Category Archives: urban corridors


More and more people are living in the cities. We have to search for new modes of sustainable living, new ways of food production. Re-examine the link between the city as consumer and the countryside as provider. In this context, we are researching how to make a network of intensively cultivated city rooftopgardens where we can grow our own food for the neighbourhood.
Besides the food-function, the UrbanArtFarm is set up as our open air laboratorium. In this project, we want to blend the natural and the digital in one and the same nature. We study and document how to set up a middle sized rooftopgarden (± 700 m2), all with recycled materials. Continue reading


Ecological corridors rely partly on methods of urban agriculture, guerilla gardening, ecological management and social anthropology. Corridors can also make good use of avant-garde technologies, so that such projects become experiments on the edges of art, science and technology: Embedded systems, novel sensors, low energy computing and sensor networks are useful for monitoring soil quality, plant growth processes, animal activity, pollution and the movement and interaction of people within the local environment. Mobile communication and geoinformatics are useful for aggregating sensory data and projecting them in real time onto maps. Complex systems analysis, cloud computing, and machine learning are useful for detecting patterns to allow prediction and the shaping of ongoing social and biological processes. And novel user interfaces are needed to make embedded technologies accessible and usable without requiring sophisticated background or training.


gardens participating in the case study

  • edible rooftop garden / so-on
  • urban ArtFarm / so-on
  • thurn&taxis
  • kaaitheater
  • okno
  • gemeentehuis molenbeek
  • libanese garagehouder
  • semaphore asbl – péniche Jean Bart / pierre renault

corridors as a social sculpture

  • social sculpture ref. Beuys: The idea being that every decision you make should be thought out and attempt to make or contribute to a work of art which in the end is society. This point of view invites followers to humble themselves by realizing that they are an important part of a whole not only an individual. (link with the honeybee colony)
  • corridors as a social sculpture ⇒ community, bottom up (the social, cultural and political function and potential of art) occupy public space
  • potential of art to bring about revolutionary change (Beuys) transformation (metaphore = honey)
  • participating gardens ⇒ active creative expressions of the participating inhabitants, communities, neighborhoods
  • social awareness raising : human activity that strives to (re)structure and (re)shape society and the environment
  • knowledger building of cities as complex ecosystems


Seed saving is plants moving through time and space. I am drying following herbs and flowers as basic ingredients for herbalist preparations: macerates, creams, tinctures, oils, sirops, …
Rosmarinus officinalis – rosemary; Thymus vulgaris – thyme; Eucalyptus gunnii – eucalyptus; Agastache foeniculum – agastache; Salvia officinalis – sage; Origanum vulgare – oregano; Mentha piperita – peppermint; Hyssopus officinalis – hysop; Satureja montana – savory; Matricaria chamomilla – chamomile; Viola tricolor – heartsease; Continue reading


Short chain distribution from the rooftop Farm’s harvest, mainly to neighbors and friends: Otber, Toestand project Vilvoorde, Romuald + family, Lucia en Johannes, Radha, Alexandra, Luc, Jan & Christel, harvest dinner Cubans, harvest dinner Axel&Marie, Luc, Jan&Christel, Clémentine, Joeri, Zahra, Jonas Gruzka, Billy, Franziska & Sam, Nathalie Hunter, Daniele Sambo, Radek, Macek, Burning Ice, Eggevoort Water Project (citymined), Nicolas, Katia from den Hague, Els, Billy and Fabrice, Louis Schreel BBQ 10 people, Joannes Vandermeulen, mama, Miet, Els Lingier, Betty Schiel, Luc Steels, … Continue reading


Or how to spend your free time in summer. The pantry is loaden with the abundance of summer harvest. We are cooking, steaming, drying, freezing, potting and processing roots, fruits and vegetables in all different ways. We dry leaves for tea (fennel/leaves, vanille, liquorice, fennelseeds, bitter orange peel) and for making medicinal recipes.
further reading: how to preserve tomatoes? Preservation of vegetables in oil and vinegar: It is now a relatively common practice to bottle vegetables and herbs and spices in either oil, vinegar or a mixture of both. Continue reading


