Carrot City Designing for Urban Agriculture




Carrot City Archive

Conferences & Symposia

+ The Role of Food and Agriculture in the Design and Planning of Buildings and Cities: Abstracts

Date of Symposium: May 2-4, 2008

Location: Design Exchange, 234 Bay St., Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Friday 2 May 2008

Registration 12-2 pm, 6-7 pm

1st session (2:00pm to 3:45pm) - Keynotes/Food for Talk:
What have designers and planners been doing about food?
Joe Nasr (moderator/discussant)
Jerome Kaufman: Food in Planning: A Seven Year Odyssey From Off The Table To On The Table

Among life’s basic necessities—air, water, food, and shelter—only food was absent from the table of interests which planning practitioners and planning scholars pursued at the beginning of the 21st century. Some explanations for this lack of attention will be offered and events that gradually pushed food issues onto the planner’s table since then will be considered. The milestone event that led to food system issues gaining full recognition as a legitimate interest of the planning profession occurred in March 2007 when the American Planning Association adopted a Policy Guide on Community and Regional Food Planning. This policy document will be looked at in terms of roles recommended for planners to play in support of more sustainable community and regional food systems, particularly those roles that apply to shaping the built environment. This symposium is quite timely since one of the steps to be considered at the American Planning Association’s conference in late April 2008 for carrying out recommendations in the food policy guide will be to develop more linkages and specific collaborative activities with organizations in allied fields. In that vein, some concluding thoughts will be offered regarding the fertile ground for collaboration that could be mined between the professions involved in shaping the built environment with respect to the food system, as well as between the shapers and urban food system actors.

André Viljoen: Designing for urban agriculture: examples and issues

This presentation will present a European perspective on designing for Urban Agriculture. Contemporary European approaches to designing cities and buildings for urban agriculture will be presented and the concept of the Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes will be introduced. Design proposals from the University of Brighton’s undergraduate programme in architecture will be used to show typical student approaches to designing for urban agriculture. Based on issues raised by design research into urban agriculture, a case will be made for the need to communicate and explore ideas associated with urban agriculture to and with a wider public. The role of designers in this process will be considered and reference will be made to the practice of artists working in this field. The Middlesbrough urban farming project and the Utilitarian Dreams exhibition will be used to as examples of the projects exploring design issues that related to, and raise the profile of, urban agriculture.

2nd session (4:15pm to 6:00pm)
Regulations and Institutions as influences on food and agriculture
Pamela Robinson (moderator/discussant)
Diana Lee-Smith: On local regulations and urban agriculture: Lessons from East Africa

Regulations are a major reason why food production and human habitation are physically separated. Thus the subdivisions of cultures look lifeless and have hard edges as they contact natural landscapes. The public health thinking of the 19th century led to this split, and fears of dirt and poverty have not yet been replaced by an ecological vision of living. Sadly, politics also come into the enforcement of regulations, with disbenefits accruing most to the poor who are seen as behaving in unhealthy ways, including producing their own food. In East Africa, regulations inherited from colonial times are often used as a weapon against the poor. Even regulations that could be used in the interests of fairness so that both rich and poor could produce food in urban areas are obfuscated by officials, who use them to try and exclude poorer people from urban areas. Ongoing research and advocacy around urban agriculture regulations in Uganda and Kenya are presented.

Lorella di Cintio: Food and health regulations and their links to design: The food cart as example

This presentation seeks to put forth activist tactics in the field of Design Education and Practice. Two main topics of discussion will be addressed by way of historical review, design process techniques and 21st century teaching pedagogy. The first topic will discuss the under-research field of Design Activism and its parallel relationship with Art Activism. The second topic will discuss the familiar teaching tool of preparing the student for professional practice via the Design Charrette, Design Competition and the Global Exchange Studio. The cited studio projects explored transversal design practices by way of cuisine. For three years the research focus was the “restaurant on the street”. The presentation will attempt to argue that there is an urgent need for structural work and educators/practitioners are in need of new tools.

