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Archive for Farmers Market

In Which Will Shows that Architects Can Solve Any Problem

Last weekend I was at the May Market in New Castle. It’s hosted by the Arasapha Garden Club to raise funds for the historic gardens they maintain. I set up by the plants rather than the craft vendors because my gut told me that the people buying plants would also be the ones who would have questions about their house.

What I didn’t expect was the number of plant/landscaping questions that I got. One of my first visitors asked about how to eradicate bamboo. Which of course is impossible, as I know from my parents experience. But I offered my suggestions (which were similar to those that I linked to: cut the stalks down, put Roundup on the exposed ends, and cut off the roots with a mattock), and off she went.

The next day I had a question about what to put where a holly tree had been. This was really a visual question, so after drawing a sketch of the yard, with the tree on the other side, I suggested an urn that she could plant vines in, which would make a “fountain” of green.

(photo from Plow & Hearth on-line catalog)

I did get plenty of home questions, and one on where to find or make pantry door shelves (like this).

So what do all of these questions have in common? That I was able to provide enough of an answer to get the person unstuck from their problem and closer to a solution that will work for them.

Why the Farmers Market?

Three years ago I set up a table at the Newark Natural Foods Farmers Market. I had been laid off in November the year before and had worked my way through “What Color is Your Parachute”. One conclusion from that was that Sustainable Design was a foundational part of my practice. But where were the people who cared about sustainable design? At Farmers Markets. And then I recalled an article I had read about John Morefield and his Architecture 5 Cents booth in Seattle. And like a good architect, I took the idea and generated a solution from it. And I bumped the price up to a quarter. And thus was Architectural Help 25 cents born.

I really thought that this would be a way to generate business for me. I was very wrong. For two reasons: 1) the economy was still terrible in 2010 and no one wanted to spend money; and 2) if someone is ready to start a project, they’ve already got people lined up for it. What it became was a way to educate people about what architects can do for them, and to reduce the perceived barriers between people and the profession.

I did get a few projects out of the effort – but most of those projects came months to years after I met the people at my booth. Mostly I answer questions that range from “where should I put attic ¬†insulation?” to “where should I live?” But the most common question is “what are you doing here?” And my answer is a short version of the preceding paragraphs.

At the end of the summer I had met nearly a hundred people, handed out a bunch of business cards, and made a number of connections in my community. And I decided that I wanted to keep doing this. So the next summer I signed up with the Kennett Square Market on Fridays. And the next summer I added New Garden Market on Saturdays. And that’s enough. Three markets in a row really wipes me out, but I’m still educating people and still presenting the profession as problem-solvers and still generating business.