'The Edible City' (exhibition), Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAI), Maastricht, Avenue Ceramique 226, 6221 KX Maastricht. March 3 to June 22, 2007
In 2007 Katrin Bohn and I where invited to contribute individual samples of work for exhibition at the NAI Maastricht. This provided the opportunity to exhibit outcomes from our design research into the CPUL concept (see Scholarly Portfolio for the book Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes (CPULs): Designing urban agriculture for sustainable cities).
As far as we are aware the 'Edible Cities' exhibition was the first multidisciplinary international group exhibition exploring the design implications of integrating urban agriculture into future self-sustaining cities.
The opportunity afforded was particularly valued as it enabled the first public exhibition of original work which had been developed as a result of field studies in Cuba and design research in the UK. It was particularly gratifying to be invited to exhibit alongside highly regarded international artists/designers (eg. Atelier van Lieshout) and Architects (eg. MVRDV).
The exhibition curators formatted the exhibition into discipline related categories and within the architectural category a series of horizontal tables displayed work, CPULs had one of the larger displays covering about eight meters of table surface.
The exhibition provided opportunities to identify and present examples of design research which articulate, represent and communicate, in a visual medium, spatial qualities observed within urban agriculture sites surveyed during research visits to Cuba. Furthermore it provided equivalent opportunities to present original design studies responding to systematic data collected to establish the relationship between the land area required to integrate viable urban agriculture into London, in relation to the cities existing footprint.
The Edible Cities Exhibition compliments the two Utilitarian Dreams exhibitions which explored the CPUL concept during 2006 & 2007 (RAE 3: Utilitarian Dreams 2007). Within the Utilitarian Dreams exhibitions, work was created to present and explore particular aspects of the CPUL concept and gain responses form the public, in order to further critique and develop the concept.
I exhibited documentary digital photographs recoding particular Cuban urban agriculture sites (organoponicos) from the city of Cienfuegos. These images, where constructed by assembling a series panoramic images describing the spatial qualities of organoponicos. Of particular interest was the way in which these sites are perceived within the city. The images described a number of specific characteristics; relationships between the horizontality of the organoponico fields and the verticality of the surrounding built environment, repetition and ordering in relation to notions of ornament, and the temporal animation of the sites due to human occupation and the rhythm of seasonal growing cycles.
Another key image exhibited was titled 'Exploded London'. 'Exploded London' uses a scale map of London and scale map representing the area of land required to supply London’s population of 7 million people with fresh fruit and vegetables. Both maps were cut into horizontal strips and reassembled to show how much 'extra' area the city would need to become self sufficient in fruit and vegetable production. The result has been very significant in two respects. Firstly it shows the relatively small physical area urban agriculture requires (important if urban qualities are to be maintained). Secondly the accidental collisions between known London landmarks and urban agriculture sites, which the collage creates, provoke a series of speculations about what such city would be like.
Perspectives for sites in south London, based on design studies, illustrated how a CPUL strategy would alter the cities fabric.
The NAI used the exhibition to facilitate an interregional debate within the Meuse-Rhine Euroregion titled 'Food for Thought', the results of which will feed into future planning policy.
"The Edible City exhibition mixes admirably pragmatic proposals as well as utopian schemes that each, in its very original way, has the potential to enable city-dwellers to meet their own food requirements."
('World Changing' Review by Regine Debatty: Part 1, 30/03/07)
"Increasingly designers, architects and urban planners are using food growing elements in urban projects because of food's life enhancing properties, but also because food growing as part of an overall plan for the built environment can increase land value in cities the long term. Aside from the placemaking effects of food producing landscapes in urban areas, food growing spaces are treated with greater care than places in which the landscape architecture is simply decorative. Growing food in the city can transform derelict spaces into places which inhabitants deeply care about. Municipalities are starting to latch onto this idea because they know that its simply good business."
('World Changing' Review by Regine Debatty: Part 2, 08/04/07)