Click here for the ARM Architecture Stage Two Submission
From a field that included the pantheon of late 20th/early 21st century, the ARM Architecture team I'm a part of has won the Gold Coast Cultural Precinct Design Competition. Competitors included Nikken Sekkei (Japan's oldest firm), Crab Studio, Foster + Partners, Ken Yeang, MVRDV, OMA (Rem Koolhas), Daniel Libeskind, UN Studio and Zaha Hadid. After a pretty quiet period, this is a most welcome fillip professionally and an incredible emotional boost. Well done to ARM for putting together such a brilliant team and pulling together all our ideas into a fantastically formed design hook.
Click here for the ARM Architecture Stage Two Submission
Landscape Design Meets Recycling Meets Self Sufficiency: From Hydrocarbon to Recalcitrant Carbon - Part Three... Lots of Food!
Here we are just under six weeks since planting and with only the smallest amount of rain, only filling the reservoirs once two weeks ago and no other care other than a bit of cursory weeding and we are already providing all our needs for salad greens, thyme and coriander. The chilli and tomato plants are all in flower, the snow peas climbing ever higher and the first signs of broccoli and cauliflower heads appearing. The carrots, leeks, onions and garlic are also charging ahead. There are a few unexpected tomato plants popping up which I'll leave in place as a gardener's bonus. The Asian vegetables are on the brink of being able to be picked at for stir fries.
I cannot wait until I'm slicing my own tomatoes into a fresh salad or creating a Napolitana pasta sauce from them. The wicking beds are a truly wonderful addition to the landscape.
The long process of carefully removing the small timber plugs that cover the plank fastenings on the 1962 vintage, International Dragon Yacht Looe is about two fifths done. Each bung has to be precisely chiselled out in small pieces to avoid damaging the surrounding plank, or the screw under it and present a clean hole for a new bung to be tapped back into place once all the frames have been either removed and repaired, or removed and replaced. To this end each line of screws that fasten the planks to the frames must be removed as each frame is dealt with. In all there are about 4000 bungs that must be removed for reframing to proceed quickly once underway.
These two bungs took a while. However, some can be removed with a few short taps with the chisel and mallet.
The music in the video was being played on ABC Classic FM at the time. It's the Oboe Concerto by the 70 year old Australian Composer Roger Smalley. The soloist is
Landscape Design Meets Recycling Meets Self Sufficiency: From Hydrocarbon to Recalcitrant Carbon - Part Two
Things have been a bit busy around here, with the second stage of the GCCP Competition kicking off, along with a few other projects about the place. But I've got some time now to sit down and report the completion of the wicking beds.
The surrounding landscape still needs to be finished with the construction of the steps and placement of the final gravel screed. But I now have all of the beds filled with a site soil/compost mix which was placed on top of the gravel and separated with a couple of layers of fine weave shade cloth. All the beds have been planted out and should produce a fine crop of onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, mizuna, rocket, endives, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, chillies, leeks, baby carrots, thyme, coriander, parsley, basil, oregano, watercress and more. Not only will we have great produce, but it will be just about free compared to doing a normal shop.
One further musing about carbon is that these beds are all about converting cellulose molecules of plants to proteins that we can use to fuel our own lives, quite literally, and it is based upon the fact that the carbon atom has four valence bonds that are able to be reconfigured to suite very specific purposes. We - the people of the World - depend upon carbon to make us and fuel us, but if we're not careful, the misuse of carbon will be our very undoing.
One of the ongoing projects on the property is to have an excess of quality, organic food. Part of this will be the fifty two week orchard that appears - in development - in the banner photo of this journal. We'll get to this in later posts, although it does the share the same concerns for design, tackling a 1 in 3 hillside and making it accessible, reusing and recycling construction material where and whenever possible.
The vastly smaller project that is the subject of this post is the construction of wicking beds with the recycling of used 200 litre oil drums. The principle is basically that of a self watering pot, whereby a water reserve is created in the bottom of the barrel and the soil 'wicks' the moisture up to the plants, or the plants send their roots down into the reserve.
Construction is a messy process and one needs to be very thorough about it to remove all traces of residual hydrocarbons to avoid soil contamination. Firstly the drums are cut in half with an angle grinder, drainage holes drilled around the girth and sharp edges and burrs ground off. Cleaning is done with a rinse of petrol and a good wiping out, followed by a blast with a high pressure water cleaner and an off the shelf, biodegradable detergent. This all needs to be done somewhere you can either trap the runoff and dispose of it properly, or where the chemicals can be biodegraded over time and away from water and food sources.
The rest is pretty simple: Fill up the halved drums with a locally quarried drainage gravel to within 20mm of the drainage holes with a small PVC pipe for checking water levels and topping up when needed. I've yet to get around to the next step, which is laying down a couple of layers of old shade cloth, filling up the drums with a good soil/compost mix and planting them out. We also have another four drums to cut in half, clean and install to complete the array.
You'll note I've also fitted a ring of 5mm garden edging to the top as a safety measure. This will also keep mini greenhouses held in place for colder or wetter times. Part of the soil mix will also be a handful of biochar (very pure charcoal used as a soil amendment) to help microbial activity along. Future posts will detail a few of the methods I'm using to make this new 'black gold.' So these drums that once contained hydrocarbons will soon contain this form of recalcitrant carbon that can resist decay for 10,000 years
The finished design will have five rows of four these beds accessed with recycled brick steps and sandstone masonry tailings running down either side. All-in-all a colourful mini monument to how our thirst for fossil fuels can be inverted to a hunger for good, locally produced, organic, healthy food.
Welcome to the first post of the journal, where I'll be sharing news of my practice, ideas for landscape and urban design, soil health, bio-char and bio-diversity, natural area management, bush regeneration and revegetation, experiments on the 5 acre property, boat launchings, new commissions and a place to discuss important issues relating to all of the above, and more.
Let's kick off with some very good news: I'm on the ARM Architecture Team which has been chosen as one of three shortlisted for the second round on the Gold Coast Cultural Precinct Design Competition, out of a field of 75 international entries.
The Evandale Site is located on Bundall Road, the central of only three main north/south transport spines that run up through the populated coastal fringe, wedged between the mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It's also one of the last reasonably undeveloped sites bang in the middle of the Gold Coast urban area.
Our team should be meeting up in the next few weeks to discuss the next step and win the commission, so stay tuned.
In the meantime I'll be adding updates here on all the projects and ideas that in development within my practice, on the property and in the shed.