We collect the rainwater from the surrounding rooftops to foresee in the water supply of the rooftopgarden. As the rooftopgarden has a limited amount of soil, and because the elements (wind and sun) are stronger high on the rooftops, the soil needs more water than in a ‘natural’ situation. The watermanagement becomes thus very important. It takes up to two hours to water the complete garden manually, with the hose. To save time, we decide to install an automatic wateringsystem, consisting of a microdrip system that is connected to the watertanks and that is controlled by humidity sensors.
To develop and automate the wateringsystem in the rooftop garden, we plan a workshop with Jonas Z. to look into the possibilities of his OSMOGAS concept in real physical situations. OSMOGAS (open source modular gardening systems) researches easy deployable modular systems for gardens. It consists of three main groups of modules. The first group are evironmental measurement sensors (air pollution, humidity, temperature, UV, wind, pH, …), the second group focuses on the ‘outputs’ (digitally controlled switches for water pumps, lights, fog-generators, …) and the third group develops stand-alone systems or the connections to bigger systems (computers, servers). The project focuses on simplicity, DIY and user friendlyness while designing and producing the modules. All code is available online, as well as the schemes and drawings for DIY, and manuals are edited in an understandable language.

osmogas control panel DIY humidity sensors box with arduino
Osmogas automatic watering system: parts. Relay box – controlled via Arduino or compatible board, can handle 2200W. osmogas and osmogas rooftop garden.

Measuring moisture can be done very cheaply and easily if done with care. The principle is based on the water conductivity in soil – the more water in soil (more moisture), the more conductive it gets. We measure the conductivity by simply trying to push current trough the soil and measuring how much get trough. This is done by pair of wires or nails at circa 2 cm distance. To connect such sensors, we work as with other resistance based sensors – to one pin we provide 5V and from other pin we get the output. It is required to use a pull down resistor as well. This means, we connect a smaller resistor from the output of the sensor to the ground.
Sunlight, temperature, water drainage and fertilizer control: another garden automation system is called GardenBot. It uses open source hardware (Arduino) to monitor humidity, temperature and soil conditions. The key modules for the system are soil moisture sensor, soil temperature sensor, light level and water value. Each of these modules can be built separately and integrated into GardenBot. Once GardenBot is alive, it can send data to a computer so that the information is plotted on a chart and updated every 15 minutes. gardenbot

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8 x 1000 liter + 4 x 250 liter wateropslag (van het aanpalende dak en recuperatie van het serredak) wordt opgeslagen in de klassieke witte recuperatie watertonnen. Doordat de tonnen wit en semi-transparant zijn, ontstaat er algengroei. Iemand raadde mij aan om een UV filter te plaatsen. Is dit de oplossing? Blijkbaar niet, vwant het water moet dan continu door de filter heenstromen, anders komt de algengroei weer. Eventueel de tonnen zwart verven, of inpakken met opaque plastic. Een filter plaatsen nadat het water door de pomp gegaan is.
Ik heb de tonnen na enkele maanden ingepakt met anti-worteldoek zodat ze afgeschermd zijn van het licht ter voorkoming van draadalgen vorming. Grote filter geplaatst na kraan na pomp (01/10/2012). Toevoer aangebracht in de serre. Vandaaruit 4 circuits gelegd, met op elk circuit nog eens een extra filter en druk(bar)controle: 1 voor de serre en 3 buiten. Microdrip systeem verder uitgewerkt met oranje (2 l/uur) en zwarte (4 l/uur) nozzles.

Green roofs water management : the virtues of moss
A moss garden is a micro ecology. It tells a lot about the bigger ecological system it is part of. It acts in a way as a bio indicator. Moss is very resilient. How expansible is this resilience in city context?
Moss is also a source of inspiration for designing new materials. Bio mimicry. More info on moss in the rroftop garden: moss garden, Tortula muralis and Tortula muralis research.

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moss on the roofs of the valldaura project

While green roofing is an accepted stormwater control technology, little is known about the quality of the roof runoff. In Phase I of this research, several green roof media (formed from commonly-used expanded minerals, stormwater filter media, and organic matter) were evaluated for their abilities to retain the pollutants from a synthetic acid rain. The samples were analyzed for metals, nutrients, and pH. The hypothesis was that a mixed media that is “better” at pollutant removal and permanent retention could be created based on these laboratory testing results. A media composed of expanded shale, granular activated carbon, and sphagnum peat moss was the most effective.

