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Students competing in the Greenhouse Challenge are in the final sprint

Published on
July 30, 2018

While most students have been on holiday, some were hard at work in the basement of Atlas. Student teams GreenWURks participates in the Urban Greenhouse Challenge and designed a vertical greenhouse in the old Bijlmer prison in Amsterdam. At the end of last week, they delivered their report. On 28 August, they present their work and the winner of the Challenge will be announced.

The student teams have been working on their designs since February. The GreenWURks team has fifteen members. "In the beginning there were twenty of us, but a number of students have dropped out and a few have been added”, says Loes Mellink. As the team leader she has overseen the work of the entire group for the last six months. “New people bring new perspectives. That makes decision-making difficult, but is also a breath of fresh air and motivates everyone to work.”

Community project

With their design, GreenWURks aims to have local residents become shareholders in the city greenhouse in the old Bijlmerbajes. The greenhouse must be installed in consultation with local residents and therefore the cultivation plants are modular. “We want people to bond with the tower and learn about food production. Above all, they must enjoy growing vegetables themselves in the greenhouse and we think that the best way to do that is if they are involved in its establishment”, says Mellink.

This is the atmoshere that the Bijlmer tower should have according to GreenWURks. Impression Shiyi Liu, Du Man en Fangyi Zheng.

Mellink feels that commitment from the surrounding area is important. The connection between the Bijlmerbajes and the surrounding area was already there when it was a prison. During a tour earlier this year, Mellink heard many stories of how prisoners and their family members communicated by standing on the roofs of student homes and yelling to each other. And the prison wardens lived in the adjacent village. In 2016, the old prison was converted into a residence for refugees, who then started a hotel and a restaurant there. “These social developments characterise the Bajes neighbourhood and we have taken this into account in our design”, says Mellink. “The restaurant should definitely remain and can even cook with the vegetables that are grown in the greenhouse.”

Investing in real estate

The students of the Greenhouse Challenge are now on holiday until the end of August. On 28 August, their hard work will culminate in a pitch and an award ceremony for the best idea. The winning team will receive ten thousand euros. Mellink already knows what she would do with the prize money. “If it were up to me, we would organise an educational trip for the whole team. And if anything is left over, we would invest in the renovation of the Bijlmer tower.”

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