While their fellow students were on holiday, the students of GreenWURks worked hard in the Atlas basement. They finalised their design for an urban greenhouse in the old Bijlmer prison in Amsterdam.
GreenWURks visited the Bijlmer prison last winter. Loes Mellink is in the first row on the left. © Jolien Verweij
The students participate in the Wageningen student challenge ‘Design the Ultimate Urban Greenhouse’. They handed in their report at the end of last week. They will present their work on 28 August. The winner of the Challenge will be announced that same day.
The 23 student teams from 30 different universities around the world have each been working on their own designs since February. Team GreenWURks, which counts fifteen members, is one of the six Wageningen-based teams. ‘We started out with twenty members, but a number of students had to quit, but a few students also joined’, says Loes Mellink. As team leader, she kept a close eye on the group’s work in the past six months. ‘New people brought different perspectives. That made it difficult to make decisions, but also allowed for fresh outlooks on the issues.’
With their design, the students of GreenWURks aim for residents to become shareholders of the urban greenhouse in the old Bijlmer prison. The greenhouse has to be arranged in consultation with local residents, so they came up with modular cultivation installation. ‘We want people to connect to the tower and learn about food production. But first and foremost, we would like them to enjoy growing vegetables themselves in the greenhouse, and we think that this is best achieved if they are involved in the design’, Mellink explains.
According to Mellink, this neighbourhood involvement is an important aspect. The connection between the Bijlmer prison and the neighbourhood area was already there when it was still a prison. During a guided tour earlier this year, Mellink heard several stories about prisoners and their relatives communicating by standing on roofs of student houses and shouting out to each other. Furthermore, the prison guards lived in the neighbouring prison village. In 2016, the old prison turned into a refugee residence, who started a hotel and a restaurant there. ‘These social developments characterise the Bajesbuurt (“prison neighbourhood”), and we have included them in our design’, says Mellink. ‘And the restaurant should definitely stay; they could use the vegetables that are grown in the greenhouse.’
Investing in real estate
The students of the Greenhouse Challenge will be on holiday until the end of August. They will finish their hard work on the 28th, with a pitch and an award ceremony for the best idea. The winning team will receive ten thousand euros. Mellink already knows what she would do with the prize. ‘If it is up to me, we will organise an educational trip for the entire team. And if there is anything left, we can invest in the renovation of the Bijlmer Tower.’
This is the atmosphere that the Bijlmer Tower should emanate according to GreenWURks. Impression by Shiyi Liu, Du Man and Fangyi Zheng.