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Towards an Urban Tomato Marcello Fantuz

Towards an Urban Tomato Unsuspected relations in metropolitan gardening Forewords

Plan of the first Babylon settlement.

1  It reached maturity by the sixth century B.C. after invading what we now call the Classical Greece. They had no fortifications, and constructions used to be open to the landscape. Gardens were either patios, or planted for fruit.

What humankind used to do the best, is struggling to survive. When necessities are incumbent, then wit takes form in the right place and time. While defending the revolution, in the socialist Cuba during the crisis following the collapse of the Soviet Union, efforts were made to reach a self-sufficiency that would permit the island to be independent from the rest of the world. The task has not been fully accomplished yet, but so far incredible results have been reached. One of those is the emergence of Urban Agriculture, as answer to the food shortage. The city of Havana, and others as Cienfuegos or Rodas, have incorporated in their urban structure production fields that not only provide nourishment, but also enrich the landscape and function as magnets of a communal sense of participation. To demonstrate how relevant this phenomena is, and how it should be taken in consideration while planning the future urban growth, we will take a brief tour through the history of gardens and landscape design. Present examples, then, will give us an insight of the contemporary relation between

urban life, its contemporary characteristics and natural landscape. In this scenario, to locate the case of La Havana will clarify the relevance of its Spaces of Production.

From Babylon to Central Park Between the two rivers Tigris and Euphrates the science of Agriculture lead the flourishing of a landscape otherwise hostile. Protected by walls and irrigated by channels, gardens were seen as representations of paradise, adored as miracles and trees venerated as gods. In the pre-Columbian America the approach was one of respect towards the landscape, influenced by topography and then scattered and fragmented. In the lowlands as much as in the mountains, the effect of landscape interventions was one of an engineering fully related to the site. In Crete, where a free thinking society was growing, all architecture was composed to natural landscape, and fundamentally angle-viewed1. A Natural value acknowledged even by Plato as helpful to learning and an instinctive planning that con-

Macchu Picchu, Peru. Agricultural terraces

2 The rediscovery of the classical Roman values inspired architectural forms of all kind, including landscape design. The search for perfection found its way in the connection between the man and his surroundings 3 From the break out of this world, Mannerism and later Baroque arose, giving to the landscape the theatrical dimension. In a Baroque garden, people are players, actors of events possible thanks to the delightful environment. 4  That’s the moment in history when the Pitoresque style opened the doors to Romanticism.

trasted when came in touch with the Romans (Alexander the Great, conquest of western Asia 338 B.C.) and their engineers. Gardens were, in fact, an extension of Architecture, planned in their value of shady promenades and integrating diversity of functions. The relation with the landscape was the one of domination. Jumping further in time, and precisely to the Middle Ages, in Europe, the emotional and spiritual landscape is enclosed within the walls of the “hortus conclusus”. Symbolism played a major role in the designing of spaces dedicated to contemplation and prayer. During the Italian Renaissance, then, gardens were built for men, using spatial composition rooted in classicism.2 Wonderful villas have been created, as Villa Lante, in the Tuscan hills or Villa La Rotonda, in Vicenza, by Palladio. Being the latter completely self-centered it eliminates the orthodox garden and prepares the way for the harmony of geometry with natural.3 In France, Andrè Le Notre more then anyone else, revolutionized garden design, satisfying the tendency towards total space organization. The eighteenth century landscape design was motivated by the fusion of the Italian with the French school, seeking extension of the formal space through geometry. It became an extension of parks and even towns, turning closed avenues into streets

and compartments into squares and districts. This transformation demonstrates how gardens have frequently been forerunners of city shapes, providing a necessary experimental field. In England, a certain attention to symbolism raised and Nature was no longer subservient to man, but a friendly and equal partner. Irregularity rather then regularity is proclaimed as goal for the landscape design, and the visual overall effect considered as main character.4 In Europe, mainly through engineering and painting, the new landscape direction can be traced. Is the one led by the impressionism, prophetic of the revolution that was to take place in man’s whole attitude to his environment. In New York F.L. Olmsted designed Central Park. The Romantic vision is extremely clear, and the function of the park is to retail a place for diversion and refuge and claim its essential role preserving the natural environment within the city borders. He was inspired by the work of the American philosopher and writer Ralph Waldo Emerson. In his important work “Nature”, Emerson emphasizes the concept of tabula rasa, related to the American’s state of mind, and reveals the possibility of relating himself with the World and God with an understanding of nature reachable through the direct experience of it. The use of wood-side screening for excluding the buildings as much as possible from

the view, and the design of a tranquil, serene pastoral scene, are some of the techniques used to achieve the purpose of creating an illusion masked as a refuge from noise and pollution of the city.

