In Farm's Way: PS1's Hipster Farm

Make text smaller Make text larger

On Sunday, a lot of people with kids, cigarettes and fantastic outfits paid between $2 and $5 to check of the Summer Opening Celebration of Public Farm 1 at PS1 in Brooklyn. Two bands, [Hex Message](/%E2%80%9D from NYC and [Ecstatic Sunshine](/%E2%80%9D via Baltimore, played sets of melodic drone under a tarp, and a beer-pavilion served up bottled water and brews in plastic cups.

[Public Farm 1](/%E2%80%9D (PF1) by [WORK Architecture Company](, the winners of this yearís MoMA/PS1 Young Architectís Program, is a pretty excellent idea whose execution lands somewhere in the middle of sustainable urban agriculture and a Discovery Zone. Essentially a lattice of raised beds in circular containers, the network houses all kinds of crops, has a red periscope attached to its underside and a rainwater pool at its center. Lots of handy information concerning herbs and irrigation techniques can be found in the soggy manuals inexplicably placed in pouches under the water-collection apparatus. The whole thing smells delicious, except for a spacious coop where a collection of fat chickens is housed. At intervals during Sundayís gala, museum employees would grab a bird and carry it around the courtyard to show to patrons.

It's an unsettling companion image for a project so precariously perched on the threshold between conscientious progressivism and bourgie solecism. PF1 felt uncomfortably similar to that sizable, healthy, immanently parade-able hen in the sense that both seem like plump symbols of Green reinvention without actually constituting effects commensurate with their sunny affectation.

I donít mean to dis the project, which Iím sure will pump out legitimate boonsófarmerís markets, educational programs, etc.óindependent of its institutional gloss. Itís not like this incline of soil barrels is intending to topple the agribusiness moloch in the course of its showing, and, in this modest sense, itís inevitably symbolic and catalytic status is OK. If the design makes us want to buy veggies from it, perhaps weíll see more architects adopt or develop the concept to a point where its ubiquity might actually warrant a round of drinks. Letís get some bands to play that party!

Perhaps the problem is PF1ís leech of art-market privilege. These kind of celebrations, ripe with cool shit, undoubtedly will attract a mostly affluent, mostly White, mostly post-collegiate crowd well-versed in the anticipation of our speciesí looming extinction at the hands of all manner of environmental and economic fuck-ups. Even if itís not explicitly elitist, it is elitist by implication. The cultural snobbery that demands microbrews on tap, noise collages on the PA, and half-winking chicken demos for the ethical and gastrointestinal sating of its self-selecting demographic, is an unfortunate caveat to the Farmís wholly legitimate appeal, one that, by all means, should be as universal as its aims and initiatives are needed. Itís a tall order, but no niche should have prerogative over these plots. Of course, in the meantime, Iíll try and become a vegetarian.

[Photo by Gatto Arancione on Flickr]

Make text smaller Make text larger




Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Neighborhood Newsletters