Turning the abandoned and blighted Landmark Hotel into a vertical urban garden may sound like a fanciful, farfetched idea, but at least local artist Russell Richards has an idea. The same can’t be said for the City or the hotel’s various owners, who have offered only empty promises.
“I suspect the Landmark is never going to be completed,” says Richards, who has informally presented his idea to City Council, and is scheduled to give a TEDx presentation on the idea. “The longer it sits exposed, the more it deteriorates and devalues. But that’s what’s happening, for whatever reason, so I personally believe the thing won’t go forward.”
Earlier this year, current owner John Dewberry “swore” to one city official that he would begin the project before the end of the summer, but as anyone can see, that isn’t happening.
“I have admittedly gotten a lot of mileage out of the fact that everyone, everyone hates that hotel,” he says.
Richards says there’s a trend now among architects and engineers to design farms ‘up’, as kind of vertical greenhouses, and it strikes him that the Landmark could be an ideal candidate for such a thing.
As Richards points out, the walls are largely open and permit a lot of light to penetrate the interior, it faces southward to the sun, which strikes it throughout the day, there are no nearby buildings casting a shadow on it.
“A vertical farm would actually be a bit different from how I rendered it,” says Richards. ” It’d be closed off, like the greenhouse levels I depicted on the upper floors, permitting crops to be grown throughout the year regardless of weather conditions.”
Richards says that hydroponic and aeroponic growing methods allow crops to be grown quite densely- all the way up to the ceiling of any given floor, essentially- and use a minimum of water, and no soil. So the crop output of such a space would be far greater than the footprint of any given floor.
“It’s an amazing model,” he says. “I’m indebted to the research of Dr. Dickson Despommier of Columbia University, who is credited with the idea- specifically his book “The Vertical Farm”, which is a wealth of information. In ten or twenty years, vertical farms are likely to be relatively commonplace.”
Though Richards admits a feasibility study would have to be done, and that the structural integrity of the building would need to be checked, he think it could work.
“If they can still build a hotel, they can build a vertical garden,” he says. “It remains to be seen whether or not the Landmark has been structurally compromised.”
Still, Richards admits he could be wrong.
“I try to be a realist,” he says, ” even with something like this, which might seem like a fanciful notion. But we’ll never know if we don’t have a look at it. I believe the idea has merit, and deserves further study.”