Last summer, mojito made with freshly-plucked-and-muddled mint in hand, I took this photo from the steps of the courtyard of PS.1, the Queens outpost of MoMA. Each summer as part of the Young Architects Program, a firm transforms the gravel courtyard into a party pavilion, and this year’s piece, Public Farm 1 by Work AC, was not only the coolest installation I’d ever seen in the space, but, to me, also the most exciting. With my two editors from ID next to me, we swirled our mojitos and started talking about the prevalence of gardening in design culture, and they mentioned they’d need an article on that very topic for their upcoming nature issue. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! When I got home to LA I started avidly researching one of my most favorite stories I’ve written in a long time, which was recently published in the March/April issue.
To my delight, some of the most interesting urban agriculture projects are happening right here in LA. I got to spend a day at Farmlab, the incredible project founded by artist Lauren Bon near Chinatown. After our tour of their radical urban agriculture structures, gardener Jaime Lopez Wolters took me on a bike ride tour through the former Not a Cornfield, now LA’s newest state park. If you go there now, you can see the wildflowers blooming.
I also visited Farmlab’s seed library, which is probably the single coolest room I’ve ever been in. Every single plant they grow is hung upside down here until it dries so they can properly capture the seeds. They also have an annual seed giveaway, which was happening in December. If you haven’t been to Farmlab yet, I encourage you: Go.
Another highlight on my garden tour was SYNTHe, a rooftop garden built by SCI-Arc students atop the Flat Building in downtown LA. I was so enthralled with the setting I was determined to do an event there so this is where we recently held this month’s de LaB as part of LA Art Weekend. We started with a tour of the garden by architect Alexis Rochas (more on him in another article that was recently published!) and as he talked about the kinds of produce they were growing six stories above LA, to our delight we saw the chef traipsing around the rooftop garden with a bucket, gathering goods for the meal that followed. Then we headed downstairs to Blue Velvet for a fantastic brunch of short ribs, pistachio falafel and lavender panna cotta, where we all attempted to identify which herbs and vegetables came from the roof.
So there you have it! From cocktails grown in a Queens courtyard, to dessert with origins on an LA rooftop, with plenty about Fritz Haeg, Mike Meire, Studio Job, Urban Farming, and Vertical Farms sprinkled in along the way, I present to you the fruits of my labor: “Bloom Towns” [PDF].
A brief side note: A few months ago I reported here that my wonderful editor-in-chief Julie Lasky was leaving ID to launch Change Observer with her lovely husband Ernest Beck. Just today I got the news that my equally-wonderful editors—as well as my mojito-drinking, jamon-tasting New York compatriots last summer who where there when this story all began—Jill Singer and Monica Khemsurov are also leaving the magazine. I’ll miss their awesome edits of my stories, but wish all of them the very best in whatever they’re up to!