architecture · creativity · Nature

DIY Vertical Gardening

Make your space a little greener, using recycled materials.


Who knew? You can turn those leftover soda bottles into a vertical garden with some supplies and a bit of crafting skills. This is Do-It-Yourself (DIY) vertical gardening.

This concept come to us from Brazilian design firm Rosenbaum, as part of their partnership with TV producer Luciano Huck. According to This Is Colossal, this is part of a series where “teams went through dozens of Brazilian homes” in an attempt to execute “dramatic makeovers of interior and exterior spaces.”

This urban garden, which was featured in their 48th home in the series, was such a hit that Rosenbaum released these instructions so anyone create their own. The instructions are in Portuguese, so here is a version translated into English:


•    2-liter plastic bottle, empty and clean
•    Scissors
•    Clothesline rope, twine, or wire
•    Washers (two per bottle if rope or wire is chosen)
•    Dirt
•  …

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behavior · community · environment · work

Creative Leadership Grows in the Garden

English: Photo of Robert Hart's forest garden ...
English: Photo of Robert Hart’s forest garden by Graham Burnett (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Great insight from Tim Brown of IDEO on how playing in the dirt can forge great leadership skills:

Over the years, I’ve given a lot of thought to what gardening, design, and creative leadership have in common.

Gardening is generative, iterative, and user-centered
When designers in our Chicago studio first planted a roof garden, they noticed people were picking and eating the strawberries and tomatoes and leaving the eggplants and tomatillos to rot on the vine. They soon realized that planting a work garden for 60 busy people is very different from planting a home garden for a family of four. Project deadlines simply took priority over cooking, so any plants that took extra steps to prepare were ignored. The next year, the designers planted a “Grab and Go Garden” that contained only fruits and vegetables that could be eaten straight away. This time, more plants were eaten, less were wasted. A good garden, like good design, needs to meet the needs of its users.

Full article:

architecture · creativity · design · environment · health · work

LEED Gold Firm With a Picnic Green |

Bringing the great outdoors indoors for mental destressing, and maybe a little fun.

HOK’s London branch features a central patch of grass. But despite all the greenery, perhaps the greenest feature was its construction method and materials.

more via LEED Gold Firm With a Picnic Green |

behavior · community · environment · happiness · health · Nature

Ron Finley: A guerilla gardener in South Central LA | Video on

Happy Spring Forward. Time to start planting seeds and playing in the dirt. In honor of getting dirty and creative, here’s a a TED talk from Ron Finley, guerrilla gardener.

Ron Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central LA — in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs. Why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”Ron Finley grows a nourishing food culture in South Central L.A.’s food desert by planting the seeds and tools for healthy eating.

Best quote ever: Gardening is the most therapeutic & defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus you get strawberries.”

via Ron Finley: A guerilla gardener in South Central LA | Video on

behavior · community

Building gardens to promote community

Before I share my ideas for the latest OpenIDEO challenge, I wanted to capture some of the ideas I submitted for their challenge “How might we inspire and enable communities to take more initiative in making their local environments better?

Here is my first one:

Community gardens create ownership, a sense of place, and shared goals

Community gardens provide green space, community ownership, local landmarks and create a communal space for people to share, and beauty as well as food!

Urban farming and agriculture has exploded in popularity in the United States, and . community gardens are now present in all 50 states. These communal green spaces can be as small as a parking space or as large as a few acres. They can be used to produce food, act as filtering systems for urban runoff such as rain gardens, or simply grow flowers.
Research is finding that these gardens are beneficial to communities for numerous reasons. First, these gardens provide green space and support the local environment, from migrating birds and bees to potentially filtering urban runoff. Second, they can often supplement vegetables for communities who live in densely urban areas where it can be hard to access fresh fruits and veggies through a grocery store. Third, these gardens create a sense of ownership not only for those working actively in the garden, but anyone who lives in the neighborhood. Creating this sense of ownership for a small space makes it more likely that communities will work together to protect and save larger green spaces, such as beaches or parks, that the community can share and enjoy in.
Community gardens are easy to set up and maintain, with minimal initial investment other than some seeds and a shovel. The key to success would be the need to designate a leader at first to spearhead the building and maintaining of the garden, to teach others and look over things until the garden was established and other knowledgeable gardeners began to work the space, or new gardeners who learned from experience in the community garden. The garden leader would need to be able to lead but not “own” the garden, but rather make it accessible for all community members.

community · environment · health · Social

Bee boulevard: How to turn an urban corridor into a haven for native pollinators | Grist

English: Amber Flush rose - Bagatelle Rose Gar...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I couldn’t stay away for long, could I?

I thought this was an interesting article about actively creating space in urban environments to promote biodiversity and making our lives as humans healthier (more bees means more flowers, fruits and veggies), and it just so happens to make the space prettier and more enjoyable visually as well.

Several years ago, Sarah Bergmann, a painter by training, started asking questions about the fate of the world’s pollinators. And while she’s not an environmentalist per se, Bergmann’s art and graphic design work never stray far from the environmental sphere. To her, the complex and shifting relationships between pollinators and plants have always begged further investigation. Bergmann’s response to what she learned is a work-in-progress called the Pollinator Pathway, a mile-long corridor of pollinator-friendly, mostly native plants stretching between two green spaces in the heart of Seattle.

