Edible Infrastructures 

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Edible Infrastructures 

Magdalena Haslinger

 

 

Project

Even though food production in general and horticultural production in particular has vast and hugely complex implications; the main discussion nevertheless always circulates around two closely connected main assumptions: Firstly, that HOW agricultural/ horticultural production, connected practices and habits are currently set-up negatively affects environmental and individual health as well as individual awareness and thus the individual’s relation to the process.

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And secondly that the provision of basic nutrition will be one of the greatest challenges for urban sustainability in a post oil economy, suggesting that “what and how is grown, moved and consumed is going to be reshaped, everywhere, whatever terrain, country or politics, whether in developing or developed world”.2

As a reaction to these assumptions the projects conceptual thinking is anchored in the conviction that the individuals physical and mental detachment from production realities – seemingly the result of a process of decades of division of labour and efficiency increase – is at the core of the problem.

Thus, the design imagines a situation, where increased technological and procedural efficiency meet joyful interaction and involvement strongly contributing but also transgressing the mere purpose and activities of agricultural production, thereby (re)establishing the individuals and collectives interest and excitement for horticultural production through architectural means.

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As a conceptual strategy, the project aims to investigate the following questions:

How “ELSE”/ differently could horticultural food production manifest architecturally? 

Which SYSTEMS at which scales are/ could/ should be considered? 

What are the spatial and social benefits beyond mere provision of locally produced food? 

As an exemplary solution, the project proposes an edible infrastructure in Nørrebro, a district in the North of Copenhagen. As a permanent, though constantly changing intervention between existing buildings it spans the streetscape and offers its residents access to production and recreation facilities.

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Thereby it…

…REACTS to specific cultural and urban patterns

The Danish society with its concept of faellesskab (“community”) focusing on communal activity and sharing (facilities) in general and Nørrebro – a recently become hip district of Copenhagen with a lot of adventurous residents – in specific, form the ideal microclimate for the implementation of a semiprivate infrastructure. This enables the efficient sharing of tasks, produce, resources and experiences, creating a sense of community at a different, but manageable scale beyond the individual flat and the immediacy of the “staircase neighbours” but below the anonymity of the block.

 

…REACTS to existing resources

Making use of the resource of communal, street facing staircases, a typical feature of Copenhagen housing schemes from times, when “double circulation” (meaning a street- and courtyard facing wooden staircase) was a security measurement in case of fire, the spatial set-up of the intervention is highly efficient. Rainwater from the adjacent and own roof areas, cleaned and stored under the street level before brought into circulation, is the main water resource for the aeroponic system. The piezo electronic flooring in the central communal spaces (trampoline, nets and flooring of communal gathering space) guarantees energy efficiency for the highly electricity intensive operating of the aeroponic system; presupposed the inhabitants –seen as human energy resource – are willing to contribute and make use of the facilities.

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…REACTS to physical needs of the plants and the nutritional needs and tastes of its inhabitants

The street facing boundaries are composed of pivotable, hexagonal panels accommodating the aeroponic cultivation systems. To optimize surface and thus harvest area the elements are not flat but tilted. The plants sit in mist-filled “bubbles” whose size changes over time, according to the plantroots` spatial needs. Depending on the amount and type of vegetables needed and the position of the panels (varying according to ventilation or light needs of plants or users) the overall appearance and atmosphere of the infrastructure can change radically.

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…REACTS to seasonal and diurnal change

To improve plant growth and decrease the harvests’ dependence on outside conditions, rotating growth lights can turn the infrastructure into a glowing lantern during nights. In winter pivoted heat-elemtents create a thermal threshold to keep the cold outside and production going.

Interview

Who influences you graphically? 

That is difficult to say. I try to actively confront myself with new approaches/input all the time through exhibitions, readings and blogs but still the graphical set-up of my projects normally happens very intuitively without specific examples in mind which I try to appropriate. That is actually something I really want to challenge a bit more in future works since – from my experience – people who approach these things more rationally and systematically normally tend to end up more satisfied with the results than I do.

How important is the diagram in the communication of a concept? 

For me very important, since it allows me first of all to give shape to thoughts that are probably not immediately spatial but have spatial implications. This initial process of concretization also furthers certain ideas and makes me rethink others. Thus, it almost acts like a filter or sorting device for thoughts that circulate in my brain. It allows to start testing information flows, connections and decide on useful classifications and through this helps to construct a reference frame or world within which I locate the specifics of my project. Contrary to text which is necessarily linear it also permits later on a more flexible “revisit” of certain questions asked. For me it just turned out to be a very enjoyable and effective way of thinking about, developing and communicating interwoven thoughts and ideas.

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What defined the colour palette? 

It was a rather intuitive choice and is based on a photo I found online and was really drawn to. Settled right at the beginning, it throughout the process turned out to fit very well on many levels.

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If you could summarise all of the project in an image what would this be? 

I think the intention of the project was to freely investigate different streams of thought that independently work as studies but then also interweave and closely connect to form a more comprehensive understanding of the (spatial) implications of urban farming in a specific location but also generally. Exactly this idea of conversations combining arguments along a spectrum of abstract/concreteness but also an intentional open-endedness and possibility of parallel-existence of the different lines of thought speak for me against a “reductive” one image summary. I want the potential observer to find his/her own links and understanding regarding scales and perspectives (consumers/protagonists, ways of involvement, plant “performances”/needs, involved resource cycles and “providers”, timescales and rhythms of change etc…).

How could an animated image talk about these reactions discussed in the project? 

At the beginning of the project I was working with animation and thought it would become the media of discussion. Partly because I did not approve so much of the necessary linearity of this approach and partly because I was – and still am – more drawn to static imagery and the observer’s capabilities to complement the notion of time I then settled on static representations. But I agree: retrospectively analysing how “change” and “reactions” are shown I would clearly challenge more their representation.

Did you ever think about developing this into a real-life scenario short animation speculation? 

That could be an interesting undertaking!

 

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