Architect Victoria, AIA, Spring 2010. Fiona Harrisson
Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to enough safe and nutritiousfood to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy lifestyle. [World Food Submit 1996]. Since urban density keeps unstoppably increasing, a food crisis might arrive and future cities that will house a larger number of people must be also capable of ‘feeding’ them. In this context, the author of the article proposes and explores over the possibilities gardens as a small form of agriculture. The potential a garden has as a intense productive private area would be very significant in future bigger cities. Concluding with the debate of vertically or horizontally living, it is explained that the article does not try to promote the sprawl type of living, but just to ‘situate the housing debate side by side with the issue of food security’.
Approach The landscape architect Fiona Harrisson is carrying out a project in which alternatives growing possibilities for cities are being studied. In this way, she and her students are focused in gardens, in an attempt to re-consider its role in the future. A speculative aspect of the project is to prove that gardens could be a potential vegetable producers in cities.
Scales The scales in which this might be working are small local scales to reach global results in cities. In other words, the individual action or the action of small communities of people (for example the ones living in the same block) would be enough to achieve the proposed objectives.
Program The first step of Harrisson’s project has been to investigate ways in which produce is grown in gardens. The next stage, which is currently ongoing, is about building on the information previously obtained and speculating on the cumulative productive potential of gardens within Melbourne suburbs.
How The article states several ways of carrying the proposal out. For instance, the case-studies undertaken in some Melbourne’s backyards contribute with good ideas to transform a garden into a productive small area. Removing fences between neighbours to maximize the sunshine, installing witty baths systems to grow animals and plants, planting ponds to clear the grey water or sharing gardens with a room in between are some of the solutions chosen.
Challenges and opportunities Based on a low technical improvisation –such the one occurring in Cuba- the challenges and opportunities are lots. Gardens could grant food security in cities (a food crisis in cities may be arriving), they also enable a sense of self-determination in the face of a larger political instability. Avoiding grass roots movements around food happening around the city might be one more goal to achieve.
Role of architecture Architecture or landscape architecture could play an important role in the issue of food security. Since they are responsible to house people, they should be capable of providing food to them. The design of houses, blocks, urban landscapes, is essential in the how a city is understood and how it works. That is our responsibility. The presence or absence of gardens, roof tops or open public/semi-public/ private areas and the way these spaces should be used determine the way a city should work.