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Thread: Urban agriculture and urban design

  1. #1
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    Urban agriculture and urban design

    It seems that there is a growing interest in urban agriculture (means anything from community gardens to larger scale entrepreneurial production, located anywhere from inner cities to surburbia to periphery areas) in wealthier, northern hemisphere cities (at least in Canada and Europe). Given that food systems are now gaining planner and policymaker attention in the U.S., UA appears to be an area that is ripe for exploration. I am wondering if it may be timely to consider the design aspects of UA.

    The way we view (as economic engines) and organize (zoning) cities present some major barriers ( most of which are economic and political) to UA in our cities.Could urban design be the conduit through which UA could capture more interest and perhaps help us to imagine overcoming some of the obvious barriers?

    I am searching for examples of urban agriculture and a discussion about its urban design implications. How can UA be incorporated into the urban form so that benefits are maximized, or alternately how urban form and design can accomodate UA.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Rem's avatar
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    Are you examining this from the point of view of generating viable new sources of food production or accommodating the lifestyle aspirations of some urban dwellers. I think these goals would create different solutions.

    My experience is limited to a couple of community gardens, which are mainly lifestyle related, though in one instance much is made of the relative poor social circumstances of the community in question. I still see its value more related to building social capital than putting vegetables on a poor family's table. Both examples I am aware of are very much suburban in nature, situated on Council owned land and seperated from neighbours so design issues are not significant.

  3. #3

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    One interesting place to check out is the Intervale, the farming area that lies within Burlington, VT and produces substantial quantities of food as well as compost. We enjoyed being part of a CSA based there and get eggs from one of the micro-farms. Try the Intervale Foundation's web site as a place to start.

    Another long time example you need to look at is Village Homes in Davis, CA. One part of the design program was to have food production. There is quite a bit in the literature on this project.

    There are also historic examples I wish I had had time to learn more about. The traditional Mormon settlement pattern in Utah and adjoining states started out with urban agriculture in mind. And there are other examples. I ran into a "orchard subdvisions" that were platted after WWi in Idaho that I never had time to follow up on.

  4. #4

    Liberty Lands in Philadelphia

    This is a pretty "home-grown" example (no pun intended) of which design was pretty much a secondary issue, but perhaps that is one aesthetic of urban community gradens; the final product is a unique stew of all the ingredients.

    Check this link...
    http://www.pps.org/gps/one?public_pl...ic_place_id=56

  5. #5
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    See this example from my town:
    http://www.isles.org/
    They started as a community garden organization and branched into other related areas that they saw a need for in developing community. They are internationally recognized. At a party last January, I met an anthropologist from Japan who was working with them to take back lessons to Japan. He told me that the traditional tight community bonds of Japanese society had been broken down with industrialization and corporate culture. This has led to high rates of social ills, alcoholism, depression, suicide, etc., and he was hoping to re-introduce the idea of community to combat the problems.

    The couple who started it live on my street and I've done some volunteer work for the organization. I can PM you their email address if you like.

    You also might want to look up an article in Metropolis mag from about a year ago on the urban gardens of Havana, Cuba.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    One good resource is:
    http://www.cityfarmer.org/

    I have seen a number of permaculture examples of urban ag. throughout the country. You might look into that movement.

    I had a book about the urban farming in Cuba, but lent it to a prof. and never got it back but on the cityfarmer page they had an article in '99 about it. Essentially when the USSR broke up Cuba no longer recieved better than market prices for its sugar cane exports, nor had the capital to continue the resource intensive export ag. that had dominated the island. Instead they pushed alot of urban ag. and sustainable ag in general for subsistence purposes. Here is a link:

    http://www.cityfarmer.org/cuba.html
    http://www.metropolismag.com/cda/story.php?artid=150

  7. #7
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    In England, and perhaps other places residents can rent a small plot of land called an allotment from the council. These are generally located right outside the community, although often in undesirable areas (ie railroad tracks). They seem to be several acres in size and people are pretty much free to do what they want with them. Generally they are used for growing vegetables as the small lots Englanders live on do not permit this.

