Piuarch’s innovative urban gardening kit
Piuarch’s innovative urban gardening kit
The Milan-based studio Piuarch is switching from green roofs to a multi-purpose module for city dwellers that offers plants, work space and wellness in one
Milan has long been a city of secret gardens. In this dense, industrial grande dame of a metropolis made up of large apartment blocks and walled palaces, one of the great joys of wandering aimlessly is randomly discovering the planted clearings and courtyards that offer a break from its fictional landscape. Still, many of these green patches remained private and closed to most until recently, when more parks and community vegetable gardens slowly emerged. Milan Green Week 2019 and local organizations such as Clever Cities and RoofMatters have helped promote sustainable practices in the city, including an urban garden and green roof culture.
The architectural office Piuarch from Brera has been managing its own planted roof called Garden Among the Courtyards since 2015 – for more quality of life, well-being and social relationships for both employees and the neighborhood. Directors Germán Fuenmayor, Gino Garbellini, Monica Tricario and Francesco Fresa believe that while the design community is aware and engaged in dialogue about creating more green spaces in their city, there is still much to be done. “It’s not just about urban planning, but also about undermining social, cultural and educational policies in the city and the people,” says Fresa.
Your re-made answer? A survival kit for urban gardeners, conceived as a design object that combines functionality and aesthetics while providing a much needed horticultural solution for city dwellers without access to green spaces. The aim is to develop “a modular urban agriculture totem for people living in cities,” explains Fresa. “The module combines several functions and becomes a kind of multitool, a place to read, work, meditate, listen to music and train.”
Piuarch has developed a blueprint for urban gardeners that includes several functions. Solar power and charging station mix with the planting area in the fold-out module
It is no stranger to practice to research the ecological and social aspects of architecture. “The term sustainability has many different meanings for us, not only in relation to energy and environmental protection, but also in relation to the landscape and social aspects,” says Fresa. “That’s why cities have lost their sense of place in their attempt to be smarter than ever. You lose touch with both the human and the natural dimension. ‘
The team has been involved in a variety of projects related to urban agriculture and sustainable food production. Examples are the vegetable garden on your own green roof, designed as an ecosystem that promotes biodiversity, improves the food supply chain and guarantees quality products; Espaço, a 2018 installation in São Paulo that aims to restore neglected urban areas and empower the local community, especially children, and involve them in game training and food gardening activities; and Synergy Gardens, a 2018 network of edible urban gardens on the rooftops of Chicago Public Schools in what are known as “food deserts,” low-income neighborhoods with limited access to nutritious food. For Piuarch, this re-made project is part of a broader discourse about redesigning cities and the vision of a more sustainable future for everyone.
“The kit aims to create a homely Eden, to grow plants and bring nature back into people’s lives, as well as care for wellbeing and promote healthy and enriching activities in a small space. It’s kind of a multi-purpose closet, ”says Fresa. “While we can all agree on the benefits of outdoor activities and eating healthy organic foods, we also know that not everyone who lives in big cities can do this on a daily basis. It can be a matter of time, space, money or the recent pandemic. “
While the project was being developed prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, the Milan-based team’s recent experience with the lockdown has given new meaning and meaning to the concept – a product designed to improve living in a small space. “It can be a powerful tool,” says Fresa.
The kit is a simple, totem-like piece of furniture that unfolds into a small garden, complete with hydroponic system and solar panels, table, seating, phone charger, sound amplifier and yoga mat station. Inspiration came from multifunctional objects that can be transformed for a range of uses, and even from the efficiency of the old school one-man band. The team is looking for the right production partner and says options like recyclable bio-composites or wood or even renewable, smart packaging materials are interesting.
“Everyone should have a roof garden, everyone should be able to enjoy the advantages of urban agriculture,” concluded Fresa. “It’s challenging, enjoyable and helps raise awareness about food and ecological choices.” §