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Designing Urban Agriculture


Here at Forage Berkeley, we're excited about the future of urban agriculture in the public realm! Foraging and urban agriculture organizations seem to be sprouting up all over the country, in an variety of forms and scales. While informal and grassroots transformations of the landscape are essential to a viable urban agriculture network, incorporating food into formal designs is also required for the urban agriculture movement to reach its maximum potential. This post addresses our interest in both the aesthetic of urban agriculture and the people who are pushing the boundaries of functional edible landscape design.

Public Farm 1 (P.F.1)

One outstanding example of designed urban agriculture was installed in 2008 at PS1 Contemporary Art Center in New York city. The project is the product of the Young Architects Program (YAP), which is hosted annually by PS1 and MOMA. The winning firm,Work Architecture Company (WORK ac), is a New York-based firm at the forefront of merging food systems and architectural design. The site specific design demonstrates how to provide flexible urban spaces that serve the physical and cultural needs of the city.

Photos by WORK ac

The "farm" is not only an example of planting on structure, but also a fascinating multifunctional form. The design is a living and functioning farm (with chickens and more), a water collection and treatment system, and an active social gathering area. This P.F. 1, WORK ac successfully demonstrates how designers must start to rethink the urban environment.

Plant Palette Diagram - Image by WORK ac

Water Collection Diagram - Image by WORK ac

Programming Diagram - Image by WORK ac

Moorish Design in Southern Spain

A more time-tested design comes from Cordoba, Spain. Within the Great Mosque at Cordoba lies one of the most famous historical example of a highly designed system of urban agriculture. A simple grid of trees fills the space with a fountain marking central axis. Water runnels travel out from the fountain in each of the cardinal directions. It is not clear if the courtyard was designed with oranges in mind, but it seem plausible considering the scale and form of the trees creates a dynamic space that compliments the surrounding architecture.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Day
Cordoba, Spain

An arial view of the Court of Oranges and the entering the court from the Great Mosque.

Photos courtesy of Lisa Day
Cordoba, Spain

The mild Mediterranean climate of Southern Spain make it ideal for growing food year round. Citizens of Seville and Cordoba annually forage the trees in the public realm in organized groups that strengthen the town's sense on community and place. Towns such as Cordoba and Seville provide wonderful examples of urban agriculture as a formal design and cultural identity.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Day
Seville, Spain

Photo from Suddenly Susan
Seville, Spain

The fruit in these Spanish cities are not private orchards. Instead, they are found in the public realm and together they create a network of fruit trees which can be considered a disperse urban agricultural system, cared for by and available to all. The fruit is harvested in a variety of ways, from spontaneous fruit consumption by a wandering individual to larger organized neighborhood work parties.

Seville, Spain

A more modern example of fruit tree in the public realm of Seville. There are both sweet and sour oranges found in the landscape. The sour oranges are primarily used for making jams and perfumes.


Jennifer Lenhart said...

Thanks so much for your post... I cited you on my blog about the impressive fruit trees in Sevilla. Thanks! (

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