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.


beating blue heart

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/


1st project at the Amsterdam Architecture Academy: the Dunecatcher




Projects at the Academy are completed in eight weeks bursts and done mostly at night, so they require immense drive and conentration; at the end of the project period all students post their work in the halls of the school and groups of professors walk around judging the work. You are given about ten minutes in the beginning to present your project, you usually haven’t slept in a day or two so it’s best to let your work speak for itself.  The couple of hours that everyone’s work is up is also your only chance to see the work of other students, and it’s really wonderful to see what has been made. It’s completely individual and the projects never resemble each other. It’s fantastic to see so many different visions and directions for the same problem, and definitely part of the learning process.

So I passed; not everyone did, unfortunately. You feel the wins and losses of your colleagues as intensely as your own – never have I experienced so much solidarity before. I think because it’s so much work and effort to go the Academy, because we are all working during the day in stressful offices, because you regularly run through your reserves of energy and enthusiasm and you have to keep going anyway. We help each other out as much as possible, we are really there for one another, and it’s a small school, there’s about 250 of us total. People are incredibly motivated and incredibly present in what they are doing – well, most of the time. We do drink a lot of beer after class to blow of steam.

So what have I learned so far? To trust my intuition, to follow my own path, to do it for myself, to make a story, to argue each decision that I make as solidly as possible. What I should have done better with this project: take more risks, experimented with my weaknesses more, get out of the comfort zone, en bref to boldly go…

The Great Gradschool Experiment

"Drawing the City" with Harold Linker

I recently began coursework at the Academie van Bouwkunst of Amsterdam. Earlier this summer I agonized over the decision of where to go to grad school to pursue landscape architecture at a higher level, or at least to be able to consecrate some time to learning.  Here in the Netherlands their is a good choice of schools, each with their particular strengths. I could have studied at the  TU Delft (they are thinking about a landscape MA) but ultimately choose the mix of work and study that the AvB offers, plus it offers the enormous advantage of being in my neighborhood and not an hour away by train.  Besides a challenging course load of design studios, you are expected to have a job in a firm at the same time. It’s extremely challenging , and a lot of people get through in fits and starts.

The Dutch believe in getting right down to it, and the first thing we did after begin introduced to our fellow classmates was to work on an afternoon mapping project. The seminar leader was an artist named Harold Linker known for his drawings, so immediately the atmosphere was one of artistic creation, which appreciated immensely. We were given five major axes through Amsterdam and assigned the task of sketching urbanistic transitions along these axes from the outside of the city to the center. On our return we assembled the hundred or so sketches into an expressionistic map of the city.  Above you can see how each particular place we stopped had its own rhythm or pulse, from the long low streaming of box construction and highway on the outskirts to the frenetic pulsing of the 17th century inner city.

It should prove to be an interesting semester, which I will be digesting here for myself and anyone interested in design education in the Netherlands…