Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes (CPULs) Designing urban agriculture for sustainable cities, Andre Viljoen Editor and with Katrin Bohn principal author, February 2005 Published by the Architectural Press. Reprinted July 2005. A follow up volume is being prepared for publication by Routledge in 2013.
The term 'Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes' (CPULs) defines a strategy for the coherent integration of urban agriculture into urban space planning. The case is made for considering urban agriculture as an essential element of sustainable infrastructure.
In 1998 I first became interested in the potential urban agriculture had to improve urban sustainability and create a type of environmentally productive urban open space. This interest grew out of the observation that urban design provided an area where clear parallels existed in thinking emerging from environmental (sustainability led) research and architectural thinking. The early environmental mapping work of Waganagel and Rees and design led proposals for infrastructural urbanism, by architect Stan Allen both prompted an interest in urban agriculture. The topic provided a field within which a dialogue could cross the disciplines related to design and environmental sustainability.
Early on I started working with Katrin Bohn on an ongoing broad research project addressing two basic questions, can a case be made for the integration of urban agriculture into cities and what would a city with urban agriculture be like? These questions set in train two strands of research, one assessing quantifiable environmental, economic and social arguments related to the impact urban agriculture and another looking at the qualitative impacts it would have on a city.
As a result of initial survey identifying significant urban agriculture and sustainability researchers and practitioners in the UK, Katrin Bohn and I set up the 'Urban Nature' conference in July 2001. The conference explored urban agriculture and landscape strategies for sustainable city design and was the first conference on this topic to be run in the UK, bringing together leading researchers in the field.
In parallel to this we undertook design studies, for actual sites in the UK which developed proposals for the integration of urban agriculture into architectural propositions.
Research and field trips where supported by research awards from the RIBA Modern Architecture and Town Planning Trust Research Awards Scheme, the British Council and the Faculty of Arts and Architecture at the University of Brighton.
This initial research indicated that a strong environmental and design case could be made for considering urban agriculture as an essential element of a sustainable urban infrastructure.
With the aim of consolidating and disseminating research findings we produced the book Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes (CPULs) Designing urban agriculture for sustainable cities. I edited the volume which has an overarching text by Katrin Bohn and myself supported by chapters written by specialists, underpinning arguments made within the overarching text.
Research for the CPUL book built upon my earlier research interests developed while working as Deputy Director of the Low Energy Architecture Research Unit at London Metropolitan University. This work focussed on studies investigating the life cycle analysis of low energy buildings and developing design solutions for buildings incorporating day lighting and natural ventilation. CPUL research can be understood as an extension of this earlier design research, undertaken at an urban scale. In all cases the primary interest is to uncover the design implications of sustainable design.
The publication of CPLUs had a considerable impact in field, and led to dissemination via exhibitions and conference presentations. Resulting exhibitions which developed new work include an exhibition of work at the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Maastricht (RAE output 2) and a Triangle Arts Trust / Gasworks residency and exhibition in Havana (RAE output 3). The CPULs book was included in one of the Tate Modern Global Cities Installations. Conference presentations include a key note address at the Soil Association’s 60th anniversary conference.
The most significant aspect of CPULs within the academic field and disciplines of architecture, urban design and sustainability are the connections made between urban agriculture, urban/architectural design and sustainability. At the time of publication, 2005, there where two parallel but divorced stands of research, one exploring the impacts of urban agriculture within the social realm (community regeneration and development studies) and another exploring landscape infrastructure as driver for architectural and urban design. Defining the CPUL concept, made explicit the connections and opportunities for cross working between these disciplines and provides a reference for achieving an integrated approach to urban sustainability.
Throughout the process of developing the CPUL project we have wanted to move beyond the typical architectural manifesto which tends to declare a position, with limited independent supporting evidence. To that end research undertaken with colleagues in Cuba, and UK specialists has been essential to developing a rigorous argument. At the time of writing CPULs much evidence for quantifying the environmental impact of remote food production had to rely on research undertaken in the 1970ies, since publication further independent research has reinforced arguments made in CPULs.
Upon publication in February 2005, CPULs was nominated as Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) book of the week. It was also cited as suggested reading by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, for their investigation into Urban Development (2005). In 2007 it was short listed for the RIBA’s Presidents award for outstanding university located research.
Pre publication reviews used on the dust jacket include:
"This is an important book that both challenges and contributes to current urban thinking. It is both inspiring and practical, reminding of us that sophisticated high density urban life can benefit from looking to examples from such places as the traditional Chinese city or current practice in Cuba to ways in which we can develop a more ecological and healthy way forward. If we are to be serious about sustainable urban development then these questions of greening the city and of local food production and distribution, are of immense importance. This is not a grand plan, but one that can be applied to both old and new areas in an incremental manner. It is now up to all of us to apply the lessons learnt with a sense of urgency wherever we may live."
(George Ferguson, President of RIBA, Director of Acanthus Ferguson Mann, UK)
"This Book is a 21st century breakthrough in defining an urban design/planning conceptual approach to re-incorporating a productive landscape, including agriculture, into the human settlement (CPULs)."
(Jac Smit , President of the Urban Agriculture Network and founding member of the global Resources Centre for Urban Agriculture)
Other reviews include:
"Andre Viljoen has put together a book of the most profound importance at this point in history. How will we feed our cities beyond the age of cheap oil? Does the old concept that the cities are for people to live in and the countryside is for growing food in still have any relevance when our cheap transport system is no longer able to function? Viljoen argues not. We should view our cities as much in terms of being productive spaces as we view our rural areas."
(Review by Rob Hopkins 26 April 2006, Transition Culture)
"CPULs is a compelling vision for urban planners and (landscape)architects. The book is loaded with truly useful facts and case studies yet somehow remains a riveting read for lay-folk. ....... I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I hope that its concepts are embraced by those who are in a position to implement urban planning of this nature. The notion of CPULs deserves to feature prominently in design and architecture curricula, informing a new generation of people designing our cities and potentially our well-being through our access to healthy food."
(Debora Solomon, 9 June 2006 on Culiblog)
The CPULs project received research funding form the RIBA’s Modern Architecture and Town Planning Trust Award, The British Council, University of Brighton’s Faculty of Arts & Architecture’s Faculty Research Award and an award from the Universities International Office. The Architectural Press have requested a second edition of CPULs which would incorporate new research findings developed since publication in 2005.