Students design and build urban farm

September 23, 2011 5:45 AM

Nick Marinello

Last spring, Tulane architecture students in two design studio courses began projects for the Grow Dat Youth Farm that will continue to impact the New Orleans community long after the students have received their degrees.


see the empowers videoIn one studio, students developed a master site plan for Grow Dat, an urban farm that will be operated by high school students on four acres of New Orleans City Park. In the other studio, Tulane students worked designing specific structures for the farm.


Architecture students work on the design for Grow Dat Youth Farm in City Park. (Photos by Emilie Taylor)

This summer, many of the same students began implementing those plans by clearing the site, building foundations and directing the positioning of shipping containers that will serve as storage facilities. 

The work is continuing through the fall semester as students construct classrooms and other spaces under the direction of Emilie Taylor, design build manager, and Scott Bernhard, director of Tulane City Center.

The continuity of having students execute an architectural project from design to completion is a powerful pedagogic tool, says Bernhard, associate professor of architecture. “In the design studio, the students are creating something they know is going to be built right away. They take a different responsibility with the work when they know it’s going to be made — especially if it’s going to be made by them.”


At the Grow Dat site, a shipping container goes into place to serve as a storage facility for the farm. Construction should be complete by mid January 2012.


Being required to physically implement a design can change an architect’s concept of the design, says Bernhard.

“When designs are lines on the page it lacks the urgency of giant pieces of steel,” he says.

Having a real client focuses attention on details that students might not encounter in a typical studio project, says Abigail Feldman, an adjunct lecturer who led the master site studio. “We were looking at budget issues. Things as mundane as the costs associated with different types of fencing to nitty-gritty, practical things like what kind of pest management the farm needs.”

The farm, a community project supported by Tulane and a number of local partners, is training young people in the field of urban agriculture.

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000