Winter is finally here! While we wait for a new growing season, mosses, lichens, calluna and potted conifers can bring natural warmth to your patio or balcony. Happy holidays!
This apartment building in Helsinki beautifully changes color with the seasons, thanks to the virginia creeper plant that grows on the south facade. In the summer the building is covered with lush green leaves and in the fall the color changes to screaming red. In the winter the actual beige facade shows through since the leaves have fallen off. This colourful play affects the atmosphere of the whole area in a properly biophilic manner!
The excellent documentary series Asfalttiviidakot (Asphalt Jungles) by the director Petteri Saario & DocArt are now available as a free stream at Yle Areena (Finnish only). Be sure to watch all episodes as they all have different perspectives to urban nature!
”We drink killed water and eat killed food, we breath urban killed air and we touch killed asphalt and concrete.” – Tari Haahtela, award winning allergy researched, professor emeritus
The Diller Scofidio + Renfro design for the new Zaryadye Park in Moscow aims to bring tundra, forest, steppe and wetlands to the city. This is done by creating artificial microclimates for each landscape topology. Wind, temperature and daylight are regulated in order to create zones for these microclimates.
The designers also talk about ”wild urbanism” which aims to create a ”raw interface between buildings and landscape”. The park has a paving system that gradually changes between completely paved and completely natural. Blurring the boundaries of wild and tamed, built and natural, is certainly an intriguing notion. It will be very interesting see the park and its different layers in action when the construction is completed later this year.
The fall has arrived here in Finland and the outdoor growing season is almost over. Now it’s a good time to start new experiments with indoor plants.
We built a small glass jar moss terrarium by collecting a couple of small moss patches. We also placed a Tillandsia epiphyte in another small jar, no soil needed. It will be interesting to see if and how these will survive through the winter.
The environmental organization Dodo has built an interesting urban farming laboratory called Turntable on top of an old train turntable in Pasila, Helsinki. The Turntable has a greenhouse, an urban farm, a cafe and even a bouldering wall. The Turntable hosts all sorts of open events from urban farming workshops to punk concerts. Places like this really make cities worth living in. Let’s hope the city is clever enough to not destroy it when central Pasila is redeveloped in the near future.
At this year’s Helsinki Design Week we stumbled into this mesmerizingly green urban hideaway. The Growroom is designed by SPACE 10 and architects Sine Lindholm and Mads-Ulrik Husum. The structure of the Growroom consists of 17 sheets of plywood that are CNC-cut to form and connected by wood joints and metal screws. On top of this wooden structure you can start your urban farm. The Growroom can also be used as an urban meeting place. And the best part is that since the design is open source, you can easily build one yourself by following these instructions.
The installation and its luscious plants certainly brought a fresh breath of life to the sealed stone & concrete street of Keskuskatu. It was really nice to sit and relax for a while surrounded by all the beautiful plants. It would be nice to see biopods like this invading the whole city!
Drop by Drop is a fascinating plant based water filtration system by Pratik Ghosh. The proof of concept can filtrate a glass of water in 12 hours. The biology and the scalability prospects of this ”mini biosphere” are very interesting. Be sure to check out the more detailed project description on the Kikando web page.
Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden in Helsinki has a wonderful Sensory Garden that is well worth a visit. The garden features a wealth of plants you can look at, smell, touch and taste. And the best thing is, it’s free for everyone!
There are specific zones for each sense, for instance in touch zone you have a wide range of plants from velvety soft lamb’s ear to pointy junipers. There’s even a bare foot path to tickle your toes and a rock path to practice your balance. And although there was no zone for hearing, you could certainly enjoy the sound of dozens of bumblebees and flies buzzing around.
Places like this are really essential in urban areas where people don’t have many places for interacting with the nature. Visiting a garden like this is relaxing, educational and most of all, a lot of fun!
Melissa Breyer of Treehugger writes about the importance of urban trees based on a new study published in the e-journal Ecological Modelling. The study found that the urban trees provide about $500 million worth of services a year in each megacity studied.
Dancing Orchards moving through an alley in Jätkäsaari, Helsinki.
The high tech CityTree by Green City Solutions cleans up air as effectively as 275 trees. The moss in the installation filters city air of pollutants like nitrogen oxide, ozone and particulate matter. And behind the living layer there’s a high-tech, solar powered control and metering system. Nothing will replace the biosphere of real trees, but since the CityTree needs only 1% of the space the 275 trees would take, it’s certainly a welcome addition to dense cities.