What happens to high-performance facade mockups after they’ve been tested for water permeability and solar shading capabilities, pressure tested, and subjected to a gamut of other trials? Most, unfortunately, are trashed. That’s why the New York–based New Affiliates and architect and historian Samuel Stewart-Halevy have teamed up for Testbeds, a pilot program to divert those mockups from the waste stream and repurpose them as gardening structures.
The team partnered with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation’s GreenThumb program, which educates residents about urban agriculture and runs community gardens across the city. For Testbed’s trial run, the team is fundraising to transplant a mockup for the luxury 30 Warren Street building in Tribeca to the Edgemere Coalition Community Garden in Queens, with the hope of beginning construction in the fall.
For the first project, four sections of the condo development’s corrugated ultra-high-performance concrete facade and an 8-by-5-foot glass window will be used to form the walls and ceiling of a garden shed, gathering space, and classroom. More common (and less expensive) cinder blocks, two-by-fours, and polycarbonate panels will fill in the missing gaps.
Aside from the practical and sustainability-related aspects of the project, Testbeds also gives the team the chance to engage in a radical recontextualization by exporting pieces of luxury buildings from Manhattan to other boroughs. “The idea that you could take a fragment from a hundred feet up in the air in Tribeca and put it on the ground in the Far Rockaways and someone can actually walk up to it and access it and inhabit it is exciting to us,” wrote New Affiliates in the Testbeds press release. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to followers of the firm’s work; in an interview earlier this year with founders Ivi Diamantopoulou and Jaffer Kolb, the duo professed that the lifecycles of and alternative uses for construction materials was something they consider all the time.
In Edgemere, if funding is successful, the team will continue to coordinate with local gardeners to tweak and fine-tune the programmatic elements of the new pavilion. And, if the Testbeds concept can be replicated elsewhere, the team hopes to continue exporting remnant mockups to some of the other 550 community gardens Greenthumb oversees.
“The histories of development and community gardening in New York have long been intertwined,” wrote Stewart-Halevy in the same announcement. “By transplanting mockups from the private sphere to public community gardens, we hope to make this relationship more explicit.”