From Puerto Rico to the South Bronx, the casita, or “little house” in Spanish, is the social centerpiece and focal point of many community gardens. New York Restoration Project (NYRP), in partnership with the Urban Air Foundation, enlisted TEN Arquitectos and engineers at Buro Happold to design such a structure for one of their gardens.
Instead, TEN Arquitectos recognized NYRP's need for similar such structures throughout NYC, their strict budgets, as well as their desire to empower their staff and community to build the projects, and took the opportunity to rethink the traditional casita as a modular kit of parts.
In an effort to increase resilience in New York City infrastructure, the team developed the modular outdoor shed structure for community gardens of varying sizes, locations and functionalities. With scalable proportions, cost-efficient and widely accessible building components, and an easy to construct structure, the design is the first of its kind for an urban garden structure.
Community sessions seeking feedback on the design made apparent the desire for a casita that functions as a performance stage, a food prep station, a gathering spot, and a shade area. As a response, TEN Arquitectos, designed a scalable construction kit that includes a roof to provide shade and weather protection, and collect water; walls for climate control, vertical gardening, storage, and presentation space; a horizontal surface for games, dining, and food preparation; and a platform to provide access, storage, and a space for gathering.
The incorporation of resilient elements such as photovoltaic panels, rainwater management systems, and Wi-Fi, ensures that the casita will function off the grid both on a daily basis and in the event of another citywide disaster like Sandy. As a community-based design-build effort, the casita also fosters social resilience, serving as a refuge, resource, and venue for social interaction and community events.
The first construction replaced an existing casita at NYRP’s Willis Avenue Community Garden in Mott Haven, in the South Bronx, as part of an overall garden renovation to shore up environmental and social resilience, and the NYRP is already planning future casitas, of varying configurations, within two other gardens.