Waseda will be hosting two young Dutch designers talking about the improvised city. Free lecture this Thursday at 6 pm.
Speakers Krijn Christiaansen and Cathelijne Montensways explore “the ways public spaces and landscapes are made by, used by, lived in, transformed and shaped by people.” Their talk is part of Julian Worrall’s LLLABO series at Waseda’s School of Architecture. Please register in advance.
Seeing rice grown in buckets and styrofoam boxes always amazes me: focusing the national obsession with the main staple into a city scale. No one will get full from miniature rice farms, but I am sure that tending rice in the city makes residents appreciate eating rice even more. These buckets were lined up outside a gate at Waseda’s main campus.
After watching my neighbor’s home and then garden get scarped to dirt last week, it’s great to see a cafe like this one at Waseda’s Okubo campus where the new building adapts itself to the existing mature trees. With very limited space, much longer than deep, the campus was able to add a narrow cafe that is mostly counter space with views of the sidewalk and street. I like how modern and adaptive this architecture is.
On a cold and wet fall day, the bright yellow ginkos at Waseda University animate the sky. Like cherry blossoms, ginko’s fall foliage is dramatic and brief.
I recently had the chance to meet Professor Mori Yuichi of Mebiol, an agriculture technology company in Kanagawa. This research professor at Waseda University started Mebiol in 1995 exploring first medical and then agriculture uses for hydrogels. I was intrigued by his Hymec system for indoor farming and Skygel for rooftop gardens.
Hymec looks like a plastic sheet allows for no-soil and low-soil farming, with the water and fertilizer separate from the plants roots. The roots remain dry while drawing water and nutrients from below the membrane, and oxygen from the air. Lettuce and other leaf vegetables can be grown with no soil, tomatoes with a thin layer of soil. Compared to other indoor farming techniques, Hymec uses less water, less fertilizer, less insecticides and less energy because the barrier prevents contamination from bacteria common to traditional hydroponics. Benefits include the ability to plant smaller seedlings (called “plug seedlings”), greater plant density, and more nutritious and sweeter vegetables, with tomatoes producing more Gaba and Lycopene.
I was intrigued by what Professor Mori calls “mobile farming.” In his words, “Hymec releases farming from the earth by a water-proof sheet” and allows farming in cities, factories, deserts, indoors, and even in waste incinerators. Some applications are the Kyoto Brighton Hotel, where tomators are grown on a concrete floor in a bamboo greenhouse, and a test farm in Dubai, where Hymec makes possible low-water farming with reduced air conditioning, and replaces costly and carbon-heavy vegetable imports from Europe.
Another Mebiol product is Skygel, mixed with soil and used for roof and slope planting. In this case, the hydrogel increases water retention, lowers run-off, and decreases the need for irrigation. Mixing Skygel and soil allows for a lighter load, ideal for roof gardens. The roof garden at Mebiol’s office (in top photo, with founder Professor Mori), is only 10 cm thick, and the plants can survive for up to 10 days without water in the Japanese summer heat.
Below is a diagram explaining Hymec.