What do I need a garden for?

Urban sprawl, florida

5  Jellicoe, G. And S. “The Landscape Of Man” p.373 6  Harvey, D. “Conference at TU Delft” February 2008.

The second half of last century, the world experienced the beginning of a new era, in which the sense of time has considerably diminished and the sense of space has dramatically increased, due to incredibly fast technological development. What Emerson used to call tabula rasa, referring to a flat critical spirit, is now a general and accepted phenomenon. “Multitude” is the word used by Antonio Negri, a contemporary Italian philosopher, to call the modern version of the working class. Rooted in socialism, the analysis of Negri talks about a dualistic world, in which the “Empire”, in other words the exploiting neo-liberal society struggles against the multitude, in a continuous friction essential for the existence of the system itself. It is from the resistance of the exploited class, that the exploiting one survives. Imagination is not essential anymore to the common man. What is supposedly needed is available every day faster and what to desire is said by the controlled means of communication. “The loss of relations between space and time is guided

by a rapid globalization of the image, and the technological effort of flattening the yearly experience to avoid discontinuities and frustrations.”5 What we need can be available now. The connection between the seedling and the final product cannot be bridged but by machines far from our sight. Even the border between invention and reality is now blurred, being the two-dimensional vision of, for example, a cow, enough to satisfy curiosity for the farming world, without involving three of the five senses. City patterns and urban landscapes reflect this condition in themselves. The effect is the proliferation of impersonal suburbia and polycentric megalopolis, aimed at absorbing the economical surplus of the capitalist system, more then creating a sustainable environment for people to leave and relate, as stated by David Harvey: “Since the beginning of capitalism as we conceive it there has been a strong interconnection, a symbiotic relation, between urbanization and accumulation, because of the need of giving mobility to a certain product. But the use that capitalism has done of urbanization in the modern and, most of all, in the contemporary age is something that, I have to say it, looks really far from a sensible conception of what the city should be and, even more worrying, completely out of any control.”6 What pointed out by Harvey is a strict connection

Groupe Cronica, “Quantity becomes Quality”, 1966

7 Gausa, M. ”Metapolis Dictionary Of Advanced Architecture” p.178 8  Foucault, M. “Intellectuals and Power” 1972 9  Jellicoe, G. And S. “The Landscape Of Man” p.374

between the economic system and the shape of the fast development of our cities, being the latter influenced by the former. The senseless transportation of goods and energy is just a little part of the whole picture in which cities are centres of consumption, opposed to production, that happens in a not-well-defined elsewhere. We are witnessing an astonishing technological development, as mentioned above, that makes us conscious of the global scale. Such a sudden change of scale in our relations, economical, human and philosophical, raised the issue of diversity, whose definition says: “In the process of the modern, discourses have become transverse, genres mixed, languages fragmentary. But, beyond life as simultaneity, in our time there exists the conditions for assuming creatively this fragmentation and thereby attaining an anthropological universality which also integrates plurality, difference and discontinuity.”7 The integration of plurality, differences and discontinuity is central in nowadays struggle for development. To incorporate new markets, different tendencies and cultures has become central for succeeding in the search for progress. In the cities previously described by Harvey, mirrors of our society, diversity is often faced with fear and rejected with conflict. Modern architecture preferred homogeneity upon diversity, in a logic of control for the sake of optimization. Endless housing develop-

