Vibrant recycled storefront is London's new face of urban farming

Sill to Sill, Hackney City Farm
© Sill to Sill, Hackney City Farm

For land-lacking urban dwellers, the under-utilized window sill may be prime real estate for growing a bit of one's own food -- allowing even the most hemmed-in city resident to take some baby steps for self-sufficiency. Sill-to-Sill, the new storefront and information center for Hackney City Farm, a London-based urban agricultural learning center and farm, builds upon this simple idea by integrating recycled sash windows with wide sills in its new facade, proudly displaying seedlings that may soon find another sill to call home.

© Sill to Sill, Hackney City Farm
© Sill to Sill, Hackney City Farm

The store's design came about after an open competition held last year. A team of four designers, Julian Bond, Sigrid Bylander, Lucy Paton and Benedetta Rogers won the competition with a proposal that drew its inspiration "from the architecture of the local neighbourhood, defined by streets of Victorian terrace houses with their imposing brick facades and generous sash windows," yet positioned itself in the cycle of architectural and economic change:

In recent years these homes have been bought up in a wave of gentrification and as new owners move, builders get to work, improvements are made and old materials are discarded.

© Sill to Sill, Hackney City Farm

Discarded materials feature prominently in the design, from the recycled wall slats to the beautiful sash windows that provide ample display space for the farm's produce and seedlings, making it an attractive opportunity for down-to-earth window shopping, or a place to sit down.

The proposal also estimates that there are about 600 acres of unused window sill space in the UK, perfect for growing herbs and food. Hence, there is a subliminal message here, explain the designers:

'Sill to Sill’ aims to encourage local people to take up urban agriculture by presenting plants in an immediately familiar setting: ‘buy from our window sill and grow on your window sill’.

© Sill to Sill, Hackney City Farm
© Sill to Sill, Hackney City Farm

True to the city farm's mission, the design and construction of the store also included a deliberate engagement of the public:

Though visually sophisticated, the design utilized basic timber construction techniques and simple materials in a manner that could easily be assembled by a team of unskilled volunteers. Community involvement at every stage of the project, from inception through construction and on to use, was at the core of the team’s proposal.

© Sill to Sill, Hackney City Farm
© Sill to Sill, Hackney City Farm

Built with sustainability and community in mind, with a mission to encourage food sovereignty and allow city dwellers to explore their connection with nature, Sill-to-Sill is a wonderful example of how all these things can be synthesized into something present and tangible. More over at Hackney City Farm and Sill-to-Sill.

Tags: Agriculture | Architecture | Local Food | London | Recycled Building Materials