Green dreams in The Growroom

The Growroom is a spherical greenhouse, an urban farm that stacks plants and greeneries tier upon tier, and its design is open-source, everyone has access to the step-by-step guide to building it themselves. Behind The Growoom is SPACE10, the IKEA initiated future living lab based in Copenhagen.

How we deal with urbanization and global food demand is a question being posed more and more. These are questions that are sculpting our cities and affecting our daily lives. So when SPACE10 and architects Sine Lindholm & Mads-Ulrik Husum teamed up, these were the challenges they investigated directly.

Pieces of the puzzle. The Growroom ready to be assembled.
Pieces of the puzzle. The Growroom ready to be assembled.

To tell the story though, first, we have to introduce our protagonists. Simon Caspersen is the director of communications at SPACE10, he’s an anthropologist who loves to tell good a story. SPACE10 is a future-living lab, launched and supported by IKEA, that investigates the future of urban living, as well as the challenges and impacts people face globally. Their goal is to find more sustainable solutions to these sort of issues. And, Sine Lindholm & Mads-Ulrik Husum who are the architects behind The Growroom.

Simon Caspersen, driving the work at SPACE10 in Copenhagen.
Simon Caspersen, driving the work at SPACE10 in Copenhagen.
Co-architect of The Growroom – Sine Lindholm.
Co-architect of The Growroom – Sine Lindholm.
Co-architect of The Growroom – Mads-Ulrik Husum.
Co-architect of The Growroom – Mads-Ulrik Husum.

Simon describes how the problem-solving process begins and then takes a natural turn, “I mean this whole project didn’t start as The Growroom. Some interaction designers had developed a Smart Faucet, a gentle reminder of how you can use less water in the shower. Then we thought if we’re putting technology into the shower it should really make a difference, so we started looking at how much water we could actually save?”

The Growroom supports your sense of well-being so you can actually produce food on your doorstep, but it’s also a place where you can get away.

“We started looking into food and realised we need 70% more food within the next 35 years – which is a lot of food. At the same time, the current way we produce food is really unsustainable. Then we saw that meat is obviously a massive driver of climate change. So what are the alternatives to producing food today?”

Simon says looking into alternative food trends led them to urban farming, bringing agriculture back into the cities and looking at food-production architecture. Then in collaboration with the Chart Art Fair they held an architecture competition, in which even world renowned architect Bjarke Ingels was on the panel of judges. Low and behold, it was Sine Lindholm & Mads-Ulrik Husum who won with their take on a pavilion style urban farm.

The Growroom. A spherical green house.
The Growroom. A spherical green house.

“When the competition and festival was happening we saw how people really liked getting close to the nature. You see this almost poetic, great atmosphere, that brings strangers together and in there you’re really close to the plants and vegetation”, says Mads.

So now that forces were combined the team set out to make a few adjustments to the design. Namely, they wanted it to be more accessible to people. Directly, Mads says, people were wanting to buy it and ship it around the world to exhibit. “But our goal was different, we believe in local production and digital fabrication”, says Simon. “This was a perfect test case to explore open-source design.”

“So I went back to these lovely architects and asked if it would be possible to make it open-source, and they said that we’d have to find a way to make it even more affordable and accessible for people, because the original construction was expensive and contained a lot of customized metal-work”, says Simon.

The Growroom's walls are brimming with herbs and other plants and it smells incredible.
The Growroom's walls are brimming with herbs and other plants and it smells incredible.

The mentioning of open-source really excited them all, but to make it a reality required a lot of revising. Mads says, “a sphere is a complex structure to build, but we wanted to simplify it as much as we could, with as few tools as possible needed to construct it. Like the idea of IKEA furniture that anyone can build it.”

A little more expertise is needed for such a structure, but reaching out to your local fab lab makes it all possible. Fab labs are small-scale factories that give normal people access to state-of-the-art factory machines. As Simon explains, “just by bringing in your digital file, they’re able to convert it into a digital object using digital fabrication and then the CNC-machine will cut it out for you with any material you want. It’s the beauty of open-source.”

Sine adds, “this maker movement, having a shared economy and sharing architecture, for us as architects is very important to be engaged in. The open-source is a movement and is a new technology that anybody can work with.”

A movement that has given people access even to building houses. Simon expands, “so if you talk about it in terms of grow rooms, right now we see that you can 3D print affordable, sustainable houses that use recycled materials, re-use cement and other stuff, but with CNC cutting, there is the wiki-house” – a source of inspiration for the Growroom.

Like the wiki-house, the Growroom is adaptable. According to Simon, people are already playing with it, experimenting with different materials like mushrooms for example, that’s right, fungal based interwoven materials. Plus it’s also easy to build, at the IKEA Festival where the Growroom was on display, the crew of 3 set it up in an hour.

During the Festival we got to see how people interact with the structure. Sine says, “you can connect with the green and get close to it, creating a calmness for your senses. You can smell and touch, just like we’re sitting here.” And in a festive urban atmosphere, the sphere provides welcoming respite.

“The Growroom supports your sense of well-being so you can actually produce food on your doorstep, but it’s also a place where you can get away.”

Fancy building your own Growroom? Download all you need here.

The three behind The Growroom taking a well-earned pause during the IKEA Festival.
The three behind The Growroom taking a well-earned pause during the IKEA Festival.