Gensler Wins Award for Greenhouse/Hydrogen Generating Bridge

The architecture firm proposes a solar-powered greenhouse that would rest on abandoned train tracks in Chicago.

gensler hydrogenerator spark award


New York’s new High Line park has become an instant classic of smart urban planning. But maybe its biggest influence is how it has gotten architects and planners to think about the unused infrastructure in their own cities. We’ve already seen, for example, the Bay Line. And now Gensler and 4240 Architecture have joined the fray with the HYDROGENerator, which would transform Chicago’s abandoned Bloomingdale rail line into a greenhouse-cum-hydrogen generator.

The idea just won the Spark Award for International Design Excellence. HYDROGENerator would stretch along three miles of track, and provide 10 acres of year-round farmland. The hydrogen it creates would power schools.

According to Gensler:

…the greenhouse above produces food
while the hydrogen generator below creates electricity to split water
molecules into pure Hydrogen and Oxygen. This new fuel-cell energy will
be used to power nearby Chicago Public Schools, in turn helping the CPS
reverse its budget shortfall from last year which resulted in teacher
layoffs to offset rising utility bills. Simply put, Hydrogen =
Teachers. The excess Hydrogen will be sold to alternative fuel vehicles
at depots throughout the line.

As it produces this much needed food and energy, the Hydrogenerator
simultaneously releases oxygen as the by-product of photosynthesis and
hydrogen production, a truly sustainable loop.

Now obviously, all of this is a bit far off–we’re still some ways away from solar power that could be economical to deploy at this scale, not to mention the hydrogen generator bit.

The project is intended to be something akin to old-school public works–serving as a civic benefit, sure, but also as a grand statement of public aspiration.


[Via Bustler, which has more pics and the full release]

gensler hydrogenerator

gensler hydrogenerator

About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.