Carlo Ratti Associati has unveiled 'Garden of the Four Seasons,' a covered garden in Milan where spring, summer, autumn, and winter coexist at any moment of the year, thanks to an innovative, zero-net-energy climate control system.
Based on a concept by Dr. Barbara Römer, founder of the creative consultancy Studio Römer, the project leverages a new system for high-precision climate control, by which incoming solar energy is partially collected through photovoltaics and redistributed among the different seasonal areas, with zero net energy impact.
"As climate change might become more extreme, the importance of envisioning strategies for climate remediation will increase dramatically," commented Carlo Ratti, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and founding partner at Carlo Ratti Associati. "This was our inspiration behind the 'Four Seasons garden' - in which we usher in a technique for a sustainable and emphatic Internet of Plants."
Hundreds of vegetable species live in the Garden of the Four Seasons, housed under a transparent, responsive membrane of EFTE - a digitally-augmented material that uses sensors to open and close, permitting an accurate regulation of the environmental conditions underneath. By constantly adjusting two main components - lighting levels and heat - the system allows the plants' metamorphosis to follow the different seasonal cycles. Visitors can walk through four seasonal areas, starting with spring and ending with winter, observing nature's transformation through time, as it unfolds in space.
In the garden, people can interact with nature in many ways - from eating al fresco during Milan's cold winters, to celebrating a wedding in the Eternal Spring area. Furthermore, a series of digital sensors measures the quantity of water, temperature, humidity and nutrients needed by each vegetable species. This information is then made visible in real-time - as "tweets" coming from the plants about their status.