June 7, 2011 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
Garden Unique, a new premium outdoor section of spoga+gafa opening in September in Cologne, Germany, is sponsoring Garden Goes Balcony, a design contest inviting new or established designers to submit fresh ideas for creative balcony spaces. The focus is on innovative furniture ideas, especially those that maintain harmony between the balcony space, its building, and the surrounding environment.
To harness the creative power of a large group of designers and architects, the Garden Goes Balcony contest is being managed by jovoto.com, a creative online crowd-sourcing platform with more than 20,000 registered users from graphic and product designers to architects. The contest is open for another 7 days with a total prize value of 12,500 euros and an introduction to manufacturers.
Of the current submissions, here are some of my favorites:
Grass Mosaic, according its designer, “is a very flexible system of shallow pots made of acrylic stone or similar material. They can be filled with prefabricated lawn grass or with wooden panels. The bottom of the pots allow water fluctuation. They can be arranged freely, walking paths can be dominated by wooden bits while corners can be fully grass. One can design one’s own pattern.” Grass Mosaic’s designer offers that there are a number of small lawn mowers on the market that would be perfect for maintaining the grass modules.
Combix is a modular furniture system for balconies and gardens that allows one the flexibility of using the pieces as seating, tables, storage shelving, space divider, screening, and even as a vertical garden.
Sitting on Plants is a collection of transparent furniture that includes a planting bed and ventilation holes.
Constructed of acrylic and frosted polycarbonate, it is also, according to the designer, comfortable–in addition to being just cool to look at.
The Sitting on Plants system includes a chaise and chair, each with cushions, a table and various sized modular units that can be stacked to create a green wall that doubles as storage system and privacy screening.
Modular seating meets decking meets waterproof storage and more in The Garden Room. Ok, it’s really too large for most balconies, but I like the concept for all its funky flexibility.
The surrounding modular planters, when moved up to the seating elements, function as a backdrop or screen. The cushions provide comfort, and when removed, can be replaced with Yellow Balau smooth planed hardwood, allowing one to place a platter or drinks there: instant table.
Got sun, want shade? the design’s canopy offers respite from the rays and also creates a cozy cocoon for curling up with a book or maybe a lover…
Pot Puzzle consists of three pieces: a pot, table, and a seat. The designer suggests it can be made of any of the solid surface materials like Corian or HI-MACS, materials that work well outdoors and tolerate the elements. The Pot Puzzle’s seat would be made of soft, water resistant foam. I can see this design working well in a hotel or restaurant lounge area.
Tree Stools are a set of stools and a coffee table which, when stacked one above another, form a single object: a tree.
Ideal for small balconies, the “tree” offers a space-saving vertical gardening solution that transforms easily into a set of stools and a small table for breakfast on the balcony, relaxing time, or cocktail parties. Each piece has an attached plant pot, representing the leaves on branch.
Brick is a colorful modular piece that can serve as a balcony wall and vertical garden when stacked and planted. I like its simplicity: use a s few or as many pieces as you need to create a low wall or a taller one for privacy.
…or, as the designer says, create something like Babylon hanging gardens!
Like a flower that opens and closes it petals, Daisy is another take on the multi-tasking piece: multi flower-pot, table/bar, stool, wine cooler, coffee table, and any other creative use you can dream up.
Opened, Daisy works well as a multi flower pot or as table with built-in wine cooler. Closed, she becomes a stool or table. Versatility makes it great for balconies, gardens and other outdoor areas. Daisy’s double vases system makes it easy to water or replace plants–just lift the pots out of the receptacles.
This one gets credit for the thought process, but it’s not yet resolved. I like the idea of a living umbrella utilizing plant material when one can’t get enough shade from a tree alone. But this concept has some problems. Wouldn’t moving the plants around or folding down the upper part stress them (not to mention the person who is moving them)?
This modification of the original idea works better: a decorative screen onto which you can train the climbing plants. The decorative screen design would have to be wonderful as this is not really a new concept. Back to the drawing board!
Seljavegur is a modular wall tile component system comprised of different sized modules that function as plant containers or lights:
1. Single Holder Down: A tile with small plant holder
2. Single Holder Up: Same as the “Single Holder Down” but oriented to operate as a down light
3. Double Holder Top and Bottom: A two tile system used for containing a plant with longer roots
4. Wide Holder: A mirror-reversible tile used for wider plants