Underground Approaches to Urban Development: CommonStudio

Now, more than ever, we are in desperate need of good ideas and fresh ways of looking at problems. Looking at the world through the impassioned eyes of a young environmentalist, there is a temptation to emend the clear design errors and poor infrastructure. True, there are a great many of problems to approach, but with the right mentality and skill set, one need not worry. And with entities like CommonStudio, a design studio fused with the mission and intellect of green urban planning, there is much hope for the future.

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First up in the gallery of CommonStudio ventures is Greenaid. The idea behind this project is neatly described by FastCompany.com, “Greenaid Fosters Johnny Appleseeds for the 21st-Century”.

Seed bomb machineHow so, you ask? Greenaid is essentially gumball machine, seed style. Imagine your classic arcade candy dispenser, but instead of Skittles or cheap plastic rings being dispensed, you get a small, clay-and-compost covered seedling. These nutrient packed earth candies are what CommonStudio dubs “seedbombs”.

Sick of those empty, dilapidated lots? How about the stretches of sidewalk with nothing but dead or dying earth, only to be over taken by waste or more asphalt? Well, bombs away.

Whether you’re an educator, a politician, a student, or a stay at home parent, Greenaid is here to help make your neighborhood look a little bit greener. Simply buy or rent a dispenser, place it in an area you think you and your fellow citizens will use it most, and Greenaid takes care of the rest.

Urban Ecology

Next, CommonStudio has developed a truly innovative way of looking at our streets, or, more specifically, our gutters. With this project, CommonStudio looks to perform transplant surgery for our cities.

CurbsideOur curb sides, unfortunately, haven’t come a very long way in history of urban development. First we paved them, and then we….left them that way. So, while our architects and city planners have done wonders with the design and implementation of resource management, the curbside has seemed to have been, well, left at the curbside.

Now, times have changed. Curban Ecology is a system of filtration, bio-remediation, and collection of waste. Through a network of varying crosshatched channels and voids, the developers hope to divert wastewater through a cleansing process. The system will take in water from the street like any other gutter, but the real magic comes in with what is done to the water.

Acting as “miniature wetlands”, levels of silt or gravel will filter debris and chemicals as water percolates down to the soil below. Any larger debris is captured by a collection chamber, which is to be emptied/recycled periodically. This offers cities their very own “kidneys”, systemically cleaning the street (like an organ) and without people having to think much about it (also, like an organ).

Curbside TechThe best part is that through the natural process of filtration, the curbside will also naturally develop a greener ecosystem, adding a bit of lush green to the dull grey pavement. In a sense, anything can be planted in the curbside ecosystem – so some pretty flowers are never out of the question.

Now, isn’t that what you want to see as you walk down the street and into your work?

The Minds Behind It

The final question remains: who are the minds behind these great ideas?

Daniel Phillips, an environmental designer and writer, has partnered up with Kim Karlsrud, a designer and educator of equal passion. Together, they  form a formidable engine of change in regards to our urban ecosystems. Both are passionate for travel, contemporary solutions for contemporary problems, and spreading awareness. Equally so, they are modest about their products' implementation and scope.Pin It

Case in point, the creators don’t look at “Greenaid and “seedbombing” as a final solution to urban ecological development. Rather, they consider it a creative and unique tool to emphasize the importance and the ability of individuals to take a step in the right direction. Creator Daniel Phillips may have said it best when he acknowledged seedbombing served as a fun way for people to get involved with “incremental beautification” of their environment.

Hopefully, more minds like Phillips’ and Karlsrud’s  will pop-up and further help us develop our good habits. As long as they continue to do so, the rest of us can rest assured innovative thinking is underway. Kudos CommonStudio, kudos.

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