Monday, May 2, 2011

Design Projects for the APC Urban Farm

The Alameda Point Collaborative (APC) Urban Farm sits on one-acre of a former Naval Air Station in Alameda, CA. Closed in 1993, portions of the military base have been converted to other uses, including the Alameda Point Collaborative, a supportive housing community that provides homes, job training and other services to formerly homeless families.The farm initiative grew out of a food community assessment that found widespread difficulty in obtaining fresh, nutritious food due to availability and cost.

In 2008, following these findings, the farm was created on the site of a former park, and now offers a CSA style weekly produce delivery service, and sells at a farm stand and to local restaurants. In addition the farm produces and sells eggs & honey, and is developing two aquaculture ponds for raising fish. The farm is a highly successful example of a community food security project, leveraging local engagement and dedicated leadership. I love the before and after aerial views of the farm, which I have borrowed here:
[Before & After, via]

Two new/upcoming pro-bono projects at the farm aim to find architectural and landscape solutions to increase productivity, integrate ecology and aid production.
[Rendering of barn, courtesy of Studios Architecture]

Studios Archicture's San Franciso office has designed a multi-purpose barn that will provide an area for vegetable washing, storage, office space and bike parking. Anna de Anguera, the lead designer explains the design goals:

"Design goals were to make something simple & easy to construct that utilizes as much donated and salvaged materials as possible, and is strategically sited for views from inside the barn and solar access to the greenhouse.  The butterfly roof was chosen to make future rainwater collection simple and to emphasize the rainwater collection goals.  The structure will utilize containers donated by shipping companies and perforated metal panels salvaged from our design for the AIA booth at (the 2009) AIA convention."
The barn project is awaiting funding for completion.
[Diagram of hedgerow plant-insect relationships]
In collaboration with Studios' efforts and with the farm managers, (as a pro-bono project), I designed a series of 'farmscapes', landscape projects that address aesthetic and ecological conditions on the farm, including a windbreak along the north fence and cover cropping in the olive orchard. Along the street frontage, a narrow planting strip between the fence and curb was overgrown with weeds, and targeted for improvements. The physical constraints of the space suggested a 'hedgerow' - mixed planting of various heights that provides year round habitat and food sources for pollinators and beneficial insects. Based on research by the Yolo County Land Trust, the hedgerow design overlaps flowering periods, ensuring that something is always in bloom and thus supports native insects who will in turn support the farm's productivity. On a weekend in early April, a volunteer group gathered to install the first phase of the hedgerow. It will be exciting to see it grow and to monitor the developing ecology at the farm's edge. 

These projects at the APC Farm are one example of the ways that design professionals can engage and support the efforts of local,urban food production. I'd love to hear of more projects like this, and will be posting photos of the APC projects as they develop.