Written by Oliver Fay
27 Monday 27th September 2010
A new social enterprise and research initiative, called Metabolicity aims to integrate both traditional and hi-tech agricultural techniques into the built environment to allow a city to metabolise its resources and waste, so as to supply its inhabitants with all the nourishment they need and more.
It was during last year’s London Design Week that I was first introduced to the ideas in action of MetaboliCity. As a collective we were taken on a guided tour of various sites, each demonstrating the potential for ‘Grow Labs’ in significantly separate spheres of social strata. The underling theme seemed to be sourcing potential solutions to the problems faced within the near future such as an impending food crisis. MetaboliCity has sourced inspiration from old initiatives such as “Dig for Victory” and seeks to reinvent these ideas to accommodate contemporary issues and attitudes. It is one of the first examples of a design initiative named Meta Design a term that was created by John Wood of Attainable Utopias:
“MetaboliCity is about empowering people to grow food in the most challenging of urban spaces, be it indoor window farms or vertical green cladding that clings to the buildings. Design studio Loop.pH has been developing lightweight, architectural structures together with soilless growing techniques for the project. The rigid 3D lace provides support for plants and irrigation and can be retro-fitted to buildings or become free standing vertical gardens for indoor or out. There is now a network of small-scale, distributed Grow-Labs developing creative solutions to integrate both traditional and hi-tech farming techniques into the fabric of the built environment, growing in awkward, challenging spaces.”
The tour of sights we were taken along to inspect were; an office window, another in Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant window, a community allotment and a council estate. Alongside the guided tour we were also given explanations of how each sight’s participants had responded to its initiation. The most responsive apparently being The Haberdasher estate, which was a total transformation of an outdoor space, originally a disused playground, was transformed into a newly formed communal garden and grow sight. The most thought provoking dimension was how the community within this social housing project had responded to the ideas implementation! Some of the older residents from the four hundred strong community here came forward to volunteer their time and energy to tend to the new sights and also there was a transformation of how the space was being referred to completely amongst the society there. It was as if the very notion of food growth and sustainability had encouraged a more co operative and less competitive side of the residents here! If each sight demonstrated the micro view of the potential of these ideas and internally I multiplied these to get a macro perspective I came away from the projects feeling thoroughly more optimistic about our coping strategies for such problems as we may face within our near future. 
Find out more about MetaboliCity here.

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