El Terreno is a community garden center that does more than grow food. It brings an urban population together and puts the ideas of community support, educational enrichment and purpose in serving the greater good all together in rows of plants and flowers.

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To the left, children walk through a garden. To the right, orange chairs are set up near a wooden pavilion.

Based in Mexico City, a project called El Terreno began during the COVID-19 outbreak. During this time of social isolation, developers felt it was crucial to remain connected. They started the gardens not only to provide a social outlet for youth but to connect all levels of the community.

Related: RHS Hilltop opens its wings to the study of horticulture

Blurry figures walk through a garden with a pavilion in the background.

Another primary goal was to provide education about the environment. The hands-on experience puts kids in touch with the source of their food supply and provides an opportunity to better understand the foundation of sustainable living.

A natural walkway through a garden.

In collaboration with organizer Michelle Kalach, Vertebral is the architecture and landscaping studio behind the project. Based in Mexico City for the past five years, the company has been drawn to landscape design as a way to bring the forest into the vibrant city. Vertebral believes in using local products and thinking long-term when it comes to developing an area. With this in mind, El Terreno includes a pavilion made from recycled materials sourced from other construction projects. The building is also 100% recyclable. The pavilion serves as a source for rainwater collection, which is pumped into the orchard with energy produced from solar panels

An image looking uphill through the garden, with a purple flower blurred in the foreground.

Architects on the project explained, “We focused on avoiding any user predispositions when entering this new space, designed for plurality and versatility. It is a space that can only gain significance through user engagement, and through the cultivating and sharing of new ideas directed towards a healing environment.”

An image looking uphill through the garden, partially obscured by trees.

In addition to providing an educational and social outlet, El Terreno has provided a self-sustaining economy. The plants grown onsite are sold to local cafes and stores, which in turn funds more educational opportunities. 

+ VERTEBRAL

Photography by Ricardo de la Concha