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A temporary installation spruces up the burger stand’s site ahead of its summer opening
Two years ago, Mario Gentile founded Phildelphia-based Shift_Design after being laid off from Peter Marino Architects. With an infant son in tow, he began to design and manufacture a range of systems for outdoor garden environments. The company was part of the GoodCompany incubation program for socially responsible products and will complete a green roof, living wall, and rainwater harvesting system at the Urban Outfitters headquarters at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in September. They are also working with Philadelphia’s Water Department to design new stormwater-collecting planters. Though functional and environmentally minded, the group’s work has a lighthearted appeal for urban environments—something that’s apparent in its newly completed installation at the construction site of Danny Meyer’s first Philadelphia Shake Shack, scheduled to open this summer.
When the restaurateur’s Union Square Hospitality Group approached Shift_Design, it was for an interactive riff on Shake Shack’s original ivy-covered burger kiosk in New York. The team landed on a plan combining window boxes and living wall units already manufactured by Shift_Design, plus a set of six custom-designed panels. Fabricated from galvanized steel, the 48-inch-wide by 88-inch-tall panels have a series of ribbons that curve out from the flat surface to create a trellis for climbing ivy. Rows of 24-inch-wide window boxes beneath the custom panels, as well as a centerpiece of living-wall planters, are filled with seasonal and evergreen plants.
Because the installation represents the progression from winter to summer, and the food stand’s opening, the temporary back wall is painted with a progression of gray to green blocks. The panels’ ribbons echo this theme with an undulating surface that becomes more pronounced from left to right. Once the stand is open, the plants and planters will be donated to the non-profit organization Rittenhouse Square Flower Market for Children’s Charities.
Though the impetus for founding Shift_Design may have been necessity, Gentile said sustainability was on his mind while working with other architects, “but it’s not necessarily at the forefront of their business model,” he said. His past experience at Kieran Timberlake lent itself to the firm’s mission of creating a new breed of retrofitting options for potential garden spaces from walls to roofs. “We started to hone this idea of mass customization, so that’s always been running through the background of my own studies within architecture.”
Gentile, industrial designers Chris Mufalli and Thomas Reynolds, and architect Tim Barnes designed the Shake Shack wall, as they do their off-the-shelf products, with a flat-pack design that reduces wasted material. A local machine shop uses CNC laser-cutting tools and ships the flat design to the client directly. Because the garden elements use sheets of 4-by-8-foot or 5-by-10-foot material, Gentile estimated that the designs produce less than 1 percent waste per product. The company has a patent-pending tab system that eliminates tools for the end user, except in one instance: the flat-pack firepit requires a small wrench socket for assembly, but sticking to the low-waste philosophy, the tool does double-duty as a bottle opener.