Spring Break RI: Aquaponics Design/Build

Samantha Rose shares her experience working with New Urban Farmers:

Pawtucket, RI doesn’t necessarily scream “spring break destination.”  And yet this former industrial town to the north of Providence was where fellow IntAR student, Caitlin Santone (MIA 2012), and I spent part of our vacation.  On a one acre farm/community garden converted from an old basketball court, we joined RISD Professor Anastasia Congdon and a half dozen architecture students to create an aquaponics system for the surrounding housing project.  The farm itself was the brainchild of New Urban Farmers, an organization dedicated to “the renewal of farming throughout Pawtucket and Central Falls.”  Last year, New Urban Farmers transformed this unused, hazardous area into a spacious garden where families now learn and grow together.

Our project, initiated by Prof. Congdon, utilized the newest addition to the garden, a 36’ wide x 18’ high geodesic dome.  This dome served as the greenhouse for the aquaponics system, a sustainable food production method that combines aquaculture (raising fish) with hydroponics (growing plants in water).   Our design for the system responded to the height, strength, and shape of the dome with angled tanks, hanging beds, and wedged benches; created from mainly reclaimed and recycled materials.  Over the course of the week, RISD students and local families worked together to dig trenches, make fish tanks, construct and raise the beds, and build a series benches to cover the tanks (for safety and seating).

By the end of the week, we had a completed prototype (2 beds, 1 large tank, and 7 benches) and New Urban Farmers plans to replicate the system throughout the rest of the dome.  All in all, it was an incredibly rewarding experience, we got to see a project through from concept to fabrication and, more importantly, create a space where parents and children can work together, grow their own food, and live more sustainably.

Source: Paul Taburello, founder Urban Organics, Growing Power Inc. via The Denver Post

For more information about New Urban Farmers and upcoming projects, visit:


Samantha Rose in a graduate student in her 2nd of the 3-year Master of Interior Architecture program.


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