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SQUARE FOOD GARDEN A model of sustainable urbanization for developing countries

Marco Bacchetta Science and Technologies of Food University of Milan

Marco Di Forenza Politecnico di Milano


Filomena Furlan Il Sole 24 Ore Business School

and which would improve hydro-and-health conditions of a large amount of people.

This idea responds to the current model of urbanisation in the developing countries, which are leaving agriculture to pursue a rocketing industrial development without precise plans. The aim of this project is about sustainable development, not only in terms of environment but also from the social point of view.

Categories and Subject Descriptors Self-construction architecture; Sustainable agricolture

"Square Food Garden" consists in the project of a self-building house for the populations in the equatorial area, referring in particular to a concrete realisation of this plan in the suburban area of Pemba, in Mozambique.

Keywords Food for All, Sustainable Urbanization, Architecture

This housing project is unique in its genre, because its architecture was specifically studied to propose the plantation of native fruits in an indoor garden. Furthermore, it provides for the development of many squared sections that enclose even more important plantations such as cereals and cashew-nuts, on which the inhabitants would work and which products would be shared among them. Our aims are self-sufficiency of the families of the poorest rural areas and a much more sustainable and better organised urbanisation, which would prevent slums from becoming bigger



The lug wrench of the roofing and the depth of the portico are designed to restrict the heating of the walls, which is due to radiation phenomena. Image 2.A shows the inclination of the sunbeams in the hottest hours of summer solstice day (21st December: 78,86°) and winter solstice day ( 21st July: 56°).

This project aims to promote a sustainable access to food for populations residing in developing countries. The inevitable urbanization will have to be accepted while taking into account the necessities of development without harming the environment and the natural resources. Urbanization in fast developing countries is an inevitable process, it cannot be stopped; but in Mozambique urbanization is associated with the creation of slums.

It is designed to foster the natural flow of air through the patio and the street. The inner patio is usually cooler, thanks to the shadow of plants and the body of the house. On the other hand, the roofing is not in very close contact with the floor, as there is a cavity. (figures 2.A /2.B)

Degradation in rural areas is tied to the absence of secure water sources and makeshift homes. Therefore, sustainable urbanization is not compatible with the existing models. Many emerging cities are comparable with the Brazilian favelas and also the economic growth is commonly not associated with the actual welfare of the citizens. It is expected that in Mozambique in 2073 the GDP will grow from the present $1010 to $25459 close to the current GDP in Italy. Urbanization will grow from the current 38.3% to 67.39% in 2073 and this “potential” increase in welfare will bring along the necessity of new services, more water and obviously more food. Even if it is one of the few African states that does not have a “water emergency”, Mozambique will anyways be affected by a reduction in farmable lands, due to the changing trend of the climate that has brought longer periods of drought.

Image 3. How the building may appear

2. DESCRIPTION A fast progression may cause problems in terms of hygienic conditions, food and water supply and/or sustainability of the buildings. Our idea gives a solution to all these problems.

The body of the ladder forms a natural chimney, through which warm air comes up to the cavity below the roofing; this phaenomenon may facilitate the refreshing process of low-ground rooms. (figure 2.C)

The house would be a self-building, so that it may be built directly by the future inhabitants and the building materials, such as wood and clay, are currently in the nature of Mozambique.

According to typical climatic contitions in Mozambique, some of the cereals that can be grown are rice, Panicum miliaceum and Sorghum vulgare Pers (the latter really useful for the cattle nourishment); the most widespread product is Caoutchouc, a type of cashew-nut that is exported all around the world.


Through organisation and concentration of productions, it may be expected that exportations increase and agricolture becomes an important industry for the growth of the country. B

3. APPLICATION AND RESULTS “Square Food Garden” may be a new model of life in Pemba, which is really close to the facts of this area and many other ones. It has been shown that, even in terms of logistics, it is not a utopian project.


If house and working place are close the former to the latter, water streams are addressed to few set directions and wastes are avoided. This organisation of the quarter may be included in our wider project of introduction of services and infrastructures, in order to connect Pemba to more peripherical districts.

Image.2 The heat-balance of the project


Previsions say that in 50 years not only GDP and urbanization will increase, but even that quality of life will improve.


We believe that a developing country should be able, in the next future, to avoid the step of degradation of the current emerging countries.

Johan Van Lengen, The barefoot architect, 1981

There may be one real big obstacle to our project, which is geopolitical: recently there has been an increase in sales of lands to foreign powers, such as Brazil and China.

Eric Holt-GimĂŠnez, Food Movements Unite!, Slow food editore Virginie Raisson, Atlas des futures du Monde, Robert Laffont, 2010


Agricoltura sostenibile e cambiamento climatico, Barilla Food center, 2011

The project of a self-building house in Pemba has permitted to Marco, Filomena and me to do something we believe in, even if we are aware of our limits.

Water economy, Barilla Food Center, 2011 Accesso al cibo: sfide e prospettive, Barilla Food Center, 2011

Food should be accessible for everyone but not to any cost. Urbanization should increase all social conditions and guarantee envinronmental preservation: we believe that it is possible.

Other sources:

There may be some limits in our explanation, set by the restrictions of the competition announcement, but our project is so concrete that could be a real starting point for self-sufficiency of families living in the poorest rural areas and a much more sustainable and better organised urbanization in Pemba.

official site of United States


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