Helping urban homeowners find new gardening space by putting pivoting vertical gardens outside their windows.

Wingrows emerged as a response to the prompt “Design a product for the kitchen of the future.” In order to build empathy with modern-day kitchen-dwellers, my team and I conducted in-situ observations and interviews (n=12) in the kitchens of adults of various age, gender, culture, living situation, willingness to cook for themselves etc. Qualitative data gathered during these interviews was combined with a trends analysis, market research, and quantitative data to provide a holistic view of needs in the contemporary kitchen. 

At this point, the research team disbanded to begin to build their own individual kitchen products. In order to push the “future” aspect of my product, I conducted a mind-mapping exercise centered around brainstorming kitchen-related product concepts designed for various potential futures for humanity. This method allowed me to generate over forty concepts in an afternoon, which I whittled down through basic research and feasibility analysis. 

The winning concept was at the time called “Green Wall Beside Window”, which encompassed the simple concept of putting vertical gardens directly adjacent to windows to facilitate kitchen users to grow herbs and vegetables in newfound gardening space. The broader motive for this concept is based upon the thesis that as we move to towards a more ecologically conscious future new architecture will become increasingly green, but society will still have massive amounts of the pre-existing built environment that will require greening. By creating an easily-retrofittable product that incentivizes users to install their own green walls, we can move together towards a more desirable, greener, future. 

With the concept selected, the first step was to mock up some basic models of how the system might look and function. Through sketch modelling, I was able to prototype a number of different styles of windows (double hung, casement, slider etc.) and basic embodiments of the concept. Having proven out the concept physically, I generated a customer profile and corresponding customer requirements; performed a functional decomposition to identify individual functions of the product and generate concepts for fulfilling each concept; conducted a morphological analysis to recombine the function concepts in unique ways; and selected a winning holistic concept using a decision matrix. At this point I also built out a user experience map to anticipate a customers’ typical interactions with the product. 

Having refined the concept on paper, it was time to begin building some initial physical prototypes of the product which included both the pivoting shutter and the pots to hang on it. The shutter went through a number of iterations that took it from a very utilitarian design made from angle iron and wire weld mesh to a much more aesthetic formed panel, based on the principle that it needed to look beautiful year-round whether or not there were plants growing on it. 

The prototype panel was made from PETG thermoformed over a mold made from birch plywood, spray painted a silver color to mimic the final material: aluminum. The prototype was affixed to a hand-built section of mock wall which used to replicate the installation and use of the product on an actual building. From interacting with the panel on the wall from the inside, I was able to learn valuable information that helped me refine the installation process and design a jig that would simplify installation from the inside. 

While I am happy with the journey the product has gone on from utilitarian to aesthetic, I think that the product has sacrificed something in regard to DFM and adjustability for different size windows. Further iterations on the product could lead to a compelling form that is also easy to manufacture at different scales for residential and commercial customers alike.