Farming the City
A quest for art yields agricultural bounty.
By "Tern" Alexa Schirtzinger--This Saturday, I went to investigate another of artist Olafur Eliasson’s contributions to New York, a “reversed waterfall” that complements the “Arctic Hysteria” Scandinavian art exhibit at P.S. 1, part of the Museum of Modern Art, in Queens. As my faithful readers might expect from my last comment on Eliasson, I was decidedly unimpressed—though I did very much enjoy some of the other work. (Two of my favorites were Pekka Jylha’s somber stuffed arctic hares and a streaming video of various international “Complaints Choirs” singing real-life complaints—“My husband snores; it’s not fair!”—with operatic flourish—photos and more details here).
But P.S. 1’s tour de force, at least by environmental measures, is its outdoor exhibit, which seemed to elicit a general feeling of wonder among visitors that misty afternoon. It’s called P.F. 1—Public Farm One—and from the air, it looks like a giant, holey green waterslide.
P.F. 1, designed by WORK Architecture Company, is an experiment in urban farming. Most of its large cardboard cylinders, suspended above the P.S. 1 courtyard, house over 50 different plants and veggies, but some are empty to allow harvesters to pop up like meerkats and reap the farm’s bounty. A huge red periscope lets visitors observe the top of the farm, where healthy-looking tomato plants are beginning to bear fruit and young greens shoot out of black soil. In a chicken coop to one side (with real chickens—but, thankfully for the neighbors, no roosters), a cistern holds rainwater for the drip-irrigation system. What’s coolest of all is that the whole system is off the grid, powered by 16 solar panels. P.F.1’s produce will be used in the museum’s restaurant and sold at the Greenmarket near the museum on Saturdays.
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