Those of us who grow stuff in cold climates are probably familiar with the coldframe, a portable, mini-greenhouse box that you can build yourself out of reclaimed materials. Usually made out of old double-paned windowframes, coldframes help to protect plants from frost while extending the growing season. But what about an electricity-free greenhouse made entirely out of coldframes? That's what American architectural designer and artist Jenny Sabin recently built for the garden at the American Philosophical Society Museum: an array of colorful coldframes stacked in a futuristic, skeletal form.
Part heat-less greenhouse, part avant-garde gazebo, Sabin's 52-foot long structure, titled "Greenhouse and Cabinet of Future Fossils," uses recycled materials that are pre-fabricated locally in Philadelphia and put together in the museum garden. The CNC-cut high-density recyclable polyethylene sheets form the sinuous skeleton upon which 110 modular coldframes sit, each containing edible or ornamental plants in soil, which can be unclipped and moved according to the needs of the plants.
The polyethylene structural ribs are reinforced by a cross-bracing system made out of recycled plastic lumber boards which are bolted together, allowing for ease of assembly and transportation.
Not only can food be grown, but the structure itself invites visitors to sit and take part in the growth process. There's the "fossil cabinet" component too, executed as 3D-printed and molded artifacts that are contained in some of the coldframes. Sabin explains:
The “Cabinet of Future Fossils” inside the Greenhouse displays digitally produced ceramic art objects that are inspired by forms in nature. But they are not quite recognizable. Like scientists perplexed by the fossil bones of animals who lived a long time ago, [she] wryly imagines a future era when people might be equally puzzled by these curious “fossil” remnants of the computer age.
It's an interesting proposal for the evolution of the greenhouse. By re-organizing and rethinking the components needed for a greenhouse, we can reduce energy requirements, while also incorporating digital tools to create a modular system of coldframes, taking it from DIY to something of a larger scale. The result: the basis for a heat-less greenhouse system that could be easily reproduced for better winter gardening -- or thought-provoking urban art -- in our cities.
See more of Sabin's work on her website.