ments have been built, freezing the cultural process in the name of comfort. In this flat scenario, Architecture has a strong responsibility, and the intellectual-architect has to face it. Quoting Foucault: “The intellectual’s role is to struggle against the forms of power that transformed him into its object and instrument in the sphere of knowledge, truth, consciousness and discourse.”8 The Art world tries to visualize its instability, using abstractions and new fields of research to represent the complexity of human condition, but where does the responsibility of the architect lies? “In the twentieth century, we can recognize two main generative forces: The science of land use in the interest of the community as a whole, optimizing with urban design and landscape planning, and the new art-form arising from the constructivist movement and called functional architecture.”9 Landscape design synthesizes this duality and blend together planning and new architecture, for the first time playing an active role determining the city shape and the life that takes place in it. Land-art does the same, with the use, in addition, of the artificial element tied to the natural. It is in the separation/union of natural and artificial that lies a potential field of investigation, not only because of romantic values traditionally assigned to nature, and the related occasions of delight and relief, but for the infinite amount of possible com-

binations that this union provides. A beneficial fusion, dialogically dealing with diversity of element, and giving life to the naturartificial element. The contract able to unify those two actors is a contract of cohabitation, coexistence. “Cohabitation is a plural and heterogeneous architecture, based upon diversity and simultaneity, alluding to constant arrangements and negotiations of cohabitation between its parts.”10 Green Guerrilla in action

10  Gausa, M. “Metapolis dictionary of advanced architecture” p.114 11  Richardson, T. “The Vanguard Landscapes and Gardens of Martha Schwartz” p.8 12  Schwartz, M. “The Vanguard Landscapes and Gardens of Martha Schwartz” p.123

Ambiguous marriages of complicit realities Different approaches regarding the relation between natural and artificial are used in the work of several architects and landscape artists. This relation is investigated unfailingly by Martha Schwartz, an English landscape artist whose activity started by chance during the ‘80s. Her approach to the practice of sculpting a landscape can be resumed as extremely synthetic and humorous. She introduces a conceptual or physic element at the core of her design philosophy. A single idea based on the site’s history, its contest and its intended use that informs every aspect of her design. She refers to a formalism that is founded onto a profound relationship and dialogue with nature. As said before, since Renaissance, western garden design is based on the appreciation of the potential for pure form in nature, so Schwartz’s use of materials is “a

conceptual methodology, intended to reveal some profound thought of a place, rather the simply existing as nature.”11 Provocative design questions established standards. A post-modern approach that search abstract meaning while creating physical spaces. “The landscape reflects upon the people of the community, and forms a self-image to the individuals of that community.”12 This is probably what the activists of the “Green Guerrilla” think every night they jump on their bike to another action of illicit gardening. This group of convinced environmentalists considers the act of planting more convincing than talking. And they are probably right. What they do, basically, is searching for an unused or uncared plot within the city, preferably already green, and during one or more nights planting a garden. If they are not found in the same act of planting, they cannot be stopped and the day after plants cannot be removed. This is a critical way of reclaiming space and landscape, even if the founding statement of the group is resistance against cementification of cities. Turning unused and likely unhealthy spaces into gardens, provide benefit for the whole community around, that, when interviewed, is enthusiastic about the result. The visual relation with the landscape, moreover, improves. The specificity of this landscape interventions lies in the fact that, being

Ebenezer Howard, “The three magnets” diagram

13  Schuyler, D. “From Garden City to Green City” p.25 14  Branzi, A. “Mass creativity” in ”the complete work” p. 75

at the edge of legality, are a real and actually effective act of criticism, with a lot of local visibility and concrete results. Both of these examples are characterized by criticism, a sincere declaration of intents whose principal goal is calling for attention on fields otherwise ignored. When Bernard Tschumi designed Parc de la Villette, in Paris, his intentions were slightly different. The project is constituted by different layers, points, lines and surfaces. The treatment of artificial and natural is important in his work. He tries, in fact, a “blending” approach, less critical and more participative. Tschumi pursues some kind of relation between nature and artificial landscape where points, or “folies”, are architectural episodes distributed within a fixed grid. They are the events, creating the actual space within the park. But the most fascinating character of La Villette, is probably the cinematic promenade. Using the, in fact cinematographic, montage principle, he orders events, movements and spaces in an artificial sequence, framing the experience as a director would do, to offer the best from all the shot material. Every frame of the park is a garden, a piece of work, as well as in a movie, every frame is a photograph in itself, and so self referential. Tschumi’s approach is very interesting, and unfolds a number of, at the time, undiscovered relations between the urban and the natural.

