The quarantine lockdown in the past three months has forced everyone to stay home to stay safe. This is fine for most people who have residences with large gardens to provide relief. The reality for most, however, is that of cramped lots, with little or no open space, or in condominiums with small balconies or a few sad windows from which to view the world and get some sun and fresh air.
The other reality was that of difficult access to fresh food.
Those of us in the design world can’t help but dream up what a new normal could be. This is in terms of how we could better shape our cities, our landscapes, and our homes to help sustain our physical needs, as well as keep us sane.
One of the organizations that rallied its members to think about the future was my own, the Philippine Association of Landscape Architects. PALA is the association’s acronym, very apt because it asked its members to creatively dig down deep to address some of the problems of living in a future that should be pandemic proof.
Last April, being World Landscape Month, PALA called on its members to a design challenge, a competition to come up with innovative landscape solutions to issues of food security and applicable to our shared reality of limited spaces. It asked for a way for Filipino households to produce food and provide greenery in an area that would take just one square meter!
The competition generated a dozen fascinating solutions from individual members or firms practicing landscape architecture. We feature a number of them here:
1. KAMBIYO Mobile Landscape System by Luis Balbino Santos. It addresses the challenges of food, power and mobility by incorporating a cart with a bicycle. The expandable cart houses a composting bin too. The bicycle can also generate electricity.
2. STACKS by Stephanie Maxine V. Legaspi of the firm Plontur. This a plug-and-play system using interlocking cubes. The system is modular and expandable, which makes it suitable for condos.
3. GRANJA DENTRO by Triune Landscape Architects. The name is from the Spanish word meaning “indoor farm” and the design focuses on providing light and water, which are essential for plant growth. It uses shelf framing, marine plywood, and recycled plastic bottles. An embedded fish tank circulates water from top to bottom.
4. G.I.Y. (Grow Your Own) Column by PGAA Creative Design (full-disclosure: this is my firm but I stayed away from the competition, encouraging our younger designers to submit their own design). This is a mobile planter and compost pit based on a round footprint. Being on lockable casters, the column works in tight spaces like narrow condo balconies. You can easily rotate the column so plants get even sun and harvesting from all sides is facilitated.
5. QUAMALIG also by Triune Landscape Architects. This is a compact tower farm that takes inspiration from a bahay kubo’s kamalig. The bamboo frame houses an integrated rainwater irrigation system, a hydroponic system and six square meters of productive area.
6. GARDEN TO KITCHEN by Sandino M. Guinto and Joshua B. Guinto of Bahay Teknik. This is based on permaculture, Black Soldier Fly (BSF) composting system, harvesting rainwater from your roof. Recycled PET bottles provide the opportunity to grow onion, garlic, ginger, basil, stevia, talimnum, ampalaya, and wild pepino.
7. STRANDed also by Triune. This is a four-layer tower with apiary (for honey from bees) with a vertical garden using aquaponics. It also has a fish tank and a mushroom fruiting spac.
8. PASIBULAN by Venci Vilar Filoteo and Cinderella Medina. This is a six-level vertical farming system made from coco lumber, plywood and steel mesh. The first level holds creeping vegetables like patola, upo, sitaw; the 2nd to 4th levels, leafy vegetables like saluyot, alugbati, munggo, green onions; the 5th level is root crops like potatoes, baby carrots, radish; and the 6th level is a chicken coop!
9. FOOD POD by Criselda Beatriz Reyes. This takes inspiration from the seedpod or pistil emphasizing the “potential from within.” The design uses PVC pipes, plastic pots and stainless steel wire mesh with a detachable enclosure made from bamboo or aluminum framing. This holds a planting bed and also a fish tank.
10. FARM (2) TABLE by Lorie Roy Rapi. The most compact of the proposals, it’s essentially a one-meter-diameter round table, half-meter high that grows plants using hydroponics.
11. IHMAH (Indoor Hybrid modular aqua/hydroponics) designed by Talyer Dibuho’s Dyn Flores. The rational expandable system is meant to be flexible to suit different sizes of families and spaces.
12. KASVAA by Ian Reimon Buyco. The name is from the Finnish term meaning “to grow.” The design uses a steel frame and PVC boards and is meant to be assembled IKEA style. It holds two types of growing systems — aquaponics and hydroponics.
The association has informed me that several NGOs have already expressed interest in a number of these designs and one of them is on its way to prototyping. Maybe some condo developers can embed these systems in their properties as an option.
All these designs prove you can grow your own food with the minimum of space. Many who’ve started growing their own have also discovered the healing power of nurturing plants and enjoying the color they add to their lives.
With innovations like these, we can grow as one — and heal as one.
(Feedback is welcome. Please e-mail the writer at [email protected]. For more information on these designs you can contact the PALA via their Facebook page.)