Sunday, January 2, 2011

A 2010 recap

The past year showed an upswell of interest in productive landscapes - from backyard gardens to urban farms. While much of the dialogue focused on small interventions (at the scale of the window box, the yard, the community plot) and on gustatory aspects (think designer ice cream flavors and all things artisan), serious interest in larger scale projects and questions of food systems and security found a platform as well.

Following are some of my favorite stories at the intersection of design & farming from 2010. What were your favorites? Let me know in your comments. As for this year, I'm hoping to see lots more on the ways our built environment and agriculture can overlap.

Mowing to Growing - Terreform 1's competition asked entrants to propose "technical, urbanistic, and architectural strategies ... for food production." The result was a winning group of complex, layered proposals, each initiating processes to transform landscape, social networks and cities while producing food. From a levee system that doubles as a fish farm to farming utility easements, the proposals holistically examined the systems which food production acts within.

[Tacoshed map,]

Tacoshed - Examining the food system through the lens of a taco, this class at California College for the Arts revealed the extraordinary networks and linkages for each ingredient, from the tortilla to the aluminum foil wrapper. The take away message? Every item, no matter how seemingly ordinary, in our kitchens, depends on a complicated system of transportation, storage and packaging, to reach us. Intentionally connecting with locally made and sourced products reduces the number of links in the chain, decreasing your dependence on far away farms to feed you, and increasing your food security.

College of Marin Farm - One of the greatest challenges when suggesting a productive landscape to clients is the question of maintenance. A relatively small landscape, say a hospital courtyard, may not be large enough to interest a farmer. Relying on volunteers to maintain the landscape will not live up to many larger clients desire for a refined aesthetic. One of the solutions is landscape maintenance companies fluent in both productive and ornamental landscapes, and designers knowledgeable about yields, life cycles and productive landscape requirements in general. The new College of Marin Indian Valley campus farm, is an exciting development in design curriculum. Integrated into both the landscape design and maintenance curriculum, the farm is a hands on laboratory tackling these very issues.

Luscher Farm/Hazelia Field, Lake Oswego, OR

On Farming - True to form for a field enchanted with possibility, speculative proposals and systems thinking, the architecture journal Bracket seized on farming as the 'it' topic for their premiere issue. The first issue includes essays on vertical farming, aquaculture, cloud harvests, food matrices, and my own piece on hybrid agricultural landscapes. Combining technical expertise and inspired imaginings, the volume proposes that the complexities of farming and urbanity are a rich ground for architectural studies.