Nina-Marie Lister: Placing food: Legislative and policy challenges and opportunities to activate Toronto’s edible landscape

In the context of urban planning and design, this paper considers some of the challenges and opportunities to activate Toronto’s ‘edible landscape’. Foregrounding this discussion is a series of mapped spatial analyses that explore the conflict and contradictions in Toronto’s food supply—from its provenance and diversity to its consumption. These maps, part of a larger project, ‘Alternative Cartographies of Toronto’s Civic Landscape’, funded by the Metcalf Foundation and Ryerson University’s Faculty of Community Services, appear in print in: Lister, N-M. (2007) “Placing Food”. In J. Knechtel, (ed.) FOOD. Cambridge: MIT Press, pp. 148-185. Juxtaposing the city’s growing ethno-cultural diversity and the disparity between wealth and poverty, the mapped spatial data both reveal and reflect Toronto’s pressing need for food security in a landscape of plenty, where the local foodshed is fast disappearing. Urban agriculture (in several of its varied typologies) is posited as one potential spatial strategy to offer traction and movement towards food security—including for example, community and rooftop gardens, farmers’ markets, institutional and educational urban agriculture, productive “green” zoning, agricultural architecture, and related policy incentives to grow, promote and consume local food.

Gary Wilkins and Sonia Dhir: A conservation authority integrates urban agriculture: New partners, new crops, new ways of doing business

"The quality of life on Earth is being determined in rapidly expanding city regions. Our vision at Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) is for a new kind of community, The Living City, where human settlement can flourish forever as part of nature's beauty and diversity." Sustainable communities are an objective of this vision and urban agriculture is part of sustainable communities. Changing the conversation about agriculture at Toronto and Region Conservation is discussed. Toronto and Region Conservation recognizes that agricultural land is a vital resource, which must be conserved, and that progressive environmental stewardship in the farming/agricultural sector is important. TRCA is the largest public landowner in the Toronto region. Historically, agricultural use of its land has always been accepted but treated as an interim use. Over the last several decades, contemporary agricultural use of its land has steadily declined for several reasons. However, a new policy and vision for a new form of sustainable near-urban agriculture on TRCA lands has emerged including the use of new crops and innovative and sustainable agricultural production methods, (i.e., a combination of technology, Environmental Goods and Services (EG&S), Best Management Practices (BMPs), Community Shared Agriculture (CSA), and community gardens) which are on a smaller scale than the typical agri-food industry approach and do not compromise other TRCA’s objectives (i.e., terrestrial natural heritage, erosion, flood control or any other objectives). Some of the current agricultural initiatives aim to build life skills and offer practical work experiences to disadvantaged youth in local communities.


Exhibition, reception and official opening of the symposium

Welcome words by Stal Boctor (Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science – invited), Kendra Schank Smith (Chair, Department of Architectural Science) and Cecilia Rocha (Director, Centre for Studies in Food Security).

Saturday 3 May 2008

Registration 8:30 - 9:00 am

3rd session: (9:00 am to 10:45am)
Built form as a setting for food and agriculture
David Anselmi (moderator/discussant)

Leila Farah: Physical impact of food on the making of pre-industrial settlements: The case of Montreal under French rule

Architectural scholars have studied the origins, growth, and development of North American pre-industrial settlements and their work documents aspects such as land division, infrastructure, and the built environment. Often overlooked, however, are the physical effects that everyday activities had in shaping these places. This is especially so with food–its production, processing, storage, consumption, marketing, waste management, and transportation, all of which played major roles in shaping communities. This presentation will highlight findings to date of a detailed exploration of the relationships that linked homesteads, households, and food in a cold-climate settlement, using qualitative data. Focusing on Montréal under French rule (before 1760) as a case study, the project seeks to reconstruct the spatial-temporal chains through which food made its way from field to table in a pre-industrial urban context, examining the challenges and strategies by which they were defined.

Joe Lobko: Brownfield Redux – Food in the adaptation of the Brick Works and Wychwood Barns in Toronto

This will be a presentation of the design of the Wychwood Green Arts Barns project (for Toronto Artscape), and Evergreen Brick Works. These are two adaptive re-use projects bringing new life and a focus on sustainability to a pair of important Toronto industrial landmarks, with both including a major program emphasis on food.

