Metabolicity is a forward-looking project that attempts to deal with the growing dominance of urban occupancy worldwide. If the majority of the human population is going to live in cities, then the locus of food-growing may need to shift partially to the cities, as well.
The project is not confined to a single solution. It is a multi-pronged investigation of urban people and environments, and their relation to agriculture.
One of its expressions is a vertical garden concept facilitated by structures made of woven, 1-millimeter thick FRP rods. The lightweight architectural structures support plants, and irrigation. They include organic dye-sensitized solar cells made from the dye of berries, so both the plants and the canopy are harvesting solar energy, in different ways. The structures can be made free-standing, or attached to the sides of buildings. They take good advantage of the strength-to-weight ratio of FRP.
The project, designed by Rachel Wingfield and Mathias Gmachl of Studio Loop.pH, is based at Central Saint Martins, London and funded by the Audi Design Foundation.
This project makes one ponder the relationship of innovative ideas and innovative materials. After all, the concept of a growing structure is not new. Anyone who’s ever seen (or grown) string beans on a series of vertical stakes interconnected by horizontal wires knows the concept. The innovation here is is making the structure – and the ecosystem it establishes – self supporting (in several senses).
Do innovative materials inspire innovative thinking, or merely “answer the call” providing a solution once the challenge is defined? Does a new idea require a solution, or at least the glimmer of a solution, in order to be allowed to flower and grow? Is the idea ever complete until the solution is applied? Undoubtedly, there are many shades and gradations in the answers to these questions, different for different designers. In fact, it is the lack of definitive answers that makes the questions worth asking.
From the Loop:pH Flickr site:
MetaboliCity is the name for a vision of a city that metabolises its resources and waste to supply its inhabitants with all the nourishment they need and more.
As a participatory design research project it explores how designers can intervene sensitively within local urban food growing cultures by providing a design thinking and crafting that may help to sustain these initiatives and catalyse larger positive changes in the surrounding environment.
Images copyright Studio Loop:pH