Urban Food Production

Ariane Porter, Architecture

The work completed this year sits within the theme of sustainable urban living, it questions how this might look and posits how sustainable food production and consumption will change the built environment. This theme was explored through the Dissertation and two studio projects. These were linked together in order to gather greater research and understanding of the Glasgow context. The findings are explained in a chronological order, a sequence of development that is imagined to span the next 100 years as Glasgow’s centre shifts and adapts to the demands of the United Nations Sustainability Goals.

At present the world continues to urbanise. The tentacles of our cities creep further along the arteries that connect them, sprawl takes over vacant land and development consumes each morsel of space available within every green belt. Currently, the world’s urban population stands at 4 billion. This is expected to grow to 5 billion by 2030, at which point 155 giant urbanised regions are predicted to dominate the surface of the planet, each holding up to 4 million people. The Food and Agricultural Organisation forecast a necessary 70% increase in food production by 2050 in order to feed this expanding population. It is paramount that cities progress towards a more sustainable future by incorporating the provision of food within their urban landscape. In light of this rapid expansion it is the role of the city to support and nurture its citizens.

The Dissertation examined the multifaceted outcomes of the global food industry including the effects this has had on the formation of our inner cities. The rise of the supermarket ultimately changed how Britons purchased food. This altered how, and what, the population ate, and affected the health, rights, financial position of these citizens.

Within British history communities have returned to local food production at different periods of hardship. When faced with scarcity or crisis people have taken up alternative solutions to produce their own food. These choices have ensured a sustainable source of food. The case studies considered within this research highlighted community initiatives that offer an alternative vision to the current status quo. These initiatives have manipulated their locality, affecting their urban environment.

This progression, and projects such as the Green Network Map, or Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes, indicate a movement towards an integrated approach in which disciplines act in collaboration to construct a sustainable urban environment. Actors within the established system, such as local authorities and governments, are becoming aware of the need to alter how urban agriculture is governed, with greater responsibility being passed on to the communities ready to take matters into their own hands.

A clear connection is portrayed between urbanism and the production and consumption of food. The research discusses the urban planning, and proliferation, of food outlets, and how this shaped how the population eats. The satellite supermarkets have filtered out those who cannot afford them, forcing a population to make different choices. This has had enormous effect on the health, access and availability of food for residents of the city, resulting in poor health, food deserts, poverty and insecurity.

The urban building project considered how a new neighbourhood may be introduced into the Trongate. This scheme proposes the re-balancing of Glasgow City Centre. To the current barren land, a forest is proposed, the polluted air cleaned.

First there is forest, this fills the urban block. Within these edges the ordered and the organic landscape exists, and pulls the orbiting pieces of site towards one another. Within this a new form of urban housing is offered, a collection of sites that are tied together by landscape and living. The Forest is the canvas. Through this landscape principle public routes are carved following the wynds that were once there. Secondary paths are added to aid movement within the contemporary context, linking to the public amenities embedded within the centre of the plan. Where the forest is intersected by these routes new smaller landscapes are created.

Form follows forest. Within the ordered landscape a new dimension of urban dwelling is layered, a housing that responds to the intimacy of its residents and that re-introduces the urban backyard or court as the bridge between the public and the private realm. Upon which new patterns will emerge. It is imagined that the trees parted for the primary route may be used to construct the initial public space. The area then cleared for the amenity may provide the material for the housing that lines the first street. And upon the roofs and terraces of these new homes the green space is replaced. The evolution of the site can take place incrementally, just as the medieval plot did.

It is envisaged that this new landscape is to be allowed to evolve and change with the needs and necessities of its residents. By providing the rudiments of a plot for each resident the individual can respond and adapt as they wish.

Based in a gap site between the Briggait, using the remaining structure of St Enoch Station platforms, is proposed a centre that explores, examines and provokes the scientific analysis of food, its preservation and its re-use, in order to progress the interrogation and innovation of sustainable production and consumption within Glasgow. To broaden the definition of food and its waste, and to address the expanding food desert within the city centre.

The utilised vault is a repeated element from the site’s location. Used over time by St Enoch Station, Paddy’s Market and the remaining structure is re-framed. Set within the urban housing proposal the programme sits at the end of the Old Wynd, between the prominent food markets that once existed.

The proposal consists of three elements, the market stalls within the arcade, the laboratories and the market garden, and provides space and equipment for the public to grow and preserve food. It is imagined that this initial portion of re-use prompts a response that then utilises the rest of the platform structure. Each vault hosting different research facilities, in turn informing the public’s use of food. By 2050, this entire portion of land could be preserving and providing for Trongate. But the intention is that it educates and initiates the change in mindset. So by 2100 maybe this structure has been dismantled, its pieces transferred for another use. And everyone would be preserving food at home.

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