Out of Control

Water fantasy: As you enter this urban living room, you’ll discover a wide variety of activities like Sunday concerts, gatherings, salons, gaming and places to read. Turn left, and you’ll be amazed by the waterfall cascading down the first three floors. The waterfall together with the constantly changing LED lighting add vitality to this space. As you walk up the stairs, you can feel the full strength of the waterfall. Keep on walking along the corridor around the reservoir, and experience it from both near and far.

As you wander around, you’ll suddenly come across the supermarket located on the second and third floors. The supermarket’s interior design is based on natural elements: water, trees and flowers. You walk on through an indoor garden, one of the four gardens themed on the four seasons. The winding steps then lead you to a quiet space which feels like a valley; a  plant-covered setting which emulates a continuous, undulating, layered mountain. If you take a closer look, the plants’ automatic sensors tell you about them and you can record your voice or your desires. As you move on into the waterscape, you’ll see the water flowing down the plant curtain walls, with simulated birdsong.

Standing on the glass steps, with the sounds of water and birds intertwined, you can feel comforted by this natural art form; you can imagine yourself in a mountain forest. As you continue, you find yourself in a confined valley 2.5 metres wide by 6 metres high, surrounded by a water curtain running down the rock faces. As you walk down the undulating steps, you can touch the water, experiencing its effect on you: complete relaxation!

USP: Healthy eating

Childhood obesity is on the increase, so we have designed a vegetarian restaurant to promote healthy eating. Community residents and visitors can design their own menu, personalized to their health status. The restaurant can also be accessed through an app, which also allows guests and residents to log in to their account to check their health status and update their recipes. Restaurant guests are also welcome to enter the kitchen and learn to make vegetarian dishes, nutritious meals and prepare medicated diets. We expect that regular demonstrations will be given by experienced chefs, who will share their knowledge and recipes.

For the non-vegetarians, we have added special meat-tasting vegetarian dishes, using products available from specialized companies with which we collaborate, like ‘Vivera’. The restaurant’s main target groups  families with dietary or obesity issues. As the restaurant’s principles are ‘green and healthy’, we will introduce a series of activities such as private menu customization, gourmet experience, short-term cooking training, and healthy recipe salon. The vegetarian restaurant is the main place where we process and sell organic food in this building. We have designed it as a reassuring location where families troubled by health and/or obesity problems can take positive actions  to help them back on the road back to better health.

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In the plant production area, we’ve included a production flow line from seedlings to packaging and sales of the vegetables, designed to ensure the highest food safety standards. The whole system includes a plant factory in containers, semi-closed sunlight seedling systems, and modular three-dimensional cultivation. The containers are made from plant litter and can be used as fertilizer when degraded. In addition, the building has a completely sustainable recycling systems. These include intelligent IoT management of light, temperature, humidity and CO2, integrated management of water-fertilizer, a rainwater circulation system combining landscape with rainwater purification and utilization, a waste utilization system with the reuse of construction waste, integrated application of plant leaves and straw), and energy supply systems using solar and wind energy.

Lessons learned

The first lesson we learned was the importance of patience. We also discovered  that it is a whole new experience to collaborate with people from other disciplines, and that communication plays a vital role.

We’ve learned so much during the challenge. Not only do we have a deeper understanding of other disciplines and urban farming, but we have also made friends with people we otherwise might never have met. The challenge has also shown us how important  communication and collaboration is.

For us, understanding the information was initially an obstacle which took considerable effort and time to overcome, making it even more exciting as we approached the project’s end. We’ve gone a long way, and we’ve learned to be patient and to deal with our anxiety and unease. The design itself is our biggest prize. And indeed we learned this as well: always run before your deadlines!

Thanks for the challenge hosted by Wageningen UR and the support provided by Huazhong Agricultural University, it’s been a really wonderful and meaningful journey.