Modenar Entry

June 2010


Jun 11, 2010 9:39 AM
Leslie Sluger


A green plant growing through the asphalt driveway, summing up years of thought and informal sketching. An apt allegory for harvesting sun and wind and water latent in our highways and ring roads to nurture and grow our food. To educate. To promote local farmers and put the farmer back on the farm, closer to the table.

The Washington DC area is home to 5,358,130 people. The city moat is the 64-mile long Interstate 495 (the "Beltway") with 47,308,800 square feet of paving. Originally designed to carry East-bound traffic around Washington, DC, it has fueled suburban growth since the 1960s leading to major traffic congestion.

Our community, Silver Spring/Takoma Park lies within the Beltway moat north and east of Washington DC. Our little section of the Beltway carries 270,700 people daily and is sandwiched between the third and 11th "worst bottlenecks" nationally.

Originally conceived as an urban construction to bring organic/hydroponic farming into the city, Asphalt Farm has grown into a signpost at the very literal crossroads of The Beltway and spokes to and from the Washington DC hub. Asphalt Farm is a 21st century farmstand - bringing locally grown, organic produce affordably back to the table.

Our team includes architects, planners, writers, graphic designers, computer modeling experts and vegetable devotees. Originating with Bill Angelis and Leslie Sluger, Asphalt Farm Team members include Janet Rumble, David Ramos and Jennifer Hartz.



Jun 10, 2010 4:59 PM
Leslie Sluger


Asphalt Farm is a billboard, a farmstand that grows and sells locally. The building educates drivers on the highway below while simultaneously harvesting wind from traffic, reclaiming and treating run-off water and soaking up the sun over the asphalt.

The program for Asphalt Farm centers on organic, hydroponically grown produce inspired by a visit to Epcot’s “Living with the Land” exhibit. Growing hydroponically reduces the amount of arable land needed for farming by more than 50% and with it, the need for water and pesticides. Produce can be grown anywhere around the Beltway bringing it closer to the final consumer reducing transportation costs and spoilage (in a well-managed store, 10% of produce is never sold) and can be grown through all four seasons, extending the growing season and efficiency of the Farm.

Asphalt Farm is not meant to replace conventional farming, but to supplement and bolster local food production year-round and to acknowledge the increasingly technical role of the farmer. Through our research, we found that only 45% of produce in our grocery store was produced locally. One of the store’s biggest sellers – bananas had to be imported year around.

Each Asphalt Farm includes three pods each with more than 5600 SF of hydroponic growing area. Seed germination, “cloning”, packaging and storage areas counterbalance the pods off a central stem which connects the pods to the distribution center and underground water supply. The stem is the main circulation element for the Asphalt Farmer, who has over the last 50 years become more scientist and technician than farmer.



Jun 9, 2010 5:04 PM
Leslie Sluger

Our local Asphalt Farm is at the interchange of the Beltway and Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring, Maryland within Montgomery county. By placing the structure within the unused, enclosed on/off ramps, we can collect and store rain water runoff underground, provide easy access from the secondary road (Georgia Avenue) to the distribution center/loading dock, mitigate the heat island effect of four lanes of paving, generate wind energy from a series of helical turbines from passing motorists, collect unobstructed solar rays and use the building as a billboard for the road-side farmstand to motorists.

The site is convenient to the 788,318 people within 30 minutes and the 25 produce markets within a two-mile radius.

A recent news article highlighted the County’s commitment to agriculture and cites the following:

"The amount of farmland in the county fell from 213,004 acres in 1949
to 115,316 acres in 1978, a 45 percent decrease in less than 30 years,
according to the economic development department. The Ag Reserve
helped slow the trend — the 2007 federal farm census, taken during a
period of intense drought, reported 67,613 acres of farmland, and more
than 71,000 acres have been preserved permanently, both within and
outside the Ag Reserve."

Asphalt Farm provides a solution.

Water collection from the Beltway and on/off ramp areas account for 218,750 gallons per year that are subsequently filtered and used by the building to grow produce. But for the capture of this water, it would go unused and untreated into the city’s storm system to eventually arrive at the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay, compounding longstanding problems with water pollution.

The placement of the structure helps mitigate the heat island effect of the asphalt highway and positions the pods as good neighbors to the surrounding houses – not overwhelming them through immediate adjacency.

By accessing the site off the secondary road, trucks can easily arrive to and leave the site for produce distribution and visitors can come tour the facility and buy limited items from the distribution center.



Jun 8, 2010 5:13 PM
Leslie Sluger

Asphalt Farm’s three pods follow a very simple plan. Seven drums with growing tables or aeroponic structures rotate around a central service core. The service core delivers water and light from the stem and allows the farmers to easily tend and observe the produce growing on the cylinders. By utilizing the drums and core, floor area is maximized and the “stacked” tables can be viewed from the exterior. Area to the outside of the core is used for harvesting and packaging the produce, guaranteeing delivery of fresh produce to local markets.

The support area opposite from the pods is for propagating seeds, “cloning” new plants from successful, high-producing plants, storing packaging prior to use and preparing nutrient supplements. The support area is also used for monitoring air and water conditions.

The stem is the vertical conduit that brings water and light in the form of electricity to the growing tables. The stem is also how the farmers access the pods and transport seeds, supplies and produce between the distribution center/loading dock and pods.

Water from the highway and surrounding ground enclosed by the on/off ramps is collected, treated and stored below ground reducing or even eliminating the need for Asphalt Farm to draw mater form the city supply.

Electricity to power the farm is generated through the skin via solar collectors on the roof and through helical wind turbines placed on the roadbed every 10 feet for 200 feet in either direction of the Farm on both sides of the Beltway. The solar and wind energy harvested powers the building.


Building as Billboard

Jun 7, 2010 5:23 PM
Leslie Sluger

Asphalt Farm’s monumental window walls let in natural light and showcase growing produce for commuters traveling on the highway below. The building invites interest highlighting the symbiosis between the building and site. As a billboard, the building prompts travelers to consider how their produce arrives at the table and is a 21st century farmstand. Convenient access from the secondary road allows the building to act as a roadside produce stand and convenient distribution center for markets, CSAs and local food co-ops.  




Asphalt Farm. Local food is back on the table.

As suburban sprawl continues to encroach on the nation’s farmland, people become more and more removed from their food sources. To breach the distance, pesticides and preservatives are used so that crop yields can travel farther, over longer periods of time. How can we integrate agriculture back into the urban and suburban fabric? The Asphalt Farm achieves the unthinkable: Empty, throwaway space surrounding a Washington, DC, Beltway on/off-ramp is transformed into an organic farm that can feed 788,318 locals year-round.

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