April 18, 2016
by Christine Leu
Cricket Reactor by Third Millennium Farming
Architects excel at shaping human habitats, but what if architects were tasked with also designing accommodations for other species? What would these homes look like, and what would their designs say about our relationship to the natural world?
Opening this Friday and on exhibition through April 24, the Gladstone Hotel’s Grow Op is an exhibition of art, ecology and design that cultivates curiosity across a broad range of disciplines. Grow Op celebrates projects that help us make sense of our rapidly changing landscapes, identify nature’s persistence within our cultural environments, and recognize how culture frames our very ideas of nature.
Detail of the cartridge and access wall to the Cricket Reactor.
A number of projects in this year’s exhibition explore this expanded idea of habitat. One is a household farm for crickets; another is a hydroponic garden. Both blur the boundaries between culture and nature with a language that suggests new metaphors for understanding a present that many scientists are calling the Anthropocene era.
Crickets feeding in the installation.
Cricket Reactor by Third Millennium Farming is an alternative approach to urban agriculture where city bio-wastes are used to farm algae and fungi, which are in turn fed to insects. In turn, the crickets are processed into an edible flour—a low carbon footprint form of protein.
Jakub Dzamba, a University of Toronto graduate and Ph.D. candidate designed the Reactor. It consists of a series of interconnected, clear chambers from which crickets may feed and grow. The Reactor is well-sealed to prevent the escape of the wayward cricket into our world.
A series of divided areas accommodate the crickets’ full lifecycle.
The architectural language of the Reactor could be described as “antfarm-Modernist.” A large, clear, central atrium with detachable clear pods at the sides to accommodate a variety of programmes, or in this case, different bio-wastes. The density of the insects per square inch is evocative of urban living, and reminiscent of maximizing return on investment for repeating condominium units in the sky.
Crickets entering one of the removeable cartridges in the installation.
The Cricket Reactor is scaled for human residential-use, suitable for a tabletop and the containers allow for easy observation of the crickets, treating them as a type of science project. In all, it is a model of a city, with the residents moving about on all fours.
A model of a hydroponic farm is the basis of the project Loop, by Design Build Grow Studio. Created by recent Ryerson University graduates Mark Grimsrud, Newton Xian, and Ron Noble, the installation is based upon industrial-scale culture where plants are grown in absence of traditional Mother Nature—without soil and without sunlight.
Water, however, is required in this closed-loop system. The designers have incorporated an oversized wheel to activate the nutrient-rich water through the piece. Instead of walking to the hose or tap to water your plants, all you have to do is turn a wheel, and you’ll never get a drop of water on you.
Similar to the Cricket Reactor, the use of interconnected clear tubes in Loop allows for visual inspection of the various parts, also treating nature as a science experiment.
The expanded 2016 edition of Grow Op enters its fourth year featuring a collection of ecological curios, from explorers, artists, farmers, landscape architects, anthropologists, advocates, historians, and healers. The Gladstone Hotel’s role as a cultural hub, integrating architectural preservation and adaptation, provides a fitting habitat for an immersive experience of 30 selected works and a reference point for the growing collection of off-site projects that reach outwards into the city beyond.
With programming across several days, this year’s exhibition draws together a thought-provoking set of possibilities to reframe our understanding of the continuities within urban and wild, culture and nature, and to continue to cultivate our curiosity as we make our way through this world.
-Christine Leu, Co-Curator, Grow Op Exhibition 2016