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The grand opening of the ‘Cabbage Patch’ is Saturday, September 21.
The grand opening of the ‘Cabbage Patch’ is Saturday, September 21.Photo: Brian Kinyon

‘The Cabbage Patch’ installation is part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, which runs from September 19 to January 5

The Chicago Park District, the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, the Danish Architecture Center, the Danish Arts Foundation and the Danish Arts in Chicago announce the installation of ‘Cabbage Patch,’ a one-of-a-kind, living architectural exhibit that pays homage to one of society’s ancient forms of technology, agriculture, and one of its most sustainable crops.

The grand opening of the ‘Cabbage Patch’ is Saturday, September 21.  This is also the 8th annual celebration of Harvest Day, a family-friendly event that invites visitors to embrace the fall season by meeting urban goats, chickens, and bees; playing veggie bingo, lawn games; tasting fresh local foods; and learning about worm bin composting. The artists will give tours of the exhibit and invite visitors to harvest cabbages, and chef demonstrations will feature Chef Bill Kim from Urban Belly. 

“‘Cabbage Patch’ is a beautiful addition to Chicago and we are excited to host Danish architects Karen Gamborg Knudsen and Kasper Magnussen for the Chicago Architectural Biennial 2019,” said Chicago Park District Superintendent and CEO, Michael P. Kelly.  “Just like the Garfield Park Conservatory, architecture and public works like ‘Cabbage Patch’ have the power to transform public spaces and inspire a renewed sense of community and culture for all residents to enjoy.” 

This transformative display marks the first official Danish contribution to the Chicago Architecture Biennial. The Danish Arts Foundation selected Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts educated architects Karen Gamborg Knudsen and Kasper Magnussen from among 42 applicants for the site-specific project, which runs through January 5, 2020; the last day of the Chicago Architectural Biennial.  The cabbages will live out their stay until spring of 2020.

An agricultural field with about 10,000 cabbages and an outdoor kitchen will be installed in one of Garfield Park Conservatory’s outdoor gardens, an appropriate site bearing in mind that the 111 year old greenhouse was originally designed by Danish landscape architect, Jens Jensen. 

“Jens Jensen’s engagement in the Chicago West Side Park had a strong aesthetic and social dimension. By placing a cabbage field and a kitchen in a botanical garden, we want to create a sensuous experience and evoke a transformation where the cabbage grows and is harvested, studied, cooked and served,” said the Danish artists Karen Gamborg Knudsen and Kasper Magnussen.

As architects from across the world showcase their creations in Chicago, the ‘Cabbage Patch’ spotlights Chicago’s West Side, the historic greenhouse, and topics of accessibility to affordable, healthy and nutritious food sources and greenspaces. The cabbage is a staple crop grown in many cultures throughout history, and an ideal catalyst for conversations about culture, social equity and climate challenges. 

“We, in the committee for Architecture, were never in doubt: Magnussen/Gamborg’s project is both an original and intelligent contribution. It invites visitors and locals to harvest, experience and taste. In that way, it is not only a contribution to the biennial, but also to the local area,” Chairman of Danish Arts Foundation’s Committee for Architecture, Ellen Braae.

“From sustainability to urban planning to green design, the Cabbage Patch embodies, in a most holistic way, the key elements that are essential to the Danish narrative in today’s world,” said Anne Dorte Riggelsen, Consul General of Denmark in New York. “We cannot have the comprehensive conversations we need to have about food accessibility without addressing inclusivity just as we cannot touch upon the issue of food scarcity without underlining the urgent threats of climate change. 

“Denmark is thrilled to support this important engagement through the Danish Arts in Chicago initiative,” added Consul General Riggelsen. “And we’re equally excited that the Cabbage Patch can be hosted by an illustrious institution such as the Garfield Park Conservatory during this year’s exceptional Chicago Architectural Biennial.”       

From cooking demonstrations to the creation of a cultural cookbook, this project also seeks to introduce the vegetable to new consumers by engaging visitors in activities in and around the patch. 

The Garfield Park Conservatory will work with community partners on the West Side and throughout the city to deliver culturally rich, educational and interactive programming inspired by the exhibit. Cooking demonstrations led by local chefs will provide Chicago residents and community partners the opportunity to harvest, prepare, and eat locally produced cabbage. Participating partners include the Garfield Park Garden Network, a thriving community garden network that transforms vacant lots into gardens that feed their neighbors; and Inspiration Kitchens, a restaurant training program that provides a pathway for under-employed participants to enter the workforce.  Members of the Chicago Cultural Alliance will contribute recipes for the cabbage cookbook.

The designers aim for the living work to function as an interactive museum that inspires individual and collective involvement as well as political and structural discussions about land use, urban development, food security and everyday challenges. By design, this piece of landscape architecture is in step with Jensen’s vision to create greenspaces in Chicago’s bustling urban setting for the community to socialize and plan for a better tomorrow.   

Garfield Park Conservatory is open Monday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with extended hours on Wednesday-until 8 p.m. Admission is free for all ages. 

For more information about the ‘Cabbage Patch’ and affiliated series of programs and events, visit https://garfieldconservatory.org  or dial (773) 638-1766.