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Sirota and Detroit urban farm partner wins ArtPlace America placemaking prize

Friday, December 30, 2016

Sirota and Detroit urban farm partner wins ArtPlace America placemaking prize

Assistant Professor Anya Sirota, along with Detroit community partners, won a half-million dollars from New York-based ArtPlace to create public space, permanent structures for the Oakland Avenue Urban Farm in Detroit.

Sirota is co-founder of Akoaki, an architecture firm dedicated to working with organizations engaged in preserving community heritage. Akoaki is the farm’s design partner.

The Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, a program of North End Christian Community Development Corporation, is a non-profit, community-based organization dedicated to cultivating healthy foods, sustainable economies, and active cultural environments. For more than 10 years, the farm has grown healthy food; provided mentorship and educational programs; hosted cultural gatherings; supported outdoor art spaces; and generated jobs.  

The project will start January 2017 and last two years. The goal is to transform the largest urban farm in Detroit’s historic North End neighborhood into a five-acre landscape combining art, architecture, sustainable ecologies, and new market practices while exploring methods for equitable and art-centered redevelopment.

“While most would agree to the substantive benefits of urban agriculture, few initiatives have evolved into sustainable models for ecological diversification, economic resurgence and infrastructural efficiency,” said Sirota. “We are working with the Oakland Avenue Urban Farm on a plan to unify an operational agricultural landscape, a vision we believe in and know is possible.”

Additional partners in this effort include cultural programmer the ONE Mile Project; the City of Detroit City Planning Commission; and the Center for Community Based Enterprise. These groups will explore ways to reactivate existing architectures with inspired locally rooted programming.

This is Akoaki’s third Detroit community design project.

About Akoaki:
Akoaki is an architecture firm dedicated to working with organizations engaged in community preservation. Founded by Anya Sirota and Jean Louis Farges in Ann Arbor, Mich., they work in neighborhoods and communities alongside community members and activists to define, create and preserve cultural relevancy of place through art installations, community programming and design build installations. The work has been funded from organizations including ArtPlace America, Knight Arts Foundation, The Kresge Foundation and University of Michigan. Recent awards include the SXSW Eco Place by Design Award, Art + Interaction 2015. To learn more about their work: http://www.akoaki.com/