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A Farm Grows in Queens
Urban Farm by Work Architecture Company

The New York Times today takes a look at Work Architecture Company's Public Farm 1, this year's winner of the Young Architects Program at the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Queens.

Where sightseers once splashed about in silly algorithmic frotteurism, they will be treated this summer to an $85,000 community garden, whose “rural delights” will probably not go to supplement the nutritional needs of the disenfranchised but rather will go to make bloody marys and beer for architecture students.

Urban Farm by Work Architecture Company

Spatially, the scheme submitted by architects Dan Wood and Amale Andraos will involve “heavy cardboard tubes — the largest is a yard in height, and in diameter — in part because of the shadows they would cast and because of their resilience. Columns will be bolted together to form a span that rises on either side of a pool like a large V.”


Each tube will play its own role. Some will contain plantings on dirt shelves equipped with liner bags to prevent leakage.

There is a fabric tube that people can enter through a curtain “where you can hide from the party, if you’ve had enough,” Ms. Andraos said.

There will be two sound columns — one that plays farm sounds when you sit down, another in which you can look upward, see stars and hear crickets. There is a phone-charging column, a children’s grotto of columns with swings, an herb-growing column with circulating fans dispersing scents like basil or lavender, and a juicer column where fresh juice will be made and sold.

It all sounds a bit too much, but then again, that's a good thing. We like messy public spaces.

Urban Farm by Work Architecture Company

Urban Farm by Work Architecture Company

Conceptually, the husband-and-wife duo are mining familiar territory. Industrialization/pre-industrialization, globalism/regionalism, fast food/slow food, urban/rural and landscape/architecture have all been well-dichotomized before.

Quoting the architects from their website:

Urban Farm [is] a magical plot of rural delights inserted within the city grid that resonates with our generations' preoccupations and hopes for a better and different future. In our post-industrial age of information, customization and individual expression, the most exciting and promising developments are no longer those of mass production but of local interventions. As cities have finally proven their superiority to their suburban counterparts – in everything from quality of life to environmental impact - they should again become our much needed laboratories of experimentation: opening our minds and senses towards better living with each other and the world.

Channeling the last utopian architectural projects about the City that examined its potential, represented its promises of liberation, and captured its pleasures –from Superstudio's continuous monument to Koolhaas's Exodus– Public Farm 1 (PF1) is an architectural and urban manifesto to engage play and reinvent our cities, and our world, once more.

One wonders here if they are familiar with Wheatfield by Agnes Denes?

Urban Farm by Work Architecture Company

Urban Farm by Work Architecture Company

In any case, according to the chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art, “it’s just so unlike anything that’s been done before. It’s the first one that’s not canopies or party spaces. In some ways it’s almost in counterpoint to the program.”

Indeed, earlier installations were merely xeroxes of fixed images orchestrated beforehand with a computer program, apolitical bores whose range of interactivity were laughably limited. 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.

Dan Wood nicely summarizes their strategy: “We’re not sure what’s going to grow.”

And if this “rural oasis” becomes a wasteland due to climate change, a Category 5 hurricane or the deficient gardening skills of the architects, the project will not necessarily be a failure.

It'll be an awesome project.

Wheatfield by Agnes Denes
  • Anonymous
  • February 7, 2008 at 9:07:00 PM CST
  • urban farming is an old and tired idea. there's actually a real live functioning farm in queens, with chickens and pigs to boot. or look at the 'farmadelphia' proposal developed for inner city philadelphia. work's scheme is just buckets full of weeds that don't really benefit or excite anyone except the pseudo intellectual art fashionistas. blah blah blah baaarf...

  • Alexander Trevi
  • February 7, 2008 at 9:53:00 PM CST
  • I think you're actually advocating something that you are simultaneously dismissing, and in a manner that others (perhaps including you) like to point out as particular to a certain subgroup, which you seem to deplore.

  • Anonymous
  • February 7, 2008 at 10:02:00 PM CST
  • Farmadelphia is an old and tired idea.

