12. July 2012 / Ricky Ricardo
Landscape Architecture High on Mushrooms
We generally think of mushrooms as being elusive, hidden in the dark depths of forests. However in recent years some rather gigantic ones have been popping up in unusual places. From a botanical garden in central Singapore to a newly built 'sustainable city' in the deserts of the United Arab Emirates, gigantic mushroom-like structures are seemingly the trend in contemporary landscape architecture. But what exactly are these strange things, and how do they benefit public space?
Image: courtesy of Maxthreads.
Tainan main station master plan by Maxthreads is imagined as a "cultural based community and nature intervention, with sustainable residential development and the potential for natural habitat areas." The proposal aims to "reconcile community and biodiversity."
Metropol Parasol, Seville / J. MAYER H. architects.
Metropol Parosol, (Parasol being a type of mushroom: Macrolepiota procera) designed by J. MAYER H. architects, became the new icon for Seville. This structure, resembling a giant cluster of fungi-like growth "defines a unique relationship between the historical and the contemporary city."
Image: Masdar Sustainable City / LAVA
In Masdar City (United Arab Emirates) by LAVA, the mushroom-like structures are named 'Petals from Heaven’ and they feature interactive umbrellas that open, provide shade from the hot desert sun, and capture energy during daylight hours; folding at night to release stored heat.
Photo: View of Bay South, courtesy of National Parks Board Singapore.
In Gardens by the Bay, (Singapore) by British architects Wilkinson Eyre and landscape architects Grant Associates (see Topos 78), the gigantic mushroom towers, or 'Super Trees' act as "spectacular vertical gardens" that create their own micro-climates by capturing water and releasing it slowly, cooling the surrounding air. Covered in verdant plant life, they act to synthesize the living and the artificial to enable a hyper-experience of nature.
Image: courtesy of Constantin Boincean, Ralph Bertram and Aleksandra Danielak.
Project Umbrella (unbuilt) by architects Constantin Boincean, Ralph Bertram and Aleksandra Danielak proposes mushroom-like structures that "initially appear to be oversized street furniture, though are actually solar evaporators that can be implemented within LA’s existing grid, clarifying black water from the sewage system, and through a process of evaporation and condensation, redistributing it."
So the question is: are the projects above merely perpetuating a new 'eco-aesthetic' of the moment (perhaps like green roofs in the mid noughties) suggesting a level of sustainability beyond reality? Or are these projects real steps toward some kind of 'biophilic future', acting to blur the binary between culture and nature?
Or maybe this is all just collective hallucination...