Thursday, January 19, 2012

Socioeconomic Views of Urban P-Patch Gardens, Mike S. and Kevin B.

Our photo diary presents personalized aspects of several P-Patch community gardens in Seattle. We took photos at the Beacon Hill, Bradner, Immaculate, Judkins and Belltown gardens on the morning of Thursday, January 12, 2012. Documenting a spectrum of “do-it-yourself” elements that we observed, we noticed the range of socio-economic influences on the garden elements. The gamut included homemade compost walls from shelving materials, plastic bottle hot-houses, intricate mosaic and tiling, and anonymous homeless person’s detritus. We were struck by the creativity and personality that communities and individuals display in the urban P-Patch movement. Some of the personalization is decorative while others are functional. These elements contribute to everyday urban life and fabric, helping relate and reveal our relationships to food in an urban context.

As a whole, the activities and spaces of P-Patches are sanctioned and planned. We started to question if unplanned spaces is a required component of “do-it-yourself urbanism”. As Margaret Crawford said in Everyday Urbanism, “Everyday space stands in contrast to carefully planned, officially designated, and often underused spaces of public use.” Although guerrilla gardening on vacant property might be more traditional DIY urbanism, the smaller details of the p-patches certainly show the DIY spirit of the people using the spaces. We propose that even within government sanctioned spaces, communities and individuals can create their own spaces using what resources they have.

Using the details we photographed, it is possible to gather an impression of the socioeconomic background of the neighborhood using the gardens. Belltown, full of young money, has solar panels and elaborate decorative mosaics and is also used by the poor of the downtown area as a home or hangout spot (among the items left behind were two pairs of pants, body lotion, and small bottles of alcohol). On the less moneyed side of the spectrum, plastic bottles and refrigerator shelving are used as gardening tools. The story of the neighborhoods begins to emerge through the fine details of the gardens, and we were successful in capturing the homemade and eclectic nature infused in our urban P-Patch gardens.

View Select Seattle P-Patch Gardens in a larger map

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