The San Francisco Giants baseball team makes their home at AT&T Park alongside the San Francisco Bay. In addition to baseball games, concerts, and special events, guests can now mingle, learn and sample healthy treats in the brand new Giants garden - a green oasis right in the middle of the stadium featuring raised beds, futuristic aeroponics, and a cafe featuring garden goodies. Join Inhabitat on a behind-the-scenes tour of the San Francisco Giants vegetable garden as part of this month’s Architecture in the City Festival hosted by the American institute of Architects’ San Francisco Chapter.
The idea of growing a garden in the Giants stadium in an underused space arose from a series of conversations amongst management as well as input from Bon Appetit food management, a premiere concessionaire at the stadium. Part of the garden concept was inspired by the idea that the herbs and vegetables grown in the garden could actually be used in concession food. Today, one of the missions of the garden is also “to show that a garden can be created anywhere through creative thinking”, said Hannah Schmunk, who heads up community relations and management of the garden.
The garden, designed by EDG Design and Blasen Landscape Architecture, was carefully designed to work with the strict regulations of the baseball stadium space, yet still allow guests and visitors to interact with the plantings. Jeff Burkebile of EDG explained that the space had to be painstakingly designed so as not to interfere with the “batter’s eye” – the dark green painted square in the line of sight for the batter. The colors, shape, height, and design of the garden, bar, seating, and plantings had to be vetted rigorously, and the design only allowed for several very small slits in the wall for guests to peek through at the live game.
The garden features dark concrete raised beds, glossy white aeroponic towers, two cozy fire pits with seating, and two gourmet food concession stations, with a bar staking out the center area.
A heavy-duty net arcs across the garden space to protect visitors and the garden from stray balls. One especially unique feature to the Giants garden is the way the batting cage can be stored in between the raised garden beds in the rear of the space when the cage is not in use.
Designing a space to be used by the public is not without its challenges, however. The designers had to rethink which plants were placed on the margins of the planters – delicate cilantro was damaged by guests sitting on the edges and has recently been replaced with tougher creeping thyme. The Giants garden seeks to inspire guests to think about gardening themselves, or to rethink underused spaces where food could be grown.
The potential audience they reach with this message is huge – up to 42,000 guests on a game night! The garden is actually extremely dense and productive for its size, due to a combination of specially-planted raised beds and “aeroponic” towers that produce leafy greens and tomatoes via a system of nutrient-rich water.
The raised beds, designed from a dark, smooth concrete, are densely planted with vegetables, herbs and fruit trees specially chosen to thrive in the microclimate of the stadium. Highlights include a kumquat tree, a guava tree, thyme, lemon balm, eggplant, cucumbers, and kale.The aeroponic system, designed by Future Growing, consists of tall white tubes that are irrigated with a nutrient-rich water bath every few minutes. Leafy greens, lettuce and other veggies cascade down the sides of the aeroponic tubes, held in place by a matrix of foam with their roots flowing freely down the inside.
One of the aims of integrating aeroponics into the garden design was to increase production – since the Giants stadium produces so many meals, the garden cafe needs produce more regularly and more quickly than the small assortment of raised beds can provide.
The aeroponic towers can speed growth of lettuce from about eight weeks to only four.
Bon Appetit, a high-end concessionaire creates seasonal, healthy entrees which always feature at least one ingredient from the garden. Favorites include a bourbon cocktail with strawberries and herbs fresh from the garden, as well as delicious oven-fired pizzas featuring sorrel, basil, greens, and even tomatoes from the Giants garden.
The very high visibility area can also inspire guests to think about the story of their food – guests can see, smell and touch the basil that also seasons their pizza. Bon Appetit and Farmscapes (the urban gardening company that farms the space) work up a plan for what items to plant and to design seasonal menus in the preseason.
Community outreach and kids education have become an integral part of the Giants garden programming. Groups like the Junior Giants, the YMCA, and other community groups have the opportunity to participate in farm, cooking, and nutrition education in the garden. Kids can learn about plants and vegetables in the well-labeled garden, and even learn to cook nutritious meals.
The Giants garden is inspiring not only game day visitors and kids, but also other large sports facilities – Fenway Park management has recently been piloting their own rooftop garden all the way across the country in Boston.
Images courtesy of the author