    Check out Rome.

    Circa 900 C.E.

  • Anonymous
  • February 7, 2008 at 10:44:00 PM CST
  • mr. trevi, i'm not advocating anything... just a jaded clown over here.

    mr. anonymous, don't know what you mean by 900 c.e. but i do like piranesi

  • Anonymous
  • February 8, 2008 at 4:08:00 AM CST
  • Urban farming isn't "old and tired", it's one of those eternal ideas that just makes sense, like balconies, promenades next to bodies of water, soccer fields, or park benches.

    People really do need to be in a position to cultivate their own food, pick it and enjoy it. That's primal. And it's very nice to see planners, architects and landscape architects thinking about that kind of primal pleasure.

    The special thing about this proposal, to my eye, is its form. This could be gorgeous!

  • Anonymous
  • February 8, 2008 at 8:42:00 AM CST
  • How is this 'farming'? How can anyone reach the tubes to actually farm them? And who is this 'farm' going to benefit?

    Creating organic locally sourced fresh produce is a worthy goal in any city, however I don't see it here.

  • Alexander Trevi
  • February 9, 2008 at 4:13:00 AM CST
  • How is this 'farming'?
    It's farming, because it really is farming.

    How can anyone reach the tubes to actually farm them?
    How the vegetated upper level will be reached is suggested by the two circular insets in the third image.

    And who is this 'farm' going to benefit?
    Clearly this will benefit, at least in the short term, the career of the architects, but I think you are probably asking from the project something that is perhaps beyond its scope.

    Apart from that, I don't know how to answer the question.

  • David Barrie
  • February 24, 2008 at 1:31:00 AM CST
  • this is event-making, a decorative, urbanist art-installation: no more, no less.

    when i sit on a train and pass a field with cows in it, i am looking at farming - no question. not this.

    the thing that gets my goat is the inclusion of a farmer's market and the implication that somehow this exercise in rural idyll and myth-making, a little like Rubens and Watteau did in another age, is going to have a spatial, economic and supply chain impact.

    the other is that with the death of Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain and cowboy-chic has had its moment for the time being, it's going to be tricky to know what to wear for the opening.

  • Anonymous
  • October 31, 2008 at 3:58:00 PM CDT
  • Hi –

    We've launched the world’s first Comedic Gardening Show. It’s called “We Grow Together” and it's #11 on Youtube!!! It pokes fun of the classic “Crockett’s Victory Garden”, while also having fun with the current crop of HGTV-style gardening shows. The humor is as unique and zany as gardeners themselves.

    We are featured on Youtube (#11!), and would love it if you featured us on your site! Here’s the link to Episode #2:

    Please rate us and leave comments!

    "We Grow Together" was created as a joint effort of The Independent Comedy Network and MI Productions. MI Productions is the production arm of Mission IMPROVable, the popular touring comedy show. “We Grow Together” was written by and features Anne Gregory and Sean Casey. They both enjoy gardening.

  • Jessica
  • May 13, 2014 at 10:41:00 PM CDT
  • I don't think urban farming should be completely dismissed as one of the commentators mentioned above. Admittedly it does seem a superficial installation, and is too small to go so far as to make it a highly viable urban solution, however it still showcases the possibilities of growing your own food in small spaces such as courtyards and balconies. It also encourages community interaction.

    The integration of a garden and playground is a fantastic idea, and I would go so far as to suggest the architect should have focused on this more than the urban farm. Grotto-like spaces should be featured more often in contemporary architecture, particularly as their whimsical, other-worldly and even labyrinthine qualities would offer and attractive play space for children.

    However in viewing the images the architects appear just to be providing a canopy, under which children have the option of playing. The design should have gone one step further to articulate a space that generates curiosity within children.

    Reinterpreting the grotto in contemporary architecture is something I am keenly interested in and currently researching as part of my Masters. To follow my progress click on the link below:

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