Grounds for Change: Activating Vacant Land

Farmadelphia (Greenhouses)


Tags: agriculture, communityaction, farming, FRONT_Studio, greenhouses, grow, lots, Philadelphia, small_business

Immediate, affordable solutions for urban farmers.

Farmadelphia, a plan combining urban agriculture, food security, community action, and small business ownership, was a finalist in the 2005 Urban Voids competition. New York City architects FRONT Studio proposed the "conversion of vacant lots and parcels … at any scale, from a single lot to citywide. Farmadelphia presents one vision of urban farming introduced across Philadelphia, encouraging community cooperation and entrepreneurship along with better nutrition and food security for all neighborhoods and income levels."

FRONT Studio's solution for the needs of small urban farmers is a greenhouse buildt in the space between two standing buildings, also called a ‘gap toothed vacancy.’  When buildings are abandoned, greenhouses can be built inside the walls by replacing the roof and removing floors.  Gap-tooth lots can also be filled using neighboring buildings as structural support for a greenhouse. Working with existing structures minimizes building materials discarded as waste.

Greenhouses are an optimal method for urban agriculture because of the low cost of materials. FRONT Studio’s greenhouses use standard building supplies and equipment and are both affordable and accessible. Whether selling produce for profit or sustaining a family, urban farmers may all benefit from the longer growing season greenhouses make possible.

The ability to farm without soil remediation is a major advantage of the greenhouses.  Remediation—removing chemicals and other pollutants from soil—can be a lengthy and expensive process.  FRONT Studio's design sidesteps the need for soil remediation by installing an impermeable vinyl liner between soil for growing and the urban soil below.  Layers of gravel, soil, and stone help planting beds drain and hold water as necessary.  Each bed is watered and cooled by fans and hoses suspended from the greenhouse’s ceiling.

The Designers

  • Front Studio   New York, NY

    Founded in 2001, the enterprising firm of Front Studio is noted for its ability to blur the distinctions between art and architecture. The practice has won several international competitions which challenge conventional notions of space, often through the evocation of visionary ideas. Under the stewardship of Yen Ha and Michi Yanagishita, Front Studio pursues a thoughtful and creative approach to design. Reluctant to participate in current trends and fashions, Front Studio’s commitment to creativity ensures that every project undergoes a careful and comprehensive investigation. In addition to rigorous design methods, the firm instills projects with a sense of humor, recognizable in their whimsical proposals. Front Studio always transcends client expectations by offering unique solutions to complement programmatic requirements. Fluent in French, Vietnamese and Japanese, Michi and Yen work on an international scale, collaborating with foreign clients based locally and abroad. Whether speculative or realized, Front Studio is constantly inspired by its surroundings, discovering innovation and imagination in every opportunity.