Chris Hardwicke: Ravine City / Farm City: gardening and density in Toronto

Cities have always been dependent on their peripheries. As urban sprawl grows to consume valuable agricultural land, agricultural lands are increasingly encroaching on sensitive wilderness areas. Cities are putting pressures on ecosystems and are using the biosphere, the water system and the atmosphere as storage for their ecological debt. This paper proposes rethinking the city-nature relationship by integrating urban systems with natural ecosystems through two visionary projects for the City of Toronto: Ravine City and Farm City. ‘Ravine City’ is a proposed urban ecosystem of collective housing that restores and enhances the ravine system of Toronto. ‘Farm City’ proposes to create gardening areas inside new housing towers, and produces living and growing space in a dense vertical format. Both models renew the connection to our natural resources.

Adrian Blackwell: Constructible and mobile food architecture: The Mount Dennis studio

This paper describes a community interactive design build studio in Mount Dennis, a historic suburb of Toronto at Weston Road and Eglinton. The studio was organized around four core principles: 1. to work with user-groups to develop an architecture which is useful and reverberates with their desires, responding to existing ones, and stimulating entirely new ones; 2. to focus on an essential and pleasurable program for everyday life: the production, distribution and consumption of food; 3. to build a 1:1 structure in order to experiment with potential relationships between materials, labour, and drawings; 4. to read one book, A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, in order to have something in common: a parallel theoretical investigation. The final project involved the design and construction of a mobile community kitchen, a collaboration between the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto, the Mount Dennis Community Kitchen, the Mount Dennis Action for Neighbourhood Change and Evergreen.

4th session: (11:00 am to 12:45 pm)
Processes of planning and designing for food and agriculture
Glenn Miller (moderator/discussant)

Martin Bailkey: Combining agriculture, nature and housing: Madison’s Troy Gardens

Troy Gardens, located on 31 acres on the north side of Madison, Wisconsin, is a community-originated and community-managed project that combines 30 units of affordable and market-rate housing with a 4-acre community supported agriculture farm, community garden plots, and woodland and tallgrass prairie restorations. Since the late 1990s, academic units of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, including the Departments of Landscape Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning, have overcome initial community apprehension to become valuable contributors to the project's realization, both as community symbol and physical place. This presentation will look back at the University's engagement with Troy Gardens – in particular the mutually beneficial relationship between undergraduate landscape architecture students and the community activists that created Troy Gardens.

Lauren Baker: On the development of a food strategy for the Brick Works project

Evergreen is transforming Toronto’s historic Don Valley Brick Works factory from an underused, deteriorating collection of buildings into a thriving environmental centre. Food at the Brick Works will be a connecting thread between nature, culture and community by focusing growing food, making food, sharing food and food action. This presentation will introduce the Brick Works food strategy. Six guiding principles are shaping the design of the food elements, food procurement and food-related programming at the Brick Works. These include proximity, seasonality, artisanal, affordable, ecological, experiential and equitable. Food gardens, teaching and commercial kitchens, a farmer’s market and marché, restaurant, greenhouse and on-site composting are all part of the Brick Works design.

Joongsub Kim: Urban agriculture in the community design studio: The Detroit Studio example

The city of Detroit is reported to have nearly 200,000 vacant properties, a dilemma that threatens the social and economic vitality of the city and its neighbouring region. In response, the Detroit Studio Community Outreach Program of the College of Architecture and Design at Lawrence Technological University of Southfield, Michigan has been exploring ways in which vacant and underutilized land and buildings can be revitalized through urban farming. Faculty and students at the Detroit Studio have conducted urban design projects in several of Detroit’s underserved areas to promote sustainable urban agriculture developments. The studio collaborated with local community development corporations (CDCs) and other entities and studied the unique local characteristics, assets, anchors, opportunities, and challenges of each of the study sites. Based on the outcomes of that study, the studio proposed a prototypic urban agriculture-based development and guidelines for each of the study areas. These projects are funded by the Boston Society of Architects, the American Architectural Foundation, and local CDCs.

