Dezeen Magazine

Testbeds Queens

New York designers create garden structure from repurposed architectural mockup

New York design studio New Affiliates and architect and historian Samuel Stewart-Halevy have created a prototype of their Testbeds project, which repurposes architectural models used for large projects.

Originally announced in 2020, the team has completed a garden shed, greenhouse and community space in the New York City borough of Queens that was made partly from a model created for a luxury condominium in Tribeca.

Skyscraper mockup used for shed
New Affiliates has repurposed an architectural mockup for a garden shed structure

Architectural models are used in many large construction projects for design review. They are often made to the same standard as the buildings they are modelling and are usually disposed of after the building is complete.

New Affiliates and Stewart-Halevy saw an opportunity to try and use these models to replace public structures in Queens, which they noticed were often in disrepair.

Metal siding on Testbed mockup garden house
The structure was built for a community garden in Queens, New York

"By relocating mockups to local community gardens, we imagined a new form of Manhattan transfer," said the team.

"Here the mockup becomes a vehicle, carrying the surplus value of New York’s high-rise architecture into neighborhoods that have been historically disinvested while bringing the image of the growing city down to the ground," it added, noting that this was only one of many possible uses for the mockups.

Interior of structure with wooden slats and chairs for gathering
The structure includes community space, storage and a greenhouse

Located in Garden by the Bay in Edgemere and completed late last year, the shed repurposed the dark facade of the Tribeca building and used it as a structural wall for the primary envelope.

The mockup was originally installed in a showroom for the condo and consists of four custom concrete panels and a large glass window.

The team worked with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation's GreenThumb, an arm of the agency that promotes civic programming, to place the mockup in the centre of the urban garden.

Grey mockup reused for shed
The mockup forms one of the walls of the new structure

"The project involves many leaps of faith," the team told Dezeen. "When we first approached the Parks Department, the developers, the engineers and the community members, we always anticipated encountering more skepticism."

"We were delighted at the enthusiasm and generosity with which everyone, including Cape Advisors, responded," referring to the developer for 30 Warren, the Tribeca condo for which the mockup was made.

A gabled timber frame was suspended over the mockup, connecting it to an adjacent greenhouse that has a cinderblock foundation and polycarbonate walls.

Between the mockup and greenhouse is an open space that is covered by a large metal sheet that was placed over the wooden frame to serve as a roof.

Timber frame and cinderblocks
The structure was covered with a timber frame

The team hopes to expand on the project by creating a number of similar structures in New York City's outer boroughs.

New Affiliates is led by Ivi Diamantopoulou and Jaffer Kolb and received AIA New York's New Practices award in 2020.

Samuel Stewart-Halevy is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University.

Other projects that repurpose structures include RSDA's repurposing of shipping containers for structures on a farm in India.

The photography is by Michael Vahrenwald.