Natural systems develop in a succession. A barren field left undisturbed for long enough will become a forest, but this of course doesn't happen overnight. Ecosystems take time to mature and have several stages that are not always linear. First, pioneer plants, often called 'weeds', rush to heal wounds in the earth, sending long tap roots into the ground, drawing nutrients from below and holding the topsoil in place. Organic matter accumulates, shrubby plants begin to grow, offering more niches for life, increasing the flow of nutrients. Slowly, a forest emerges from what was once naked earth; a self sustaining, stable ecosystem, built and supported by a vast network of plants, mycelium, earthworms, birds, and animals. In turn, the forest provides food, shelter, energy, water, shade, and tranquility.
We look at the Bajes Kwartier and see bare soil, but envision the full functioning forest ecosystem it will become. Designing an urban greenhouse isn’t enough. So we asked ourselves: “How do we build a resilient community from the ground up around healthy food production, that is equitable for all involved, and whose members are directly invested in its survival?” To answer this question we can’t be concerned with one-way consumer transactions. What we present is a thoughtfully designed actionable plan which has the potential to create real change for a quarter, a city, and beyond.
The AvantGarden can be divided into several parts which meet the needs of the different people and activities we address in our community:
At the AvantFarm we produce essential nutrition, primarily for ourselves, the community of the B²COOP. We seek in every way to mimic nature. We designed a holistic food web connecting independent, but mutually beneficial cycles of aquaponics, plants, mushrooms, and insects. We wholeheartedly support aquaponics as a source of nutrients rather than any synthetic solution. Aquaponics allows a truly circular model of production through which we manage to capture, supply, and recirculate nutrients for our ecosystem while creating value in all its stages.
The AvantMarket is where the harvest arrives to supply essential healthy food to the citizens of the Bajes Kwartier. The harvest comes from the AvantGarden, but not exclusively. Some products, such as wheat, can be produced in our system but make much more sense to grow outdoors at a different scale. Therefore, we seek to cooperate for high-nutritional produce, sourced locally and responsibly, rather than compete and disrupt the local business environment. The AvantMarket is designed as a farmer’s market held year round. Each stand in the AvantMarket tells the story of the farmer. B²COOP provides the space for the stand and B²COOPmembers-employees work as the cashiers, stock managers and cleaners of the market.
“If niches are opportunities in space, cycles are opportunity in time” (Mollison, 1988). The AvantGarden is full of both kinds of opportunities to accommodate a wide range of activities and meet the needs and wishes of all our AvantCommunity. Not a single space in the common area of the AvantGarden is used for only one purpose. We have a cowork hub, which can be used as study space or library as well, kids playground which becomes a summer cinema & event space, green meeting rooms used either for classes or business meetings, a hackerspace where people can build and experiment, and a public kitchen easily transformed into a dinner party room. Apart from spaces of the AvantGarden that are accessible based on membership or rent, there are some public areas: 'The Hill' and the rooftop Permagarden Café.
As the building and its community grows, it transforms its surroundings and beyond. The profits of from the AvantGarden are invested back into B², creating an edible quarter filled with fruit trees and berry bushes and community events. We aspire to be the model for other urban neighborhoods and through our B²Apprentice program we will create a network of village communities springing up in urban areas of Amsterdam and around the AvantWorld.
With that in mind, we have designed a multi-stakeholder cooperative B²COOP: a cooperative of citizens living in the Bijlmer Bajes (B²), the AvantGardeners, other local farmers and small businesses, working together to build lasting relationships based upon fair prices and wages, and forming community in a common effort to provide the essentials for a healthy, fulfilling life.
B²COOP is the legal organization that embodies the ethical principles guiding the succession to a resilient community around the AvantGarden. By investing into B²COOP, you invest directly into your community, lifestyle and neighborhood prosperity. In return you receive healthy food, and the opportunity to be apart of something bigger than yourself. All of the profits of B²COOP are reinvested back into the AvantGarden mission, supporting community development and slowly bringing change to the way urban areas feed themselves.
Around the world we see a monoculture of food production, but also of culture. To avoid this, we have devised a local currency, B²Coin. Each of us in B²COOP can either invest money or time into the community, and running of the AvantGarden. There are many opportunities to obtain ownership through work, all creating social value, increasing employment, and lowering costs. B²Coin circulates within the kwartier; the money you pay employs your neighbor who then buys your crafts, and so on.
The result of our work can be hardly covered in a few paragraphs. For the challenge, we have submited a document with over 50 pages, where we explain all of our thoughts and ideas, including technical details, community dynamics, cooperative economics, energy flows circurality and more. If you are interested in the project, feel free to have a look at our full proposition.