In the last few years we have been more and more willing to invite plants into our homes. We look at them differently than before, with more attention, admiration and respect. We sympathise with them, in a sense. Have we finally realized that their survival depends on us as much as ours depends on them?
One of the fundamental, most primal human needs is contact with nature. This may seem obvious, however, very few of us are aware that over 99% of the evolution of the human species took place in the natural environment, in surroundings unchanged by man. The world in which we live today, or in simple terms, the world after the industrial revolution, is a fairly 'new' place for the human species. Our bodies and minds evolved in a biocentric world, not a human-designed world.
In the works of contemporary designers we can see attempts to create objects that are aimed at re-establishing human contact with plants, and thus with nature. There are two tendencies that can be identified in them: thoughtful and romantic. The romantic path is dictated by a subcutaneous nostalgia for what the residents of urbanized areas are lacking. These projects urge us to slow down and pay attention to the undeniable beauty and intelligence of nature. On the other hand, explored by the thoughtful path, being considerate towards plants in our (immediate) environment is a reasonable step, a reaction to the state of the environment. Everything indicates that soon there will be a deficit of arable land, and weather conditions will not be suitable for traditional farming. Designers turn our attention to alternative ways of harvesting plant food or the possibility of bringing cultivation back to the cities. Its return is inevitable. The only question is, what form will they take?
Objects created in connection with these two tendencies meet and overlap in areas such as art, technology or food, forming a pattern of a new way of thinking about plants that accompany us. Plant T is a proposal of a new life plan. A plan that re-establishes solidarity between species.
domestic algae garden
Does having a garden require having land?
EcoLogicStudio is a London-based architecture and research studio that has been using the potential of algae in its projects since 2018. In collaboration with the Urban Morphogenesis Lab and Synthetic Landscapes Lab – University of Innsbruck, they established the research project Photo.Synth.Etica, coming up with, among other things, "urban curtains" made of bioplastic and filled with algae cultures. The curtains placed on the facades of buildings act as photobioreactors – they absorb carbon dioxide from the air, purifying it similar to trees.
In 2020, during a pandemic, the children of the studio's founders-Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto-spent time with their parents in their lab. In between " remote" lessons, they assisted with algae cultivation. Giacomo and Lulu's spontaneous interest inspired the architects to create a minimalistic kit for growing spirulina at home, which is how BioBombola was born. The project consists of containers for growing and harvesting spirulina, which can produce 7 grams of algae per day – an amount that fulfils the needs of a family of four. Harvesting spirulina is – thanks to the suspension system of the containers – easy and fun, which encourages children to participate in the whole process. Each BioBombola works like two small trees – it cleans the same amount of carbon dioxide from the air and produces life-giving oxygen. As ecoLogicStudio designers highlight, each of us can take care of the air quality. If you do not have a garden, nothing stands in the way of creating a "garden" of edible algae inside your house or apartment.
Botanicum: Welcome to the Museum
Where did plants come from?
Botanicum is a book-museum. Each of its chapters is a gallery devoted to a group of plants. Moving through the consecutive rooms, the reader gets familiar with primary plants, trees, palms and sagewoods, herbaceous plants, grasses, orchids and bromeliads, and plants with special adaptations.
The illustrations, drawn in the style of 19th-century engravings, act as infographics and, without words, communicate to the reader information about how each species functions. Thus, the book can be viewed, read, or read and viewed. The wonderfully edited descriptions provide an accessible way to learn about the plant world, and the illustrations are simply stunning. This combination makes Botanicum a book that will bring adventures to both adults and children.
Growing spirulina at home
On why algae are so important.
Spirulina is a single-celled, microscopic algae, commonly available in the dried-powder form, one of the so-called superfoods. It is the most concentrated source of nutrients known to scientists. Spirulina grows naturally in tropical and subtropical waters and is also commercially farmed. The algae lose a significant portion of their nutritional properties in the drying process, and their transport leaves a significant carbon footprint. This raises the question of whether it is possible to grow algae at home? It turns out that it is possible, and this type of cultivation is not the most complicated or challenging. In a nutshell, we can say that algae need warmth, sunlight and basic minerals – nutrient solution to grow (multiply).
The experience of handling live algae is moving. Growing them is somewhat like caring for houseplants, but this culture is different, even more, organic and primal. They have existed on earth for 3.5 billion years and, as a species, have probably survived longer than humans. At the festival, we present an experimental culture adapted for small-scale, home cultivation.
