Katrin Bohn and Andre Viljoen

Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes (CPULs) started to develop in London around 2005. Forty years later they were everywhere, having reached a maturity that enables us to study their success in relation to the very initial design intention.

When first mentioned around the year 2000, there was no precedent for CPULs anywhere in the world, though various attempts had been suc­cessfully started to integrate both continuous landscapes and urban agriculture into cities. As a strategy based on the genius loci of place, it was clear early on, that CPULs would have to be developed individually for each country and for each city, and that any manifesto would only pro­vide a general framework and vision. . .


On a sunny summer Sunday morning, a CPUL in London resembles Brighton beach or Hyde Park. People have left their homes to enjoy fresh air, spa­ciousness and various activities of the adjacent CPUL. In the park-like areas, they do morning exercises, sit on large blankets having breakfast, sunbathe, repair their bikes or read their papers and palm top news. Children are running and play­ing with their friends on the grassy land between the agricultural fields or in the small canals built to water or drain the fields. Although there may be more apartment dwellers around, the CPUL is fairly evenly used by people from every housing type. One has to note, that the popularity of high-rise and dense buildings around CPULs has increased enormously since the building facades became gardens, the garden’s landscapes and the views from the towers offer a visual feast.

The three local farmers’ markets situated at the CPUL edge start selling fresh food, being busier today than during weekdays, when only two of them are open at any one time. (London-wide, there are now about 150 farmers’ markets.) Ice cream and fresh fruit juice vendors are setting up their stalls around the main CPUL routes. The cafes and restaurants bordering the CPUL put their chairs and tables out, the smell of coffee and fresh bread blows over the fields. Tennis players exchange first balls on the nearby tennis court. Close to it, the bowls and boules groups are getting together. The various canopied outside offices, situated in the quieter areas of the CPUL, are less busy today. With their fixed-seating laptop plug-ins or their workbenches, they are now used by kids playing computer games or making aeroplane models. (During weekdays, children use computer playgrounds or youth work­shops, often located closely to CPULs so as to allow safe access and the use of outside space.)

Most of the commercial farmers celebrate the weekend and the low gates to their fields are now shut, but instead other fields are busy with allot­ment growers and communal farm projects. There are numerous allotments within this CPUL, but they do not threaten to take over the larger, more generous urban agricultural fields: the number of allotments in London quickly stabilised, once every­body wanting to grow their own food was supplied with one. Often, the produce from the land is sold straight off the fields via one of the various small kiosks that are situated within the CPUL allowing farmers to weigh, price and record produce appro­priately. For the past 20 years, since about 2025, air pollution has no longer been an issue and ground contamination is being cleared through systematic soil treatment and continuous planting. The organic produce on offer is therefore in high demand, mak­ing the markets and kiosks a bustling counterpoint to the tranquillity of this Sunday morning.

Подпись: Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1 London, population 7million, exploded to accommodate mini – andSUPER-marketgardens. An early study from 1998, demonstrating the area required to supply all of London’s fruit and vegetable requirements from urban agriculture. Yields from mini and SUPER-market gardens are based on 100m2 of urban agriculture per person.

Around midday, people pack their stuff and leave, provided they are not staying for lunch in one of the restaurants or going for a swim in the local open-air pool, or starting work in the work areas. Later, they might walk or cycle to Tate Modern or Covent Garden, out into the countryside or to the River Thames. With a quarter of roads converted to accommodate CPULs since 2005, one can now reach virtually any point in London by walking or cycling in less than an hour or two. Most London boroughs pride themselves on having designed their open space so as to allow people to access a CPUL after no more than a 15-minute walk.

If people don’t feel like walking back from where they are now, they can take one of the regular (every 10 minutes) buses or trains, pick up a taxi or hire one of the cars or bicycles which they can later leave close to their home to be used by the next person.

Meanwhile, the CPUL is heaving with children and youngsters engaging in all sorts of sports and fun, with people (and dogs) going for walks, sunbathing or enjoying tea, games and books.

Families gather in the various state-of-the-art activ­ity grounds, which during the week are mostly booked by schools and clubs. The small open-air swimming pool has its busiest time.

In the early evening, the CPUL fills with people coming home or going out for dinner and/or into town. Teenagers meet their friends in the more hid­den areas between the fields, musicians start play­ing and people start to dance. Children do their last races around the lanes and lawns. People have pic­nics and barbecues, do sports or hire a deck chair to relax. At the same time, others cycle or walk back from work, enjoying the evening air and sun and some quiet activity which will change into urban bustle and business the closer one gets to the city centre or the borough sub-centres.

This evening, the CPUL hosts a film event: a big screen is temporarily hang over its main space, people sit and lie around watching, the restaurants are busy, the pubs and cafes. . .

On a rainy winter weekday, though, things look dif­ferent. Cyclists pass in rain clothes, people hasten to work, train or car sharing stations. Farmers, who at that time of year prepare soil, seeds and tools for the next spring, work in the CPUL sheds and prod­uct stores. The poly tunnels that are now occupying most of the fields open up automatically to soft rain allowing the seasonal vegetables to catch it. A few children play in a playground and explore the demonstration rain water mills – differently sized sculptures that collect rain. Apart from the afore­mentioned, and some dogs or lovers who enjoy running around in that weather, the CPULs lie empty, sucking in the rain. It is a busy time for deliv­ery services, the CPUL is full of delivery cycles racing to bring food and other shopping to their clients. A man is moaning that his car sharing sta­tion has run out of cars, but cheers up when the gas-driven bus, with a five minute frequency, arrives. The weather forecaster celebrates the rain and tries to predict the benefit it will bring to the productivity of particular urban areas. Today, it is also windy but it blows too hard for kite flying or kite sailing, which people would otherwise do. The CPUL is really deserted. The staff on the farmers’ market hide under retractable canopies, unless the whole market has already retreated to the small covered or heated market hall, of which there is at least one close to every CPUL. At this time of year, the business booms for imported fruit and vegetables.

Then the rain stops. Now, the refreshed oxygen-rich air, that the wind brought in from the sea via the many open urban corridors, stands clear above the CPUL and its adjacent buildings. Some farmers walk along checking the huge underground rain­water tanks for how well they have filled. Sun will

later operate the PV driven pumps that distribute the rainwater to particular fields and houses for pro­ductive and private use. The numerous small over­ground water canals are busy and bustling; children with wellies (and no bellies) sail boats and sticks.

This winter day, indoor activities, both at home and in leisure centres, offer endless possibilities to play, learn, do sports, get involved in the arts, meet up, etc., at any time after work or during the day. The local leisure centres, situated at the CPUL edge, can now always boast outside parts such as swimming pools, racing tracks or sauna seating areas where sitting in the rain is ever so exciting. And for the evening, the city centre is still only a quick train ride away. . .

Updated: September 30, 2015 — 6:30 am