This self-sustaining mini-ecosystem is made by a designer who wants to create habitable structures that are also themselves alive.
There's been a lot of noise made in recent years about how the future of design and architecture will be downloadable and automated. But the flip side to this trend would be creating buildings that are 'alive' in the sense that they are either grown with living plants or fungi, or play host to mini-ecosystems -- with the hope of making our cities more livable, and literally and functionally more 'green' and sustainable.
Danish designer Simon Hjermind Jensen of SHJWORK (previously) fits into the latter category, creating works that bridge the gap between urban spaces and the plant world. His latest installation, dubbed Biotope, is self-sustaining mini-greenhouse that includes a variety of plants and a wooden apiary, all wrapped in a 4-millimetre-thick polycarbonate shell, set on a concrete bowl that acts as a rainwater collector.
Located in the middle of a busy, "exposed and harsh" intersection in Copenhagen, right beside a three-lane road and a train station, it's not exactly the most hospitable place for greenery to grow. However, that is the point of this three-year experiment, which will see this ecosystem hopefully thrive without any human interference whatsoever.
Bees, which have access to the interior via their beehive structure, will help to pollinate the plants. Rainwater is collected at the base of the bowl and enters into the pod's interior via holes at the bottom of the shell. There are over 60 types of seeds that have been planted in the soil, which will be left to sprout on their own. The rim of the concrete bowl also acts as a bench for passerby to sit upon and peer into this urban greenhouse, which measures 7 metres long, 4 metres wide and 3 metres tall (23 x 13 x 9.8 feet).
Designed and fabricated using digital fabrication techniques, the idea was to have this blob-like shape mimic that of a living organism, perhaps arousing feelings of empathy and belonging in us humans. But there's also a more vital issue at stake, says Hjermind Jensen:
Our climate will change. And maybe we will integrate plants and biological microcosms in our future dwellings and cities. Most likely there will be more harsh and exposed environment on our planet. And we ask ourselves if a solution will be to create micro climates where we - like the bees in this project - have our homes connected to and intertwined with? [..] Will we be able to create living biological structures with architectural and inhabitable qualities in a distant future? In a symbiotic way where our climate and environment can gain from our living conditions?
As our global climate continues to undergo massive changes, we need to ask how our buildings can adapt and become more resilient in the long run. Might they shift toward a more generative kind of building, where living plants are part of the building process, or perhaps a hybrid of both plant and machine? To see more, visit SHJWORK.