Jacob Peel

Jacob Peel

Portland, OR, US


Verdant Umbra

[An] alternative to the lawn is a productive garden…
After three generations have distanced themselves from farming, and farms have become industrial giants cultivating thousands of acres, a new interest in where our food comes from has fostered gardens and small farms that supply food for college kitchens and farmers’ markets. People are devoting parts of their lawns to orchards and vegetable gardens, rediscovering the seasons and which delicacies each one yields.

      Diana Balmori

It is easy to understand that to take on this responsibility of stewardship of the earth, and enter into an activity that requires a closer relationship to the natural environment, one would enter into a position much larger than any offered within the realm generated by human beings. In turn, one may reap a reward in many different aspects of life that has become all too absent in contemporary society.
The psychological benefits of vegetation and gardening have long been espoused; even to simply have within one’s sights on a regular basis the color green is said to positively contribute to a person’s mental health. With the act of plunging one’s hands into earth, intent on sowing a plot of land, a strong connection to the natural environment is established. Through the dedication required to cultivate a garden or orchard, this link is reaffirmed. If one can expect to be a success at such an endeavor, they must pay close attention to the subtle clues given by nature and maintain an acute sense of its happenings.
The sociological factors of this format are designed to encourage an emergent sense of community. As participants exchange information [gardening tips, weather, recipes, etc.] and materials [gardening tools, produce, “cup of sugar”, etc.], they become agents contributing to this pleasant development. Perhaps for too long the urban environment has allowed its residents to operate in relative isolation and anonymity, failing to fully take advantage of the benefits that come as a result of a community. This project is meant to provoke a shift in this situation. Toward this end, the project intends to offer a venue by which individuals can come together in cooperation.
In terms of sustainability, this project is two-fold. Firstly, the project aims at reducing much of the detrimental effects of the modern agricultural industry by putting at less of a distance the food supplied to a population, as well as encourage organic practices. Secondly, the project may be able to negate the effects of urban activities. This would require that the format become widely adopted, and many streets and parks allowed to become a productive medium again. 
To begin, a collection of shade diagrams were generated using a simulation tool that tracked the sun as it moved across the sky daily, as well as its change in tilt through out the year. One day each month, at three times each day, the shade projected onto the ground was extracted. Initially interested in only the shadows being cast by the structures surrounding Washing Square Park, the collection shadows that were documented were then divorced from the city surface to be considered apart and manipulated before being reintroduced into the urban context.
These thirty-six shade diagrams were combined into a single document in order to understand the aggregate location and size of areas subjected to unvarying shade, unvarying light and varying instances of each in between. This mapping of the light conditions was pixelated as a means to render a grid work of 1600 16 by 16 foot plots, each representative of a unique quantity of light available. This resulting diagram was then superimposed back on to the city. Through this operation, an array of small plots of land was delineated. These small plots would then be distributed to all those residents in the immediate area who might wish to have a piece of land to cultivate. Based on different shade tolerances, plants that would flourish in this climate zone were identified and organized into vegetation groups according to the varying light conditions of each plot. This information might prove helpful to those amateur farmers as they navigate this format of cooperative urban agriculture.  

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Status: Unbuilt
Location: New York, NY, US


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