The Greenhouse, by Joost and others, is an opportunistic temporary insertion into a gap in Federation Square, Melbourne.
It’s built entirely from recycled and recyclable materials. The exterior is dis-assembled shipping containers and packing crates, filled with straw bale and covered with plants. When I was there, the walls were embedded with strawberry plants and potatoes were planted on top (and used in the potato salad served below), amongst other things.
The contents within comprise a carefully curated set of local and international sustainable products. For example, the toilets, with products by Aesop, let you wash your hands in the water that is then used to re-fill the cistern below. No need for a separate washbasin, and saves a fair amount of water. Very simple, very smart.
Galloway Design Collective have re-worked shipping crates into roughly-hewn but very pleasing chairs, which are also reusable as tables, stools, benches - a little like this wonderful crate by Small Australian Projects.
Metal chairs are recasts of old street signs, with seat covers made of recycled advertising and signage, creating accidental détournement as per Freitag bags. Great food (locally-sourced of course) is served up on a wooden board, salad in a tin, apple juice in a bottle. Pre-lunch, it was a touch too early for a cocktail but they looked good too. Music was played off vinyl, behind the counter (sounds are recycled from the late-1960s, though.)
It’s these details that make the Greenhouse successful: the original concept is fantastic, but the realisation is consistently strong throughout.
The form of the building is difficult to discern, and essentially consists of a wedge filling the gap made available by two shards of Fed Square. But you get a good juxtaposition of the greenery against the metal walls hugging it, in turn propped against the chaotic background of Flinders Street. The barn-like main interior space is bathed in light at one end, facing the street; up top, it'd be baking on a hot day but wonderful from dusk onwards. It's clear that Fed Square works superbly as a platform for these kind of interventions.
Visiting on a sunny morning in early November, there were only a few people kicking around, but by lunchtime it was pleasingly busy, with a great mix of people ensured by Federation Square (a space that really works for Melbourne now). The City’s Rob Adams also deserves credit for fast-tracking it through the approvals processes.
Particularly interesting to me - as a keen if limited urban gardener - is the building as platform and showcase for urban agriculture. A little more could be done to explain the system at work here - which plants make it into the food; how the waste is turned into compost etc. - and the opportunity for increasingly greening all urban spaces with productive planting. I'm trying to move a few projects forward in this area during 2009 ...
A simple newspaper-format publication explains in more detail, as does the website - which is a little bereft of many images. With that in mind, all my photos of the Greenhouse are collected in a set at Flickr.
The Greenhouse is installed at Federation Square until end-January 2009.
Incidentally, also to be seen at Fed Square this summer are these fantastic Dali-esque melted skateboards.