As P.S. 216 in Gravesend, Brooklyn, prepares to open the gates of New York’s first Edible Schoolyard garden and kitchen classroom, the future of the city’s youth is looking a little greener. Designed by New York–based architecture firm WORKac for Edible Schoolyard NYC (ESYNYC), the local affiliate of pioneering restaurateur Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard Project, the project has transformed a half-acre parking lot into an organic farm and sustainable kitchen classroom for some of the city’s most underserved children. By exposing them to sustainable food practices through an integrated curriculum of gardening and food preparation, the project hopes to combat the epidemic of childhood obesity and imbue students with the knowledge and skills to make healthy, community conscious decisions for the rest of their lives.
At the heart of the project is the Kitchen Classroom, a simple, trapezoidal structure with a reverse-peaked roof that channels rainwater for collection. Containing kitchen facilities and communal dining tables, the building provides students with a space to learn the joys of cooking and eating as a group. The building is divided into three sections.
To the north is the bulbous, blue “Systems Wall,” enclosing a 1,550-gallon rainwater cistern, tool shed, the building’s mechanical systems, and perhaps the New York School Construction Authority’s first round bathroom. The central classroom space, clad in a pixelated floral tapestry of off-the-shelf concrete shingles drawn from a Denise Scott Brown design, holds the kitchen itself as well as ESYNYC’s regional office. Awash in natural light from large, round skylights, the spacious 1,075-square-foot classroom avoids an overly clinical feel through the use of low counters, domestic appliances, and an enlivened color scheme of orange, yellow, and green.
Grafted onto to the southern face of the building, directly abutting the densely planted garden, stands a 763-square-foot polycarbonate and aluminum greenhouse. Soon to be lined with hanging planters and young seedlings, the airy space is equipped with heat and crank-open wall and ceiling panels so that students can plant and grow year-round.
With 40 percent of New York City’s children overweight or obese, the work doesn’t end at P.S. 216. WORKac and ESNYC have already begun work on their second schoolyard at P.S. 7 in East Harlem, and plans are in place for many more.