Entitled Becoming Xerophile, Cooking Sections and AKT II have developed a zero-water desert garden, part of the first Sharjah Architecture Triennial in UAE, curated by Adrian Lahoud. The installation explores the introduction of desert landscapes in the urban fabric of the city and everyday life.
Consisting of nine microclimates, the experimental landscape aims to “nourish plants without water through techniques developed by societies in the world to live in arid climates with scarce water sources”. A series of sensors measures rainfall, solar radiation, wind speed and direction, air temperature and relative humidity as well as soil moisture and leaf wetness. Moreover, the installation tests edible desert plants, seeking to introduce them into our everyday diet to reduce irrigation and food imports.
The project aims to test which one of the nine microclimates performs better in terms of size, proportion and orientation and allows us to determine if we are able to replicate similar gardens in other places. This is a prototype garden to reduce irrigation of water-dependent plants and shift urban vegetation to other types that can help keep the underground water aquifers more balanced, especially when underground salinity is raising in the region. -- Daniel Fernández Pascual & Alon Schwabe, Founders of Cooking Section
“By using earth mounds or dry stone constructions, these typologies control wind, humidity and heat variations to reduce water stress of the trees planted inside or make water condense naturally”. In fact, Becoming Xerophile uses local soil and rubble from the renovation works of the former Al-Qasimiyah School. The prototype garden aims to reduce irrigation of water-dependent plants and encourage cities to shift to a new type of urban plants.
With specific standards of materiality, shading, depth, and positioning, the structures optimize both air humidity and moisture drawn from the water table. Using plants from the region that can tolerate high temperature, monitored at fifteen-minute intervals, data will be gathered over the next 3 years, in time for the next Sharjah Architecture Triennial. Aiming to incorporate desert plants in the urban environment, the project is testing which one of the nine microclimates performs better in terms of size, proportion, and orientation, to be able to replicate them in other places.
The process of experimenting and working iteratively through trial and error is very much our mode of work at AKT II because it produces evidence on the effectiveness and of course the exploration of certain solutions. While not all experiments lead to perfect outcomes, they always provide valuable insights for future and more developed applications. With this region facing environmental challenges in which high temperatures and infrequent precipitation contribute to water scarcity, pilot projects that embed adaptive research into design such as Becoming Xerophile are urgent and extremely relevant. -- AKT II