Gardening on ice: a mammoth project

It is not often that you see a proposal for a substantial indoor garden, still less one located on an ice tundra, however this is what Leeser Architecture, (who also imagined the engaging Helix Hotel in Abu Dhabi) have proposed in their design for the World Mammoth and Permafrost Museum in Yakutsk Siberia. Yakutsk is the world’s largest city built on permafrost with temperatures ranging from -45degF to 90degF.

The extensive and intensive indoor gardens have been designed to “promote a sense of year-round natural life even in the desolate winter months.”

Not much is said of the about the construction of the landscape elements and gardens. This is a competition afterall, so details will undoubtedly be required later.

The exterior gardens are described as “naturally patterned by the effects of shifting permafrost cycles.” Cells will be planted with native grasses. Mosses and trees will be reintroduced to the landscape to reflect the existing topography and improve site hydrology.

While the interior gardens cascade “at the perimeter of the building’s interior with lush thick mats of moss and lichen” grown between a latticework of pathways.” Moss and lichen are the natural insulators of permafrost ground. The gardens have a number of important functions including to 1) add color 2) insulation value 3) filter indoor air and 4) maintain air humidity.

In one of the gardens floats a cafe, while other gardens can only be viewed from above by visitors but are accessible to researchers.

6 thoughts on “Gardening on ice: a mammoth project

  1. Tom Turner

    Does the garden represent Tundra vegetation as it now is, or as it was in the age of the mammoths, or are they the same thing? The illustration looks more like the garden of a hotel in the tropics than the type of environment I associate with mammoths.
    BTW I heard a programme about alcohol as the wonder-fuel to save the planet from global warming. The interviewee was David Blume He sees it as an aspect of permaculture, hence the name of his website.

  2. Christine

    This article on the mammoth diet suggests that the ecology environment in which he lived is now extinct, with no known similar ‘analogue’. Differently to the proposed landscape design the mammoth lived in a treeless environment. There seems to be some resemblence between the garden created and the vegetation on the tundra:

    “the vegetation was not uniform but was differentiated according to water supply, depending on wind exposure, slope, aspect, snow-lie, etc. into a mosaic of communities reminiscent of remnant areas of grassy tundra in Siberia and Alaska today.”
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    The primary issue with biofuels seems to be sustainable production:

    “If done wrong, the production of biomass for biofuels like ethanol could destroy habitats, worsen water or air quality, limit food production and even jeopardize the long-term viability of the biomass resource itself. The environmental impact of biofuels is comparable to certain agricultural crops. For example, the growing of corn has similar consequences whether the corn is grown for food, animal feed, or as a biofuel feedstock.

    The environmental impact is particularly high when forestland is cleared for monocrop farming of current generation feedstocks like corn. If done right, next generation feedstocks, such as mixed prairie grasses, may offer a lower-impact alternative, especially if grown with smart farming practices, such as no or low-till, plant diversification, and lower pesticide and fertilizer use. This potential for displacing some of our fossil fuel use makes next generation biomass feedstocks a worthwhile target for research and development. As we expand our biofuels production, there must be adequate safeguards in place to ensure that fuels are produced in a manner that safeguards the environment.”

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  3. Tom Turner

    I like the term ‘Mammoth steppe’ and would like to see Salix arctica growing wild.

    The programme I listened to, on American public radio, about using alcohol as a fuel, argued that the gasoline industry is spending a small fortune (ie small change to them) on putting out counter-information about the use of biofuels. They are supporting the argument that using land for biofuels is pushing up food prices, whereas, it is argued, food prices are related to oil prices, because so much oil is used to produce food. Our diet is said to be ‘dripping in oil’. I will do a blog post about this.


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