Alternative models

Read in ‘Food and the City’ (2015) of Dorothee Imbert (editor):


A new book about “the complex interrelationship between urbanization and food production” through time and space, in fourteen chapters. Great read. Dorothée Imbert, who holds a chair in landscape architecture at the Ohio State University, is editor. Dumbarton Oaks Trustees for Harvard University, Washington DC, published the book. The monumental volume contains the proceedings of the 2012 Garden and Landscape Studies symposium at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC. Architects and historians contributed with essays on food production in highly urbanized regions in the US, Japan, Israel, Europe, China, Africa, with a special role for the cities of Tokyo and Paris: two distinguished culinary centres with a global impact on food consumption and food production. Here you find articles for instance on the invention of sushi and the unique market garden system of 19th-century Paris. I wrote an essay on the regional food supply system of Amsterdam 1930-1969, focused on the IJsselmeerpolders.

Margaret Crawford wrote an essay on ‘’Urban Agriculture in the Pearl River Delta’. Crawford is professor of architecture at the University of California at Berkeley. In her article she describes the rapid urbanisation of the fertile delta landscape in China’s South, in and around the city of Guangzhou, a city-region of some 60 million people. Crawford focuses on the fragmented peripheral counties lying outside of Guangzhou’s urban core, a landscape she describes as a desakota landscape: a spatial form of mixed  urban-rural interaction you find around major urban centers in developing countries. More than thousand administrative villages or 4,300 natural villages, she thinks, will soon disappear if urbanisation continues in this pace. She hopes urban agriculture will survive as community gardens or in any other form, “which would help legitimate them in the eyes of planners and officials.” Growing concerns about food safety among affluent consumers could be a trigger. Crawford thinks France and regions in central and northern Italy might be worthwile studying. I found many similarities with the Dutch situation, although Guangzhou, Dongguan, Macou, Hong Kong and Shenzhen are dense urban centers, while Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht are rather small, not densely built at all. The Dutch farmland survived, that’s true, but is it sustainable? Which spatial model is the best?






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