Carrot City Designing for Urban Agriculture




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Conferences & Symposia

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


“The symbiotic relationship between a productive landscape and the human settlement system is as old as civilization. During the past 200 years, that millennium-old positive relationship deteriorated into a further and further separation of town and landscape.” 1

Food is certainly among our primary needs. Over the millennia, the activity of satisfying this basic requirement has been one of the key ingredients in the formation of human settlements. While in the past, there existed a very close link between the forms and patterns of cities and towns and their food supply systems, since the industrial revolution, this has been largely eroded, particularly in western nations. Recently, this disconnect is starting to be addressed as part of the crisis of urban sustainability. Movements such as urban agriculture, buying locally and “slow food” encourage us to consider ourselves co-producers, not consumers, and in this way to engage in the food supply process. Reconnecting the cities to their food systems is now emerging as one of the core components of more sustainable urban settlements.

As we struggle with the implications of the sustainability agenda, which suggests a move towards increasing densities in urban areas, what are the implications of food production – and food systems more generally – on the built forms and patterns of cities? What are the implications of all these shifts for architecture, planning and the other professions of the built environment? This symposium will address these issues.

The built environment and food and agriculture systems intersect at the point where architects, landscape architects, designers, engineers and planners incorporate farmers’ markets, greenhouses, edible landscapes, living walls, productive green roofs, community gardens, the use of waste or underused land for food production, and other strategies, into their pedagogy and practice. Such examples of the connections between food issues and built and unbuilt form have the potential to transform not only food production, distribution and related issues; they can also become the framework for a new set of basic assumptions about the functions required in the layout of urban spaces and the design of buildings such as schools and housing, where food production or consumption can occur. Food-focussed activities are also emerging as an increasingly important component of community development and regeneration.

The link between the design and planning of the built environment and its food system is a new area of study, reflecting a new awareness of the importance of the food and agriculture sectors in the functioning of cities. The emerging alternative-food movement has barely recognized the possible contributions that designers and the design process can make to the food supply chain; nor has it tapped sufficiently the potential that planners can bring to the reintroduction of food systems into urban space or to the reduction of food miles and carbon footprints.

Furthermore, as the meaning of sustainability widens to embrace net-zero-impact living, buildings or built patterns, the question of net-zero-impact food-supply chains for urban residents becomes directly relevant to the way we design and plan our built environment, so as to “make edible landscapes”.2
“….architects and designers should pay attention to the city’s multiple functions as a dining room, market and farm.” 3

1. Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes: Designing Urban Agriculture for Sustainable Cities, Andre Viljoen, Editor, Architectural Press, 2005.
2. Making the Edible Landscape: A Study of Urban Agriculture in Montreal, Editors: Vikram Bhatt and Rune Kongshaug, MCHG, 2005
3. Food and the City, Karen Franck, editor, Architectural Design, vol. 75, no 3, May/June 2005, p 5.

For more Symposium information: Programme, Abstracts.
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