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In Venezuela Barrio, Recycling a Broken McDonalds Playground into an Urban Farm

How can architects help address challenges like violence, vulnerability, livelihood, and health? The question inspires Rogue Architecture, a studio and website based in the U.K., to study participatory design interventions around the world, and sometimes participate in the interventions themselves—like this one, which helped start an urban agriculture project in a Caracas, Venezuela barrio.


When the designers first began working with the community, they learned that there wasn't any history of agriculture in the community. Locals spent a large amount of their income at the supermarket, and because of the barrio's location on unusually steep land, there were open spaces available for potential gardening. But it wasn't as simple as just beginning to plant: because of high levels of violence, it wasn't always safe to be in the open areas, and because no one there had gardened before, education needed to happen first.

The designers decided to work with a school they'd been introduced to in the community, build a small garden there, and hope that it would catalyze more projects. McDonalds had donated a broken jungle gym to the school, and parts that couldn't be played on turned out to be perfect to recycle into planters. Larger pipes became composting containers, and were filled with biodegradable waste from the playground. The different colors of the jungle gym's tubes became a color code to help assign classes or students to take care of particular plants.

This is the sort of small intervention that could help have bigger benefits. The designers say:

It is hoped that this project not only provides a sustainable source of food, but also impacts the general standard of food consumed within the barrio. This was not a highly designed and planned intervention, it was simply making use of the scarce resources available and trying to produce something meaningful for the children that could impact their everyday lives.

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This post is part of the GOOD community's 50 Building Blocks of Citizenship—weekly steps to being an active, engaged global citizen. This week: Learn About Your Town's Sister Cities. Follow along and join the conversation at good.is/citizenship and on Twitter at #goodcitizen.

Photos courtesy of Natalya Critchley and Rogue Architecture

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