Urban gardening with EarthBox

I don’t mean to sound like a entrepreneur pitching their product to investors in the Dragons Den, but the Earthbox is the ultimate gardening system. As a designer, I’ve never had a green thumb but these planters really make me feel like an urban farmer. Currently, we are using this revolutionary product on two of our rooftops and as a result, our yield is growing at a rapid pace. I thought it would interesting to take some time to highlight why this system is so innovative.

Since 1994, a decade of scientific research has gone into pioneering the Earthbox. Developed by commercial farmers, the maintenance-free, award-winning structure, controls soil conditions, eliminates guesswork and makes planting a breeze. Where the innovation comes into play is that the fertilizer remains on the top of the soil and the water comes from the bottom of the unit. While this may seem unusual, inventor, Blake Whisenant claims that this system “provides the best possible growing environment for plants…”

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ChalkFest 2014

On a recent trip to Buffalo, a place mostly associated with shopping than art, I stumbled upon a street festival dedicated to chalk. A local woman pointed me in the direction and told me that it was an opportunity for inner city kids to show off their artistic skills.

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Upon further research, I learned that it was the third year the 500 Block Association of Main Street has initiated in downtown Buffalo entitled ChalkFest. As a way to encourage the revitalization of the city’s Main Streets, the festival brings the community together, outside, enjoying and decorating the core.

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This year’s benefactor of the 500 Block Association is Theatre of Youth Company Inc. (TOY), a non-profit professional theatre company dedicated to the enhancement of life in the community through the enrichment, education and entertainment of young audiences. Their mission is to engage and challenge young audiences with theatre that is artistically exciting, in a form and style that is socially relevant.

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Artists of all ages were encouraged to reserve a 5′x5′ square for their chalk drawing. As a way to instill and nurture an appreciation of live theatre, TOY used its 2014 opening season of Seussical to drive the content for the street artists. At the end of the 2-day event all drawings would be judged with winners awarded top prize.

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I mostly enjoyed discovering the many possibilities that the artists came up with regarding Dr. Seuss. Images of  ‘The cat in the Hat’ and ‘Horton Hears a Who’ flooded the streets with colourful rhymes and curious minds.

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Some drawings even seems to jump out of the concrete and walk among the street. It was a pleasant surprise for a Saturday stroll in Buffalo.

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Stretch Your Limits

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What does a flea market, concert stage and yoga class have in common? Well, they showcase the diversity of activities that can happen on a single site with the right level of imagination and community engagement.
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On the last Sunday in September, TAS partnered with Breath Yoga StudioBest Health MagazineSmart Water and DUKE Condos to have a mass yoga session on the DUKE Condos future build site. Flooring was laid down and music courtesy of Morgan Doctor was pumping throughout the neighbourhood as the Yogis enter the site for Stretch your Limits.

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Lead by David Good the session focused on foundation and balance to reflect us as city builders. Ranging in all ages, 60 individuals spread their mats and did their best warrior pose on an empty site. Despite the fact that it was late September, the day was so beautiful that we joked we should have all put sunscreen on to protect us from the rays. After the event the participants where invited to a sneak peak at our DUKE Condos sales centre (now open to the public) to pick up a complimentary sway bag.

House in a Warehouse

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‘House Within a Warehouse’ is a new dwelling in an old warehouse shell designed to be a garden oasis. Designed by Splinter Society, the compact urban residence, combines green spaces and sustainable living. The concept involved creating a layered system of screens and frames that split the site and lift the living spaces of the house, establishing views to green spaces and gardens below.

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The site is situated on a 200m2 landlocked warehouse, and entered via a new residential development. Its a dense inner urban setting, where the design solution allows the notion of ‘interior’ to extend beyond the infill, to the periphery of the warehouse walls, inviting the outside in. The interior is a reassembly of parts from the existing warehouse, creating an aesthetic of texture and warmth which references the property’s historical context.

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This project has created a green, safe, low toxic environment for the client. It provides great entertainment spaces in a small building footprint, by opening up onto outdoor spaces at every level. Clever zoning and the planning of living spaces on the first floor, creating an under-croft space at ground floor means the family is able to live casually     with toys and bikes for kids and adults in the ground level garden, whilst maintaining tidy living spaces for entertaining above.

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The result is a house with 3 bedrooms, 2 living spaces and a study, split across three levels. The internal floor area is 195m2, with 100m2 of outdoor built areas. Semi open plan living spaces are contained on the first floor, where they are elevated for views over boundary walls opening onto outdoor spaces, whilst maintaining privacy from neighbours. The zoning and layering of spaces assists in thermal performance,  thereby satisfying the clients desire for a low energy house.

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The built form is essentially two forms sitting inside the existing saw tooth shell, parted by green steel screens to moderate the sun and views, both internally and externally. This new form step back over three levels of built form, using the existing three storey wall to the south as one of its skins, for functional, aesthetic and sustainable qualities. This stepping form creates four levels of green space, with roofs of spaces below forming  gardens for both thermal performance and the inclusion of greenery. Main living spaces are placed on level 1, capturing views, sun and neighbouring greenery.

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