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A rooftop farm in Brooklyn, New York. Sketch by Pip Cheshire, 2019.

Just lay out some membrane sheeting, lift a few tonnes of soil up, paint a Rousseau-like mural on the water tower and you’re in business: a repurposed building, a cooler neighbourhood and organic carrots.

By Pip Cheshire
Architecture Now New Zealand
Sept 17, 2019


At its best, this seems the most laudable cycling of significant resources to effect worthwhile social goals, aided and abetted by a US tax system predicated on facilitating private involvement in activities that we, in Aotearoa, feel are the natural domain of government.

On that Brooklyn rooftop, I felt a more practical strain, of rolling up one’s sleeves and homesteading on the urban prairie, living a wholesome life in a city not generally known for it, and making a buck supplying the local cafés and restaurants. The enterprise is commercially founded but the farmers pride themselves on doing their bit for climate change, too, through modification of the urban heat sink and community-building in offering a direct connection to the production of food.

It is unlikely, too, that those mulching, weeding and potting out next to the chook run and the beehives will be tainted by the opaque nature of private foundations. No matter how worthy or benevolent the headline grants are, the activities of wealthy agencies in foreign countries inevitably attract suspicion, if not outright evidence, of political manipulation; the Ford Foundation’s role in the overthrow of the liberal Chilean Allende government is a case in point.

The occupation of the rooftop and its rather ad hoc conversion to productive use seemed to hark back to a time of direct action when a combination of insouciant optimism, hard graft and soft drugs proposed a new way of doing things. Not for these guys the trainloads of processed food. Just lay out some membrane sheeting, lift a few tonnes of soil up, paint a Rousseau-like mural on the water tower and you’re in business: a repurposed building, a cooler neighbourhood and organic carrots.

Read the complete article here.


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