Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ephemeral Urban Gardens: Temporality + Mobility

The last remnants of ephemera sitting around the archives is under the auspices of terrestrially based gardens within the foodsheds of our cities, and - and the need to address the issues of permanence (both the pros and cons). One option is to incorporate food production within our permanent landscaping by using the principles of permaculture to imbue these spaces with productive elements. While gardens in our cities that are permanent fixtures are a necessary element to complement density, parkland, and natural open spaces, there are hundreds of acres of available land and other spaces that can be utilized for growing food - to both take advantage of the temporary availability, and make urban agriculture visible to city dwellers.

:: image via Inhabitat

The use of brownfields brings up many issues (read about Portland's issues here) - but are for the most part compatible with . Check out this EPA report on brownfields and urban agriculture for some data on the subject. In addition, many recent proposals aim to and have the ability to provide temporary occupation of sites - requiring the mobility necessary to move sites on a yearly or short term basis without issues of displacement - maximizing the return on investment by being nimble - a very anti-slow food ideaology - but a necessary one to benefit our cities in productive ways.

:: Garden to Go - image via Designboom

The visible aspect of gardens can take on elements of public art, such as the Sharecropper Micro Farm project - and art installations in NYC cultivating heirloom vegetables at multiple, simple locations through the City.

:: image via Inhabitat

Small modular ideas abound such as the 10x10 project from MIT and Columbia University 'Urban Design Labs', a modest proposal via City Farmer "To help production, the group advocates widespread adoption of small-scale innovations such as “lawn to farm” conversions in urban and suburban areas, and the “10 x 10 project,” an effort to develop vegetable plots in schools and community centers. Lawns require more equipment, labor and fuel than industrial farming nationwide, yet produce no goods. But many vegetables, including lettuce, cucumbers and peppers, can be grown efficiently in small plots."

:: image via City Farmer

This simple planter based idea from Tokyo Green Space highlights the ability to grow food in simple containers and small spaces - in this case neighborhood rice - which are easy to multiple to scale production.

:: image via Tokyo Green Space

Small scale interventions also can include such expanded ideas as aquaponics, such as these personal solutions from Aquaponics USA. Beyond small (which is preferential for mobility), actual transportation and movement of planters is often problematic, as the building of soil along with community is an aspect of gardens we seem conflicted about - and often reduces our ability to occupy any spaces. We need to re-frame the temporal notions of occupation of spaces - and also what's allowed in cities.

:: image via Inhabitat

A couple of recent ideas come from both two North American cities. First, from San Diego, is The Farm Proper, a ", urban farm under development in the lot behind THE BAKERY, the Set & Drift and mi-workshop collaborative studio space in Barrio Logan. The Farm Proper is an experimental project created by a collaborative of artists, designers, and backyard growers to inspire urban cultivation and pocket farms. Using abandoned/defunct shopping carts as our medium, we have designed a scenario to take over a temporarily available industrial lot to provide the community with organically grown food."

:: image via City Farmer

Another is called the 'Mobile Food Collective' which is a student project from Archeworks:
"The students envision the Mobile Unit as the place where communities will come together and participate in their food heritage. At the Mobile Unit people can gather for discussions, to archive recipes, exchange seeds, share meals and participate in demonstrations on planting, growing and cooking their own food. A fleet of bikes with custom trailers accompanies the Mobile Unit. The bikes carry farming and gardening tools and transport the "mods," the nesting storage bins below the table, which house programming material. The accompanying bikes can also be used to deliver CSA boxes and are dispersed throughout a community to alert and direct residents to programming happening at the Mobile Unit."

:: image via Mr. Brown Thumb

This FEMA trailer offers a mobile brand (via Treehugger) - similar to the food cart/mobile restaurant phemomenon - also included with the Truck Farm in Brooklyn, and this mobile greenhouse. Another is "The Armadillo, a FEMA trailer that was transformed into a mobile, vertical community garden by MIT students and faculty."

:: image via Treehugger

Bagsacs are one example - shown recently on Designboom - offering mobility and temporary placement:

:: image via Designboom

A few variants include more temporary bags - such as these in Kenya to combat hunger issues and lack of farmland.

:: image via City Farmer

Or suitcase 'gardens' with built in portability, via Moco Loco.

:: image via Moco Loco

The temporality is an issue worth exploring, and the ideas of ephemeral spaces such as Pop-Up Parks or other Pavement to Parks initiatives and give some precedence that can be applied to urban agriculture: An example from the NY Times for an irregular-shaped parcel on loan for a finite time and used for an art-space. "Appropriately — given that the lot is on loan for about three years from developers who had hoped to build there by now — the project will be called LentSpace." There is not reason this couldn't be a model for agriculture instead of just ornamental plantings.

:: image via NY Times

From a farming perspective, this offers opportunities even without the investment of raised planters, such as Hayes Valley Farm in San Francisco, which is a vacant parcel that will be occupied for 2-5 years depending on the eventual development path of the site (i.e. a building).

:: image via Inhabitat

Mobility also includes mapping - which offers great promise for access to food - such as online resources for gleaning - such as the 'Find Fruit' app for I-phone.

:: image via People and Place

Finally, perhaps it bleeds into concepts of maintenance, as large swaths of rooftop greening could support herds of urban sheep that can be moved around periodically, and also be used for sustainable production of wool and eventually meat. The possibilities, as they say, may be endless.

:: image via Gardenvisit


  1. Very interesting and motivating! Pictures that talk. Thank you.

  2. I'm told that at The Slab, an RV community site near the Salton Sea, someone grows a seasonal (she's only there part time), portable, vertical garden using old car tires.


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