TheGreenest.Net and Thread Collective Win the One Prize!

Posted: July 20th, 2010 | Author:

Brooklyn-based architecture collective Terreform ONE announced that the design team — consisting of TheGreenest.Net and architecture firm, thread collective – have been selected as winner of the first annual ONE Prize of $5,000 sponsored by the American Society of Landscape Architects and NYC Department of Parks & Recreation!

On July 29, 2010 at 6:30 pm, One Prize will host an awards ceremony and cocktail reception that launches an on-going exhibition of the winning designs at Trespa/Arpa Design Centre,  62 Greene Street in SOHO. Please RSVP to or register here.

The winning team, consisting of Derek Denckla from TheGreenest.Net and Gita Nandan and Elliott Maltby from thread collective, came together to respond to the call for proposals on the theme “Mowing to Growing: A Design Competition for Creating Productive Green Spaces in Cities.”

The competition drew 202 teams and 850 team members from more than 20 countries and five continents.

“We were really excited when it was announced that we made the list of 30 semi-finalists earlier this year.” said Nandan, “Looking at the other semi-finalists –and the quality of their projects — I was really honored. Our proposal was in some seriously accomplished company. That’s why it’s all-the-more thrilling that we were selected as the model project.”

Our team hashed out a few prototype designs together until we settled on Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) Farms.  The concept of the NORC  is simple: to connect aging New Yorkers with inaccessible lawns that surround public housing complexes in order to create and cultivate farm plots and social spaces.  NORC FARMS would use urban agriculture to transform grass into a socially, ecologically, economically productive space; activate older New Yorkers, and transforming public housing into local agriculture; where the Corbusier “tower in the park” becomes the sustainable tower in the farm.

“We took a bit of a risk when we submitted the NORC Farms proposal.” said Elliott Maltby. “Let’s face it, aging is a critical social issue but not usually the subject of high-concept design. Furthermore, the traditional entry in a design competition emphasizes strong forms that depict a robust design sensibility. Instead, we decided to focus our proposal more on investigating the nature of spatial relationships and how slight but significant changes in use can radically transform community.”

“Originally, the prize was to be $10,000 for one winner,” said organizer Maria Aiolova of Terreform, “but we quickly began to see that there was two stand-out proposals: one that emphasized community planning and another that was more design-driven. So, in the end, we decided to split the $10,000 prize to honor both of these impulses that initially motivated the competition.”

“NORC Farms obviously was our choice for the community proposal.” Aiolova added. “We really feel that NORC Farms addresses a serious community need with an elegant and creative solution. It made us really pleased that a few days before we announced the winners, the NY Times ran a front page story about cities (including NYC) launching design accommodations for their aging populations.” (See “NY Aims to Improve the Lives of the Elderly,” Anemona Hartocollis, 7/18/10, NY Times).

The ONE Prize competition called for technical, urbanistic, and architectural strategies not simply for the food production required to feed the cities and suburbs, but the possibilities of diet, agriculture, and retrofitted facilities that could achieve that level within the constraints of the local climate and conditions.  The entries ranged from vertical farms, neighborhood farms, farming on vacant lots and buildings, abandoned infrastructure, front lawns, strip malls, roof tops, river barges and inside trailers.

As Terreform ONE cofounder Mitchell Joachim puts it: “We want to break the American love affair with the suburban lawn.” In a country that today squanders some seven billion gallons of water every day watering its 40,000 acres of suburban lawns—and in which only two percent of food is grown locally—Mowing to Growing challenged architects to devise workable means for growing more of America’s food closer to more of America’s communities, and to do so at less expense to our economy and our environment.

Terreform ONE [Open Network Ecology] is a non-profit design group that promotes green design in cities. Since 2006, the group has been a pioneer in ecological design and sustainable construction technology. With visionary proposals in the fields of public transit, waste reuse and community development, as well as lectures, workshops and exhibitions, the Terreform ONE team has pushed the conceptual envelope for ecological architecture and urban design.  The One Prize is the group’s latest initiative to advance the burgeoning environmental movement by encouraging designers to imagine new solutions for conservation and renewability, and then giving those designers a platform for their ideas.

The design team that shared the winning award of the One Prize was AGENCY architecture LLC, USA (Ersela Kripa, Stephen Mueller). This project proposes a global system of levees, serving also as a new  brand of urban farms at the city’s edge, preserving local ecologies while protecting cities from emerging dangers.  Each stage of the levee supports the next.  Clippings, compost, and surplus crops from farming levels are used as nutrients and food for a series of fish farms, marshes, and restorative dune ecologies.  Waste from marine life and nutrients from algal habitats are then used to fertilized farm levels, making the levee a complete ecology.

The Jury consisted of a distinguished panel of thinkers and designers, including:
• Cameron Sinclair, Founder, Architecture for Humanity
• Adrian Benepe, Commissioner, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation
• Ben  Schwegler, Jr., Ph.D., Chief Scientist of Walt Disney Imagineering
• DJ Spooky, AKA Paul D. Miller, electronic and experimental musician,  producer and author
• Dickson Despommier, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University and Director of the Vertical Farm Project
• Carol Coletta, president and CEO of CEOs for Cities, Host and Producer of the nationally syndicated public radio show Smart City
• William J. Mitchell, Professor of Architecture and Media Arts and Sciences at MIT, Director, Media Lab’s Smart Cities research group at MIT

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