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Home arrow Blog arrow 8/1/07- At this gallery, green is primary

8/1/07- At this gallery, green is primary PDF Print E-mail
Written by Nancy Davis Kho   
Wednesday, 01 August 2007
There's a new resource for homeowners, architects, designers and eco-activists in the Bay Area interested in practicing sustainability: the Green City Gallery.

Opened July 22 on Shattuck Avenue, near the Downtown Berkeley BART Station, it is a joint effort by Bay Localize, an Oakland nonprofit that focuses on regional self-reliance and ecological sustainability, and DIG Cooperative, a building group that focuses on helping members achieve a greener lifestyle.

The goal is to demonstrate how conservation, recycling and reuse can be brought into homes and businesses.

Babak Tondre, a permaculture teacher at DIG Cooperative and a gallery curator, said, "This is an eco-design showcase; we want to mainstream green technology by making it more visible."

Tondre said visitors to the gallery will leave with an "action package" of ideas for making sustainable design part of their lives.

The gallery's organizers were given a generous lease from a neighbor up the street, developer Soheyl Modarressi of the gourmet takeout hotspot Epicurious Garden.

"We made a presentation to Soheyl on how he could create a 'living roof' for Epicurious Garden, providing food production, water catchment and solar energy," Tondre said. "He was so impressed that he challenged us to use this space for the summer, to show the public what's being done" with green technology.

The organizers had two months in which to pull the exhibits together.

The bare-bones, slightly run-down space is highlighted by a model living roof that stretches from corner to corner of the gallery's front window. Visitors can study the rooftop garden design, a smaller version of the approach that will be used on the 2.5-acre living roof being installed on top of the California Academy of Science's new building in Golden Gate Park.

There's also a display of habitiles, a modular vertical tiling system from designer Aurora Mahassine. These porous tiles have pockets for soil and plants and are designed to be hung on the outside of urban buildings.

"The habitiles are like living downspouts; they collect water and provide a habitat for birds and butterflies," Tondre said.

Other exhibits ringing the large gallery focus on green power and energy; natural building techniques; constructed wetlands; and gray water systems, which channel water from sinks, showers and washing machines into the garden.

Tondre points out that "for plants with a certain root depth, this diverted gray water irrigation reduces the need for sprinklers," particularly helpful during a dry year such as this one.

A second advantage is that it reduces the amount of water that must be treated. With enough participation, Tondre suggested the East Bay Municipal Utility District could consider a gray water rebate program, which would credit homeowners and businesses for diverting water from its treatment plants.

One of the most intriguing exhibits sits in the middle of the gallery. On one side is a toilet with a garden sprouting from behind its tank, and on the other is a urinal with a similarly lush plot of plants behind it.

It is the "PeePeePonics" installation, designed by Nik Bertulis of DIG Cooperative. The design channels urine and feces through specially chosen plants that act as filters, cleaning the output by consuming toxins and effluents and converting it to nitrogen-rich nourishment for the plants themselves.

The gallery also features art created from recycled materials or reflecting the natural environment, such as "Thunderbird Calls for a Meeting of the Ways" by Christina Bertea, constructed entirely of recycled materials, including a hibachi grill.

The gallery will act as a hub for urban sustainability. According to gallery events organizer Kat Steele, there's a speaker series in conjunction with SOULutioneers, an organization leading the permaculture movement. Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements that mimic the structure and interrelationship of natural ecologies. It encompasses agriculture, architecture, land access, legal and economic systems.

The gallery will also play host to the Berkeley Green Drinks Group, an informal networking and social event for players in the environmental movement.

"We want the gallery to be a hub for workshops, networking and social interactions for the sustainability community," Steele said.

One challenge facing the Green City Gallery is funding. Epicurious' Modarressi extended the group's lease through September after seeing the number of enthusiastic visitors at the gallery's opening. Beyond that, however, the gallery's organizers have to raise funds to stay in their present location or find another suitable space.

"We're in the process of planning an Aug. 24 fundraising gala," Steele said, adding that donations to the gallery are welcome at any time.

Given the precarious nature of the Green City Gallery's future, it's worth a summer field trip - for homeowners, architects and designers - to brush up on real-life sustainable design techniques.

-- Green City Gallery, 1950 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, . Open daily 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Aug. 31.

-- Bay Localize:

-- DIG Cooperative:

-- SOULutioneers:

-- Green Drinks International:

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 01 August 2007 )
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