“Biotope” is a project in Copenhagen standing from 2018 to 2021. In Greek bios means “life” and topos means “place”. The project addresses these two words and their content. And it is an experiment with a microcosm of plants and insects at an exposed and harsh place in the city.
A bowl of concrete, a shell of polycarbonate, soil, plants for insects, bees and a beehive of plywood are all parts of the project. It is 7 m long, 4 m wide and 3 m tall at the highest point.
“The body structure of these animals is a thin-walled, cylindrical, vase-shaped tube with a large central atrium“
– Wikipedia about Venus´ Flower Basket (Euplectella Aspergillum)
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The stage for the project is a small triangular greenery in the middle of an intersection with heavy traffic. A train station is nearby, and a three lane road together with a minor road is next to it. A lot of people walk, cycle or drive past this place every day. The edge of the bowl functions as a bench, and the inside life of the shell functions as an ever changing visual interest for the everyday passersby. The bowl collects rainwater and leads it into the soil through small holes in the shell. In this way the plastic shell and the concrete bowl become a self-watering greenhouse. Sixty different seeds have been sown into the soil. Later as plants the majority of these seeds will attract insects. On the inside of the shell a beehive is attached. The bees have directly access to both the outside and the inside.
It is a temporary project standing for a three year period, and during these years there will be no maintenance or interference inside the shell. Neither is it possible for the public to access the shell. How the inside life with plants and insects will evolve over time is an experiment.
The sculptural and organic shape of the project is made specifically for the place. The shell mimics a simple shape of a primitive organism or bacteria. It lies with its “back” against the minor road and its “face” towards the most intense and energetic element: the three lane road. By lying in this “posture” the project creates a small protected area between itself and an existing tree on the triangular greenery. The intention of mimicking a shape of a living organism is to explore if we humans can feel related to such a form. And if so, to see if an organic shape can be a “mediator” between humans and places. Can feelings of sympathy towards objects or structures establish a stronger and more caring relationship to the place in which we live and inhabit?
The shell, made of clear 4 mm thick polycarbonate, acts as a film or a membrane. It protects the inside life from the outside harsh traffic and it creates a greenhouse effect. In favour of the plants the shell also holds back the moisture, vaporized from the rainwater and delivered by the bowl.
The structural concept of the shell is a further development of my distinctive construction technique with single curved shells. This time I have added a ceramic and intuitive element in the creating of the organic shaped structure. By starting to sketch in ceramic I am able to create a more complex shape on which I directly can draw the constructional pattern. From there I scan selected points on the ceramic model, and rebuild it with vector lines in the computer. Then I work as usual: I unfold the shells digitally and CNC mill them from sheets, before I assemble and bend the shells into a three dimensional structure.
Our climate will change. And maybe we will integrate plants and biological microcosms in our future dwellings and cities. Most likely there will be more harsh and exposed environment on our planet. And we ask ourselves if a solution will be to create micro climates where we – like the bees in this project – have our homes connected to and intertwined with?
The quote from Wikipedia describes a living structure with architectural qualities. Often a shrimp lives inside the Venus Flower Basket. The two gain from each other and they create a symbiosis. Will we be able to create living biological structures with architectural and inhabitable qualities in a distant future? In a symbiotic way where our climate and environment can gain from our living conditions?
We wish and hope so, for a bright future.
The project is generously supported by “Områdefornyelse Fuglekvarteret”
And I will like to thank the following:
Vilmer Jensen, Civil Engineer, for the help with structural calculation and the building process
Morten Plesner, Artist, for installing the bees
Thomas Bentsen, Reptile and Terrarium Expert, for help with the selection of seeds for the plants
Lorenz Sedlmayr, Architecture Student, for assisting in the assembling and building process.