  8. #8
    I seem to remember something along these lines in Japan. I think it was mentioned while I was in college but that was a looong time ago. It went sort of like this, that many small holders or landowners had been surrounded by the growth of the cities but continued to produce their products on plots as small as one-quarter acre. I may be wrong about this as it was a long time ago.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jsk1983
    In England, and perhaps other places residents can rent a small plot of land called an allotment from the council. These are generally located right outside the community, although often in undesirable areas (ie railroad tracks). They seem to be several acres in size and people are pretty much free to do what they want with them. Generally they are used for growing vegetables as the small lots Englanders live on do not permit this.
    I saw a similar thing going on in Germany this past winter.
    Every time I look at a Yankees hat I see a swastika tilted just a little off kilter.
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  10. #10
    maudit anglais
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    Quote Originally posted by Breed
    I saw a similar thing going on in Germany this past winter.
    We have allotments here in Toronto, I remember helping my neighbour with his when I was a kid. We also have several community gardens, but as previous posters have indicated these are more of a community-building venture than a serious attempt to provide food.

    My wife and I have a big vegetable plot...does that count?

  11. #11
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    vancouver

    I'm working on a thesis that will examine this question, and working off of the many studies regarding the Southeast False Creek development plans in Vancouver BC. I haven't found anything that really pushes it though.

    Also look for this book, haven't seen it yet but it sounds right on:
    "Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes : Designing Urban Agriculture for Sustainable Cities" by Andre Viljoen

    dave ho

  12. #12
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    Alottments in Germany

    Quote Originally posted by Breed
    I saw a similar thing going on in Germany this past winter.
    They are called [i]Schrebergarten]/i], or Kleingarten, and are pretty common.

    There is a trend in Germany to move away from food production in these gardens and toward them being more ornamental or as a weekend retreat. The German ones usually have a small cottage or hut in them...a Gartenlaube, originally used to store tools and such.

    Allotments where usually on the outskirts of town, or in vacant lands.

    Most of whats online is in German, but here is a discussion in english of the German allotment experience:
    German Allotment Gardens...

    "Allotment gardens consist of a piece of land between 200 and 400 square meters, most of them with a little shed for storing gardening tools. Allotment gardens formed a buffer for food security, especially in times of crisis. Shortly after WW II, Berlin contained 200.000 allotment gardens. Today there are still about 80.000.

    The basis for a successful and permanent establishment of allotment gardens was laid through the establishment of associations of small scale gardeners in the cities (Kleingartenvereine, Schrebergartenvereine). The council provides the land, establishes a water system and eventually fences the area. The gardeners pay a small rent for the plot and have to attend to certain duties within the association. The organisation of farmers in garden associations has proved to be a good means for learning democratic rules as well. New development in most German cities heavily promote organic farming and the complete abolishment of pesticide use in public owned urban allotment gardens. "


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    Before WWI in California there was the "irrigation colony" or "citrus colony". The idea was not really "urban agriculture", more suburban.

    Land was subdivided into mini-farms where folks could operate orchards, raise chickens, and so forth. These "colonys" would be linked to nearby towns via interurban railroads or paved roads.

    Mike Davis discusses one of these colonys in his chapter on Fontana in his "City of Quartz" book.

    So, maybe an early version of "broadacre city", not really urban.

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    In Chicago, also before WWI, as part of Jens Jensens park planning, there was a similar scheme where allotments where set up near blue-collar neighborhoods at the edge of the city. These didn't last, and where converted into conventional parks. Hanson Park, on Chicagos NW Side in the Cragin neighborhood, was one of these allotments (nicknamed the "Cabbage Patch" by the locals).

  13. #13
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    Planning schools with Urban Agricuture courses

    Has anyone come across any planning schools that discuss the use of agriculture in urban design?

  14. #14
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    where sheep may safely graze

    A classmate of mine thought that shepards should be allowed to re-colonize the demolished blocks of inner-city neighborhoods. There would be no brownfield concerns anyway.
    For commercial level agriculture hydorponics or aquaculture in underutilized industrial buildings always seemsed sensible to me. Not as attractive as family plots on vacant lots, perhaps.

  15. #15
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    city forest

    In Montreal there are many community gardens. There is also now emerging a rooftop garden movement, generally using hydroponic methods (as they don't require as much weight, I guess, or are just easier than getting a bunch of soil up on the rooftop). I was reading something recently on a permaculture website, I can't remember which one, about urban agriculture and looking at the city like a forest. The tall buildings create the canopy while the streets are the forest floor. For this reason, rooftop gardening makes a lot of sense, as that's where the sunlight is.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    rooftop gardens

    It's Alive!
    How much green does it take to put some green on top of a Philly row home? (A lot.)

    by Bruce Schimmel

    Diane Gentry can't remember exactly when she dropped the dirt bomb on her partner, John Tull. It was sometime in late 2002, and they were already several months into the hell of rehabbing their house on the corner of 20th and Kater.

    But Gentry is almost certain that she told Tull about her own, very special plans over dinner at a friend's. That's because the couple always ate at friends' houses. By now the couple had no place at home to eat — except in the basement, on a mattress, under a sheet of plastic where they slept.

