

Perfect for events in the fields, the EELLs have another purpose. Once their use as outdoor furniture is complete, they can be left on site to begin another process. The straw filled tubes are soaked in water and innoculated with mushroom spores. Over the course of several weeks, the mushroom spores spread throught the straw while the bioplastics break down, bringing the growing fungi into contact with the earth. The fungi are then able to colonize the soil of the site. Studies have shown that the enzymes present in fungal mycelial networks break down complex molecules such as dioxin and pcb, metabolizing them into harmless substances. This form of bioremediation is called mycoremediation. The mycelial net, which can grow to the size of an entire forest in some species, does the work of purifying the polluted ground. The fruiting bodies it then creates that we call mushrooms remain safe to eat.

The EELLs project attempts to address new ways to enjoy agricultural green space, actively connecting users to ecological cycles and introducing the concept of bioremediation. From hay harvest to lounging and through to mushroom production and soil purification, pleasure and utility are combined in a new leisure landscape.

EELLs project featured in new book from BRACKET

from the website of  BRACKET:


Once merely understood in terms of agriculture, today information,energy, labour, and landscape, among others, can be farmed. Farming harnesses the efficiency of collectivity and community. Whether cultivating land, harvesting resources, extracting energy or delegating labor, farming reveals the interdependencies of our globalized world. Simultaneously, farming represents the local gesture, the productive landscape, and the alternative economy. The processes of farming a remutable, parametric, and efficient. From terraforming to foodsheds to crowdsourcing, farming often involves the management of the natural mediated by the technologic. Farming, beyond its most common agricultural understanding is the modification of infrastructure,urbanisms, architectures, and landscapes toward a privileging of production.

Check out the book, now available from ACTAR.

Redesigning the urban fringe: culture + ecology = new landscape park for Utrecht’s green ring

8mb PDF_Jacques_Abelman_Landscape Park Proposal

Project Brief from instructor Patrick McCabe ( http://www.redscape.nl )

Based on the classic Dutch concept of compact city, Utrecht has undergone major transformations in the last ten years. Intensification of urban areas, the realisation of Leidse Rijn (VINEX) and countless large infrastructure projects have been key steps in the city’s ambition to grow. However the benefits of this development are not always evident. On the eastern flank of the city’s margins, a greenbelt area otherwise known as the “Kraag van Utrecht”, is a good example. The area ( about 5km x 5km) is a result is what some might describe as an inconclusive urban condition; a marginal urban landscape sliced into bits and pieces by motorways and train lines, sporadically filled in by so-called green urban functions, a campus, a golf course, new nature, but missing a clear idea for future development. Slowly but surely this green belt is being encroached upon by neighbouring local authorities who are eager to find new building locations for its own inhabitants. The area is rich in history, forming part of the ‘kraag’ or belt of defensive forts, built as part of the New Dutch Waterline. Most of the forts have limited use. It forms part of the important ecological structure of Utrecht as well as housing the Uithof, the city’s university district and centre of learning.

Develop a new vision for this area based on a theme of your choosing, in which the tension between city and landscape is central. Take a stand, form an opinion. The area will transform but why and how? This is your decision. What is your vision for this area? What will it be like when you’re 64? Choose a strategy and demonstrate its potential for change. Search for ways, in which the tension between city and landscape, i.e the border condition, can be transformed to give new interpretations for living, leisure, infrastructure, nature or other activities. What would you like to research? Where would you like to create change? How would you like to transform? Recognise and identify the processes, the often concealed and sometimes unspoken rules of order, the players, and playmakers. Don’t use your creeping common sense, use your intuition.

Vormstudie – looking for chair DNA

The Form Study classes at the Academy pair architecture / urbanism / landscape students with practitioners from outside their discipline in order to venture into uncharted waters of design experience. For eight weeks I had the pleasure of working with Pieke Bergmans, a dutch industrial designer with playful and sharp ideas. In this vormstudie we found a creative refuge, a place where design exercises were unfettered by the constraints of architectural demands. On day she plucked an empty milk cartridge up of the table and asked us to start drawing, and to investigate something about it that would lead us to make a chair.

I got interested in the kinky spout-flap of the milk carton and started modeling different ways abstract spout-flap units might recombine and  get organized to start making a chair. This was a lot of fun. I got hooked on a cellular organismic theme and started messing around with other forms of cell structures. In the end it wasn’t so much about a chair, but about modular objects that recombine in order to make a seating environment possible. I was happy that my paper globular cell model in the end was realizable at 1:1 scale.  My seating clusters were strictly stuffed with cellular components – small trash bags stuffed with paper, and the bags were grouped in units of 1, 3, or 5 depending on the size of the seating cell. In they end the seating cells happily colonized a neighbor architect’s solidly assembled mdf chair, in a story of soft meets hard, field meets object, landscape meets architecture…

Check out Pieke’s work on /www.piekebergmans.com/