Posts tagged with "DSGN AGNC":

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Urban farming in suburban Phoenix becomes the basis for an entire community hub

While urban farming has become a great catchphrase, it has yet to take hold in a significant way in most American cities and suburbs. However, an excellent model for its progression is DSGN AGNC’s Spaces Of Opportunity, an 18-acre site in South Phoenix, Arizona, that is much more than just a place for growing: It’s also a community hub, an art center, and a music venue.

“The idea is that farming here is an excuse to bring services to this area,” said DSGN AGNC principal and founder Quilian Riano. “A way to bring economic opportunity.”

The semi-suburban area is home primarily to low- and middle-income Latino and African American populations. It’s also the site of a food desert, meaning that fresh food is very difficult to find. “There are more liquor stores than grocery stores here,” noted Riano.

DSGN AGNC’s master plan for the project, undertaken with the Desert Botanical Garden and a consortium of local nonprofits, called Cultivate South Phoenix, lays out segmented plots for community gardens and incubator farms. Master farmers will teach apprentices agrarian skills, helping them progress so they can get their own plots to work. Spaces in between the plots will be lined by rows of flowering fruit trees. The spaces along the edges of these plots will take on myriad uses, including washing and cleaning stations housed in repurposed shipping containers; compost and animal areas; a 500-person, colorful corrugated-metal and solar-panel-topped stage; playgrounds; an outdoor gym; and walls for art.

Work on the project is already underway, and Riano said he hopes it will be fully up and running by this coming summer or fall. Its creation involves an iterative process that Riano calls “design, wait, build.” In other words, the firm comes up with a plan, but then the community inevitably changes it to better meet their needs, and then the designers scramble to catch up with an adjusted plan.

“The community already moved faster than my previous design,” said Riano, referring to his early efforts to start growing on the site. “I had to rethink completely. The design is constantly re-questioned, rethought, and reworked.”

He hopes the project—both its content and its development—will become a model for future urban farms and for urban development in general. Incorporating so many types of uses has helped not only with interest, but also with fundraising. Already money has come in from local philanthropists and education and arts foundations.

“It’s a design that is very flexible and very participatory,” said Riano. “We’re using every angle.” The team also plans to coordinate with local schools, churches, and businesses to maximize participation and support.

Like many of DSGN AGNC’s initiative across the country, the project is also filled with learning lessons, like how to farm, how to build, and how to bring residents, designers, nonprofits, and city officials together. The firm’s other highly collaborative projects include Under El-Space Pilot, a pop-up park under the Gowanus Expressway in Queens; INPLACE, a community plan designed to bring urban art and design projects to Youngstown, Ohio; and La Casita Verde, a flexible community garden built on the site of a derelict lot in Brooklyn.

“It’s not just about building, but about rethinking the design process,” said Riano, of his diverse body of work. “Everybody learns, including me.”

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This architect turns Sun Belt battles over land and water into a provocative game

Only the wonkiest eyes light up when resource allocation is discussed in facts and figures, so architect Quilian Riano decided to have some fun in the Sun Belt with a game that reflects on two of the region's most pressing issues. Riano, founding principal of Brooklyn-based DSGN AGNC, created SANDBOXING, a pavilion that turns land and water scarcity into a puzzle and an urgent conversation. SANDBOXING asks players to divide the finite resources of land and water between themselves equitably—or not. Participants stake out a zone in the sandbox (a stand-in for developable land) and begin expanding their territory with the help of yellow wood dividers stacked outside the pavilion. When a player's building spree brushes up against another player's domain, the two are obligated to negotiate boundaries or fight shrewdly to get more land—a mirror of the real-time development battles that shape the Sun Belt. While these negotiations are underway, a working dew-catcher canopy collects moisture from the air, converting droplets to plentiful water for sandcastles. "The spatial regeneration in the sandbox shows how you can discuss larger issues through a game," Riano said. There are no winners, he explained, only open-ended discussions on how to share a finite resource. The pavilion was installed in November and fabricated locally by Ash studios. The pavilion debuted at Jubilee Park and Community Center in Old East Dallas, a predominantly black and Latino neighborhood, to coincide with New Cities Future Ruins' (NCFR) November conference. NCFR is a four-year initiative that invites designers, artists, and others to engage with the "extreme urbanism" of the western Sun Belt. The arid region—anchored by sprawling metropolises of Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Diego–Tijuana—is under ecological duress as suburban-style development devours desert ecosystems unable to support a growing population. Although the conference has wrapped, Riano said the community wanted to keep the installation close by, so Ash studios has agreed host it in a lot adjacent to its office, free and open to the public.