At Sharp & Sour, we believe the future of cities is green and full of interespecies life. Far from the grey pavement and black asphalt that now surrounds us, we work towards a future where cities and nature blend together, sharing our spaces with animals and plants alike. But in a context of climate and social crisis, so much needs to be done to achieve that goal. This is the motto behind Floating Havens: to become one of the many small steps we need to take in order to get to a more prosperous, nurturing and desirable future.
Cities need to tackle their denaturalisation once and for all, in the short term future. Especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, people living inside big cities have become aware of the importance of a livable, natural and sustainable city that nurtures and supports life in all its forms. The goal is to use this project to spark curiosity and answer to a growing need of living in a more natural and sustainable environment.
Floating Havens is a project aimed at regenerating life inside the urban landscape. Using Amsterdam’s canals as a way to gain land to the crowded and congested city streets, we want to dedicate these spaces to birds, plants, pollinators, fungi, mussels and any other life forms that we humans have banished from our urban surroundings. By creating these small ecosystems we hope to bring back part of the insects and small birds that once populated our cities. At the same time, we want to address, at least symbolically, issues like air pollution and water contamination.
The project consists of three different floating pods. These pods would be in certain key locations all over Amsterdam's canals. The goal is to both tackle problems like habitat loss, pollution and the denaturalisation of our cities, while at the same time educating people and bringing awareness on these issues.
The first of these pods would be a bees and pollinators oasis. With their populations drastically declining in cities, we want to create a green, flowery and protected environment for them, far from predators, humans and toxic fumes from cars.
Insects and pollinators play a key role in any ecosystem, and we believe the cities of the future need to welcome them again. The green cities of tomorrow will be —hopefully— full of plants and greenery. From urban farms in every rooftop to parks, big pedestrian walk roads full of bushes and trees or green facades. Bringing back pollinators will be a top priority. They help plants in their reproduction process and therefore are vital for their well being. They also allow urban farms and orchards to naturally thrive, being both beneficial for the people and the planet.
Spreading a set of pods over the Amsterdam canals, we both help them find a safe place to live and reproduce, as well as keeping reasonably away from humans. In this win-win scenario, insects get to come back to the cities without interfering with humans while at the same time cities thrive and prosper towards a more sustainable future.
The rise in insects and small animals, will facilitate the come back of birds, especially small birds banished from our cities. Starlings, swifts, swallows, sparrows and other tiny birds populations have been consistently decreasing for many reasons. Pollution, lack of food and the presence of other foreigner, bigger birds are among the main ones.
However, these birds used to play an important role in our ecosystems. As China knows best, sparrows, for example, keep the insects population under control. They also help spreading seeds and there are countless benefits of living surrounded by birds. According to Juan Carlos del Moral (SEO Bird Life) “Sparrows are a bioindicator that establishes the state of biodiversity in our environment. Banishing swallows, sparrows and other common birds around us means that they are suffering impacts that are also affecting us.”
The sanctuary pod is meant to be a bird refuge, specifically meant for sparrows and other small birds, with places to rest, inhabit and get food from. Pigeons and other birds can’t get inside the tiny nests meant for sparrows: giving them a exclusive space in the city for these animals that are, just like insects and plants, crucial for a rich urban ecosystem.
For this animal come back to happen, we need cleaner cities. Less pollution, waste and plastics are one of the factor that could help both insects and birds to feel comfortable living among us again. In the future, we hope plants, trees, electric cars and the increasing use of bikes and cleaner means of transportation will make this shift happen. In the meantime, the purifying pod aim is to start a conversation and take action.
This final proposal would be a water and air purification unit. A floating pod with a pack of mycelium on the surface and ropes with mussels underneath. Mussels can live and thrive in dirty environments, and they actually filter and clean the water, while on the surface, mycelium can absorb as much as twice its weight of CO2.
Possible ways to expand the project
Our dream would be to help naturalising cities all over Europe. These, or more local and specific versions of our Floating Havens could be implemented in cities all over the continent. Rotterdam, Madrid, London, Paris, Copenhaguen, Berlin and many other places have either rivers or lakes where solutions similar to these could be useful.
In addition, different kind of pods could be added depending on the needs of the city: from hydroponic farming to pocket forests or as mere decoration. The goal is to set the stage for the upcoming need to make our cities greener. And to do so with complete ecosystems in a way that is non-intrusive and non-invasive for everyday human life. A first step into creating the green cities of the future.
Sharp & Sour is a multidisciplinary design studio focused on the futures of food. We help food companies and organisations navigate through uncertain times and new food scenarios. We focus on food research, speculative design projects and recipe development as well as brand identity and packaging projects for conscious brands.
Our most recent projects revolve around concepts such as sustainability, degrowth, climate crisis, political unrest and new food trends. We balance our professional practice with exhibitions, talks and lectures for different organisations, public institutions and universities. Our projects have been featured by Mold Magazine, It’s Nice That or Gestalten, and we’ve been part of the Dutch Design Week and the World Design Embassies.
The estimated cost of each of these floating pods is around 5000 euros, including materials, construction and project management. In addition, we usually charge an artist fee of 5000 euros as a studio. The total amount would depend on how many of them we are able to spread throughout the city.
This proposal is part of the 'Penny for your Thoughts' project 2022.