Debra Solomon is an Amsterdam based artist and founder of Urbaniahoeve Social Design Lab for Urban Agriculture. Urbaniahoeve (which translates as ‘the city as our farm’) has developed food-system infrastructures at several public space locations in the Hague and Amsterdam, transforming the existing landscape architecture, whilst prioritising eco-system health, and implementing in situ topsoil production. Debra Solomon’s early public space related work included CULIBLOG.ORG, a weblog about food, food culture and the culture that grows our food, a pop-up concept restaurant exclusively serving micro-greens and the Lucky Mi Fortune Cooking project in collaboration with the Freehouse Collective; a free kitchen that ‘super-used’ surplus from the Netherlands’ biggest outdoor market.
As an expert in food system infrastructure Solomon co-curated in 2007 the Edible City (Dutch Architecture Institute), the Netherlands’ first exhibition on food and the built environment, and was food domain expert of the Designs of the Times (DOTT 07) Urban Farming Project, in Newcastle (UK). In 2008 as designer invitee to the international design biennial at Saint-Etienne’s (FR), Solomon exhibited community tools for food and sustainability (Communauté Choucroute) at City Eco Lab. Solomon was recently an artist in residence in a programme initiated by the Centre for Contemporary Art in the Natural World at Dartington Estate’s Schumacher College, that has since acquired her work. Selected art commissions also include Amsterdam New West Department for Spatial Planning, Stroom (Den Haag), Bureau Europa (Maastricht), New Babylon (Den Haag) and Farming the City / ARCAM (Amsterdam).
The DemoTuinNoord garden is located in the garden behind the artist-incubator building ‘IJsbrand’ in Amsterdam North, 200 meters from the Noorderpark, in a post-war working-class neighbourhood. In collaboration with local residents and the artists / designers of the IJsbrand, Debra Solomon realised a demonstration garden: an edible landscape composed of a plucking and tea garden, fruit hedges, a collectively run kitchen garden, a permaculture food forest and an ecological nursery. 1500 m2 with hard and soft fruit, herbs, gives 9 to 10 months of harvest per annum achieves its ambition to enlarge the existing ecological structure of Amsterdam Noord. With Solomon’s own technique, the DTN soil was drastically improved in just 3 years and now contains 10-12% organic material. Soil researchers from Wageningen University called the DemoTuinNoord soil ‘an ecological paradise’.
May 2013 – Debra Solomon realised the first office kitchen garden of The Hague. The garden is situated on the roof gardens adjacent to the New Babylon Piazza restaurant. The edible greens are processed by the chefs of restaurant Piazza in various dishes. The residents and office users also have access to the herbs. Solomon also supplied recipes for Piazza Restaurant based on the seasonal harvest of the garden. The vegetation consists of more than 40 kinds of vegetables, herbs and (edible) flowers. A well thought out harvest plan delivered about ten months of food per year from the rooftop of New Babylon. The New Babylon vegetable garden connects users of the living- and working spaces, and shopping centre.
FREE FOOD FOR ALL is a vision and spatial planning of aneighbourhood, in which a collaboratively implemented, edible ecological landscape architecture defines the entire public space. FREE FOOD FOR ALL was commissioned by cultural research platform and socially engaged art project KijkRuimte. FREE FOOD FOR ALL consists of four double-sided posters, each highlighting different aspects of community based food sovereignty and giving visual examples of its implementation in the neighbourhood.
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