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cyberGARDENing: architecture / bio-computation / cyber-Gardens / food / urban design / BioCitiesJuly 7, 2012

The “cyber-Gardening the city” project investigates the future of urban agriculture as the speculative convergence of advanced biotechnology and the internet of things.  The city is envisioned as a fertile terrain for breeding of new self-organized agri-urban networks. The project conceived by ecoLogicStudio and conducted in collaboration with the Architectural Association Visiting School took place in Milan and was staged as a 10 days long real-time experiment.

The experiment was hosted by the SpazioFMGperlarchitettura, a gallery curated by Luca Molinari, that was turned into an urban LAB; the experiment involved 7 researchers, 16 international students, curators, local institutions and the Milanese citizens.

The outcome of the experiment, in the form of 3 blogsites, a digital interface and large-scale three-dimensional urban models was then curated as a public exhibition displayed for two months in the same SpazioFMG Gallery in Milan.

Read DOMUS coverage of the event.

Read the fantastic article published on URBANISTA.org



The research started in Parco Sud by visiting 5 farms, each very different from each other in terms of dimensions, production, location and architectural quality and history. These 5 rural realities were analyzed, abstracted and reinvented as systemic models imagining new agro-urban prototypes for the “real-time world city” of tomorrow.

Each new prototype was conceived around a specific “filiera alimentare”, or food supply chain, with the ambition to shorten the cycle of production and consumption and achieve a locally close loop of matter and energy. Such ambition is shared by most of the entrepreneurs of Parco Sud as they try to improve the efficiency of their farming businesses while increasing the quality of their products and the sustainability of their business model.

Such a model gravitates around the need to establish a direct link with consumers, to achieve a more dynamic and responsive network of urban agri-consumption; this not only fulfils the possibility of reducing transport and packaging costs, but also refers to the building up of a certain awareness and cultural sensibility towards what is behind a product and its consumption. From this perspective we can see the emergence of a new urban culture or lifestyle that recognises traditional agricultural values and practice and loads them within the social meshwork of the contemporary metropolis.



The team developed an interface based on the social network Twitter to breed the emergence of an urban “cyber-garden”, a terrain of social cohesion based on nodal points of consumption of local agro products operating as socio-cultural attractors.

This flow of information becomes part of a larger entity that we define “real-time world city”, a place in which time and space are compressed to an instant; the “cyberGardening the city” project establishes a link between the instant/immaterial associated with this new digital urbanity with the slow/material that is inextricably related to the rural condition. As these two regimes are correlated they start to resonate one with the other, producing waves or patterns of production and consumption; such patterns are representative of a new kind of ecologic city, an inherently dynamic and non-linear one; one that cannot be fully predicted, but that has to adjust in real time, day after day.



Digital technologies afford a new role for the architect and planner, one that sees him operating more like a gardener, breeding beauty and coherence while negotiating the fluctuations of organic life. Such an operational model cannot be ascribed to any known urban or rural typology; it is one that is synthesized from an artificially constructed ecological system in which the supply chain of a product is unfolded in space and time to accommodate the requirements of the closed loop of matter, information and energy. Such an unfolding was simulated for 3 products - milk, cheese and rice - by means of an algorithmic technique able to closely pack programmatic areas in the tightest configuration possible. Such an assemblage was then extruded to create an urban massing directly associated with the intensity of material flows among different zones. The emergent organism was then materialized in three-dimensional models up to 1.60m in height made of recycled cardboard tubes constituting a scaled representation of the prototypical agro-cities.



It is hoped that the Workshop and its debates and proposals create a conceptual and design framework enabling a contemporary platform of discussion about relationships between the farm and the city. The emergence of agri-urbanity as a practice supports responsible urban growth, and yet the existing infrastructure is frozen in an outdated operating model, and only supports a very small percentage of the existing population of the city. Most of the current architectural and political discourses on urban agriculture globally are often framed by anachronistic typological distinctions and furthermore, fail to recognise the vitality of bottom-up, socio-economic processes which are already re-describing the boundaries between the rural and the urban. Through this critical design enquiry we can discuss and evolve a new type of agri-urbanity existing outside these divisions and embracing the opportunities offered by new converging bio and digital technologies.

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cyber-GARDENing the city - Virtual Gardens