Undoubtedly, Sir Ebenezer Howard had a broad influence on this discussion, since the publication in 1898 of the book “To-morrow, a peaceful path to real reform” in which he addresses the issue of “planning a city with a carefully balanced amount of residencies, industries and agriculture, resulting in self-containing communities.”13 His famous diagram “the three magnets” questions: Where will people go? The town, the country, or the towncountry? The same attempt of blending two different and separate realities might be found also in the entire oeuvre of Andrea Branzi, an Italian architect and theorist. Branzi was part of the group called “Archizoom”, whose work was a son of the utopias of the “Archigram”. To use his words: “Nature and the city no longer fit in together on a single bi-dimensional plane of experience, nature no longer designs the city, and the city no longer outlines nature.”14 The answer that Branzi gives to the problem of a meeting between man and nature is a radical one. He theorizes a city, Agronica, composed by an endless open rural landscape in which human settlements are, at a first sight, hardly recognizable. Carefully reading the plan, we can discover how such settlements are divided in personal shelters, under temporary looking roofs, and all activities are shared to the maximum extent. Planning

the equal distribution of those activities, Branzi is seedling an open rural landscape with urban insertions. Mobility is planned electrical and elevated. The substance of the project is a definitive merging of the city structure with the natural environment, creating a unique example of utopian alternative. The search for this alternative is the red line connecting all these examples, mirror of a tension present in the practice of Architecture. Andrea Branzi, ceramic vases, 50 pcs, limited ed. 2007

15  Premat, A. “Small scale agriculture in Havana” in “Revista Europea de Estudions Latinoamericanos y del Caribe” October 2003, p.87

The pig on the roof and other stories To conclude this rapid excursion throughout the various attempts of marrying the built environment with the natural world, it is now worth to mention the only metropolis on earth where, in the very center, a privileged pig enjoys from a roof the view of the ocean. It happens in La Havana, Cuba. How this pig arrived so high, is a story that begins in 1989 with the fall of the Soviet Union. After the enactment of the embargo by the United States, Cuba was left to trade mostly with the Soviet block. In times of Cold War, this trade was particularly convenient for the Caribbean country that could sell its sugar, by far its most produced crop, at very high prices thanks to political and ideological alliances. This trade allowed Cuba to import all that was necessary for sustaining the population, from oil to food. Since this agreement had to finish, Cuba’s import

dramatically drop and its population went from a consumption of 2.400 calories per day, to 1.200 as average.15 It was certainly a period of emergency, or special period, as Fidel Castro named it, and all Cubans were called to participate to the conversion of a monoculture to agriculture able to satisfy all different needs. It was a massively popular movement that arrived to the core of the capital, La Havana. Smartly meeting bottom-up tendencies with top-down strategies, the government allowed individuals to have semi-private property to those who would have cleaned and purified brown fields of the city (such as dumps, unused plots, collapsed buildings etc), and used them to harvest food for the community. It was a success, and it surely had an important role in bringing back the food consumption rate to its previous values. Agriculture appeared everywhere was possible. Even in roofs, where our pig is now waiting to become, soon or later, someone’s meal. During the second World War, a similar state of emergency affected the western countries involved. In cities the food availability was lower, and governments encouraged whoever could to harvest, appealing to the sense of responsibility. Some of these gardens had started as depression relief gardens others were gardens from the first world war. This community gardens were appearing everywhere even in the most dense urban areas,

Community garden, Berlin, 1946

16  Basset, T.J. “Reaping On the Margins, A Century Of Community Gardening In America”. P.69 17  Sanchez R. “Agriculture in the city’ p.165 18  In 1989, in fact, the import of pesticide drop to zero. Biological techniques have, since then, been applied to protect crops from parasites and optimize their growth.

