Andre Viljoen and Katrin Bohn

The compact city model is currently favoured as that most likely to support sustainable development. Its major benefit in relation to environmental sustain­ability is the reduction in travelling distances and hence transport, due to compaction and mixed-use development. We see Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes (CPULs) complementing compaction, by including the major contribution urban food pro­duction can make towards environmental sustain – abilty. Furthermore, we think that this combination will create a new kind of city, one with a richness of associations and experiences, to date found either in the city or the countryside. The CPUL model chal­lenges the notion that all brownfield sites should be built upon, but does not challenge the principle that all land should be used to maximise its sustainable return.

The contemporary first world city is a facsimile for what and where it is not. Supermarkets, especially, manipulate people’s perception of the availability and cost of food: everyday, all year round, there are aubergines and Parma ham, bamboo sprouts and pineapples, oysters, oranges, kebabs and samosas, chocolate powder and kiwi. . . each a reproduction of somewhere else. Such separation from geo­graphical reality is fantastic – as a treat, but instead it has come to characterise and epitomise the city. This unsustainable model is based upon the out­dated assumption that anything can be relocated from one place to another at any time.

The CPUL vision of the city is one which celebrates the material and the real, one which ‘makes visible’. Within the contemporary European city many peo­ple are no longer conscious of the relationship between life and the natural processes required for its support. A CPUL city engages fully with elements such as a territory’s seasonality, climate, weather, topography and vegetation. It is based on the ecolog­ical principles of life and the space required to accom­modate all its actions, reactions and interactions. City dwellers have become passive observers of sea­sons (which they still often miss) or weather (which they often fear). The collective loss of environmental memory makes the natural context and the sequence of its processes less and less compre­hensible. People are losing touch with the reality beyond their city boundary.

CPULs do not require the complete rebuilding or demolition of cities, rather they suggest reconfigur­ing the city so it can operate within the envelope of its own environmental capacity and as far as pos­sible make its own ecological footprint equitable.

In this context, the vision of the city is one in which the resources required to support occupation become visible, imprinted on the urban tissue. A sustain­able urban ecology becomes a key indicator for the successful city. It will be a city which, although com­plex, is comprehensible and flowing.

CPULs will be what other elements of urban infra­structure are now: they will be extensive and complex, demanding planning, management and mainte­nance. Like other elements of infrastructure, for example the electricity supply network, they will best be introduced incrementally.

At the same time, CPULs will be different to familiar urban infrastructures which mainly deal with distri­bution and circulation, like roads, railways, net­works for energy supply, water and waste disposal. Though CPULs will also provide a network for cir­culation, there will be productive elements embed­ded within them, which add directly to our positive experience of the city. They will be environmentally and socio-culturally beneficial and economically viable. The range of experiences and lifestyles that a city can offer will be increased. CPULs will be net­works that expand to accommodate occupation and production. This is unique.

CPULs will only be implemented if their vision is attractive and seen to be viable. These cases can

be made, although the integration of CPULs will not be without difficulties and these should not be underestimated.

The English new town Milton Keynes provides one example of how CPULs might be funded, and the British Dig for Victory campaign during the Second World War shows that up to 50 per cent of fruit and vegetable requirements could be supplied by urban agriculture, although our own design research sug­gests that 25 per cent is a more realistic target for new development. Most of the remaining require­ments could be provided by peri-urban agriculture. Urban agriculture will be a fundamental feature of CPULs, essential if the latter’s environmental bene­fits are to be fully achieved.

The international examples of urban agriculture dis­cussed in this book, although each dealing with a very particular set of conditions, identify a range of benefits from urban agriculture within CPULs, such as reductions in food miles, organic food produc­tion, creation of wildlife habitats, transport networks, educational resources, and an economic efficiency by concentrating intensive infrastructures in desig­nated areas zoned for buildings.

Balancing benefits with a number of factors related to land and geography, such as size of the city, urban density, land ownership, soil type, climate or infrastructure, will determine where urban agricul­ture is and is not appropriate. This balancing act is a common feature affecting the development of any large-scale infrastructural project.

If Cuba can manage to implement a procedure as radical as its urban agriculture programme and sustain it for twelve years in conditions of economic stress, should it not be possible for any country to instigate programmes as comprehensive as those found in Cuba?

The Cuban programme for urban agriculture demon­strates how it can extend to the promotion of healthy eating, sustainable urban development or environ­mental education. Organic certification has not been introduced in Cuba, but the urban agriculture prac­tised in Cuba is, by any practical measure, organic. Cuba demonstrates the viability of organic agricul­ture allied with intensive maintenance by farmers.

