Farmers’ markets, organic groceries, CSAs: They’re a great way for conscientious urbanites to snap up fresh produce. But the fact is, farm-to-table foods aren’t cheap, preventing many low-income families from eating healthy.
That could change with the Greenhouse Project in Brooklyn. This conceptual "pop-up farm" would be built in Cypress Hills, a low-income neighborhood with extremely high obesity rates and a dearth of access to nutritious food. A forward-thinking group of architects, engineers, and designers hopes to offer a corrective by providing hydroponic food to local residents through an off-grid mobile unit. The group estimates that it could farm 8,000 pounds of produce every 12 weeks.
But the Greenhouse Project isn’t just about growing fresh produce. The plan is to turn the place into an educational hub. Local schools could visit on field trips to learn about the connection between science, nutrition, and climate change. Residents could take classes on urban agriculture and greenhouse construction.
So why is the Greenhouse Project a pop-up? The unit’s proposed location is on an empty brownfield in Cypress Hills, one of many in the area. The site, though owned by the city, is too expensive to be cleaned up and used for new housing developments—at least for now. "This is why our project sits above the ground—so that we can use any available site ASAP," explains Emily Abruzzo, the project architect. "If HPD [NYC’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development] does decide that they want to use the site, the greenhouse will be disassembled and moved to another site. Ideally, there could… be a network of greenhouses, but the idea is to start with one as a prototype." Plus, as long as the structure is temporary, project coordinators don’t have to secure building permits.
The Greenhouse Project is just one of several collaborations under the direction of desigNYC. With the intent to foster social change through design, desigNYC connects designers with nonprofits, community groups, and city agencies. The roster of projects for 2011 includes: branding for a new urban ecology initiative; a pop-up plaza in Brooklyn; and a new community center for an existing waterfront park. The Greenhouse Project is a collaboration between the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation, Abruzzo-Bodziak Architects, NY Sunworks, and graphic designer Claire Taylor Hansen.
DesigNYC is gearing up for its 2012 campaign, "Recharging Communities." If you have bright ideas, and you’re looking to do good at an urban scale, check out the group’s call for submissions.