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Eco-pods: Seeing green again for Filene's Basement

Architects propose a temporary garden and algae farm until developers, financiers, and the city of Boston settle on what to do with historic-but-now-vacant retail site.

Artist's rendering of what an Eco-Pod configuration could look like on the old Filene's Basement site in Boston's Downtown Crossing. Howeler Yoon Architecture

Howeler Yoon Architecture has proposed that an algae farm and vertical garden be erected at the old Filene's Basement site in Boston's Downtown Crossing.

The prefabricated design of interlocking pods containing algae-incubators on the inside and plants on the outside would be a temporary structure until the city of Boston, the site's owners, and the new owner of the bankrupt Filene's Basement chain agree on what to ultimately do with the historic Washington Street real estate.

But it's not just a one-off idea for the Filene's Basement spot.

Howeler Yoon, which is collaborating with Squared Design Lab, proposes placing its Eco-Pods on transition real estate throughout the city instead of leaving the sites to lie fallow while developers and officials spend months working through zoning, financial, and legal webs.

The pods, which are used as incubators for growing algae for biofuel, can be configured in several ways depending on the needs of a given site. Individual pods can also be rented out by researchers for algae-based projects, according to Howeler Yoon.

The spaces that form between the attached pods allow for planting and creating a vertical garden.

While the pods and their cranes look eerily futuristic, it's not such a far-out idea. The U.K.'s Institution of Mechanical Engineers released a report in August that suggested algae-cultivating buildings as one idea toward mitigating climate change. And just recently, PNC Financial Services Group unveiled a vertical garden spanning 2,380 square feet on the south side of its downtown Pittsburgh headquarters.

Clarification at 5:40 a.m. PDT October 1: Squared Design Lab is a collaborator on the project.