Swale is a collaboratively created floating food forest for New York City. A 50-foot diameter-floating platform contains a gangway entrance, walkways, and an edible forest garden. Technologies on Swale purify New York City’s river water and use it to produce fresh food.

Swale is a collaboratively created floating food forest for New York City. A 50-foot diameter-floating platform contains a gangway entrance, walkways, and an edible forest garden. Technologies on Swale purify New York City’s river water and use it to produce fresh food. Photo: Swaleny.

Artist Mary Mattingly has a thing for floating, growing projects. In 2014, she showed off Wetland, the combination houseboat and floating garden aboard which she lives in the Delaware River. This year, her goal is grander, more public, simply more.

Swale will be a ‘freely floating food forest’ in New York City’s harbor. Construction has not yet begun, but it will be a ring-shaped floating greenhouse, fifty feet across and built of repurposed shipping containers.

Mattingly intends for the floating garden to be a community project. The floating garden within will feature as many varied food plants as possible, and all visitors who help will be eligible to share in the produce. Already recruited are students from Stuvyesant High School, Dwight-Englewood, and Fairfield University.

“Swale is art and it is also utilitarian,” Ms. Mattingly said in a recent interview. “As a public food forest… it’s about reimagining public spaces as places that can provide for some of our daily needs.” At a little less than 2000 square feet or 4.5% of an acre, it’s a small step in that direction, but it is a step, and afloat, it is literally creating new ground on which to take that step.

Mattingly’s student volunteers will work with horticulturalists and local gardeners to set up a base layer of wetland plants (hopefully native to the area) that will filter water from the river to help nourish more edible plants.

Plans for the construction of the artwork will be finalized in the spring of 2016. The project is funded by a fellowship from A Blade of Grass, which supports artists working on the interest of social change.

About 

Martin Ackerman is a freelance writer and current editor originally from Staten Island, NY. His university schooling focused on English education and Japanese. He has a (not so secret) passion for art history and political science. When he isn't writing or editing you can find him at sci-tech conventions, building the latest LEGO city or pampering his cat, Tea. You can follow him on Twitter @MarMackerman.