On the East side of Cape Town, on the road parallel to the best coffee shop in the world (Truth) you will find a small building that is attempting something incredibly innovative—turning to nature for solutions to how to properly work and live in harmony. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Melissa Siko, one of the partners on the project with a background in chemical engineering and systems analysis, to learn about all that is going on behind those walls.
75 Harrington Street
Currently, 75 Harrington Street is functioning as a collaborative, creative, co-working environment. Happy people move about the ground floor, grabbing world renowned cappuccinos (for only R 12 – best price in town), typing away behind laptop screens, and engaging in lighthearted meetings. In the floors above them, countless offices boast fun and unique interior design, open spaces, and large windows letting in soothing natural light.
Developed by the Cape Craft and Design Institute (CCDI) and Steven Harris of The Bank, the building is meant to encourage “co-creation” and is ideal for any and all creative businesses, organizations, or startups that prefer an open network and a communal working space. As if this wasn’t interesting enough, 75 Harrington is now making strides to become the go-to example of environmental creativity and resilience and an example of an amazing workspace in its city location.
The ultimate goal for this colorful and creative space is to create a living example of a fully functional urban ecosystem. Melissa, alongside likeminded creatives and professional engineers, has been working on a 3-floor building model based on the principles of biomimicry—using nature’s intelligence to make human systems more sustainable. The top floor, roof farming, is already showing signs of progress.
Several plant design systems and gardening boxes are already scattered on top of 75 Harrington waiting to be put to good use. The GoPro urban vertical gardening kits even have some leafy greens poking out of their holes and reaching for the sun. Melissa hopes that this space will encourage members of the community to come together and grow their own plants and food. The first floor of the building will then become a food market, where farmers can come and sell their locally-grown produce together rather than being in constant competition. In between these two levels will be a floor dedicated to community education, where meetings and workshops on topics such as urban agriculture can be held to further the sustainability initiative.
The main principles for this biomimicry project (as detailed above) include evolving to survive, being resource and energy efficient, adapting to changing conditions, integrating development with growth, being locally attuned and responsive, and using life-friendly chemistry. By following these guidelines, Melissa hopes 75 Harrington Street will become more than just a creative workspace—it will be an environment where people can come together and participate in reinventing our current way of living so that are we are more in tune and adapted to life on earth.
It was a pleasure to see these creative ideas being put into action and I wish the best of luck to everyone involved! A special thanks goes out to Melissa for all of her insight into the project. If you are ever in town, I recommend grabbing a coffee there and seeing the space for yourself!
If you want to learn more about biomimicry, check out Melissa Baird’s recent post on the future of engineering.