as Berlin, London and in U.S. where the War Food Administration created a National Victory Garden Program. One of its points, the most interesting for us is: “To maintain the vitality and morale of Americans on the home front through the production of nutritious vegetables outdoors.”16 Gardens were no longer just for the poor, or for those who could not feed themselves, but for everyone. Gardening became popular not only for food security, but for it mental and physical health benefits and its benefits to the community. They gave a feel of productivity that citizens on the home-front needed. A garden plot feels much more useful, productive, and important than a vacant lot or lawn. During the war years, Americans discovered and benefited from gardening’s many advantages. It was stylish to garden. This didn’t last long, however. Once the war ended, there was an overall decline in interest in gardening as life returned to normal in the US and the baby boomer era began. Many victory gardens were grown on loaned property, which needed to be returned in peacetime. In Cuba, people didn’t have the luxury to “go back to normal life”, since the emergency never finished, therefore gardening to survive became common and accepted practice. Urban Agriculture permanently brought inside the metropolis a second landscape, the rural. A notable effect of the enrichment of the urban experience is the partici-

patory engagement of the population. The already well rooted feeling of community that inhabitants of Havana have, due to the peculiar socio-political conditions of the island, was strengthened. Reaching so astonishing results, Castro managed to write a sensational victory for the Cuban Revolution. Urban Agriculture has helped Havana (and the entire island) to become self-sufficient in terms of food production, in the face of the debilitating American embargo, traditionally depicted as the main enemy. Gardening is, in La Havana, a political statement of independency, cultural and productive.

A place to grow In December 2000, “urban agriculture was included on a general scale and treated as an independent activity of a permanent nature.”17 It became, hence, officially recognized. Its insertion into the Land Management System, in fact, marks the transformation of a temporary phenomenon into an essential component of the city. Compulsorily Havana had to include Agriculture within its boundaries for a period longer then everywhere else. It had beneficial effects, on a landscape point of view, with the insertion of the natural element and from an economical/ecological one, reaching a state of productive independency and pursuing green policies18. The union of the urban with the natural, to-

R&Sie architects, “Hybrid Muscle”, Chang Mai 2003/ Thailand

Cooperative “Romario Cardero Carces”, Antonio Guiteras, La Havana 19  Bunschoten R. “Metaspaces” The EOTM is a descriptive model with which the four basic processes are introduced. The sum of these four processes is a model of dynamic environment. This set can be used to read the environment in a neutral manner and to find links between events of radically distinct natures but belonging to a similar process. 20  Bunschoten R. “Public Spaces” p.5

gether with the production, appears to be, to use a definition of Raoul Bunschoten, a proto-urban condition. Its development now stands between Origination and Transformation, in the EOTM19 descriptive model of processes. It originates from an erasure of brown fields, and is now transforming the urban environment. Such transformation might go further then the present state. It might be materialized. A prototype, in Bunschoten’s theory is: “[…] a device in the form of a specific architectural configuration, an organizational structure embedded in the architecture or urban space that links and intertwines programs in such a way as to give them dynamic properties”20 . Havana offers all the conditions for the design of a prototype able to link a urban space with a productive rural landscape in a new typological shape. A marriage that would rewrite the essence of both partners, respecting their functions but rethinking their forms, and whose fruit would be a tomato, born and raised in the city, distributed within its borders and consumed by the local community. A symbol of unity and independence at the same time. In other words, an healthy Urban Tomato.

Bibliography - Raoul Bunschoten; CHORA, “Metaspaces”, Black Dog Publishing Limited, London, 1998 - Raoul Bunschoten; CHORA, “Public Spaces”, Black Dog Publishing Limited, London, 2002 - Maria Caridad Cruz; Roberto Sanchez Medina, “Agriculture in the city”, Ian Randle Publishers, Kingston, 2003 - Germano Celant, “Andrea Branzi. The Complete Work”, Thames and Hudson, London, 1992 - Fernando Funes; Luis Garcia; Martin Borque; Nilda Perez; Peter Rosset, “Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance”, Food First Books, Oakland, 2002 - Manuel Gausa; Vincente Gaullart; Willy Muller; Federico Soriano; Fernando Porras; Jose Morales, “The Metapolis Dictionary of Advanced Architecture”, Actar publishers, Barcelona, 2003 - Michael Hardt; Antonio Negri, “Empire”, Harvard University Press, London, 2000 - Geoffrey and Susan Jellicoe, “The Landscape of Man”, Thames and Hudson, London, 1975 - Kermit C. Parson; David Schuyler, “From Garden City to Green City”, Johns Hopkins University Press, London, 2002 - Adriana Premat, “Small Scale Urban Agriculture in Havana”, “Revista Europea de Estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe” n. 75 Oct. 2003 - R&Sie Architects, “Corrupted Biotypes”, Suh Kyong Won, Seul, 2004 - Tim Richardson, “The Vanguard Landscapes and Gardens of Martha Schwarz”, Thames and Hudson, London, 2004 - Peter Rosset; Medea Benjamin, “The Greening of the Revolution”, Ocean Publishers, Melbourne, 1994 - V.A, “Conflict”, The Berlage Institute, Amsterdam, 1999 - V.A, “Art and Confrontation”, Studio Vista, Bruxelles, 1968 - Andre’ Viljoen, “Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes”, Elsevier, Oxford, 2005

