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Food and the City

2012 Garden and Landscape Studies Symposium
Food and the City

Manifestation des agriculteurs à Paris by Elise Hardy © Nouvelles Images S.A.et Elise Hardy-Eyedea 2009 45700 Lombreuil, France

The intricate interrelationship between urban context and food production, central to the current debate on sustainability, was the focus of the 2012 Garden and Landscape Studies symposium at Dumbarton Oaks. The conference explored the links between culture and cultivation, with particular attention to the modern era and urbanization schemes that engaged the production of food, either as a means to achieve self-sufficiency, or as part of a ruralist perspective. As the city displaced food production further from its center, the relationship between living, working, and eating became more abstract. Today, this relationship is tested across planning and community design schemes: American suburban developments include agricultural land as a conservation measure and a nostalgic nod to a pre-agribusiness countryside; European designers focus on the suburban-rural interface to develop a new type of productive landscape, one performing simultaneously as an open space system and an agricultural laboratory; and in cities like Kampala, Uganda, or Rosario, Argentina, urban agriculture is part of a participatory design process that integrates housing programs.

Organized by Dorothée Imbert, the symposium provided a critical historical framework for today's urban agriculture by discussing the multiple scales, ideologies, and contexts of productive landscapes, from allotment gardens to regional plans. Topics included the production and distribution of food in relation to human settlement and urban form, from German Siedlungen to Italian Fascist new towns, and Israeli kibbutzim to contemporary Tokyo. The conference placed particular emphasis on the efforts of modern and early-modern landscape architects, garden designers, and architects/planners to reconcile the demands of feeding cities and regions with the exigencies of urban expansion.

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