Urban agriculture is being technologically liberated from an utopian vision, opening the horizons of contemporary design research at an accelerated pace. The creation of micro-farms is one of the most fascinating themes that was once visible, unfortunately, only virtually in exquisite video-graphic simulations — from demographics to Facebook farms. Today, however, technological opportunities are rendering their implementation and standardization concrete. The micro-farm on display at ENSCI, one of the most prestigious design schools in Paris, is the third and first truly working farm.
Built in collaboration with the masters program in creation and technology at ENSCI in Paris by pioneer of urban agriculture Damien Chivialle, the micro-farm takes on a radical stance, since it is accompanied by a comprehensive package of initiatives concerning the ecological use of resources in the region of Paris. Not only are we theoretically able to redesign part of the use of metropolitan space, opening urbanization to the cultivation of food resources, but we can even provide the necessary energy to carry out projects within the growth cycle.
The feasibility of these ideas is demonstrated in an accessible greenhouse/container created by Chivialle. Thanks to a closed symbiotic aquaculture circuit that mixes animal (fish) and plant (plants and vegetables) elements, it can transform the waste elements produced by this closed-circuit system into fertilizer. In this exhibition, the construction is reminiscent of the urban gardens at the dawn of industrial civilization, but it can obtain good results within a much more limited area. Since 2010, two existing farms, in Zurich and Berlin, have already created opportunities to revitalize the fabric of existing communities in terms of recycling and production.
The educational goal of these structures is extremely important in reminding our consumer society — through the not-only-metaphorical use of symbiotic aquaculture and hydroponics — that nothing is really lost in nature but that waste becomes energy and nourishment. Certainly, the structures are fragile and even totemic when installed inside containers — objects that are ironically symbols of mobility — and built with other industrial elements that are also stereotypes of the "prefab" culture that renegotiates space for nature in the city.
The confines between design and architecture, in the urgency of integrating economic and industrial processes, abandons utopia and materializes in new concerns for sustainable development. The contents of this exhibit reveal a new cycle of work centered upon issues of ecological sustainability that is developing in the globalized world. Topics such as food production in the urban context, the local distribution of food to eliminate CO2 emissions or the production of local energy are just some of the projects produced by ENSCI in partnership with French industry. The entire exhibit is really a focus on these aspects, which hybridize different disciplines. On 26 April, a roundtable offers an opportunity to take stock of these urban agriculture initiatives which are intensifying in cities around the world.
Through 4 May 2012