"We got into a geeky zone trying to understand urban agriculture" – Something & Son

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In this movie we filmed at our Designed in Hackney Day, design duo Something & Son talk about keeping chickens in east London buildings and making tea with heat from compost heaps.

Something and Son at Designed in Hackney Day

Above: the CAR:park project took the roof off a car and filled it with plants

In the movie, Something & Son present a selection of their projects at the Pecha Kucha event at our Designed in Hackney Day in August, telling the audience about their ongoing investigation into urban agriculture and the relationship between nature and cities.

Something and Son at Designed in Hackney Day

Above: homes for migrating swifts

Designer Andrew Merritt begins by introducing CAR:park, a project that explored "how the city would be if cars no longer existed" by rescuing a car that was due to be scrapped, removing its roof and filling it with plants and a pond.

Something and Son at Designed in Hackney Day

Above: the FARM:shop project to grow fish, chickens and vegetables in the city

The pair also created homes for migrating swifts inside a huge raised circle designed to look like the setting sun. "The colour layout helps them find their homes, because they've got high spectrum vision," Merritt explains.

Something and Son at Designed in Hackney Day

Above: FARM:shop

The FARM:shop project saw them take over an empty building in east London to create an urban farm, with vegetables and plants growing indoors alongside tanks of fish, while chickens were kept on the roof. "We're going through a big learning journey around how you can grow food in the city and how can you create a sustainable business model to sell that food," says Paul Smyth, the other half of the duo.

Something and Son at Designed in Hackney Day

Above: FARM:shop project

"Through that we met loads of people who are also passionate about growing food, and we got into a geeky zone of really trying to understand it and work on it," he added.

Something and Son at Designed in Hackney Day

Above: the Rotten Compost Tea Bar serving tea brewed with heat from compost

They also set up the Rotten Compost Tea Bar at the V&A museum in London, brewing tea with heat from a compost heap and serving it in test tubes. "By wrapping a heat exchange through the compost heap you can get temperatures up to 40, 50 or 60 degrees even, if you get it just right," says Smyth.

Something and Son at Designed in Hackney Day

Above: the Rotten Compost Tea Bar

In Korea they learned about aeroponics, a cultivation system that feeds plants by misting them from underneath. "We designed a building, or structure, that you walk into from underneath, and you come into this cave-like structure with the roots hanging above your head," Merritt explains.

Something and Son at Designed in Hackney Day

Above: a 3D printed lamp homemade with glue guns and sand

They also attempted their own homemade version of 3D printing, using glue guns and sand to painstakingly create a lamp from separate layers of glue. "There's a certain amount of trial and error," Merritt admits.

Something and Son at Designed in Hackney Day

Above: a community project representing local people with trees

A project in north London saw the pair working with local people to create a diagram of social capital, in which one tree represents each participant. Trees with many branches indicate those who have the most connections with their neighbours, while tall trees show the people who've lived in the area the longest.

Something and Son at Designed in Hackney Day

Above: drawings for Barking Bathhouse

Finally they introduce Barking Bathhouse, a temporary spa in east London which contains a series of treatment rooms, including a sauna and a cool room filled with dry ice. "It's our first bit of actual architecture," says Merritt.

Something and Son at Designed in Hackney Day

Above: Barking Bathhouse

Designed in Hackney is a Dezeen initiative to show off the best architecture and design created in the borough, which was one of the five host boroughs for the London 2012 Olympic Games as well as being home to Dezeen’s offices.

Something and Son at Designed in Hackney Day

Above: Barking Bathhouse

Watch more movies from our Designed in Hackney Day or see more stories about design and architecture from Hackney.