2017 Working Group: From Urban Agriculture to New Urban Commons: Productive Landscapes and Infrastructural Ecologies

From Urban Agriculture to New Urban Commons: Productive Landscapes and Infrastructural Ecologies
Jacques Abelman, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Oregon

This working group explored a fundamental shift in urban agriculture based on a model of productive urban ecologies, and specifically the notion of landscape infrastructure at the intersection of the spatial, social, and ecological. This model expands the notion of urban agriculture from disparate small-scale projects towards an integration of productive typologies within the urban fabric, moving toward a renewed vision of green infrastructure as an integral and productive part of the urban fabric in future cities. This work aimed to shape potential urban and landscape futures of equity, access and health in a context of landscape democracy, environmental justice, and food security.

Urban agriculture, if it is to become integrated into the city, needs landscape architectural thinking in order to be woven into the larger urban fabric. Thinking at the scale of ecosystems running through a city creates a framework for spatial change. We are now at a point where the pressures of rapidly evolving social and environmental pressures threaten, transform, and shape cities. In response, thinking of green infrastructure in cities as productive, resilient, and living systems opens pathways of design thinking towards emergent forms of ecological urbanism. These designed systems redefine the notion of productivity to encompass the ecological, the caloric, and the social. The social, from specific local foodways and food systems to culturally specific practices such as foraging are embedded within the spatial framework and form a point of departure for landscape architectural thinking. Thinking in assemblages of stakeholders, actors, and spaces creates a framework for social investment and development.

Based on participants’ specific knowledge of their own native territories, this working group investigated the potential for this new and expanded view of multifunctional productive green infrastructure in the city.