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.


Winner of Swimming to Manhattan Competition at ARCAM

The “Swimming to Manhattan”  competition was created by the Amsterdam Academy for Architecture and ARCAM (Ams. Architectural Center).

Jacques Abelman, Txell Blanco Diaz, Simona Serafino, Egle Suminskaite, and Marit Janse collaborated to present Red Point Parks, a vision for future development around New York’s Upper Bay, in a future where the sea has risen over 3 meters.

From the project despcription:

Climate change demands a radical adaptation strategy around the Upper Bay. Our point of departure is water quality. Currently, combined sewage outflows contaminate the bay, and the water level may rise from three to five meters in the future, creating further ecological and infrastructural challenges. Our proposal is the Red Point Park public pier system.

Red Point Parks are a network of access points around the altered urban edge of the renamed Central Bay. Wetlands now occupy the flood zones, creating a living storm buffer.  Some buildings have been preserved by stripping their first floors and strengthening the foundations. New piers extend from the access points through eelgrass and fish nursery zones, into deeper waters where oyster reefs have been re-established. Five new transport hubs create a water highway around the bay, giving way to a quieter zone in the center.    The restored estuary ecology supports a variety of programs, from scuba diving and windsurfing to new museums and restaurants. In addition there are small artificial beaches at Governor’s Island and the shallows facing Brooklyn. The greenline network connects inner urban areas to the bay and absorbs rain water, diverting it from the sewage system. It is easy to bike or walk along these channels to reach the water’s edge. Channels widen at the end to allow the tides to enter the system.

The aquapuncture of the Red Point Parks responds to climate change to transform the city, creating a new urban edge and a living estuary whose heart is pristine water. In this sense, the entire bay functions as a park.

August 10th, 2100: a summer story

“Do you remember the summer of 2075, when the hurricanes hit? Do you remember how it was before the water got so high?” I asked my friend. We were sitting together on the stoop of our Brooklyn brownstone, it was a sweltering day, 105° F.

“I remember how the sewage used to flow into the water every time it rained. It was a mess when they still called it the Upper Bay. That was a long time ago, and the water is about three meters higher now, and that old waterfront is now the Red Point Parks. Let’s follow the greenlines down there and swim, I can’t take this heat!” she said.

We jumped on our bikes and followed the shallow canal of grasses and trees through Park Slope and down to Red Point Park 33. The old sewage overflow was gone – now at the end of the greenline you could see clean water burbling from the outflow, right before the pier started. Extending through a wetland, the vast new pier stretched out into the bay, alongside old foundations and ancient raised warehouses missing their first floors.

We stripped down to our bathing suits and jumped off the side of the pier where the marshy vegetation gave way to deeper water filled with eelgrass. They say it’s almost clean enough to drink now, and the sturgeons are back.

“Thank god for this luxury that we have at our doorstep. The wetlands even protect us from the hurricanes. Storm buffers you can relax in!” She sighed, floating on her back in the cool water.

“Do you want to go to Governor’s Island Beach this weekend? We can rent an electric boat at the Brooklyn Water Hub. I want to check out diving lessons. Let’s pick our own oysters from the reefs for dinner!” I said, splashing.

We were both enjoying the park, and happy in a city that knew how to adapt to the adversity it faced in the past. Our New York, our Central Bay.

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.

Right to Food: “Agroecology outperforms large-scale industrial farming for global food security,” says UN expert

Taken from http://www.ohchr.org the United Nations Human Rights site.

BRUSSELS (22 June 2010) – “Governments and international agencies urgently need to boost ecological farming techniques to increase food production and save the climate,” said UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, while presenting the findings at an international meeting on agroecology held in Brussels on 21 and 22 June.

Along with 25 of the world’s most renowned experts on agroecology, the UN expert urged the international community to re-think current agricultural policies and build on the potential of agroecology.

“One year ago, Heads of States at the G20 gathering in Italy committed to mobilizing $22 billion over a period of three years to improve global food security. This was welcome news, but the most pressing issue regarding reinvestment in agriculture is not how much, but how,” Olivier De Schutter said .

“Today, most efforts are made towards large-scale investments in land – including many instances of land grabbing – and towards a ‘Green Revolution’ model to boost food production: improved seeds, chemical fertilisers and machines,” the Special Rapporteur remarked. “But scant attention has been paid to agroecological methods that have been shown to improve food production and farmers’ incomes, while at the same time protecting the soil, water, and climate.”

The widest study ever conducted on agroecological approaches (Jules Pretty, Essex University, UK) covered 286 projects in 57 developing countries, representing a total surface of 37 million hectares: the average crop yield gain was 79%. Concrete examples of ‘agroecological success stories’ abound in Africa.

In Tanzania, the Western provinces of Shinyanga and Tabora used to be known as the ‘Desert of Tanzania’. However, the use of agroforestry techniques and participatory processes allowed some 350,000 hectares of land to be rehabilitated in two decades. Profits per household rose by as much as USD 500 a year. Similar techniques are used in Malawi, where some 100,000 smallholders in 2005 benefited to some degree from the use of fertilizer trees.
“With more than a billion hungry people on the planet, and the climate disruptions ahead of us, we must rapidly scale up these sustainable techniques,” De Schutter said. “Even if it makes the task more complex, we have to find a way of addressing global hunger, climate change, and the depletion of natural resources, all at the same time. Anything short of this would be an exercise in futility.”
The experts gathering in Brussels identified the policies that could develop agroecological approaches to the scale needed to feed the world in 2050. They based their work on the experiences of countries that have pro-agroecology policies – such as Cuba or Brazil – as well as on the successful experiences from international research centres such as the World Agroforestry Center in Nairobi, and on the programmes of La Via Campesina, the transnational peasant movement, which runs agroecology training programmes.
“We can scale up these sustainable models of agriculture, and ensure that they work for the benefit of the poorest farmers. What is needed now is political will to move from successful pilot projects to nation-wide policies,” the UN Special Rapporteur said. In conclusion, he announced that he would ask the Committee on World Food Security – what should become in time the ‘Security Council’ for food security – to work during its October session on the policy levers to scale up agroecology. “This is the best option we have today. We can’t afford not to use it.”

“Landscape Architecture is not doing a great job…”

Quote from Alan Berger, professor at MIT and director of the laboratory for design research called P-REX,

The Project For Reclamation Excellence (www.theprex.net)

“The main issue for me is that landscape architecture is not doing a great job addressing the larger-scale environmental issues that are currently affecting urbanized regions in the world. Rather, landscape architecture tends to still be focused on discrete locations and places and unfortunately too often on superficial cosmetics. I am interested in how to creatively reclaim and reuse landscape waste, especially in urbanized areas where environmental systems have been permanently altered beyond recognition and function. Given the scales of my research and projects, I feel that the core interests of today’s landscape architecture profession are actually quite distant from my own. What has become painfully clear to me over the last few years is that, for multiple reasons, landscape architecture has not been able to keep ahead of the most pressing environmental issues of our time. ”

This article provides an excellent overview of Berger’s standpoint and work in the emergent field of landscape urbanism.

– via an interview on http://www.abitare.it

catch the whole article here