You can find the documentation of our collaborative process, the final working prototype, and most of our research at the PB and J blog. Check back with the Hydroponic Curtain this summer as we hope to have it live in the skyway through August.
Our mission in producing a hanging hydroponic wall system is an ameliorating response to the increasing urbanization that leads to a greater dependence on a global and industrial food system, a distancing from self-sustaining food practices and the lack of closeness individuals have with the food they buy and eat.
Regis Center for Art once housed a café that served students, faculty, and staff. The café primarily sold microwavable meals, mediocre coffee, and premade sandwiches. This past spring it was shut down and the space is still currently unoccupied. The building now qualifies as a food desert with the exception of two vending machines that offer processed snacks and soft drinks. As students at the University of Minnesota who take classes, have studios in the building, or both, we feel it is necessary to not only address the lack of access to food in Regis, but the lack of access to healthy food overall. It has become apparent that the university has failed to provide the building with adequate nourishment. We feel strongly that the best way to fill this need is use of our Hydroponic Curtain.
Above all else, we want to provide access to free fresh herbs and salad ingredients as a healthy option. By providing alternate food options through use of the Hydroponic Curtain, we strive to stimulate thought about food sources and enhance people's eating experiences through a sense of intentionality and attention to food intake. While the hydroponic curtain cannot furnish entire salads daily due to its scale, it provides flavorful additions such as cilantro to meals as well as herbs like lavender and sage that can be brewed into teas. Additionally, its placement in the skyway, a transitional space between Regis East and West, is intended to literally and metaphorically freshen the air. The plants exhale oxygen that passersby inhale; they provide a change in smell, light and color, and are a refreshing contrast within the buildings' white walls, cinder blocks, and bricks. The curtain activates the space in such a way as to engage students, faculty, and staff with food and design, but also to reexamine the transitory nature of the skyway itself.
In the future, we aim to make the hydroponic curtain accessible to domestic apartment dwellers and urban business environments. Unlike many current forms of hydroponic systems, our design is ideal for these settings due to the fact that it takes up less horizontal space than many systems currently on the market. Our design also utilizes the natural light of the skyway as opposed to requiring grow-lights. Plants grown within the system also provide beauty in the work environment, especially during bleak Minnesota winters when the greenest thing you'll find is a car, someone's outfit, or a houseplant.
Lastly, the hydroponic curtain has the potential to generate a localized micro economy with the building. The curtain requires human maintenance, cleaning, harvesting, etc, which could provide a job for a student or someone outside of the university circuit. Produce grown from the curtain could be sold to students at a reasonable cost in order to gain revenue to purchase seeds, nutrients, and other needed materials to keep up the system. Eventually there would be public demand for salad dressings and fixings, as well as condiments for tea and the means to properly brew it. It has the framework to become a self-sustaining public service to not only stimulate other entrepreneurial minds, but enhance the quality of life at Regis Center for Art.
-Artemis, Laura, and Teréz