Horticulture, technology, architecture and art converge in Plant-in City project
By C.C. Weiss
June 18, 2012
Despite large, lush open spaces like Central Park, New York City is the stereotypical concrete jungle – a dense synthesis of buildings, roadways, machines and human flesh that leaves little in the way of nature. Small urban gardens tucked on the top of ten-story apartment buildings do little to change that. The Plant-In City project aims to provide a more substantial garden space in New York City, with a technologically advanced terrarium concept. It's like gardening for geeks.
The Plant-In City concept is a modular architectural and software system that's the joint project of design firm *HB* Collaborative and media architecture studio Med44. It's an intelligent cedar-framed terrarium with integrated LED lighting, irrigation equipment and electronic controls. Each terrarium is made up of three separate planter frames: the soil frame, light frame and water frame. The system is modular, so builders can stack planters on top of each other and move the pieces around into different designs and configurations.
Where the Plant-In City design gets really interesting is in its embedded microcomputer hardware, which links internal light, water and humidity sensors to the cloud. With an accompanying smartphone app, Plant-In City cultivators can monitor their gardens from anywhere they have cell service. At the push of a button, they can also water the plants - no more asking the neighbor to take care of them while on vacation.
A sound system creates noises based upon sensor readings, showing that the plants are healthy and happy. Users can equip the planters with additional sensors to monitor other factors, and the designers also plan to open the software.
While one of the more obvious applications of the technology may reside on the wrong side of the law, the creative minds behind the concept have a more socially acceptable application in mind. They'd like to build out a large living sculpture in a New York City gallery space. The lighting, water and audio would combine to create a multisensory exhibit that immerses visitors in a slice of real jungle inside the concrete jungle. They have turned to Kickstarter to raise the funds needed to purchase materials and further develop the technology.
Unfortunately for all those green thumbs out there hoping to buy their own, Plant-In City does not plan to sell its hardware until all R&D is complete. However, donation levels of US$250 or more will earn you some or all of the frames needed to create the full terrarium. If you're really willing to pony up ($7,500), the designers will custom build a 7-10 unit terrarium system to your specifications.
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