    "I want a garden on the roof," she remembers telling him.

    "Like big planters?" asked Tull, 36, who is a real estate developer for the nonprofit Friends Rehabilitation Program.

    "Well, no, planters are not quite big enough," said Gentry, 28, who graduated Bryn Mawr with a degree in political ecology and now writes grants for nonprofits.

    After work, on weekends, to the cheers of neighbors, the couple dismantled the old blue fluorescent hair salon sign that hung over their front door. They pried off the pink paneling that stockaded the brick outside.

    "So ... a deck?" peeped Tull.

    "No. I want a roof garden. A green roof. I want to put dirt on the roof."

    http://citypaper.net/articles/2005-01-13/canon.shtml


    Up on the Roof

    Environmentally conscious homeowners fiddle with their rooftops.

    by Lori Hill

    When Elisabeth Hamill and Steve Simons began looking for their first house, they had a few simple wishes. One was a decent-sized yard or outdoor space, or the potential for one. Hamill, a landscape architect, and Simons, owner of The Khyber and Royal Tavern, wouldn’t compromise.

    After months of searching, what they found was amazing: a 25-foot-by-18-foot space behind a South Philly rowhouse that was being used as a large garage. Simons and Hamill hope to turn it into a lively outdoor space, with landscaped gardens and a small patio. They'll retain a portion of it as a one-car garage. What's now just a cluster of steel girders on top of that garage area, though, is what they're most excited about. A plot of grass about 21 feet by 18 feet will be laid atop the frame to create a green roof, complementing the garden area below. The effect should be be a modest but attractive bi-level green environment, all visible from the second story of their home.

    "When you live in a city, having these green spaces helps keep the air clean. It's not very difficult, and it ends up paying for itself," says Simons.

    Green roofs are grassy roof coverings meant as healthier, eco-friendly and aesthetically pleasing alternatives to traditional roofing. With low-growing plants like sedum, herbs and meadow grasses, a green roof is like a miniature, self-sustaining ecosystem. They can be decorative or recreational areas, or simply an addition to existent conventional roofing.

    Proponents cite countless benefits: extending the life of the roof, reducing noise, controlling storm-water runoff, protecting against UV rays, and keeping buildings cooler in summer and warmer in winter (thereby conserving energy). Those don't even include the aesthetic advantages of having the upper decks and roofs of buildings covered with something other than tar and gravel.

    http://citypaper.net/articles/2004-02-26/cover4.shtml
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  17. #17
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    in the town of coombs on vancouver island, there is a market with a grass roof - and goats on it to keep the grass short.

    http://tourismmall.victoria.bc.ca/Ph...%20Coombs.html

  18. #18

    Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes

    Dear Zielona,

    Try our new book called Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes, Edited by Andre Viljoen, and published by the Architectural Press / Elsevier.

    It presents the case for Urban Agriculture and its implications for urban design, it also presents a number of design studies. The book is currently the Royal Instiute of British Architects, book of the week.

    Hope this helps,

    see: http://www.bh.com/architecturalpress/

    Andre Viljoen


    Quote Originally posted by zielona
    It seems that there is a growing interest in urban agriculture (means anything from community gardens to larger scale entrepreneurial production, located anywhere from inner cities to surburbia to periphery areas) in wealthier, northern hemisphere cities (at least in Canada and Europe). Given that food systems are now gaining planner and policymaker attention in the U.S., UA appears to be an area that is ripe for exploration. I am wondering if it may be timely to consider the design aspects of UA.

    The way we view (as economic engines) and organize (zoning) cities present some major barriers ( most of which are economic and political) to UA in our cities.Could urban design be the conduit through which UA could capture more interest and perhaps help us to imagine overcoming some of the obvious barriers?

    I am searching for examples of urban agriculture and a discussion about its urban design implications. How can UA be incorporated into the urban form so that benefits are maximized, or alternately how urban form and design can accomodate UA.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian PlannerByDay's avatar
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    I've always joked with friends that one way to revitalize downtown Detroit is to tear down all the abandon buildings, rip all the streets between the now vacant lots, rezone it AG, and plan corn. OH and they could use the fire hydrants for irrigation. Then a developers would come in and say "hey this farmland needs to be paved and built on, I think this is an ideal place for a subdivision with cookie cutter home."

  20. #20
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Micheal Shutkin's excellent book, The Land That Could Be has an chapter on the Dudley Street Initiative in Boston. This was an inner-city neighborhood that used Urban Ag. as a revitalization strategy.

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