Davis Food Co-op

davis food co-op

The Davis Food Co-op wanted to convert an existing, “big-box” grocery store in an undistinguished strip mall into a visible destination that would be the ‘green’ heart of a vibrant, participatory community. Besides selling locally sourced produce and goods, the Co-op should be a place to meet and socialize with other members. The membership-funded project represented an important moment in the history of the Davis Food Co-op – as it sought a larger presence in the growing farm-to-fork movement in the heart of the agricultural California Central Valley.


Maria understood that the project was more than fitting goods onto shelves according to a pre-determined formula. During the two-year design process, she translated the discussions at bi-weekly meetings with Co-op management and staff, Building Committee members and the Board. Fusing these comments with the varied and colorful international history of cooperatives, she developed design elements to embody the sense of community, the lively spirit, and the creative attitudes that she observed at the meetings.

She introduced angled geometry, a sculpture of an oversized tomato, green-painted walls, planting areas reclaimed from the asphalt parking lot, a covered entry large enough for outdoor produce bins and displays, and a dining patio for shoppers to linger. She persuaded planners, planning commissioners, historic preservationists, architecture critics, and some architects to allow bold, distinctive signage, forbidden by regulations that sought aesthetic conformity. The signage was important for the Co-op community’s identity within the context of the larger agricultural region. Maria found herself in the role of activist and educator – to demonstrate how and why design matters in a regional context.

Maria’s advocacy worked. The project was built, and the design has performed as hoped. The Davis Food Co-op has become a destination. Its distinctive architectural features – rooftop signage, angled geometry, and tomato sculpture Food Co-op community’s brand. The architecture and site transform the everyday ordinary experience of groceryshopping into an inspiring experience. And Maria’s work has inspired ongoing contributions: now, almost twenty years later, vibrant additions of community art, including large tomato and carrot sculptures, kiosks, benches, and plants, expand the original architectural vision.