One day after living the magic of the Warriors Without Weapons 2012, we left for an adventure in the U.S.A. with little luggage and a lot of eagerness. We chose Salt Lake City, Ariane’s native city, New York, San Francisco and a few national parks along the way.
Our idea was to visit friends and wander in search of architecture, creative use of urban spaces, community gardens and healthy food produced locally. The only thing we planned beforehand was to arrive in New York, leave in direction of San Francisco after 5 days, and spend the final days of our trip in Salt Lake City. The rest of the journey we discovered along the way.
Arriving in New York, we soon received some helpful advice; “allow yourselves to get lost in the city. Walk in whichever direction, talk with people and observe what’s going on. You will be surprised at what you find!” We followed this advice and were delighted at what we discovered.
One of the main things we learned during our trip was: “The best thing someone can do for the world is plant a garden” (we heard this from a friend who quoted Bill Mollison). We are not just talking about those quaint ornamental gardens surrounded by white picket fences and stone pathways; we are talking of the ample meaning of garden; ecosystems where everything is related and interdependent, places that create life, beauty, peace, pleasant smells and community. On this journey we looked for multiple kinds of gardens, collecting seeds for dreams and projects that we want to plant right away.
We would like to share with you what we discovered and what inspired us!
The High Line was an elevated railway line in Manhattan’s West Side that had been abandoned since 1980 and was destined for demolition. In 2002 the NGO Friends of the High Line, a community association created by two gay residents of the neighborhood to preserve the structure, proved to the city that the tax money gained by creating the High Line Park would cover construction and remodel costs and generate extra profits for the city. They soon mobilized artists, residents and opened up a landscape and architecture competition for the project. In 2009 the first section of the park, consisting of 1 mile of public space, was opened to the public. Construction of the second section was completed in 2011 and the last section will be finished in 2013 and open to the public in 2014. The High Line is an excellent case study of transforming abandoned space into a thriving public space. http://www.thehighline.org/
Walking along this linear park, said to be the “Central Park of our generation”, we were enchanted with every step (we returned 3 times to visit). We experienced a unique view of the city and it seemed as if we were floating above the streets, winding our way through high-rises along a green belt of native plants. We discovered surprises that engaged the senses such as a space where we could watch the rush of cars as if we were sitting in front of a movie screen, another space to sit and wet our feet in the water, a series of sun tanning chairs atop wheels that rolled along the old train tracks, spaces where pieces of art were exhibited and much more. At one point we visited the Chelsea Market which connects to the High Line and is full of delicious restaurants, delis and shops filled with creative products. It was impressive to see the diversity of people enjoying the space.
(High Line Park, New York – Aug 2012)
Eagle Street Rooftop Farm is an interesting example of an organic community garden. Situated in an industrial area of Brooklyn, it occupies 6,000 square feet of rooftop space with a splendid view of the Manhattan skyline across the East River. It is a good use of space for urban agriculture. The idea was born from conversations between designers and the owners of the building who invested in the idea. The farm, created in 2009, has produced a variety of over 30 different kinds of produce, from watermelon to cabbage, and sells what it produces to local restaurants and at organic markets. It founded a composting program which collects organic food scraps from nearby restaurants and provides volunteering opportunities. From 2009 to 2011, Eagle Street Rooftop Farm received visits from over 100 groups from schools, NGOs and community organizations and engaged them in educational activities. It works in partnership with Growing Chefs, an organization that promotes activities to bring people in touch with what they eat, and create a generation that has a more balanced, fresh and home-cooked diet. They believe that everyone should know where their food comes from and how to produce it. http://rooftopfarms.org/
(Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, New York – Aug 2012)
On our first evening in San Francisco, walking along Haight Street, famous in the 60’s for being one of the main locations of the Hippie movement, we stumbled across the space seen in the following photo.
(Haight Street Parklet, San Francisco, Aug 2012)
Once a parking spot, the area is now occupied by tables, chairs and a small garden. People can sit, talk and have a meal or drink from the restaurant across the sidewalk. This parklet (the name of this type of space) was inspired by the PARK(ING) Day movement, which is a fantastic idea. In one day, artists, architects and residents occupy metered parking spots (making sure to feed the meter) and create temporary parks so that people passing by can sit and relax in the space that would normally be used by cars. The name PARK(ING) day is a play on words used for this transformation of the space; from parking spot to park. Since the first edition in 2010, Parking Day has happened annually in different cities around the world including São Paulo.