Mark Gorgolewski: Urban agriculture in the design charrette: The Black Creek Urban Farm example

Lunch (12:45 pm to 1:45 pm)

5th session: (1:45 pm to 3:45pm)
Teaching planners and designers about food and agriculture
Daniel Doz (moderator/discussant)
Gerda Wekerle: Reflections from a 'foodie hotbed": The experience of York's Faculty of Environmental Studies

Vikram Bhatt and Nik Luka: From international development to a more edible Montréal – urban agriculture and urban design at McGill

Since 2003-04, we have been running graduate level design/research studios related to urban agriculture under the theme of 'Making Edible Landscapes' in the post-professional master's program in architecture. We began by examining community gardening activities in Montréal, followed by international project-based design exercises for Rosario (Argentina), Colombo (Sri Lanka), and Kampala (Uganda). The international activities demonstrated ways to integrate urban agriculture into neighbourhoods on a permanent basis to ensure truly 'productive' housing districts. Subsequent studio projects documented lessons learned from these on-the-ground projects and shared them with urban experts at the World Urban Forum III. More recently, we have planned and designed UA projects for Montreal in various urban settings in collaboration with community partners, including a container produce garden on the downtown campus of McGill University. The introduction of the notion of urban agriculture in the milieu of architecture and urban design has not been without pedagogical challenges. The presentation focuses on these matters, giving an overview of the questions we have dealt with through the last five years.

June Komisar: Nurturing an emerging interest in food and agriculture – the Ryerson Architecture experience

Until recently, the discipline of architecture has not given much thought to the role it can offer to food production, distribution and related issues, despite the significance of the food sector’s function in cities. At the same time, the emerging alternative food movement has just begun to realize the possible contributions that designers and the design process can provide. The current ideas in this area are being explored by a number of architecture programs, and Ryerson University is one of the places this is happening. This paper discusses the recent work of Ryerson students as they have tackled agricultural and food issues as design challenges through Toronto-based projects that included first-year urban design investigations, student-run design competitions, design possibilities for a new public park currently under development in Toronto, and a variety of complex final-year thesis projects. The work demonstrates that designing with food in mind can be as integral to the program as other architectural features. In these projects, food issues proved to be excellent entry points for addressing a range of design challenges including social inclusion, cultural context, designing for community and sustainable building practices.

Domenic Vitiello: From community garden to community food security: Grupo Motivos and Penn Planning

How can community gardens contribute more effectively to community food security and equitable development? Over the past year, Grupo Motivos, the women's community gardening and cultural collective of the Norris Square Neighborhood Project in Philadelphia ( has partnered with two community and economic development classes at the University of Pennsylvania. Students have helped plan and implement agricultural production and other revenue generating activities; food access and nutrition programs, including a farm stand; as well as a cookbook of Afro-Caribbean recipes. This summer, Grupo Motivos is participating in a Penn study of the productivity and economic impacts of food production in Philadelphia's community gardens. Together, these initiatives are exploring how community gardens can become more deliberate, effective engines of community-controlled development and food security.

6th session: (3:45 pm to 5:45pm)
Making connections through food and agriculture
Lorraine Johnson (moderator/discussant)

Nevin Cohen: Food and agriculture as bridge between design and liberal arts

This presentation discusses the pedagogical value of an innovative undergraduate course that uses the study of food as a way to teach design and liberal arts students about environmental issues and systems thinking. Students come to the course with a limited understanding of food sources, methods of agricultural production, the relationship between rural communities and cities, or the concept of peri-urban agriculture. They typically are unaware of the interrelationships within foodsheds among complex social, political, economic, and environmental phenomena. Through systems mapping and group projects to improve the sustainability of The New School’s food system, our students emerge from the course with a better understanding of the physical and social consequences of the design, policy, and consumption choices they make about food, and by extension, other highly integrated natural and human systems.