House in Tsukimiyama
Can a house and a garden be one?
The house in Tsukimiyama, located near Kobe, Japan, is an example of an unobvious combination of living space and garden space, usually perceived as a separate location for recreation or planting.
On the first floor of the house, there is a kitchen, a dining room and a living room, from which, after opening sliding doors, one can smoothly enter the inner courtyard. Apart from the plants, there are also a bathroom and a toilet located in a wooden "closet", which resembles an outhouse. The first floor of the house consists of bedrooms, a second toilet and a workspace, all connected by a wooden bridge that stretches over the garden.
From every room in the house, its inhabitants can escape to a half-open, half-closed space with a garden, gaining the possibility to connect with nature in an intimate atmosphere.
The design of the house was thought out in such a way that despite the application of glass on the roof, it doesn’t feel like a greenhouse, and the ventilation system allows the air to circulate quickly in the entire house.
Did you ever wonder how a plant works? How does it know in which direction to turn its branches and leaves to get more light? What might the world look like if plant intelligence and modern technology were combined?
Elowan is a plant-robot hybrid developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US. The project uses electrical signals created in the plant in response to changes in the environment. The plant recognizes temperature fluctuations, changes in sunlight, gravity or mechanical stimuli, and in response produces electrical signals, which are then transferred through tissues and organs. These signals are then received by electrodes attached to leaves, stems and soil, intensified and sent to a robot placed under the pot.
In an experiment showing how the hybrid works, light sources are placed on each side of it, activating in turns at different times. Elowan moves to where the conditions are optimal for it at that moment – it moves toward the light.
Elowan is only one of Harpreet Sareen's experimental projects, presenting the possibilities of extending nature. The author of the project questions the importance of new technologies as the only ones in which we should hope to survive the climate crisis. He indicates plants as already existing, most perfect systems, self-powering and regenerating. Perhaps it is from them that we should take an example, changing our way of thinking from anthropocentric to holistic, in which we are just one of many equal organisms inhabiting the planet.
As close as possible.
Markus Jeschaunig is an architect by education, but his projects go far beyond that. Inspired by the power and wisdom of nature, he works at the crossing of ecology, landscape design and new technologies, which he uses for activities in public spaces, among others. He named his studio "Agency in Biosphere" and describes himself as an agent in the biosphere.
Earth Love – a film made in 2020 is a project in which the architect does not create a new object or installation, but confronts himself and his body with nature as it is. He gets as close to the ground, water and plants as it is physically possible, turning around the anthropocentric order dominating the contemporary world.
farming project & robot
Farming for everyone.
FarmBot is a project dedicated to modern farming – urban, based on modern technologies and intended for users who often lack time. What is more, it is available unde an Open Source license – FarmBot can be purchased or built by the user based on detailed instructions available on the website. The creators of the project, Rick Carlino and Rory Aronson, aim to "create an open and accessible technology aiding everyone to grow food and to grow food for everyone.”
The project consists of a farming machine, software and a database. The whole thing makes it possible to grow edible plants in the garden or any indoor space. Using an app installed on a smartphone or computer, the user can control the robot and "task" it with sowing seeds, and then tending and watering the plants. Using FarmBot, you can get a sizable crop and start your urban farming adventure in a way that guarantees success and fun.
Green Love – Microgreens
How to successfully grow edible plants in a city center?
Green Love – Microleaves is an initiative that was founded in 2018 in Szczecin, Poland. The first tests took place at home, while today the company operates in the city center and offers more than 30 species of micro-leaves. The leaves go to individual customers, restaurants or catering companies.
Microgreens are simply young leaves of edible plants, usually grown hydroponically, without soil, on alternative growing media. This allows you to get a completely natural and healthy product without fertilizers or plant protection products. What seeds need to grow is water and light. Hydroponics can be grown vertically on shelves and uses 70-90% less water than traditional farming.
Green Love is an example of the return of growing edible plants to the city, which is becoming more and more popular. It may be hard to see microgreens as a potential basis for food, but they are certainly a tasty, healthy and sustainably produced ingredient for many dishes. It's worth the interest – this is the direction we should take to take care of both ourselves and the planet.
How to grow 20,000 kilograms of vegetables each year in the centre of a European metropolis.
In 2015, 33 metres below the streets of Clapham, London, Richard Ballard and Steven Dring brought to life a farm that produces pesticide-free vegetables and herbs in an environmentally friendly way. While it sounds like an unrealistic fantasy, it happened in real life and, in a short time, evolved into a prospering business with potential for growth.
