Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Plant the Medians!

Photo of a wide suburban street whose median has been turned into vegetable rows and a farm stand
Check out the ideas that are flowing from the ReBurbia contest. Sponsored by Dwell magazine and inhabitant.com, the contest held out this challenge:

In a future where limited natural resources will force us to find better solutions for density and efficiency, what will become of the cul-de-sacs, cookie-cutter tract houses and generic strip malls that have long upheld the diffuse infrastructure of suburbia? How can we redirect these existing spaces to promote sustainability, walkability, and community?
The finalists were recently posted, and included the Regenerative Suburban Median shown above, designed by Brian Alessi. Here's a side elevation from Alessi's entry:

Urban planner's elevation showing lane widths and vegetation
As a gardener who has recently converted to vegetable growing, I wonder a bit about how wise it might be to grow vegetables in soil that coexists with car exhaust, and also about how safe it would be to work right alongside the cars this way... but then I remember Tom Vanderbilt's point in Traffic about how cars slow down when things get tight.

And I can't help thinking that part of the point of this design is begin a cycle that leads to there being less need for cars in the first place, if suburbanites could grow their own food and have something interesting right in their own front yards (or along their streets, as it were).

Lots of cool ideas to think about in all the finalist entries, many applicable in cities as well.

Via kottke.org


Ms Sparrow said...

In St Paul, we'd also have winter road salt to consider when planting in medians. There probably aren't a lot of veggies that would thrive under those conditions. Also, the heat absorbed from the pavement would stress plants close to the curbs and limit productivity. All-in-all, another good idea that won't fly.

Daughter Number Three said...

I agree about the salt for those of us in the winter belt, but wonder if there aren't veggies that would welcome the heat.

To be fair to the designer on the salt issue, I think he had in mind suburbs in California and other non-winter states. (The photo shows palm trees in the background.)