While Cuba provides a working model for the extensive integration of urban agriculture, it does not necessarily provide the ideal model for the dis­tribution, location and connections between plots accommodating urban agriculture. The conditions of stress under which Cuba introduced urban agri­culture mean that sites were chosen for entirely pragmatic reasons. The patchiness of urban agri­culture found in Cuban cities can be taken as typi­cal of the first stages of a programme to integrate urban agriculture. These isolated fields are compa­rable to exiting urban parks and gardens, which can be thought of as spaces with specific charac­teristics, with the potential of being bound into a CPUL. As yet there are no CPULs in Cuba. Introducing CPULs would provide a coherence and structure to otherwise isolated urban agriculture sites and create a framework for articulating the spatial and urban qualities inherent in urban agriculture, and fully utilising their benefits as routes for circulation, occupation and Ecological Intensification. Beyond the environmental benefits associated with urban food growing, urban agricul­ture can act as a catalyst for revealing and intensi­fying the occupation of under-utilised urban areas. In so doing, cities would gain benefits arising from the provision of adjacent open space, communica­tion routes ideally suited to cycling and walking, moderation of the heat island effect and a land­scape which allows people to comprehend their relationship with the natural environment.

A number of urban characteristics noted below can be attributed to urban agriculture, and these are all significant within CPULs.

The informal, self-regulated use of sites for personal food growing, such as huertos in Cuba or allot­ments in the UK, raise issues in relation to how these interface with planned or formal networks. The opportunities for engagement across edges or boundaries may differ from those suggested by larger commercially viable urban agriculture sites. Issues of privacy and seclusion may be more sig­nificant for small-scale private growing when dis­tinct communities may become established. The relationship between informal use and formal net­works is important for CPULs.

Urban agriculture fields often act as bridging devices between areas of different occupation. They do this by making a visible and physical bridge between two places. By doing so they often define disregarded or hidden places as space within the city.

The occupation of edges alongside urban agricul­ture fields is evident, for example, as a place to dry laundry, accommodate shops or provide climatic comfort zones. Taking these examples seriously, and imagining the transformations and opportu­nities inherent in them, provides inspiration for archi­tectural interventions, which provide places for public or semi-public exchanges. The occupation of edges encourages a connection with a pastoral environment.

Urban agriculture gives measure to a landscape. The way in which ground for planting is often terraced, faceted and shaped to accommodate undulating ground, articulates and makes visible the underlying topography. The actual dimension of crops, and of beds, provides another gauge for measuring land­scape and allowing an individual to locate and posi­tion themselves within a particular territory. This ability to read a landscape and locate oneself becomes crit­ical as contemporary globalisation makes environ­ments more uniform.

Urban agriculture sites exist as urban climate and seasonal registers, and due to their characteristic marking of the ground read as urban ornament.

The open spaces of a city incorporating CPULs will alter the physical landscape and the landscape of occupants and occupation. On the ground, culti­vators will sculpt a new urban infrastructure, ever changing, but ever familiar, as crops come and go. Adjacent to this, a landscape of circulation and movement will appear, as the population traverses tracts of an agrarian landscape, and others play on ground adjacent to fields. Toilers and thinkers will be placed in a rediscovered adjacency, one which is not about destroying the city or conquering nature, but one that enriches both by acknowledg­ing their interdependence.

More experience for less consumption!


Figure 26.1


Figure 26.1 Organoponico Pastorita, Cienfuegos2004.





Plate 1



Plate 2
















LeisurESCAPE touches an archaic desire –

the desire to move in leisure through open space.

It juxtaposes

human leisure desires

with proposals arising from the urge for an

independent sustainable urban future.


LeisurESCAPE enables city dwellers to escape into the country; and country dwellers to escape into the city.

LeisurESCAPE is applicable to any urban environment, but most needed in large cities

LeisurESCAPE forms a continuous landscape

running from outside London to the Thames and to outside London again.

It works by inter-connecting existing parcels of open land: parks, playing fields, brownfield sites, underused green spaces, public gardens, large car parks….

through a slim continuous landscape – LeisurESCAPE.

