The Garden Plant ArchiFringe Frankentypes Project
This was our submission for the 2018 ArchiFringe 'Frankentypes' project which sought to combine two distinct building uses under a single roof. We worked with the notion of an aging population who cannot afford to retire, with that of food production and intensive planting - both topical and important considerations for the world today.
The full text is below the images.
Our retirement system is broken; it was designed when humans lived for around 70 years. For the current working generation, it is highly likely that, if they are fortunate enough to retire, it won’t be until they are well into our 70s. The state pension pot is nearly empty as the baby boomers have taken their leave from work, as evidenced by the government’s recent changes to the system to mandate people now contribute more to their own pensions. By 2050, according to the United Nations, Scotland’s population will comprise more people aged over 60 than aged 15 and under, many of whom will not be able to afford to retire.
Set against this trend of decreasing retirement, a child born in the UK today has a 50% chance of living to see their 100th birthday. With the continued growth of automation and governmental policies to send greater percentages of the population to university, the ‘millennial’ generation faces a growing chasm between what they were promised as fulfilling, professional lives, and the reality of where they work – while constantly being told that they should own the latest clothes, phone, computer. Growing percentages of graduates find themselves in warehouses, pressurised to complete orders in minutes simply to maintain their employment.
In spite of the fact that we now have more time than ever on the planet, we live in a culture which glamourises the cult of instant gratification in material possession. Through technological advances and internet shopping, social media, and advertising working in insidious harmony, you can have the latest shiny new thing within hours of ordering it. If you want a new phone it’ll be with you by the end of the day. A new camera? No problem – first thing tomorrow morning. Products are manufactured with in-built redundancy to ensure that the order books of the manufacturers remain full when the latest model is released.
This extends further – through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook the population has become addicted to the feeling of being instantly connected to friends and strangers alike – post a photo and wait for the ‘likes’ to roll in. We have lost the ability to appreciate anything which is procured slowly and is driven by self-fulfillment – our frame of reference has become about other people’s response to our own material possessions and political beliefs. We live in an echo-chamber of possessions, political opinions and social commentaries.
Social media has also been identified as a significant cause of loneliness. This is particularly prevalent in young and old, with societal fractures and lack of mobility (in the elderly) resulting in fewer face-to-face interactions held by the average person than 20 years ago. Humans are inherently social creatures; our success as a race is founded on the ability to communicate with one another and to enjoy others company.
The Brundtland Report of 1987 defined sustainable development as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs’. With approximately 7 billion humans on the planet and population set to increase to over 10 billion by 2055, The Global Footprint Network asserts that we are consuming 1.7 planet earth’s worth of resources to satiate our consumerist lifestyles - we are losing the battle to take care of our own future selves.
Our frankentype is a response to these identified issues and contrasts. It is a speculation on combining an activity typically enjoyed in retirement with a workplace associated with production such as a factory, or plant. We see employment within this facility as being either through choice or, more likely, a necessity to carry on supporting the expense of living in the 21st Century.
It is noteworthy that Amazon, the ubiquitous internet delivery service, recently announced that they intend to begin grocery deliveries. Our proposal imagines a building where people of ‘retirement’ age continue working – a place where fruit and vegetables are grown from seed, tended, farmed and delivered via drones to the populous.
Gardening and growth of vegetables is perhaps a perfect example of delayed gratification - the careful and precise nourishment of seeds to encourage fertilisation, growth, development of fruit and then harvest, and finally consumption. Within this cycle, decay is equally important as part of the cycle as growth – an idea that perhaps humans have lost of late in our own attitudes towards aging and material possession. The decaying matter from plants plays a vital role in feeding and nourishing the next generation. Thus, the garden represents life itself – a concept of constant growth and decay, and one supporting the other in a symbiotic relationship.
The Garden Plant provides a work environment combining the garden activity but which serves a consumerist purpose, potentially operated by the likes of Amazon to meet the ‘everything now’ culture and benefiting from the retiree generation. It is formed as an inward looking vertical garden, with a service ramp to allow mobility impaired access to tend the plants. The external walls – formed in coloured concrete, house an internal timber lattice and ramp structure which supports the growing system. Seeds are planted in boxes ,which are supported between the timber structure, at the base of the building. These boxes sit on a moving system which allow them to slowly move up as they germinate, grow, fruit and then harvest. The ramp directly behind these boxes allows so they can be tended by the workers. Order delivery is expedited through a drone collection and delivery system.
Whilst this typology provides a potentially depressing scenario of ‘our future lives’ it may have other positive outcomes such as addressing loneliness amongst the elderly and may have physical health benefits through keeping active in a green space. Whilst we ponder the variety of outcomes from such a proposal, we believe accommodating the elderly within the work place and the issues associated is a scenario for which we as a society should be prepared.