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Life Support Ecosystem

Life Support Ecosystem is an Architecture and urban movement tested in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, in Cooper Square. Initially, the transition to collective ownership through a Land Trust System in Cooper Square took place in the 1990’s, following a series of events that threatened its inhabitants with slum clearance and displacement. The movement is driven by the idea that a society that functions under the basis of collective ownership requires its own spatial, material, and relational arrangements. Reflecting on the work of feminist writer Silvia Federici, the idea of “The Commons” has been adopted within the Life Support Ecosystem on the basis of cooperation and sharing among humans and non-humans. The model caters to those who have been excluded from real estate hegemony in Manhattan or unwilling to participate in it. Five main spatial transformations has been tested in Cooper Square to nurture the soil, grow food, collect and treat the water, compost and establish various degrees of sharing. (1) Food: The street, facade and roof are transformed into urban gardens, where 30% of the food used for neighbourhood consumption is harvested. The gardens are not just a source of food security but are also centers of social activity, knowledge production, cultural and intergenerational exchange. (2) Water : Rainwater is collected over the roof in tanks, and used for irrigating the roof garden and herbs. In addition, water used in showers and kitchens are treated to provide 60% of the water needed in the rest of the urban farm. The water is treated through a living ecosystem containing microscopic algae, fungi, bacteria and snails, fishes, shrubs, and trees that clean the water. (3). Compost : An ecosystem of compost modules span over the facade, where worms feed on leftover food, to provide minerals and nutrients for the soil and help plants grow. (4). Gradients of Sharing: The tenement housing typology is transformed to allow for walls to be folded, dismantled, moved and repurposed, to create a space that is flexible and fluid, catering for various household sizes. The system attempts to multiply the scales of familiarity and kinship through its spatial and material arrangements. The shops on the ground floor have also been transformed into a “neighbourhood closet” where personal belongings are shared and exchanged. (5). Culture: A society based on collective ownership requires its own form of culture and entertainment. A culture that challenges and confronts capitalism and consumption.