The phenomenon of the venture, its founders, attribute in large part to the choice of its location. Growing Underground is housed in an air raid shelter, a remnant of the Second World War, which has been a wasteland for years.
Plants on the farm are grown hydroponically and despite occupying an area of just 550 square metres, they supply local restaurants as well as supermarket chains such as Marks & Spencer and Waitrose.
Grün | green
Private natural monuments. What do the trees remember?
In the Grün|Green project, trees and urban flora in general, are perceived as silent observers of the stories that take place in their surroundings. The large trees growing in the city center have witnessed the events of the last few hundred years, and to the transformation of the German Breslau into Wroclaw. As opposed to architecture or statues, the plants, free of any political connotations, have survived to this day without bothering anyone.
Karolina Grzywnowicz, within the framework of the "City of the Future – Wrocław Laboratory" program (Wro Art Center), has researched stories and tales of Wrocław residents connected with the local trees. A website was launched – a collection of memories and anecdotes with Wrocław trees in the background, to which everyone can add their own story. The project, curated by Magdalena Kreis, continues to function in virtual space and is growing with new, often very personal stories. The status of a private, individual monument of nature may be given to a chosen plant by anyone who feels like it.
About the flowers that will save us.
Hello flower is a speculative vision of how people will eat in the future – a multi-layered project developed by Barbara Stelmachowska as part of her doctoral studies. Ewa Wrembel, a photographer invited to cooperate, captured an image of people whose only food is flowers, grown in a hydroponic method at home.
Photographs from the series are an introduction to the project, which is still developing. hello flower is a nostalgic and romantic vision of the future, in which we cherish the image of the world from the memories of our ancestors. Flower meals are a sort of spiritual experience, and the crops we grow ourselves are treated with care and a kind of honor – we owe them life.
IKERU I IKEBANA
flower arranging vessel
On being careful of every branch, stick and flower.
Produced by Fritz Hansen, Spanish designer Jaimie Hayon's designs are vessels inspired by the Japanese art of Ikebana that allows you to appreciate each branch, leaf or flower that creates a bouquet.
Unlike the classic vase, where only the upper, most decorative part of the plant is exposed, in this case, everything is revealed. The process of arranging flowers is prolonged, and the vessel is designed to give the user the possibility of creating various compositions.
The vessels, made from a combination of glass and metal elements, are cold and minimalistic in their character. They perfectly expose the flowers, while contrasting with their delicacy and ephemeral nature. According to the Japanese tradition, the art of flower arranging is not only about reaching the goal of beautiful composition, but above all, it is about entering the state of meditation on the natural cycle of life, its fragility and transience.
limitedFern & limitedGrasses
project and products
What does the natural environment look like if a man treated its creatures as unique, hard-to-find pieces from a limited luxury product collection?
Since 2008, a design duo from Austria has been working on a multi-layered project that aims to change the way people think about nature around them. realLimited takes up the problem of endangered species of Austrian flora and fauna. For several years, the artists have been working according to a set formula. In cooperation with experts, they define the number in which a chosen species exists in the country and then create an equal number of functional products corresponding to it. Each piece is numbered, and 10% of the profits from sales are donated to wildlife conservation.
limitedFern is a vase inspired by the endangered fern species Notholaena marantae, of which there is only 200 present in Austria. Notholaena marantae is a highly specialized organism that grows on serpentine rocks, containing large amounts of heavy metals that are toxic for most plants.
Katharina Mischer and Thomas Traxler have drawn attention to this species by designing a porcelain two-piece vase, which refers to the fern's natural habitat. The symbolic bronze leaves of the plant are placed between the porcelain "stones".
The limitedGrasses metal table, on the other hand, represents the Agropyron cristatum species. The at first sight, ordinary tall grass also seems to be an endangered plant. Five tables have been produced, each of which is "inhabited" by around 40 blades of grass, which corresponds to the number of species found in Austria.
What are the needs of plants that do not grow in soil?
The designers from Toczona studio (Wrocław) integrate traditional techniques – such as pottery (wheel throwing), which is the core of their practice – with the observation of contemporary trends. The Oplątwy project is a series of porcelain vessels – homes for entanglements, i.e. plants that do not need the classic, dry ground. In nature, entanglements attach themselves to bark, branches of trees or rocks, but they do not parasitize. They absorb water from the air with the help of their leaves.Designed and made in an entirely artisanal way, the vessels consist of two porcelain cast elements. One holds the plant, and the other is a kind of display and stores water while spraying the plant. The object is designed to be hanged on a line, thanks to which it interestingly recreates the form in which we can meet the plant in its natural environment.