LeisurESCAPE is active and seasonal:

walking, talking, cycling, pushing (prams and wheelchairs) scating…scating…,sitting laying, (sun-) (rain-) bathing, reading…

jogging, hopping, sleeping…

This leisure landscape brings different leisure activity areas into proximity with each other and open space.









continuous landscape discussed here

other continuous landscapes

continuous landscape dispersing into countryside beyond the Greater London Boundary

Thames Paths – partly continuous existing path to one or both sides of the River Thames

junction points





image203LeisurESCAPE allows a multitude of occupation, both professional and leisure for all age groups, social levels, genders…

It caters especially for population groups

which are often

excluded from conventional leisure activities.

LeisurESCAPE is commercially and socially viable reinforcing the ecology and sustainability of the proposal.

The continuous landscape which accommodates

LeisurESCAPE is laid out mainly

over existing roads based on the future vision of

reduced city car traffic.

Instead of the conventional usage of roads, LeisurESCAPE turns roads into a unique productive landscape growing fruit and vegetables for the city dwellers own consumption.

Agriculture fields in LeisurESCAPE are run both commercially and privately, thereby determining economic and social value.

Подпись: detailLeisurESCAPE can provide new employment opportunities in its large areas of commercial agriculture or adjacent leisure facilities.

Half of Southwark’s population are pensioners. The number of lone parents is above the national average and rising.

LeisurESCAPE is adaptable and slow and

creates opportunities for the growing number of pensioners, lone parents with toddlers, the disabled or unemployed.

Successful precedents are, for example:

Cuba (commercial – Organoponicpos)

Austria (leisure – Selbsternte) or Germany (leisure – Schrebergarten).

Nevertheless, none of those combines explicitly commercial and leisure activities and not in a continuous landscape.


continuous landscape

existing parks

underused open space

semi-buried existing large car parks, covered with productive landscapes

existing playgrounds and playing fields


small specific leisure buildings

image204Plate 8


Continuous landscape and productive landscape,

Orb Street Southwark, before and after.

The installation of LeisurESCAPE:

horizontal, vertical and espaliered vegetation, playing fields and a covered car park

CPUL infrastructure,

Munton Road, Southwark, before and after.

The installation of LeisureEscape:

Подпись: Plate 11 and Plate 12

footpaths, cycle networks, market gardens infrastructural intensification



Manor Estate, Sheffield:

View from a dwelling into walled garden with windows opening onto a productive landscape beyond.

Victoria Park, London:

Transitions between interior, exterior, private and public, in an elevated apartment set between a rooftop garden and a productive landscape on the ground.

Urban Nature Towers:

Подпись: Plate 15
A proposal for a high density CPUL accommodating 450 persons per hectare. Vertical landscaping, created by attaching a framework to the building’s fagade, supports trained soft fruit plants and fruit trees. The vertical landscape supplements horizontal urban agriculture fields.

Ariel view of the Urban Nature Tower site. A linear public park (light green in the image) surrounds urban agriculture fields and is continuous with a larger urban green grid.


Plate 16



1 Similar experiences were carried out during the 1980s allowing the selling of agricultural produces. Several factors contributed to the termination of these experiments. In this sense the free market is rather a saga of previous attempts.

package of emergency measures was established within a process known as Perfodo Especial en Tiempo de Paz (Special Period). To confront the problems, which included reduced food supplies and agricultural inputs, the government instigated a programme of reforms which included the redirec­tion of its trade towards the world market and the introduction of some market style reforms in the domestic economy. Additionally, the process included the adoption of innovative approaches directed towards the downsizing of the central government and many industries; decentralisation and reorganisation strategies; import substitution and alternative approaches in many areas among other measures.

As part of these reforms a national alternative agri­cultural model (NAAM) has been developed since 1990. One important aspect of this model is the replacement of high levels of imported agricultural inputs with alternative, indigenously developed methods for pest and disease controls, soil fertility and other innovative issues. Other aspects have included the restructuring of the land property pat­tern of the large state-owned farms into smaller units with co-operative property, and the permitting of a free market1 for foodstuffs. The crisis had gen­erated the immediate individual response of many citizens and groups and in parallel encouragement was given to individuals and/or co-operatives in urban and peri-urban areas to become vegetable producers. Several forms of exploitation of the open spaces within the urban frame but also of available areas within productive and services, educational, recreational, and healthcare facilities were estab­lished. In the period 1990-1994 it was estimated that more than 25 000 people were linked to about 1800 hectares of so-called popular orchards. These were set up spontaneously by individuals on open land in response to the food crisis. The present experience of urban food production has evolved

[1] Former Vice President of the National Group for Urban Agriculture.

[2] Fixed costs such as labour may not be relevant, since leisure is such an important objective and,

Updated: October 20, 2015 — 10:40 am