One of the many benefits of being in London this week is that I get to stop by the Building Centre, one of my favorite urban galleries and architectural exhibition spaces, to check out their new show London Yields: Urban Agriculture.
While imagining what it might be like to eat extremely local food, grown right there in your city – a line of 96th Street Honey, for instance, or, in light of Times Square’s recent (but unfortunately temporary) pedestrianization, perhaps a Times Square Tomato (why not agriculturalize parts of Times Square?) – we also need to ask how we might make such a vision come true.
How can a city like London be at least partially turned over to food production – so that London Fields might produce southeast England’s newest yields of meat, fruit, and vegetables?
I have to admit that urban agri-utopianism is easily one of the most seductive visions of the 21st century city that I’ve yet seen – from farming new medicinal plants on the rooftops of schools to hybridizing sci-fi flowers on vast and heavily perfumed highway-farms stretching across one borough to another – and it’s hard not to get excited when thinking about such things.
[Images: From Ian Douglas-Jones’s awesome Towards New Capital project, also featured in London Yields. Douglas-Jones asks us to project ahead to London in 2070 A.D.: “Food imports dried up 20 years ago when oil peaked at $1000 a barrel. Our new self-reliance has necessitated the development of dense enclaves of self-subsistence, and self sustenance; each enclave provides the optimum population density with the exact amount of energy and food,” he writes].
Even better, tomorrow morning the Building Centre will be hosting a related event called London Yields: Getting Urban Agriculture off the Ground. Featuring Mark Brearley (Design for London), Jamie Dean (East London Green Grid), architect Carolyn Steel (author of Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives), architects Bohn & Andre Viljoen, Mikey Tomkins and Ruth Coulson (Croydon Council), and a representative from Sustain (“the alliance for better food and farming”), the whole thing will be hosted by none other than David Barrie.
Coincidentally, my wife and I picked up a copy of Steel’s book yesterday; it looks fantastic. From the food supply infrastructure of ancient Rome to today’s exurban British megamarkets, by way of a brief feminist history of cooking (the TV dinner as misguided step toward female liberation) and the carefully engineered landscapes of London waste processing (including a short tour through the city’s eastern marshes), it seems to have no shortage of general interest.
So the event tomorrow costs £35, unfortunately, but if you’re up for it, stop by; if not, consider checking out the exhibition before it comes down on May 30!