Hackney City Farm is an environmental organization that for the past 20 years has given the local community the opportunity to experience farming right in the heart of London.

This year the Farm held an architectural competition open to architects, designers and students for the design of a new shop and info centre. The brief encouraged applicants to explore construction techniques using recycled materials and demonstrate the potential of waste materials as a local resource.

A team of four young designers, Julian Bond, Sigrid Bylander, Lucy Paton and Benedetta Rogers were awarded 1st Prize for their “Sill to Sill” proposal.

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Project description:

The competition brief called for the design of a new plant shop, fruit and vegetables , encouraging applicants to explore construction techniques using recycled materials, buying in to the Farm’s sustainable ethos and demonstrating the potential of urban waste as a building material. The team drew their inspiration from the architecture of the local neighbourhood, defined by streets of Victorian terrace houses with their imposing brick facades and generous sash windows. In recent years these homes have been bought up in a wave of gentrification and as new owners move, builders get to work, improvements are made and old materials are discarded.

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The design seeks out and reuses discarded timber sash windows, relocating them playfully across the facade of the new shop. These windows, cut from their original homes, are given a new lease of life as bench, counter, roof light, notice board or shelf, proudly displaying plants and herbs on their colourful sills and flooding the interior space with light. The design team recognise window sills as fantastic spaces on which to grow plants and food in a dense urban environment. There is an estimated 600 acres [400 football pitches] of window sill ‘growing space’ in the UK. ‘Sill to Sill’ aims to encourage local people to take up urban agriculture by presenting plants in an immediately familiar setting: ‘buy from our window sill and grow on your window sill’.

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Continuing the recycle and reuse ethos; the walls around the windows are constructed from old scaffolding boards. The horizontal lines of the boards, laid one on top of the other, compliment the rigid geometry of the surrounding farm buildings built from London stock bricks. The edges of the boards, painted in bright colours and carefully planed, further emphasise this horizontal pattern and subtly guide the eye towards the painted window sills. Though visually sophisticated, the design utilised basic timber construction techniques and simple materials in a manner that could easily be assembled by a team of unskilled volunteers. Community involvement at every stage of the project, from inception through construction and on to use, was at the core of the team’s proposal.

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For more info about the project, visit the Sill-to-Sill website – here.

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