Oasis No. 8
Do bananas grow in a supermarket?
Oasis no.8 is an installation created in 2015 in the center of the Austrian city of Graz. Situated in an urban wasteland, the greenhouse is heated with warm air – energy wastes from refrigeration units from the neighbouring bakery and pizzeria. It creates a tropical microclimate inside the plastic bubble, and in winter the temperature never drops below 15 degrees Celsius. This makes it possible to grow bananas, papayas and pineapples.
The project by Markus Jeschaunig is a visually intriguing intervention into the historical buildings of Graz, addressing the problem of energy management in cities in the context of climate catastrophe. The architect draws attention to the enormous amounts of energy generated in urban areas, which can be stored and reused, for example for food production. It is no coincidence that bananas are grown in Oasis No.8. Transporting this popular fruit to Europe generates a carbon footprint that we tend to forget about.
Markus Jeschaunig asks for a revolution in the current system, a revision of the way we think about cities and their resources
Reversed volumes are a series of plates made of synthetic resin. The dents in the dishes, which give them functionality, were made by imprinting the three leaves of popular houseplants – ficus, monstera and dieffenbachia. The plates are produced by hand in a semi-industrial process, which allows for slight colour variations within a single series.
The form of the objects is geometric and does not copy the leaves, which made it possible to create an honest expression, figurative, but not cheesy product referring to nature.
Have you ever taken a close look at your houseplants? The beauty of plant care.
The Phytophiler is a collection of pots and functional accessories that encourage you to interact with your houseplants with greater attention and sensitivity than before. Magnifying glasses and mirrors allow you to take a closer look at your plants, to observe their growth and development. They inspire us to reflect on their fragility, but also to see their wisdom.
Livia Rosii and Giancula Giabardo propose that the plants around us should not be treated as objects or decorations, but as living and feeling beings that accompany us. That is why one of the accessories is a set of stretched strings mounted on a pot, on which you can play for a plant as on a string instrument. In this way, the designers refer to theories concerning the beneficial effect of sounds of a certain frequency on the growth of plants. These concepts are still being researched, but for years they have been a source of inspiration for artists – already in 1976 an album with music for plants "Mother Earth's Plantasia" by M. Garson was released, while in 2011 the Royal Symphony Orchestra in London played a concert for 100 various species of flora.
Changing the way we think about houseplants may be the first step to changing the way we think about plants in our environment
In the forest
book (pop up)
How would the world look like without forests?
In the Forest is a three-dimensional story about the beauty and harmony of nature, and how easily it can be destroyed by irresponsible human actions. On the following pages we observe the transformation of the forest from a peaceful place that is full of life into a saddening, post-war landscape.
The book is a great excuse to talk to children about the need to care for the environment. As you can easily see by comparing the pages showing the forest before and after the attack of devastating machinery, the world is definitely a better place when nature is in charge.
"There is nothing left, no trace of life:
the forest and the sloth are gone.
Here comes a man. Like you, he longs for the singing of birds,
the sight of wild animals, the leaves of the trees
rustling in the wind. So he decides
to plant a new forest. He works hard
to heal the crippled earth."
The story ends happily and the finale of the dramatic story is the rebirth of the forest. It is worth remembering, however, that while possible,it takes time and hard work.
artistic action, performance, photography, book
To whom do trees belong?
Cecylia Malik has climbed one tree every day for 365 days since September 25th, 2009. The location was carefully chosen by the artist, her outfit was selected to fit the tree. Each of the attempts was photographed, and the 365 photos forming both a documentation and a kind of diary of that period were collected in a publication and published by the Bęc Zmiana Publishing House.
The artist's action, inspired by Italo Calvino's novel "The Baron of the Wood", is full of childish stubbornness and testing the limits of what can and cannot be done. It also reflects the position of a modern man living in a large agglomeration, for whom the only way to experience contact with nature is to climb a tree. Cecylia Malik tells us: "Although I live in a big city, by climbing a few meters up I am moved to another world".
For many years now designing has been perceived not only as creating objects, but also as establishing projects, processes or behaviours. Cecylia Malik's work can be treated as a proposal for a DIY project. Not necessarily in literal terms, but certainly as an encouragement to listen to such primal needs as fulfilling contact with nature. Feel like climbing a tree? Then just climb it.