THE FOOD SCENARIO – a brief in progress
GROW YOUR OWN FOOD – On the level of the plot, the neighbourhood, the district – collectively or individually
You are what you eat.
Local and global problems/ opportunities:
Historically Reykjavík was intertwined with agricultural practises right within its urban fabric. After the war centralisation in bigger farms and import of food has contributed to pushing agriculture far from the city. After the economic meltdown, the interest for growing herbs, vegetables and fruit trees has exploded, and organic farming has increased drastically in the last years. Farmers markets have emerged.
The last three springs around 2500 people (ca. 2500 households affected) have been to courses to learn about growing food (there was no market for this kind of teaching during times of apparent abundance). The horticultural society and other agencies have become involved in projects with inhabitants. The City of Reykjavik has supported an initiative aiming at building greenhouses for food growing in the public parks of Reykjavik. Across the RCA citizens can rent out land for allotment gardens, mostly on the fringe of the capital area (green house management in Iceland is relatively cheap due to hot springs and green energy for providing extra light during the darkest months). These types of activities address the use of the natural urban environment at different scales (from household self-consumption to organic local farming for inland consumption vs. food import) and from the individual to collective. There is harvesting in kitchen windows, in winter gardens, on balconies, on roofs, in private gardens and on land hired from the municipalities. There is great interest for growing on the premises of apartment blocks although this has been difficult to realise, as the numerous owners would have to agree on the changing of the rule of use within a collective apartment block.
Local harvesting decreases the distance between the products and the consumer and makes people less dependent on the mall and dependence on imported foods (which have become much more expensive after the crisis). This satisfies consumers who want to know about the origin of their food while supporting local producers. Additionally it stimulates social cohesion and educates children about the making of food. These practises can be enforced with planning and architectural intervention. New hedgerow-sheltered growing spaces and shelter woods might become building blocks of the multifunctional forest that is under construction in the territory of the Reykjavík capital area; The Green Scarf. Multi-functionality includes reducing the carbon footprint, recreation, production of wood for the building industry, erosion prevention, shelter for wind on the heaths that have been taken for development; all while reinforcing the on-going green structure of the city.
The new suburban residential areas have abundant open spaces in between the buildings, not least in areas where not all the planned buildings are in place. This decentralized urban structure represents a potential for better integration of dwelling, workplaces, actors which work with nature and agriculture than would be possible in the city center which is a more compact city. Climate change also represents an opportunity in Iceland when it comes to growing food, since warmer weather makes it easier to grow more species.
On the city edges there are several individual actors who have experimented with practises that involve local resources for decades: the farmer that started experimenting with bees, the carpenter and his own wood house workshop, the scholar and his horticultural experiments and soil improvement, the artist and her fish farming and the architect who built his house inside a greenhouse. They are pioneers that are a great resource of knowledge and inspiration.
• WHAT IF: the urban landscape on the fringe of the capital had dwellings and workplaces integrated with nature, agriculture and horticulture?
• What incentives could support such a scenario and what sort of processes would be suitable to develop them?
• How does the intervention contribute to the economy as well as the comfort of the inhabitants?
Resources: Soil, water, geothermal water brought to the site by ready infrastructure, renewable electro power, horse manure, road network, more spare time, labour
STUDENT PROJECT (be patient, it takes a minute to download)