UofH & Rice Partner On Hope Farms Design Plan

by Sep 20, 2015

Students, professors, architects and sponsors gathered in Rice University’s Anderson Hall on September 17 to peruse designs by twenty University of Houston and Rice architecture students who created site plan ideas for Hope Farms, a new urban agriculture project by Recipe for Success Foundation. 


Hope Farms is the beneficiary of the first-ever joint effort to involve both nationally renowned architectural programs in Houston. Architecture students in Susan Rogers’ Community Design Resource Center at the University of Houston’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design, joined with Rice School of Architecture’s Rice Building Workshop students led by Danny Samuels and Nonya Grenader all participated in the charette, which is an intense collaborative session to draft solutions to a design problem.

Hope Farms is presently being planned for execution on 2.5 acres in Houston’s historic Sunnyside community, in the midst of one of the area’s recognized food deserts, where the Foundation will grow and distribute affordable fresh produce to the neighborhood, train displaced U.S. Veterans as new urban farmers and provide jobs for area youth. The farm will include a market stand for the neighborhood, a community space for events and gatherings, raised beds for educational projects, a teaching and culinary demonstration space, orchard and much more.

Charged with integrating building and agricultural layouts to minimize energy use, maximize produce production and to engage the neighborhood, the students had to first consider the land and determine ways to draw in the surrounding community. A spectrum of creative ideas were presented, including aligning rows of crops to serve as a living, nurturing billboard for passing auto and pedestrian traffic and creating structures or pathways to visually connect two nearby schools to the Hope Farms site.

A host of fans for the Hope Farms project turned out for the student presentation including Recipe for Success Foundation Founder & CEO Gracie Cavnar and Agriculture & Garden Director, Justin Myers; Helen Bow, Assistant Vice President, Communications, Wells Fargo, which provided a sizable Neighborhood Lift grant to get the project started; Rudy Garcia, Texas Health Plan Executive Director for United Healthcare; Kelli King Jackson, Program Officer, Simmons Foundation; Nancy Bailey, Public Affairs and Communications Manager-Houston, Coca-Cola; and Dayni Alba, Corporate Social Responsibility/ Community & Education Investor, Boeing.

Professor Rogers and her students are excited to take the best solutions from the charette to develop the final site and building designs and during the fall semester will complete full architectural drawings for the project. “It will be a remarkable holiday gift for our Hope Farms  come December,” said Cavnar. The historic collaboration between the two schools will continue as Rice Professors Samuels and Grenader and their students utilize the UH plans to begin the onsite build out next year. Professor Rogers is committed to building community infrastructure to support and promote healthier lifestyles. In 2013, her Community Design Resource Center collaborated with key stakeholders to create an idea book for Sunnyside that suggested urban farming as a critical component.

Recipe for Success Foundation has inspired a broad coalition–two architecture schools, numerous corporate, foundation and private funders, veterans groups and community volunteers–collaborating to build a healthy future for Houston’s Sunnyside community.