Located in a public park, Mutualism is a proposed passive water filtration system serving as a rest area for park visitors and bikers along the South Platte River. The structure utilizes riparian plant life to remove impurities from the water in a central reed bed, which doubles as spawning grounds for local wildlife. The premise of Mutualism, is that humanity does not need to fight the few species that have learned to thrive in our presence. Crows are one of those species which have not only adapted to human intervention but have learned to thrive because of it. Studies have also shown that crows are capable of being trained to retrieve certain objects when reinforced with a treat. The underlying program of Mutualism monopolizes off of this characteristic by training the crows to seek out and collect refuse and litter from park spaces in the urban environment. To reinforce this work, the crows will be rewarded with seed treats comprised of native, threatened and endangered plant species local to the area in which the crows are nested. To accommodate for the living quarters of the crows, a nesting wall is applied to the structure, mimicking the functionality of a coniferous tree (the crow's preferred nesting place) by being dense on the exterior but opening up on the interior to create a protected roost. Mutualism redefines what a public space can be, not solely a place for the human public to rest, and enjoy the scene, but wildlife as well.
The overall concept of Mutualism is to challenge our predefined notion of what park spaces are. People visit parks to connect with nature, yet we simultaneous design these public spaces to obtain groomed lawns, and minimal native wildlife. Does it not make more sense to harness the native beauty of our cohabitants of the environment? Creating spaces where humans can visually connect with the preexisting landscape in their cities will promote awareness of our impact on the environment, mixing pleasure with education. The simplicity of concepts such as Mutualism, is that we aren't challenging nature to submit to what we want it to be, but rather we are utilizing the systems and creatures already established, merely directing them towards a purpose that we too may benefit. By providing habitat and training, we can raise a fleet of trash collectors, spreading seeds of our precious plant life as they work. We can harness the river into a wetland offering visual appeal and a resting place for aquatic wildlife to replenish its populations, while simultaneously purifying the water. Nature has given us the tools, it is time we start using them as intended.
In an age where resource management practices have spread disparity, pollution and a capitalist system in which lack of funds threatens one's access to food, it is our responsibility to begin repairing the system. Assymil8 is a closed loop resource management concept, in which neighborhood work collectively to produce food, fuel and electricity. Inspired by mycellium, Assymil8 captures the idea of decomposition, and re-purposing of decaying resources in nature. Reliant on the cooperation of nearby residents, this system utilizes yard supported agriculture to produce an extensive supply of biomass for cellulosic ethanol production in the facility underground. Participants in the system receive seeds for heirloom crops provided by the public polyculture greenhouse structure atop the building. The waste of these crops are then retrieved by trucks and delivered to the decomposition facility, producing lignin to fuel boilers to speed the fermentation process, digestate (a nitrogen rich compost equivalent) and cellulosic ethanol. Incorporated into the energy production side of the project, BLOOM energy servers consume the ethanol to generate electricity, emitting pure water vapor as result. A rebate would be offered to citizens participating in the process towards electric costs, as well as a supply of digestate to replenish the soils in their yard supported agriculture. Assymil8 suggests a resource management and production ideal in which communities work together, supplying themselves with food, electricity and fuel. Let us consider the effects this would have on the environment, society and quality of life in areas that would adopt such a system. Utopia comes to mind, albeit a realistic and achievable one. All we need to achieve this Eden is to Assymil8.
Historically, the Grange was a place where producers would meet, collaborate, and play a role in how their crops would be sent to market. This cooperative concept has been re-emerging within the new homesteaders movement showing up all over the nation. Young agriculturalists, permaculturalists and economists are working together to reshape our food system to eliminate disparity and degradation of the environment. But what of our urban areas? We have erected a culture reliant on grocery stores which spawn food waste and inefficiencies. Imagine, for a moment, if the grocery stores contained their own growing facilities supplying the store with year round produce, inverse of seasonality to offer competitive pricing absent costs associated with transport and fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. By emulating concepts like Polydome, and existing business formats like Wal-Mart, The Grange is a potential solution to this dilemma. Structured as a warehouse building, storing high volumes of goods as a big box store would, The Grange would be a supplier of nutritious, fresh foods at affordable rates. How you might ask? By replacing the warehouse with a massive greenhouse structure containing an integrated polyculture, yielding a variety of fruits and vegetables that replenish the soils as they grow. Branching off of the methods of no-till agriculture, and the practice of permaculture, The Grange would challenge our established norm of sourcing foods from around the world. You want strawberries in winter, find a way to grow them in winter rather than expending fossil fuels to ship them from a marginalized developing country. By growing these foods within a structure, mitigation of chemical use is a natural side effect. Imagine a store vending organic produce, year round, shattering red-lined areas that super markets chose not to establish business in. Thanks to The Grange, food can be affordable and accessible to any neighborhood regardless of economic standing of its inhabitants. The Grange is a concept driven by the need to connect consumers with producers, foster awareness of economic disparity, and encourage agrarian urbanism.