The Ohio State University, Art & Technology & School of Architecture

Vermiculture Furniture

Photos Carmen login
Digestive Table by Amy Youngs
Digestive Table, for worm composting, by Amy Youngs
Machine for Living Interdependently, by Amy Youngs
Machine for Living Interdependently (with worms), by Amy Youngs

Worms are the intestines of the soil – Aristotle

Vermiculture Furniture

What does it mean to design with the compost cycle in mind, and invite worms into the home? Can one collaborate with a worm? Could worms become part of the intestines in your home?

One of our greatest wasted resources is expired and uneaten food. Composting, the ancient and pre-modern means of returning living material to the ecological cycle, is returning in popularity as urban farmers and gardeners recognize the need for fertile soil.  From domestic use and restaurants to commercial food distribution systems, both public agencies and the free market are finding incentives in food waste recycling.

The opportunity for urban dwellers to turn those refrigerator science projects and past-term leftovers along with vegetable trimmings into fertilizer for their gardens or potted porch plants calls for a new asset to the well-designed kitchen. Composting natural waste products indoors provide for at home recycling and useful by-products. We are calling for designer kitchen cabinets for vermiculture—hosting worms (red wigglers) at home for year round food waste decomposition.

Course Description

Students from Art, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Design, Engineering, Geography and Agriculture will be researching and building a residential vermiculture compost cabinet / furniture / habitat. Design studies will precede construction of the final artifact. Experts will provide technical specifications for effective bins. Designs are expected to function while solving the problem of making a perceived undesirable element of lives worms, into an asset that would appeal to contemporary social culture, as interpreted by each student.

This design workshop will result in final, well-crafted artifacts. Resources will be made available to individuals or pairs to build their cabinet of up to $250 per proposed project. Students will have access to fabrication facilities in the Knowlton School of Architecture and the Department of Art.

Course Meeting Time and Locations

Spring 2013, Tuesdays, 7:00 - 9:00 Hopkins Hall, room 156.


Kay Bea Jones, Associate Professor of Architecture
ph: 614-292-9449
office: 236 Knowlton Hall

Ann Silverman, Artist

Amy Youngs, Associate Professor of Art
ph: (614) 292-5072 - to leave messages for me.
office: Hopkins Hall, room 150. Mailbox: 258 Hopkins Hall

Course Content and Procedures

10 week course with evening meetings once weekly, to learn from agriculture experts, discuss technical requirements, analyze models, and present & review design proposals. The course is also a workshop dedicated to constructing each student’s prototype.

Learning objective

Demonstrated ability to imagine, design and build a novel habitat that integrates composting worms inside the home.

Requirements and Evaluation

60% Final completed project
20% Progress presentations
20% Active participation in class activities and discussions


Edwards, Clive, Aroncon, Norman Q., & Sherma, Rhonda L., Vermiculture Technology, CRC Press, 2010.
Ladner, Peter, The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities, New Society Publishers, 2011.
McDonough, William & Braungart, Michael, Cradle to Cradle, North Point Press, 2002.
Weintraub, Linda, To Life! Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet, University of California Press, 2012.
Stewart, Amy, The Earth Moved, Algonquin Boooks of Chapel Hill, 2004.
Kellert, Stephen, Biophilic Design
Spaid, Sue Ecovention, Current Art to Transform Ecologies, Contemporary Arts Center, June 2002.
Youngs, Amy, Worm Share, The Sustainability Review, 2012.

Attendance policy

Don't miss class. Don't arrive late or leave early. You are expected to come to class on time, ready to work, discuss or present, depending on what is scheduled that day. Your final grade will be lowered by one full letter upon your second absence - and again for each additional absence. 2 late arrivals or early departures = 1 absence. Absences are absences, whether or not you have a note. You are responsible to find out what you missed and to complete any missed work.

Disability policy

Students with disabilities that have been certified by the Office for Disability Services will be appropriately accommodated, and should inform the instructor as soon as possible of their needs.  The Office for Disability Services is located in 150 Pomerene Hall, 1760 Neil Avenue; telephone 292-3307, TDD 292-0901;

Academic misconduct

It is the responsibility of the Committee on Academic Misconduct to investigate or establish procedures for the investigation of all reported cases of student academic misconduct. The term “academic misconduct” includes all forms of student academic misconduct wherever committed; illustrated by, but not limited to, cases of plagiarism and dishonest practices in connection with examinations. Instructors shall report all instances of alleged academic misconduct to the committee (Faculty Rule 3335-5-487). For additional information, see the Code of Student Conduct.

Schedule overview
DATE TOPICS and class activities HOMEWORK to do, read, watch, before class

TUES Jan 8

Designing for worms and people: basic vermicomposting, artful vermicomposting and working vermiponics experiments

Read: Worm Share, 2012, The Sustainability Review
Read: A City Dweller Tests Four Composters
Listen: NPR story on the Charlotte Douglas International Airport vermicompost project

TUES Jan 15

Discussion of readings and initial ideas

Read: Less Waste, More Soil, chapter 10 in The Urban Food Revolution book. (in Carmen)
Read: Recycling Food Waste: 101, Biocycle Dec. 2010 (in Carmen)
Read: The Earth Moved, Prologue (in Carmen)
Watch: Wast = Food [cradle to cradle]
Prepare: ideas and questions for discussion
Get: woodshop training

TUES Jan 22

Students present and discuss design concepts

Prepare: drawings and/or models for presentation
Read: Ch. 3 Biology and Ecology of Earthworm Species,and Ch. 6 Small-Scale School and Domestic Vermicompsting Systems, in Vermiculture Technology (in Carmen).

TUES Jan 29

Students present revised design concepts, decide on whether you are working in a team by today.

Prepare: revised drawings and/or models for presentation

TUES Feb 5

Final designs due for class review

Complete: models and drawings

TUES Feb 12

Talk by Rhonda Sherman, Solid waste specialist and educator from North Carolina University.

Prepare: revised drawings and/or models to show and discuss with Rhonda Sherman.

TUES Feb 19

Progress presentations

Work: on building your projects

TUES Feb 26

Progress presentations Work: on building your projects
TUES Mar 5 Progress presentations Work: on building your projects
TUES Mar 19 Progress presentations Work: on building your projects
MON April 1 Compostium event 5:30 - 7:30pm at Knowlton We think we will be able to set up our projects this evening to be a part of this event - more details to come.
TUES April 2 Final, built work due for review Complete your project before class and have it set up ahead of time for the final review. Review will be at Knowlton Hall lobby area near the big stairs. Our review committee guests will be: Katherine Bennett, Landscape Architecture faculty at OSU and Bart Overly, Architect.
This schedule is subject to change - check Carmen and stay alert in class for updates as we go.

Class Progress Photos

Course Resources

Related blogs, articles, videos and other online resources

Ohio EPA Urban Agriculture, Composting and Zoning
Food Scraps Recovery in Ohio
Antennae, The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture. Online journal, 2007 - ongoing.
Next Nature Blog
Red Worm Composting Blog
Instructable: Worm bin bag for indoor vermicomposting and easy separation of worms from compost

Worms and composting in the news

NPR story on the Charlotte Douglas International Airport vermicompost project
A City Dweller Tests Four Composters

The Ohio State University, Art & Technology & School of Architecture