Marc Xuereb and John Lubczynski: Planning for a healthy food system: Collaboration between the public health and planning departments in the region of Waterloo

Waterloo Region is a mid-sized urban region located in Southern Ontario. Three urban municipalities – Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo, and four rural townships – North Dumfries, Wellesley, Wilmot and Woolwich – make up the Region. With a combined population of over 500,000, the Region is the 10th largest urban area in Canada and one the fastest growing communities in Canada. Faced with a rapidly growing population, in 2003 Waterloo Region completed a Growth Management Strategy to identify where and how future growth should best occur. As part of this process, the Region completed a Healthy Community Food System Plan that recognized the need to integrate food planning with the broader community planning process. This presentation will focus on the collaborative efforts between public health and land use planners in Waterloo Region. It will highlight some of the key successes, as well as challenges in linking food system planning with regional-scale community planning processes.

Marielle Dubbeling: Participatory design of productive public spaces for urban agriculture: The experience of Rosario, Argentina

Urban agriculture is increasingly recognized for its potential contribution to more sustainable urban development. Urban agriculture includes the cultivation and raising, processing and marketing of food and non-food crops, medicinal and aromatic herbs, fruit trees, as well as animal products within urban and peri-urban areas. To reconcile the demands posed by urban growth with urban agriculture activities of high social and economic value, urban agriculture however should be included into land use planning and design. Open and green urban spaces could be designed for multifunctional urban agriculture and combine natural habitat, food production, educational, recreational and leisure activities. Such design processes would benefit from broad participation of urban planners and architects, urban farmers, citizens and slum inhabitants as to enhance ownership and engagement, more effectively use available local resources and give the process a higher credibility and wider outreach. This presentation shares the experience of Rosario, in the participatory design and implementation of productive public spaces. The presentation briefly contextualizes the site and its inhabitants, illustrates the design process and the results achieved and presents some general conclusions.

Bruce Darrell: Linking urban agriculture and built form to carbon cycles, energy use and nutrient flows

Most of the food we eat follows a linear path from distant factories and farms through complex systems of processing and distribution before quickly passing through our cities on the way to waste management. This linear system is energy intensive, is a significant source of greenhouse gasses, is increasingly insecure and has a degrading impact on the built form of our cities. Developing cyclical flows of nutrients and carbon in order to grow food within our cities is the most effective way of reducing the impact of what we eat. Urban food systems can help to de-carbonise our cities, while improving food security and building social capital.

Wendy Mendes: Beyond feeding people: Food system planning with multiple outcomes in mind

Where municipal involvement in urban agriculture is concerned, UA expert Luc Mougeot contends that we must start with the right question. Namely: “What can urban agriculture do for my city (not what my city can do for it)?” This presentation takes this premise as a springboard to explore the many ways in which urban agriculture can and must be situated within a multi-faceted array of planning goals that extend beyond improved food security alone. The presentation will offer examples of how urban agriculture (as one dimension of food system planning) can function as an essential ingredient of broader planning agendas for socially and environmentally sustainable cities.


Free/Informal networking

Sunday 4 May 2008

Morning: (9:00am to 1:00pm)

Field visit by bus to selected sites in Toronto where designers and planners are working on food-related is-sues. Sites to be visited include: The BrickWorks (Evergreen), FoodShare, the Green Arts Barn (Wychwood Barn – The Stop Community Food Centre), and Black Creek Urban Farm (City of Toronto and Toronto Region Conservation Authority). The visit would end at Parc Downsview Park, before returning to Ryerson University. Registration ahead of time is required for this tour.

Afternoon: (2:30pm to 4.30pm)

Optional walking tour on “Growing Urban Landscapes”, one of “Jane’s Walks” ( Leaders: James Kuhns ( and Rhonda Teitel-Payne ( The walking tour begins at the Green Barn at the northeast corner of Wychwood and Benson (one block south of St. Clair). Those taking part in the morning bus tour will be dropped off near the start of the walking tour before lunch. Details on getting to the Green Arts Barn on one’s own will be provided at registration time. Jane's Walks are free and open to the public so registration is not required.

For more Symposium information: Background, Programme.
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