Off The Grid

This course was concerned with the production of public space as social space through temporary food-centered interventions in the city

Taking on San Francisco’s food truck-based markets as a manifestation of temporary social space, this seminar explores the layers and scales of their physical definition, as well as the dynamic interactions of those programming and using the space with the goal to develop mobile social infrastructures that catalyze new urban conditions and events within the framework of these markets. The seminar was part of a one-year collaboration with Off the Grid, the second semester of which was a Building Technology Elective that built full-scale prototypes based on the design concepts generated in the Active Urbanism seminar.

Students developed propositions for mobile food market infrastructure such as seating, lighting, way-finding, and new concepts for stage set-ups through the lens of specific construction methods that lend themselves to temporary deployment and quick set-up. Some projects operated at the scale of product design, adding small components to the existing folding chairs. Other proposals generated a range of spaces using all sides of the food trucks as additional spatial definitions. Yet others proposed interventions where people wait in line for their order in front of the food trucks, turning them into a space for interaction and games. Two of the proposals were converted into full-scale prototypes during the second semester.

One of the prototypes was displayed during the Market Street Prototyping Festival in Spring 2015.


Tortilla Horizontal

La Tortilleria Horizontal built an experimental tortilla factory in Mexico City to engage the local community in conversation about the impact of GMO on corn and Mexican culture.


Corn holds a significant place in Mexican culture and history, and many native species are being endangered by big agriculture. La Tortilleria Horizontal built an experimental tortilla factory in Mexico City to engage the local community in conversation about the impact of GMO on corn and Mexican culture.

"Intriguing and unexpected people started to show up at the tortilleria and with them, they brought their own ideas and experiences. The tortilla was a simple space that offered a way to approach certain ideas but it was also way more about what the people did with those ideas and how they contributed and built upon that. The participation and engagement of the people who had the opportunity to stumble upon the project was the substance of what the tortilleria was all about and it is definitely what made the project so enriching and beautiful."

The team constructed a temporary storefront that operated for four weeks, hosting lectures, workshops, concerts, and communal meals. Community members could directly connect with their food heritage by making their own tortillas and engaging in dialogue around corn and GMO. Team La Tortilleria Horizontal envisioned this successful temporary operation as an interactive vehicle for awareness and community building that could be replicated at future sites.


Alemany Outdoor Kitchen

Tackling the need for outdoor cooking space at Alemany Farms, the IMPACT Award Team built a kitchen from scratch. Running as a scrappy and efficient design firm, Alemany Outdoor Kitchen branded their kitchen, designed a web page, organized workflow, managed labor, hosted events, and obtained city permit approval. With a beautiful new kitchen to show for it.

Located near multiple public housing complexes, the Alemany Outdoor Kitchen is a community resource and offers hands-on experiences for food education and production. Initially developed in an Upper Division Interdisciplinary Studio Course at CCA, Alemany Outdoor Kitchen [AOK] provides an open air space for food preparation alongside the existing food production available to community members at Alemany Farm. As providers of fresh organic produce for local individuals and families to feed themselves, Alemany Farm envisions the potential of a kitchen project.  


Our team is proud to create some buzz in the city with Alemany Outdoor Kitchen and we hope that success will reflect well on Alemany Farm, California College of the Arts, and the Center for Art and Public Life. With recognition from the city of San Francisco we hope to get more leads to new public projects and similar opportunities to start our careers as young designers.” –Alemany Outdoor Kitchen, IMPACT Awardee 2012


After IMPACT, Alemany Outdoor Kitchen offers jobs to the residents; it connects them to new non-profit organizations, improves curb appeal and offers recreation space.  During the process, the team functioned as a small architecture and design firm, branded their project, created a web presence, organized workdays, managed contract labor, hosted events, and gained permit approval from the city. Team AOK also launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the project. Alemany Outdoor Kitchen was recognized by the city of San Francisco for their design leaving Team AOK excited to serve as a model for similar projects in the future.  With the kitchen successfully completed, members of the community and the Alemany farm use the space for sharing and celebrating food.