Program in Environmental Design

University of Colorado Boulder

Food Hub Praxis Studio


John Lanterman, RLA, Senior Instructor

Ken Renaud, Instructor

Course Overview

ENVD 3300 focuses on working with the Westwood Neighborhood in Denver to develop a 1.7 acre site into a food hub.  This course is associated with Restorative Commons, a companion course taught by Tori Derr.

We will work in the Westwood Neighborhood with two primary outcomes- the first being to enhance social interaction and create a stronger sense of community; the second is to design the structures and site for an appropriate food hub and associated distribution systems within and outside the community. This approach will provide health, economic and social benefits for residents. An outcome of this work will be a planning and design model for communities across the US.

This design studio introduces students to food systems through the design of a food hub.  Students will learn and be advocates for a broad range of issues, knowledge, and skills related to food systems. In this course students will design a food hub and surrounding site elements within an urban context. Through a series of exercises, initial design proposals and design solutions, students will work with concepts of sustainability, planning, urban design, architecture, and landscape architecture.

This course will build on first and second ENVD year skills of drawing, graphics, computer skills and analysis. Students will work collaboratively to develop a schematic design for a food hub, including an outdoor farmers market, year around indoor market, production greenhouse, community gathering space, and associated office and retail space.  The studio will work closely with ReVision International, a non-profit that is active in the Westwood Neighborhood.

Course Format

The Westwood Neighborhood in Denver will be the focus of learning for ENVD 3300. Using this real-world case study, we will explore the elements and purpose of a food hub, design components, and how a food hub is part of a larger system of food production, distribution, and sales. A field trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico to the RailYards Project will give students insights and inspiration for the design of the food hub in the Westwood Neighborhood in Denver.

Phase One: Issue Identification, Context and Food Systems Overview, and Problem Statement

January 13th -February 5th

The first phase of the semester introduces students to the topic of food systems and food hubs as it relates to social, environmental, and sustainability issues.  Students will also be introduced to the process of systematic issue identification and apply this within the context of a food hub. Students will identify the physical and social elements of the site. They will document the study area and analyze it based on the existing structure of agriculture within the area, and the goals of ReVision International.

Students will identify, understand, document, and respond to the urban context and associated cultural issues. They will become familiar with the many outcomes that can be attributed to food production through the lens of the Westwood Neighborhood. They will develop a problem statement based on their understanding.

Phase Two: Analysis of Local Food Systems, Economic Opportunities and Proposal Development

February 6th - March 3rd

The second phase involves analysis of the study area through the lens of a community food hub. Students will research food systems, food metrics, infrastructure, and social and economic opportunities. Students will evaluate systems and components, as well as the corresponding social factors and public policies. This phase includes fieldwork, data collection, and documentation techniques to integrate a food hub within a neighborhood. The work will result in a comprehensive design proposal that will direct the remainder of the semester. Teams will be formed based on interests, skills, and themes for this phase of the studio.

Phase Three: Food Hub Design Solutions for Building, Site, & Neighborhood

March 5th - April 30th

The last phase of the studio involves the synthesis of previous phases into a design solution for  a community-based food hub in Westwood. Students will develop final design and planning solutions that acknowledge the surrounding social and economic forces. Projects will respond to design proposals developed in Phase 2 and continue into detailed design of a food hub in the Westwood Neighborhood. Students will prepare conceptual design solutions for detailed elements of the food hub site. Integration of site, building, and community values will direct design.

Students will execute a reiterative design process that result in sustainable designs for a food hub within the study area that support goals established by ReVision International. Design solutions will be evaluated in terms of meeting the goals of ReVision, integrating a sense of community, responding to the design proposal developed in Phase 2, and overall quality of design.

Learning Objectives

1. Planning and Design Process

Provide students an understanding of the roles of research, analysis, and policy in agrarian urbanism, and the ability to incorporate them into the design of a sustainable food hub. Students will be able to incorporate the planning and design process at a variety of scales and as a problem-solving tool.

2. Communication Skills

Provide students with an ability to use a variety of two and three-dimensional graphic and modeling techniques, including SketchUp, hand drawing and other techniques that are complemented with verbal and written presentation skills to clearly communicate key aspects of design proposals.

3. Research and Analysis

Provide students with an understanding of research methods that inform planning and design, and a capacity to conduct neighborhood scale analysis, as well as access and interpret adopted plans and policies.

4. Elements and Systems

Provide students with an ability to recognize components of food systems, and how to develop design proposals that respond to neighborhood issues, as well as integrating a regional in their work.  Assess natural features (climate, topography, hydrology, vegetation, and ecosystems), human systems (infrastructure, transportation, pedestrian capture areas, open space), and urban elements (parks, streets, public plazas and gathering places), and integrate them into the design of a community food hub.

5. Social and Environmental Issues

Provide students with an understanding of social, environmental, and sustainability issues and strategies related to food systems at the regional, municipal, and neighborhood scale. This includes a capacity to evaluate food systems from the standpoint of food hubs and community-oriented goals.

6. Urban Scale Design

Provide students with the skills and knowledge to develop detailed building, site, and neighborhood scale design solutions within the context of a community food hub.