The Larimer Urban Center for Civic Agriculture intends to capitalize on growing initiatives in the Larimer neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA. Located in a food desert, this project is situated to not only serve as a place where community members can grow their own food to have additional food security, but also provides the space for a larger scale market to empower local growers to sell their crop to a community that struggles to maintain access to fresh produce. This market aims to operate partially as a farm to table operation, where if community members have surplus from thier own private grow space on site, they can pool resources with additional growers to sell as holistic meal items in addition to produce, which could then be cooked on site. In addition the Larimer Center also provides room for a small educational facility to serve as a compliment to the more traditional educational approach offered across the street on Frankstown Avenue. The space can service as a place for youngsters to gather before school, or as a high school facility to encourage and educate community members about impacting additional initiatives to provide more food access to the Larimer Homewood area as young entrepeneurs.
A humble structure, the Civic Center comprises a flexible market and auditorium space facing the primary arterial street of Frankstown Avenue. On the south portion of the site, the educational facility is in close proximity to the semi private garden/grow space provided for community members to grow their own produce, which intentionally lies less exposed. A newly restructured Tangent Way serves as the main loading street for farmers and producers which connects to central service/storage space threading to both the market, educational space, garden, and greenhouse; located as the jewel perched above the street on display. To blur the definitive public private divide created by the market and educational space, the Civic Center takes advantage of the roofscape as a new walk-able "pocket park" which allows the public to have access to green-space during given hours. Additionally the roof serves as a grow space as well, allowing for more access to the opportunity to grow your own produce, which incidentally is on public display above the market hall, giviing visual testament to the green initiatives of the Larimer nieghborhood.
SOLAR EXPOSURE AND PLANTING:
As a primary role of this Civic Center is to provide space to grow, consideration was taken as to where the grow locations would be to minimize shadow interference. The greenhouse rests above the main building thus optimizing its solar exposure, while the back garden space lies predominately exposed to continual sunlight, with the exception of late Western Sun. The roof space is intended for more shade thriving plants, as an overhead trellis and mechanical penthouse cast shadow on the public park during western hours.
ORGANIZING THE SITE:
The site comprises the corner of Frankstown and Putnam, at the entrance to the Larimer neighborhood and situated near a public high school. Tangent way is a leftover service street which terminates at the southwest corner of the site lot. The site was then zoned according to create a clear public and private face, with the market projecting outwards to the school and Fransktown and the educational space to link more closely to the privatized community garden space. Taking advantage of Tangent Way to act as the loading zone for producers, a central service zone comprising of kitchen, storage, lifts and the greenhouse connect the two bars together and integrate them. Finally as mentioned, the roof was transfigured to blur this harsh public private distinction and opened the possibility for public green and grow space for the broader community to explore. Formally, the southern portion of Center deviates for ortogonal organization which serves to increase the width of the loading zone while also adding more greenspace for growing potential on the south back lot.
While not fully resolved by any means, the market roof serves as an experimental opportunity to blend building systems, structure and material expression, and green planting into a more synthetic system. Brick ceiling vaults connected at the centers by the secondary steel structure serve as the "keystone" and form a basin for plant growth on the roof. The form allows a depth adequate for planting crops on the roofscape. In between the brick rood basins lies adequate space to run interior lighting and water supply to the plants above to maintain the roof park which is not planted by community members. These basins could be rented out for growing, but would allow public movement on the roof to allow for both park and grow space to intermingle. Structurally, the column expression is derived by the need to open up wide enough to accommodate a door for the market space when it becomes open to the public. The space between the doors house the market stalls, which garage doors open up to reveal weather permitting.