Artist/gardener/educator/architect Fritz Haeg has a geodesic dome in Los Angeles, California, that serves as his home, studio and eclectic "schoolhouse" for visitors. Haeg brings this multi-purpose approach to the creation of "Edible Estates," an ongoing agricultural project that replaces suburban lawns in the United States and England with highly productive domestic edible landscapes. Sponsored by local art institutions and horticultural organizations, these functional art-farms challenge preconceptions about land use and subvert the "toxic uniformity" of suburbia.
To date, Edible Estates have been created in Salina Kansas, Lakewook California, Maplewood New Jersey and London England, with other locations under development. Local partnerships include not only the local residents responsible for farming their lawns but museums such as the Tate Modern in London, The Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles and sponsors as diverse as the Ford Motor Company, the Los Angeles County Fair and a variety of charitable foundations. According to the artist, "I'm not interested in big monuments. I'm interested in singular gestures that become models --- small gestures in response to common issues that can be instituted by anyone in the world. And in that way, my projects on the surface seem quite modest and benevolent until you think of the implications if they were replicated. That potential has become most clear to me with Edible Estates. You can't imagine anything less threatening than a small vegetable garden in front of someone's house. It's the most modest, basic, primitive human gesture: planting your own food."
The "Edible Estates" themselves are beautiful sculpted landscapes in contrast to the average backyard plot. Putting benevolent things in places that challenge traditional development patterns explains Haeg, "forces you to check yourself and ask, 'Why am I feeling threatened by this vegetable garden?'" The conversations which emerge highlight questions of practicality and design at the same time as they take on serious social and ecological issues. In the context of his architectural work and his Sundown Schoolhouse workshops "if you have a broad practice that is also about other things, then your audience cross-pollinates. The people who were interested in me because I was doing the Salons are suddenly interested in the gardens, and the garden is suddenly legitimized because it's a part of an art practice, and the art practice is legitimized by the architecture, so there's a kind of crop rotation. Whenever I do anything, I immediately call it a project - I don't put it out to the side. It's always folded right into the center, whatever it is."
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