Sophia Garner
Collaborating with Carbon: Biochar Production as Adaptive Infrastructure, Regenerative Practice and Landscape Ritual

Collaborating with Carbon‘ investigates the production of biochar as a communal process and cultural landscape (project/experience/technique/practice) sequestering carbon, creating a soil remedy, source of energy and ritual. It is a response to the Furt Valley, which expresses a reality (extraction, accumulation) and demands (water, nutrients, ritual/culture) symptomatic to other anthropogenic territories, while offering a new reading of its hidden potentials.

Biochar (Element – Technique)

Facing climatic changes, the capacity of biochar for soil improvement (sponge behavior) and as NET are gaining attention. However, despite all projected potentials, there is an ambivalence in its production which resulting from an ancient (cultural) technique between stigma and myth has become an expensive industrial high-tech process and a marketable product. By reorganizing residues and situating adaptive infrastructures to dry, burn and store the process is integrated into the existing seasonal landscape, highlighting the communal potential of ‚the happening‘ and adjacent synergies. The system is translated, fragmented and attached to the intelligence of the landscape (‚Haustechnik‘, acupuncture) and the community (‚Indigenialität‘).

Biomass Potential and Shed (Territory – Commune)

The Furt Valley has a biomass potential of organic residues, that could re-fill the valley with carbon in form of biochar in 30 years. By 2100 8% of the country’s responsibility to sequester carbon could be achieved. This requires a conscious flow and storage of matter and an integrated production. Thus a new typology is tested. The biomass shed is the initial organizer. Before burning, the organic residues are sorted and dried. Each commune has sites where linear piles rest for two years, serving as intermediate habitats for fauna and reducing the weight (wet - dry) to 1/5. The lighter matter is then transported to an earth kiln and test site. It is located in a former extraction site at the end of the biomass shed, in the commune of Würenlos, which has multiple mining areas: a) gravel pits (in use until 2030) and b) historic Roman quarries. All of them are re-occupied for different steps of the re-filling process.



The central quarry marks the last high point of the valley plain, communicating into the Furt and towards the larger Limmat valley. It is historically connected to the ancient road network, the industrial rail way and the old village center. Based on its altered topography (worked earth) and location the site is selected for the valley’s first kiln and adjacent experiments of heating, filtering, storing and planting.

The former extractive site is re-occupied for the new production typology which is attached to the existing systems. Based on the site’s logic and an understanding of its condition (topography, watershed, geology, access) structures are designed to catch, move and hold biomass, water and coal. A new landscape, rhythm and choreography emerge, proposing a production that highlights the process and its synergetic, seasonal uses, while contributing to a larger endeavor.

The dried biomass arrives via train and is lined up to be filled into the kiln, which is integrated into the existing plateau, using both the already worked earth and the prominent position. The historic access is supplemented by a transport system, exchanging undone and done matter with gravity. The kiln is a hybrid of different low-tech-methods scaled up and supplemented with an inflatable cupola to catch the steam, as well as a water heating, holding and filtering system. During the colder months, the kiln is fired using the energy to heat water for on-site bathing and the surrounding community. The water is collected throughout the year and stored in various basins. Before entering the kiln it is filtered with an integrated layer of biochar. When unfired, the kiln can be used as a retention basin and accessed as pool. By moving the matter, different spaces, both ephemeral and static, emerge. Paths lead through the site allowing an experience of the process and its residues (steam, warm water, black earth). Production, research and contemplation mingle with each other. While the piles on site come and go, the black dust slowly covers the land and stretches towards the other quarries and the historic village announcing the production. A new crust emerges. The rhythm of burning becomes a productive ritual. What stays are adaptable structures, that can be full or void, eventually re-occupied, and the black ground.

Activation, application (Re-fill, New Geology)

The biochar is moved to the commune’s gravel pits and depending on the demand activated with manure. It is then applied to a) the valley’s agricultural soils to restore their capacities, b) integrated as filters into the drainages, c) filled into extracted sites (quarries, mines, gravel pits) and d) used for test planting. Burn by burn, carbon is returned to the landscape, eventually filling the valley, while inviting its inhabitants to participate in the process. After 30 years the valley is full (and a new geological layer starts to grow.