Dan Wood and Amale Andraos, the married founders of Work Architecture, are the sort of activist architects who like to improve the world, one construction site at a time. (Fortunately, it seems there are enough museums, schools, grants, and enlightened private clients to protect these critical thinkers from having to rename themselves Out-of-Work Architecture.) In a bold new bout of do-gooder design, the couple has convinced P.S. 1 to let them fill the museum’s courtyard with … um, crops. Wood and Andraos have won the institution’s Young Architects Program competition, which means that by summer, they will have stood dozens of giant cardboard tubes on one end, filled them with dirt, and used them as planters for cabbages, lettuce, tomatoes, and herbs.
The idea of turning a patch of asphalt into farmland is a throwback to the days of Victory Gardens, and, even earlier, to new immigrants growing tomatoes out behind their tenements. More recently, the locavore movement — which promotes the idea of reducing the distance from harvest to plate in order to avoid the industrial food apparatus — has yielded at least one valiant attempt at agricultural self-sufficiency in Brooklyn.
The project is also a reminder that New York City has quite a lot of arable land lying wastefully fallow. Instead of importing all our produce from Kansas, Chile, and far upstate, we could grow pumpkins on the roof of every Manhattan apartment building, turn the sun-filled corners of executive suites into mini-greenhouses, plant wheat on the Park Avenue median and kale on every condo balcony. Every spring, co-op boards deck out sidewalk planters with nourishment-free pansies; shouldn’t they have to use that public real estate to supply a local pantry? The Bloomberg Administration aims to plant a million trees within the five boroughs; why not require them to fructify? For now, P.S. 1's cabbages will have to do. —Justin Davidson