An uncommon oasis, the 15,000 sf. Riverpark Farm joins a growing movement in urban agriculture, using unconventional spaces and technologies to harvest crops within a densely populated environment.

Riverpark restaurant owners Tom Colicchio, Sisha Ortuzar, and Jeffrey Zurofsky approached ORE with the challenge of creating a farm at 29th St. and 1st Ave. in Manhattan to provide their kitchen with fresh produce not readily available in the city. The location, a stalled construction site adjacent to the restaurant, would be available until construction resumed on a new tower.  It was thereby determined it would be crucial for the farm to be portable.

ORE adapted milk crates, a product whose design has evolved over hundreds of years to be lightweight, portable by one person, durable, and stackable.  Furthermore, milk crates come in standard dimensions, meaning that the construction of the farm wasn’t tied to any one manufacturer.  Rather than starting from scratch, the milk crate presented a ready-made design solution for Riverpark’s needs.

ORE used one cubic-foot milk crates as individual planters, keeping the planter weight low and planting density high so all 3,000 plants can be moved in as little as one day, as they were in preparation for Hurricane Irene. The milk crates are lined with landscape fabric and filled with top soil, peat moss, and perlite soil, creating an air pocket that allows for air and water transfer with limited soil erosion.  They are placed on top of empty crates, creating a space for aeration and drainage.

The modular nature of the milk crate permits easy, rapid movement of individual plants, enabling the farmers to rotate them in and out of the sun as needed.  It also affords simple soil replacement, maximizing the efficiency of the farm as a whole.  The mobile design allowed for planting before the project’s construction began, ensuring the year’s growing season would not be missed.

ORE sourced all the farm’s materials from local growers and manufacturers and also designed a dining area that is integrated into the farm.  Guests to Riverpark can now dine among the very plants from which their meal comes, providing a one-of-a-kind culinary experience.

Subsequently, this urban farming kit-of-parts has been made open source by ORE and has been used in many new locations such as Philadelphia, Toronto, and the 3×3 Project Veteran’s Farmers Market in Atlanta.

Visit Riverpark.

Client: Tom Colicchio’s Riverpark, Alexandria Center
Program: Modular urban garden and dining area
Location: New York, NY
Size: 15,000 sf.
Status: Completed 2011
Consultants: GrowNYC, Sawkill Farm, Wilklow Orchards
Awards: Architizer A+ Award, New York Municipal Art Society “Livable City Award”, Financial Times/Citigroup
“Ingenuity Award” Finalist