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Life, Fruits, and Veggies on the Street by Andrew Albers, AIA


In the fall of 2012,

Rice University School of Architecture students were given the problem of designing a new home for Urban Harvest, a Houston not-for-profit that hosts four farmers markets. As part of the larger program, some of the students attempted to address the spatial needs of the market.

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Essential to mitigating the harsh Texas sun and making outdoor space usable is shade. Many students saw addressing this need as the means by which the spaces could be structured and formalized. One project peels away the landscape to

Program and demand activate these spaces, but there is no reason why the experience could not be better. insert a plaza underneath. The delaminated landscape surface becomes the shade structure for the market below. Another project proposes a space of shelter that would evolve over time. Linear shade structures provide immediate shelter. Strategically placed trees would mature in the spaces between, providing a future second level of shade. A variation on this strategy, pictured above, proposes a “House of Landscape,” a unifying structure that unites market space, landscape, and gardens while allowing for trees and plants to grow within and around the structure. As farmers markets continue to be vital parts of the urban experience, these spaces are tremendous opportunities for architects and landscape architects to help transform the city. With simple well-conceived solutions, a vibrant program might be married with dynamic architectural expressions. Andrew Albers is a lecturer at Rice University and vice president at The Office of James Burnett in Houston.


armers markets are one of America’s fastest growing expressions of public life. Since 1994, there has been a 448% increase in the number of farmers markets across the country, as tracked by the USDA — the organization currently lists 168 markets in Texas alone. This explosion in farmers markets has gone hand-inhand with an increasing awareness of the economics of food production, concerns over national health, and a desire to have a direct relationship with the producers of the food one consumes. The typology of the markets is a relatively simple affair. They typically consist of stalls of approximately 100 sf, accessible circulation space, service access, limited water, limited power, and some restroom facilities. They often find themselves in parking lots because of the need for hard, accessible, easily cleanable surfaces. It is a salute to the program that these markets allow the otherwise anonymous space of a parking lot to become a lively center of activity. Program and demand activate these spaces, but there is no reason why the experience could not be better.

Texas Architect March/April 2013: Retail Redevelopment and Design  

This issue explores the role of retail developmentand planning initiatives in the life of communitiesand city streets, as well as the import...

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