Sunday, February 24, 2008

Public Farm 1: Work Architecture Company

While aiming not to be redundant with other resources out there, I just really like this project quite a bit, and have to expand on the previous post. 'Public Farm 1' is the Young Architects Program at PS 1 Project by Work Architecture Company has been covered extensively by a number of sources: originally the NY Times, then Pruned, World Architecture News, Architectural Record, and others that a search would inevitably turn up.

:: image via NY Times

The NY Times article 'Betting a Farm Would Work in Queens', offered the insights on the motivations of the architecture team (Work Architecture Company = Dan Wood and Amale Andraos): derived from the French notion of "...'Sur les paves la ferme,' meaning, “Over the pavement, the farm.” In the architect's words:

Andraos: “We wanted to find what our generation’s symbol would be, embodying our preoccupations, our hopes for the world.” ... "
For us it’s an opportunity to create an exciting structure, but also to talk about issues and ideas — to be engaged with the world.”

:: images via WAN

For a more expansive theoretical view of the approach, check out Work's website. The concept, in a nutshell, via Architectural Record:

"Although the design calls for a productive food garden, this will not be your standard back-yard set-up: Public Farm 1 will soar to 30 feet above the ground. The contemporary art museum has two adjacent courtyards, each enclosed by 20-foot high concrete walls. Dropped into the larger courtyard, the garden’s folded plane will form a V-shape whose two raised wings shade the spaces below. The larger wing will perch itself on the concrete wall and reach over the adjacent courtyard, providing a roof for what the architects dub the “Funderneath” side, adding an unexpected flying garden to the skyline. Columns supporting the overhead garden will delineate different programs, among them a juicing station and cell phone charging area. A “Kid’s Grotto” will be located under the smaller wing and a small wading pool is planned for the point where garden and ground converge."

:: images via WAN

Compelling design, both in simplicity and form - as well as the overall idea.

Looking at the detail more closely the project. Again, from Architectural Record: "The architects will create the installation’s structure by bolting together sections of durable cardboard cylinders. Collectively, like a honeycomb platter, these cylinders will form a massive folded plane. Each cylinder will hold a certain plant. WORK hopes to create a pattern whereby six tubes of the same plant will encircle one empty cylinder. This pattern will heighten the visual impact and allow crews to ascend into the garden to tend it through the open spaces."

:: image via WAN

The cardboard 'superstructure' will be infilled with a variety of plants. A look at the detail below illuminates some of the complexity underlying the simple idea. Tubes will be shimmed together with sheet metal to avoid tearing when bolted together. A perforated strip of MDF will be installed to provide a planting pocket, which will be lined with a product called Magna Moist Organic Planter Lining (of which I could find no info). Soils, irrigation, and plants will finish off the 'cells'.

:: image via WAN

The planting palette is geared towards 'urban garden', with a mix of vegetables, herbs, and fruits, with an eye toward production as well as consumption - on-site. There's talk of a PS 1 beer made from hops grown on site, as well as use of other materials for cocktails - or sale at a local farmer's market. I'm a little skeptical of the actual productivity of this system - especially with a season of watering, rain, wind - all perilous additions to even the most well lined waxed cardboard system.

Alexander Trevi from Pruned made an astute point on this approach, in the Landscape Urbanism evolutionary approach: "Though the current proposal involves a canopy-like structure, the total program will largely depend on continually shifting, real-time conditions. Rather than to a prescribed set of formulas, the space will be finely attuned to the weather, pollution, the disintegration rate of materials and uncertainty."

:: image via Architectural Record

Contrasting this to the 2007 winner of the PS 1 competition, from Ball-Nogues Studio, entitled 'Liquid Sky' - a much more architectural solution, a more artistic, less funky idea:

:: image via Architectural Record

Part of the appeal right now, is that a group of architects and landscape architects with the Portland AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) have the honor of designing this years Festival of Flowers display in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square. This ephemeral design and blending architecture and landscape in a public space is an interesting concept to explore as a designer. While not as long-lived as PS 1 project will be, the idea of this temporary installation that is compelling and interesting in a public space even for a few weeks. Stay tuned for more on this.

:: Aerial view of past Festival - image via Pioneer Courthouse Square


  1. Although wildly impractical, I would like to see projects of this nature more publicly accessible as roadside attractions.


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