This community-based research installation and essay tests whether qualitative assessment of user understandings of the concept of Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes (CPULs) can help inform the more quantifiable aspects of the CPUL design concept. Building on ideas first developed as part of the Middlesbrough Urban Farming Project (2007) The Continuous Urban Picnic weaves together top-down (municipal) and bottom-up (citizen) dialogue to establish a long-term strategic urban development plan to embed the CPUL concept within international discourse about architectural practice and agency.
Constituting part of the London Festival of Architecture 2008, the exhibition explores how the design and experience of contemporary cities can be shaped by human interaction and actions. It consisted of a series of ‘live’ laboratories that sought to develop a prototype internal urban agriculture structure. The Short Continuous Picnic demonstrated how open urban space could be used differently, and explored issues related to local food production and its potential impact on urban design. Produce was categorised in relation to the distance it had travelled from farm to market. The ‘picnic’ was held on the afternoon of 5 July 2008, followed in the evening by a community composting event. It was located along Malet Street, Montague Place and Russell Square, a route of approximately one kilometre.
The accompanying essay situates the role of these installation events in a wider discourse, Viljoen and Bohn arguing that public art events such as The Continuous Picnic can be used to inform the design and implementation of CPULs. The event went on to be featured as part of an international travelling exhibition supported by the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and to shape future research for their forthcoming book, Second Nature Urban Agriculture: Designing productive cities.