Optimizing the Water Quality of Rooftop Runoff


The purpose is to gather data on the effects of urban air pollution on urban gardening- and farming crops. Soil can be analyzed and heavy metals in soils can be treated by bioremediation (mushrooms, green manure, nitrogen fixers), but on the effects of city air pollution on crops there is not a lot of information available. How do car exhaust, road dust and acid rain affect the different crops? Is the environmental pollution affect different for leaves, flowers, roots or fruits? Are nuts, fruits and berries less exposed to the urban pollution risks than leaf crops as spinach, or as root crops which do take up and accumulate metals from dust particle deposits in the soil? How might we intelligently assess risk and proceed with a program of harm reduction, and modify urban garden design strategies around these known risks?
Pollution is definitely a concern for city farmers, but luckily, the pollutants of greatest concern are heavy metals, such as lead, and automotive break pad particulates. Both are denser than air, so vegetables grown on a rooftop high above the roadways are protected from these contaminants. The limited lifespan of plants mean they absorb significantly less contamination than our lungs do.

Field research could be:
– how long does particle dust stay on a tomato skin in your urban garden? Does the tomato absorb it or does it wash off in a rain? What about raspberries, blueberries, hazelnuts? What about different herbs? What about beetroot and lettuce?
– compare the data gathered from urban environmental pollution monitoring on organically grown vegetables, with monitoring data of non-organically grown vegetables of industrial agriculture origin (pesticides, GMO’s, chemical fertilizers, … )
Sensors for air pollution monitoring:
– air pollution meter : air quality (optical→dust, O3, CH4, CO2) (optical dust sensor)
– carbon monoxide pollution meter
– lead pollution meter
– exhaust gasses pollution meter
Research paper:
Effect of air pollution on peri-urban agriculture: a case study


Companion planting is the planting of different crops in proximity (in gardening and agriculture), on the theory that they assist each other in nutrient uptake, pest control, pollination, and other factors necessary to increasing crop productivity. Companion planting is a form of polyculture.
Companion planting is used by farmers and gardeners for many reasons. For farmers using an integrated pest management system, increased yield and/or reduction of pesticides is the goal.For gardeners, the combinations of plants also make for a more varied, attractive vegetable garden, as well as allowing more productive use of space. Continue reading


For the artist, the empty rooftop is a blank canvas. It is embedded in the city and offers a perception without geographical limitations. It’s up to the artist to combine the artistic eye with scientific observation. The public has to travel to the location and has to put effort and time (= engagement) to discover the artwork.
New forms of sculpting the public space can be found in rooftop hacking and squatting, transforming rooftops into urban fields, short chain agriculture. These are interdisciplinary activities situated between art and the broader social and political world. Their aim is to provoke a change. It are forms of site-specific art. The natural environment as in a process of a constant change, the city layers overwritten by various urban systems: socio-political and historical but also industrial and economical systems. The work involves natural processes, but as well elements of technology.
Important is the recultivation of the land/location, the historical act of rewriting, of adding new layers, with the help of earth/art methods, DIY instruments and technology. This new world is perceived from the perspective of the 3 ecologies as stated by Guattari: social, mental and environmental. The eco-logic can be found in everydays’ life. The existence for the art world is confirmed as covered by film, audio recordings, photographs, maps, diagrams, drawings and storytelling.

Open Greens : marginal zones where culture and nature overlap and enter into a symbiotic relationship.
The project researches different bottom up approaches for designing human environments that have the stability and diversity of natural ecosystems. Integration of renewable energy systems, energy efficiency, food/gardening systems, natural building, rainwater harvesting and urban planning along with the economic, political and social policies that make sustainable living possible and practical.
The Kabinet of the OpenGreens (padma, COG and other databases) is a repository for all the documentation materials on city gardens, abandoned agricultural and industrial spaces, miniature parcs on balconies and window sills, participating in the OpenGreen project. Discover how you can expand your creative space by participating in this ecological network, studying the interactions between organisms and their environment.


Ecosystems include living organisms, the dead organic matter produced by them, the abiotic environment within which the organisms live and exchange elements (soils, water, atmosphere), and the interactions between these components. Ecosystems embody the concept that living organisms continually interact with each other and with the environment to produce complex systems with emergent properties, such that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” and “everything is connected”. Continue reading