This two story greenhouse was designed as a teaching space where students can grow fruits and vegetables as an exciting extension of curriculum.
PS 50 Manhattan is a 1974 school building constructed as part of a larger brutalist concrete residential complex overlooking the East River. The structure consists of a reinforced concrete frame with masonry infill. Exposed floor slabs create a layering effect which, paired with the cast-in-place stair towers and the diagonally oriented mechanical bulkhead, results in a sense of puzzle pieces fitting together. The greenhouse is another piece placed within the framework, as infill on an unused second story roof.
The PS 50 Manhattan community had been building a successful food cultivation program from the ground up. By working closely with the faculty and students, a modern facility for food production and education was created. The greenhouse was dedicated to the school’s namesake, Vito Marcantonio, a popular former New York City council member and Congressman.
The greenhouse consists of 50% hydroponic and 50% soil-based substrate supporting the vegetation along with a highly calibrated irrigation system of pumps, cisterns and drains. A rainwater harvesting system has been designed to provide water for the plants, and a series of interior steel planters with integrated cables and railings allowed for the plants to grow vertically within the double height space. Additionally, a series of LED light fixtures have been incorporated into the classroom to aid in the understanding of photosynthesis. The lights can be controlled by the students as part of their experimental understanding of natural and artificial light sources.
Students are provided with hands-on, integrative and experiential learning activities that focus on the practice of growing food. Interdisciplinary activities in such fields as ecology, agriculture and the sciences accommodate a wide continuum of abilities and interests, and students acquire fundamental skills by practicing various aspects of plant cultivation. The Children’s Aid Society concentrates on growing edible plants for their cooking classes. Designated garden supervisors coordinate the various projects, encouraging students to develop leadership skills and to take on mentoring roles for younger students. The program’s broad scope provides students with a collective sense of ownership.