Today, I’m moving away from NY Design Week’s main event, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, to focus on highlights from WantedDesign, a fabulous — more fabulous than the grande dame of North American design fairs herselff? TreeHugger's Lloyd Alter seems to think so — satellite exhibition that’s now in its second year.
Held in the Terminal Stores, an imposing, 19th-century building on the edge of Manhattan’s West Side, WantedDesign was host to plenty of innovative, environmentally conscious projects. Perhaps most eye-catching of all was Brooklyn-based designer Danielle Trofe’s vertical hydroponic gardening solution inspired by living walls that harnesses a nifty — and most importantly, concealed — self-irrigating drip system to hydrate parched forms of “domestic vegetation” both decorative and edible. As pointed out by Suzanne Labarre over at Co.Design, it's an indoor garden system ideal for those or us who have an uncanny knack at killing plants.
While hydroponic set-ups tend to be an unsightly mess of irrigation tubes, pumps, and planters, that’s not the case with the award-winning design, a sculptural system that offers a decidedly elegant take — Labarre describes it as a “chic, miniature alien colony” — on indoor, soil-less gardening. Hidden aquatic air pumps circulate water from an internal reservoir at the base of the screen straight to the top of the structure via plastic tubes embedded within each powder-coated aluminum tower. From there, gravity works to deliver agua to each of the tiered, pod-shaped planters filled with a mix of lava rocks and coconut husks in lieu of soil. Any excess water trickles back down to the tank via through a second set of plastic tubes. Saving both water and energy, the whole self-sustaining shebang runs on a timer and can be preset to hydrate the plants on an established schedule.
Added bonus: LEDs embedded at the bottom of Trofe's sculptural system provide a lovely bit of mood lighting. The LED cover itself can be lifted to access the reservoir so that additional water and nutrients can be added to the tank and pH levels can be tested.
As an apartment-dwelling Professional Plant Killer™ myself who is interested in vertical hydroponic technology, I’m loving Trofe’s design, but my one initial concern upon seeing it in person and chatting with Trofe herself was the size of the whole system. While you can move the structure around to various indoor spaces (provided there’s ample natural light), I was struck by how daunting the product was in scale, with four separate towers that host as many as seven pods each. That’s a total of 28 individual pods. Fortunately, Trofe has designed the system to be modular and fully customizable so that single- or double-pole configurations are possible — perfect for urban greenthumbs with limited floor space who are looking for less of a full-on screen effect and more of a floor lamp-sized vertical gardening solution. And if desired, it can even function as a single pod system before being expanded.
And in other space-saving, vertical gardening news from NY Design Week, it was fantastic to see Urbio, a super-clever, magnet-based modular planting and storage system that I featured back in April of last year when the project was kicking fundraising butt on Kickstarter, on full display at ICFF.