If you walked past Lost Weekend, the coffee shop on lower Orchard Street last week, you might have noticed something beautiful in the window: a multi-level terrarium (it looked especially stunning at night). The temporary exhibition was not just something nice to gaze at on a warm summer evening; it was part of an innovative project being orchestrated by three urban designers.
Huy Bui, Carlos Gomez de Llarena and Jon Schramm have developed Plant-in-City, which at its most basic level, is made up of a sleek cedar planter, environmental sensors, a built-in irrigation system and an app connecting the whole ecosystem to the internet. Yes, there is an app, allowing owners to care for their terrariums no matter where they might be.
There have already been requests from people who want the plant boxes for their homes or offices. But there’s also a much grander vision. During a conversation last week inside Lost Weekend, the designers said the boxes, stacked one on top of another and side by side could become a kind-of instant park.
The concept of reclaiming abandoned spaces in the city has taken on a life of its own in the past few years. It happened when the founders of the Hester Street Fair brought life to an empty lot on Essex Street that had been dormant for years. It’s also the basis for the Delancey Underground, the proposal to create a subterranean park in an abandoned trolley terminal. The Plant-in-City team is planning a big exhibition this coming fall, possibly in a gallery, but their dream is a lot bigger. If possible, they’d like to take over a large space such as the abandoned Essex Street Market building south of Delancey Street (the Delancey Underground already has a demo planned in the building in September).
On Kickstarter, the designers have already raised more than $21,000 of their $25,000 goal. There are five days remaining in the campaign. We learned about the project from Huy Bui, one of the three co-creators of Plant-in-City. He’s the designer and co-founder of An Choi, the Vietnamese restaurant on Orchard Street.
You’ve probably also seen his design work at Gargyle and other Orchard Street retail destinations. During our conversation, Bui said they originally came up wit the idea because they craved plant-life in their Williamsburg studio, where “there’s hardly a tree in sight.” The concept has now grown considerably. When asked to imagine the long term possibilities, Schramm theorized, “We see it as something that could support the production of urban farming, so maybe in abandoned blocks with warehouses we could have a lot of these (boxes) growing produce, or flowers, creating botanical gardens.”
If you would like to learn more about Plant-in-City, visit their Kickstarter page.