Transforming city streets with urban farming

The Challenge

New York’s South Bronx is often seen as a place of urban decay, plagued by poverty and high crime rates. We wanted to create an installation that would transform a small corner of this often disparaged neighborhood, bringing a little color and creativity to the concrete jungle and making plain our belief that people’s daily lives can be improved by thoughtful, site-sensitive design.

The Solution

We created ARTfarm, a community-based urban art project. For our site we selected the “step street” on 180 E 165th Street between Grand Concourse and Sheridan Avenue. The concrete area surrounding the steps was overgrown with weeds and rundown when we first visited, but the site had promise, with its multiple levels providing the ideal backdrop for an eye-catching visual display. For the display itself, we drew inspiration from two local sources: the Bronx Museum and a nearby farmers’ market. We paid tribute to the market by creating a green community space, and we incorporated the Museum by making our installation artistically inclined. Our proposal included planters of varied sizes, shapes, colors, and materials, with perennials that last the season and longer. And to make the project as environmentally low impact as possible, we created the planters from found objects like cabinet doors and elliptical tubing. We painted the stairway railings a bright red, to help draw attention to the installation and brighten up the path.

Partnerships & Community

We partnered with Rebuilders Source in Bronx to create planters out of recycled cabinet doors. Bronx Museum of Art gave us space to work on the project through the summer of 2010. They were also our community liaison and hosted multiple family day sessions for the community to get involved in the creative process of making the project come to life.

Commissioning Partner

New York City Department of Transportation


Concept and Physical Design


September 2010