Dezeen Magazine

Public Records Cactus Space

Mattaforma considers "plants as clients" for Public Records outdoor space

Local design studio Mattaforma has collaborated with music venue and cultural space Public Records to create an outdoor plant nursery and community space to expand its programming in Brooklyn.

The Nursery at Public Records sits in an outdoor space adjacent to the Gowanus institution's other programming, a vegan cafe, club and listening lounge.

It serves as a nursery for plants and as an outdoor music venue.

View from the DJ booth onto the dance floor
Public Records expanded its programming to an adjacent empty lot, adding a DJ booth and plants

Public Record founders Shane Davis and Francis Harris brought on Mattaforma and other collaborators including interior design studio Space Exploration and landscape design studio Cactus Store to turn the adjacent, empty lot into a functioning space.

"The Nursery is intended to be an ecological/urban intervention that serves to bring people and plants together, in reaction to the challenge of re-imagining an asphalt parking lot," said Davis and Harris.

To do so while limiting new construction, the team took advantage of several storage units already on the site, positioning them as both separators and inhabitable spaces for both humans and plants.

Wooden trusses over green speakers
Mattaforma created a system of wooden trusses to shelter the plants and equipment

"The brief was an over winter nursery for their garden plant collection, as well as a community space that people could enjoy and learn about plants," Mattaforma co-founder Lindsey Wikstrom told Dezeen.

"With this in mind, we focused first on designing a space that relied solely on passive heating in the winter, treating the plants as our clients first, then adapting a plant-oriented space towards humans as our secondary clients."

Polycarbonate panels on wooden trusses at music venue
The trusses are lined with polycarbonate panels

To house the plants, Mattaforma installed wooden pratt trusses lined with polycarbonate panels.

The trusses were made on-site out of Microllam R laminated-veneer lumber (LVL), a manufactured wood that combines micro-layers of different kinds of woods like fir and larch.

Greenhouse in storage units
The space is meant to hold plants year-round

According to Wikstrom, the material was chosen for its durability and also its manufacturer, Weyerhaeuser.

"[It's] the first American timber company to call for regenerative forest stewardship over 100 years ago and who still maintains today some of the highest ethical standards in their replanting initiatives, meeting SFI certification and transparency in their evolving ESG performance metrics," said Wikstrom of the company.

Vents were included in the trusses to allow for passive cooling during the summer months. The trusses also extend out over the sound system and DJ booth to celebrate the DJ booth "like an altar".

Public Records also created the sound system for The Nursery, working with audio engineer Devon Ojas and manufacturer NNNN to develop a custom system that includes two blue-green and black speakers.

In addition, the team brought in engineering firm Arup to advise on the acoustics of the space. New York-based Cactus Store designed the landscaping and supplied the vegetation for the site.

Besides the plants within the containers, trees and a grove of bamboo were installed around the concrete dance floor.

Trusses with polycarbonate windows
Sustainable timber was used for the trusses

The once-industrial areas of Brooklyn have seen a variety of art and culture institutions moving in past years. Recently, a derelict powerplant, once known for its graffiti culture, was renovated by Swiss architecture studio Herzog & de Meuron into an arts centre.

Elsewhere in the borough, Ennead Architects and Rockwell Group converted a 19th-century train warehouse into a headquarters for a charitable organisation.

The photography is by Adrianna Glaviano.

Project credits:

Creative director: Shane Davis
Curatorial / sound direction: Francis Harris
Architecture: Mattaforma
Interior design: Space Exploration
Sound design: OJAS, NNNN, Dalbec Audio
Landscape design: Cactus Store
Acoustic advisory: ARUP

More images

Public Records Nursery
Public Records Nursery
Public Records Nursery
Public Records Nursery
Public Records Nursery
Public Records Nursery