Sasaki Principal James Miner,
AICP, gave a keynote presentation and served as a competition juror at a
recent workshop organized by Agritecture on December 3 in Somerville, MA.
The event brought together many urban agriculture doers and thinkers from the
Boston area. Following presentations from Miner and Deane Falcone, Senior Vice
President at Fresh Box Farms, three
teams presented their hypothetical design schemes for a vacant lot in
Miner’s presentation focused on the cultural importance of food, and the benefits of bringing food production to the local scale—a topic he has previously explored in a TEDx Talk. “Sasaki issued a survey across six cities in the US to find out what makes a city experience unique and special,” said Miner. “Across all cities people said they would venture out to try new food. That was true everywhere. Lots of differences but food was absolutely consistent. Chefs have become emerging pioneers. Developers now embrace food as driver of retail.”
Falcone detailed how LED technology is increasing the efficiency of growing food, as well as increasing the nutritional value. “Controlled Environment Agriculture, or CEA, relies on full control over environmental variables of temperature, humidity, light, and so on,” said Falcone. “This level of control also enables full control over plant nutrient components. Recent breakthroughs in LED technology make this high-density and high-tech growing—which would have been impossible only a few years ago—a reality.”
Sasaki designer Elangovan Govindan explains the winning team's design scheme to the jurors
The design teams, who had two days to generate a business plan and design scheme for the chosen site, offered insightful and varied approaches. Each team was interdisciplinary, with a mix of architects, marketers, agriculture experts contributing to the final presentation. Three designers from Sasaki participated, including Elangovan Govindan [pictured above], Andrew Leung, and Binbin Ma. Community outreach and access was universal, and was positioned as a means of building community confidence and buy-in for the hypothetical building. One team focused on offering internships and job training programs, while another made space for a test kitchen to align with area chefs.
Dozens of designers and thinkers involved in the local urban agriculture industry attended the event
After questions and deliberations from the three judges, Co-GRO Somerville was selected as the winner. Their scheme focused on the site becoming a gathering space for the community at large, with a large park-like plaza at the center of the complex. The judges appreciated the creative vision for utilizing the site and the realistic phasing schedule. The winners took home a selection of locally-sourced goods, and will publish an in-depth blog post on their scheme on Agritecture.com, the organizer’s website.
For more info on Agritecture’s Workshop series, and their other programs, please visit their site.