Growing Place: Intersecting Architecture, Food, & Education in an Interstitial Urban Collage

Leah Ijjas, Assoc. AIA

Growing Place uses architecture to expose and engage people in the city with the processes of food from which they are frequently separated.

As cities continue to rapidly expand in population, their dependence on external resources generates socio-economic challenges. How we plan to feed this growth of urban occupancy is one of the many challenges cities face today and in the future. Current large-scale food systems are failing to provide access, resources and most importantly education that sustains the relationship between people, the built environment and the food they consume.

'Growing Place' confronts this global issue at a regional scale and explores the opportunity for architecture to serve as a cultural and educational foundation for supporting self-reliant urban environments. Investigating the existence of food deserts in Baltimore, this design looks beyond traditional academic institutions and food supply centers such as grocery stores, and re-imagines them to create an interactive urban market place that gives life and opportunity back to a desolate area of the city, where people are without access to fresh produce - using design to bridge the gab between community gardens and urban infrastructure.

The design proposes a hybrid of civic, social and institutional building agendas that connect place with program through exposing a historic Baltimore vernacular, the marketplace, and reinterpreting the cyclic nature of food production and distribution as a place of learning. The unique but currently abandoned site - the Old Town Mall - was once the home of one of Baltimore's large outdoor markets. The diagonal artery which links a large residential community to the northeast, with downtown Baltimore is maintained as the outdoor market walk - with an indoor growing facility on one side, and an educational market hub on the other. Architectural elements provide distinct opportunities for food growth and learning to overlap. The south-facing, sloped roof structure over the marketplace for example shades the interior with fruit vines in the hot summer months, and maximizes sunlight in the cool winter. Carved landscapes simultaneously collect water for irrigation, while providing visual access to the contained growing facilities.

Acting as an urban anchor both at a geographical and programmatic scale, Growing Place uses architecture and design to expose, intersect and engage people with the processes of food from which they are so frequently separated.

Image credits


Leah Ijjas, Assoc. AIA