Recent Publications: Who makes the city?

Who makes the city?
Title: Why we need small cows

I have a chapter in the recently published book, “Why we need small cows: ways to design for urban agriculture”. The chapter is called, “Who makes the city”, co-authored with Andre Viljoen and Katrin Bohn. it discusses the relationship between the coherent design strategies of their CPUL concept and the more iterative aspects of unplanned communal food growing.

Except from the introduction below

“Who makes the city? Community Food Gardens and CPUL City Actions

In 2004, architects Bohn and Viljoen proposed the concept of “Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes” (CPUL), and the subsequent CPUL City concept, as coherent design strategies for integrating urban agriculture (UA) into multifunctional open urban space networks (Viljoen, 2005). UA includes a vast array of production types (individual, communal, collective, commercial), sites (balcony, garden, rooftop, building integrated, field), techniques (organic, hydroponic, conventional, aquaponic) and motivations (strategic, planned, recreational). A number of authors have recoded and researched this spectrum (Bohn and Viljoen, 2005), (Gorgolewski et al., 2011), but the nuances, specifics, and everyday characteristics of most types remain to be assessed and evaluated. As a contribution to this ongoing need to evaluate potential and actual UA systems from the ground up, Tomkins started researching UA in London, initially to quantify the amount of space available for growing (Tomkins, 2006). He subsequently completed a PhD under Viljoen, to investigate the lived experience of one particular kind of UA, namely “self -growing” by community food gardeners living in six high-density public housing estates in London. The research was participatory over one growing season, based on 36 interviews with 17 gardeners, and aimed to provide evidence on the factors that influence food harvests. The community food garden offers a distinction against the more generic community garden, because all the residents are emphatic that the purpose of the garden is to produce food, hence offering a direct link to UA discourse. 

Discussed here are the particular findings from Tomkins’s PhD research in relation to a toolkit of four CPUL City Actions, proposed as a means of facilitating the implementation of productive landscapes (Tomkins, 2012). The intention is not to resolve contradiction and conflict between an example of practice and broad theory, but to search for overlaps and patterns between incremental, heuristic UA practices, and the broader policy aims of feeding cities.For example, the research explores the everyday creative practices of residents who seek to gain control over, and produce a space for, food-growing within the existing architecture, designing concepts of productive UA systems from the ground up (rather than top down). This is not to say that the prosaic and planned do not overlap – they clearly do – but that there is a tension in literature and practice between how these discourses interact and how the expectations of each approach influences food-growing and yields.

Therefore, the aim of this chapter is to open a discussion regarding the way in which everyday UA practices, whose outputs might be less direct in terms of food, might interact and inform a broader UA strategy of combining a more consolidated agricultural practice at a local and city level. The latter is approached within the concept of the CPUL City Actions (Bohn and Viljoen, 2012) that advocates four actions, to facilitate the establishment of CPULs.”

Cover: Why we need small cows. Ways to design for urban agriculture
Cover: Why we need small cows. Ways to design for urban agriculture