Bergmann chose the pathway’s two endpoints — the Seattle University campus and a lot-sized forest called Nora’s Woods — for their diverse plant life and lack of pesticides. Since building the first test garden in 2008 with the help of a small city grant, she and hundreds of volunteers have installed 16 more gardens in parking strips along the way. “It’s not just a random line of plants; it’s meant to find two existing green spaces within the city and draw a line between them,” she says.

Gardens are built with the cooperation and enthusiasm of homeowners on the corridor, who have also agreed to maintain them. They must be drought-tolerant, pesticide free, and, ideally, contain at least 70 percent native plants — though Bergmann says the project hasn’t quite hit that target yet. And of course, the plants must be appealing to bees and other pollinators. These requirements, combined with city height restrictions for parking-strip vegetation, led to a list of about 50 plants that can be part of the pathway.

Biologists have been promoting migration corridors for mammals and birds for decades, so why not bees? Gardening is also a fun, playful activity for many people, and the idea that they’re helping out something else in return is also satisfying.

Find out more about creating bee corridors via Bee boulevard: How to turn an urban corridor into a haven for native pollinators | Grist.

architecture · community · environment · health · mental health · Social

Community gardens improve health, enrichment

Garden/Allotment (Photo credit: tricky (rick harrison))

I’ve been pulling from The Dirt, the blog for the American Society of Landscape Architects, a lot lately, but there’s been a lot of great stuff coming off of their blog lately, including this conversation about the increase of urban agriculture, usually in the form of community gardens:

At the Greater & Greener: Reimagining Parks for 21st Century Cities conference in New York City, Laura Lawson, ASLA, Professor and Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Rutgers University, described how urban agriculture has experienced explosive growth in recent years. According to a survey produced by the American Community Gardening Associationand Rutgers University, community gardens are now found in all 50 states. Some 445 organizations responded to the survey, listing a total of 9,030 gardens. Of these organizations, 90 percent have seen increased demand over the past five years. Also, some 39 percent of the gardens listed were built just in the past five years. These organizations have a variety of goals, including food production and access, social engagement, nutrition, education, and neighborhood revitalization.

Sarita Daftary then discussed her work as Project Director of East New York Farms. East New York is the easternmost neighborhood of Brooklyn. A community of 180,000 residents, East New York is underserved by fresh food markets. The East New York Farms program (see image above) seeks to engage the community through its 30 backyard gardens and 24 community gardens, employing 33 youth interns, 80 gardeners, and 100+ volunteers.

The program addresses neighborhood food access through its farmers markets, growing and selling a diversity of unusual foods that reflect the diversity of the neighborhood.

Read more at City Bountiful: The Rise of Urban Agriculture

Community gardens put power back in the hands of people to improve their environment AND their nutrition. Feeling like you have control of your self and your situation is extremely important to humans, both at home and in the workplace, so even if it’s not going to solve world hunger, or even hunger in the U.S., it will help out a lot of people live happier, healthier, more enriching lives.

architecture · creativity · design · environment

Underground gardens in Fresno


It’s cold and wet here in the northwest, so it’s nice to be reminded that somewhere relatively nearby (ok, 800 miles, but still!), it’s warm and sunny:

Fresno’s Forestiere Underground Gardens are one of California’s most beautiful feats of historical environmental design. Built by Sicilian immigrant Baldasare Forestiere over 40 years of his life, the subterranean gardensare fed with skylights and catch basins. Working totally on impulse, Forestiere designed the retreat without blueprints or plans – and his only tools were a pick, shovel, and wheelbarrow.

architecture · community · design · environment · Nature

Roof gardens

I can see this roof garden from my office window.
Even in a city like Seattle where trees and moss are threatening to take over every unclaimed even-slightly-damp area, it is nice to see some greenery mixed in to the rooftops. I’m sorry to see they’ve let the grass go brown, but it is winter so that could be part of it. I notice so many other rooftops surrounding it have not taken advantage of their nice flat roofs, either for gardens or just "green roofs" or even solar panels. There is just so much wasted real estate up there it makes me sad.
Hooray rooftop gardeners, where ever you plant yourself!

anthropology · architecture · community · design · environment

Does adding art to slums improve poor’s quality of life?

I saw this article last week on Recycle Art, about a design company in Brazil that does outreach to poor communities by creating more aesthetically pleasing surroundings:

Brazilian design studio Rosenbaum and TV show Caldeirao do Huck help poor families to redecorate their homes and improve their surroundings, in the hope that they feel more comfortable and happier at home.

++ Do the green thing

See more at Plastic bottles garden | Recycle Art

I’m pleasantly surprised by this philosophy. And apparently this idea is starting to pick up steam.  The New York Times just published an article (also below) about a design show being presented at the United Nations right now focusing on design for third-world countries, trying to create effective, efficient, and hopefully beautiful tools, boats, and buildings.

I’m curious, however, if designing a new space or adding beauty to an already existing slum really works. Does having a more beautiful environment make you want to protect it and invest in it? Even the curators of the exhibit in the New York Times article state that building something new and getting people to adopt it are two entirely different challenges.

I know having a greener work space is correlated with better worker productivity, and many communities in the U.S. have installed public gardens or parks with some success regarding improved community involvement and improved outlook of the neighborhood. The groups featured in the exhibit claim successes all over the world. However, somewhat similar experiments have been tried out with movie stars and athletes installing movie theaters or centers in poor neighborhoods with mixed success with mixed results, as I remember.

I would be interested in seeing more studies that looked at parks or even residential gardens and patios correlated with crime rate, income, and so on.

Anecdotally, have you seen or know of anyone who has seen a correlation between greening or beautifying a space and better sociological stats?