Project: Culture Urbaine Genève
City: Geneva, Switzerland
Carbon absorbing, oxygen producing, air cleaning; an alternative energy source, ecological beauty aid, vitamin-rich power food – these are not words one would normally associate with a motorway bridge. Yet with the addition of a few clear tubes, a pump system and a rich organic liquid, commuters in Geneva have an entirely new language to describe the potential of bridges in their city.
Utilizing both the bridge’s structure and the carbon dioxide generated by passing traffic, the Dutch-Flemish design group Cloud Collective installed an algae garden on an otherwise ordinary Geneva bridge. Feeding off of the highway’s excess of carbon dioxide, Cloud Collective’s algae system turns an uncelebrated part of the city’s grey infrastructure into a green platform for future urban food.
The benefits of the system to the immediate area and the city’s overall ecosystem are numerous – the algae eats the CO2 created by the cars and produces oxygen as part of its natural process. The algae produced by the motorway bridge system, says the collective, “can be used to filter air, as a combustible biomass or even as raw material for different cosmetic and alimentary products.”
The group’s motivation was to rethink the potential of merging natural and urban processes to “try to prove that even these locations of highways and car dealers – despite their anonymous and generic character – can play an important role in the production of food and biomass.”
Algae is a nutrient-rich future food source, often under-valued for the role it could play in future city food systems, given its ease of growth and dense nutrients. As the group says, “The functioning and the placement of this bioreactor signals practices of the future: food production in an urban environment, the conservation of green space and the reinterpretation of existing infrastructures.”