In San Francisco the idea spread, City Hall got involved and the parklets are becoming an addition to the city streets. They are created so people can better enjoy the city’s public spaces, raising the quality of life. The creators of the project, Rebar Art & Design, have an impressive portfolio with incredible initiatives that aim to inspire people to re-imagine the urban environment and our place within it. Their projects work in the intersection of three areas: art, design and ecology. To learn more, check out their site: http://rebargroup.org/
We ran into many parklets on the streets of San Francisco and discovered that the city’s Urban Planning Department has a program called Pavement to Parks that supports these kinds of initiatives. According to a study they conducted, streets occupy 25% of the city’s total area. This is more space than the sum of all public parks and because of this, these initiatives aim at being a laboratory where the city can work together with communities and neighborhoods to test/experiment with new proposals for healthy public spaces for the population. The installations are temporary and use materials that can be easily removed.
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is named after a large saltwater lake near the city and is nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains. The Salt Lake Metropolitan Area has a total population of 1,150,000 yet the city maintains a laid-back lifestyle. In the winter the mountains fill with snow and locals and tourists alike enjoy practicing winter sports in the various ski resorts around the city. As spring approaches and temperatures rise, the snow melts into rivers and streams that run to the valley and keep it green during the hot and dry summer months.
Sugar House Community Garden – Located on Fairmont Park’s old tennis courts that had been abandoned for over 10 years, the Sugar House Community Garden is a thriving vegetable garden in its 2nd year of existence. It consists of 96 raised beds that were built directly on top of the asphalt and are rented to families for $40 per growing season.
When Heidi Spence, coordinator of the project went to the city to ask permission to use the abandoned space for gardens, they allowed her under the condition that the space be returned to the city once they decide to build. She also convinced them by explaining that the raised beds would provide the space to plant without having to break the asphalt. Lowe’s home improvement stores sponsored the materials and construction of the first 46 beds and 30 more were built using the gardener funds. A system of hoses was put in place for watering, drawing water from a small creek that runs from the park’s duck pond.
In 2012, members built 20 more plots thanks to a grant from the Wasatch Community Gardens which brought the number of beds to what it is today. All of the plots were rented out for the 2012 growing season with impressive results.
(Sugar House Community Garden, Salt Lake City – Aug 2012)
Backyard Garden – Arriving at the home of Ben Mates and Silvana Contreras (Ariane’s parents) we were taken to the small paradise. In the backyard of the house, there is a garden with roses, sunflowers, different kinds of herbs, tomatoes, carrots, green beans, cucumber, collard greens, garlic, onions, beets, pumpkins, and fruit-bearing plants and trees such as strawberries, grape vines, raspberry bushes, and hazelnut, plum, apple, peach and cherry trees.
(Basket filled with goods from Ben and Silvana garden – Aug 2012)
Our dream for the world was realized in the moment when we went to pick the produce to make dinner. And what a dinner! In a beautifully decorated environment, in the company of incredible people eating fresh food prepared with love.
(Dishes prepared with vegetables from Ben e Silvana’s garden – Aug 2012)
The garden has been cultivated for more than 15 years. When the family bought the house in 1993, the backyard only consisted of lawn and a couple of trees. Little by little they started composting and planted other varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. Now the vegetable garden measures 660 square feet in the 2,128 square feet of backyard. Every year, the vegetable garden is cultivated from May to September and the harvest is so successful that they have to share with friends and neighbors. It’s a great example of how it’s possible to prepare healthy meals with what is grown in the garden.
(Backyard at Ben and Silvana’s – Aug 2012)
De volta ao Brasil, estamos sonhando com a horta do Elos e que nos próximos meses possamos ter na mesa de almoço verduras e frutas que colhemos no nosso próprio quintal. É uma jornada completamente nova pra muitos de nós. Estamos empolgados para aprender bastante e ver nosso jardim crescer e se encher de vida. Quem quiser se juntar a nós, fique àvontade e sinta-se bem vindo.
*Ariane Mates – Is architect by California College of the Arts and Warrior Without Weapons 2007. She works at Elos sharing her time between graphic design and facilitation. Her attention to details and beauty makes the difference in everything she does either listening to the community or creating our communication material.
**Paulo Farine – graduated from Universidade Estadual de Londrina – Business School and he is a Warrior Without Weapons 2009. Paulo applies his knowledge on the development of products and services at Elos, while building up experience facilitating processes with youth groups and communities.