Urban Agriculture, Lombillo&Panorama, La Havana

Cooperative “Jorge Sanchez Villar�, Miramar, La Havana

Elementary school, Tejadillo&Compostela, Old Havana, La Havana

Spaces of Production Reading the Productive Urban Language “Each context develops its own reality. And it is interesting how an architect is not only making visible the parts, but also produces an understanding of relationships in the context through aesthetic means, a relationship by aesthetics.”1 Francois Roche What follows, is the report of an obsessive research for Urban Agriculture in the city of La Havana. All the examples encountered were divided in eight categories and ordered by scale. The result is the first draft of a vocabulary aimed at providing a fundamental understanding of the phenomenon. Later, the knowledge gained was used for the composition of a Productive Urban Language. It proposes a new method for the analysis of urban spaces in the attempt of defining a common denominator between Urban Planning, Architecture and Agriculture. A final step is made with the insertion of the shadows diagram. A pragmatic design strategy would take in consideration all factors involved in the process of growth of different kind of crops. Shadows, in fact, are of an extreme importance in the tropical Cuban climate. Mr Wilson, the Pig on the Roof

1 Roche, F. “Corrupted Biotypes” p. 18

Sense of openness:


Variety of function:


In the smallest scale, urban agriculture occupies space, creating boundaries.

It appears as punctual. Sometimes marking boundaries or fences.

Barrier. Visual delight. Filter. Production of condiments.



The most interesting feature of Urban Agriculture, when at the scale of the individual, is its relation with the existing Architectural elements. Fences , windows and doors gain a new additional state to their function. It most likely appear as a single standing element.

Sense of openness:


Variety of function:



In this scale, due to necessity, the production occupies all the available space.

Leisure area. Production area.

Members of the same family participate together to the production of their own food.

SINGLE FAMILY A family that has the luck of possessing a private garden, is likely to use it to its maximum extent. Harvesting and farming have been observed in Havana, usually occupying all available space except a passage to the entrance. In this cases, the family enjoys a small but essential production of food and sometimes friends and neighbors participate actively.

Sense of openness:


Variety of function:



When shared, urban agriculture (or farming) stands in all places free from other common activities.

Common area. Passage. Laundry, storage area.

Interaction occurs tween neighbors.


LITTLE COMMUNITY A “little community� is composed by a limited amount of apartments, sharing a common space, like patios or terraces. Greeneries tend to occupy all space leftover by other activities, filling the space. The advantages are countless. To engage in a common activity, divide responsibilities and to share the products, in fact, help the formation of a common sense of participation.

Sense of openness:


Variety of function:


When agriculture reaches non conventional places, the observer has a sense of surprise.

When raised, agriculture uses the available technology to merge with the built environment.

Structural. Productive.



Roofs are the spaces that enjoy the most sunlight. Unfortunately, in Havana most of the roofs are in bad conditions, due to negligence. When possible to be planted, Raised Agriculture provoke a sense of surprise on the observer.

Sense of openness:


Variety of function:


In Schools, the green area is enjoyed not only by the kids, but also by the inhabitants of the building facing the garden.

Space is carefully divided between cultivation and playing area. Crops are part of the educational process.

Education. Production of food.

Members of the same class reinforce their sense of the group while working together.


It is mandatory, for educational buildings, to incorporate (when possible) Agriculture in the garden. Food produced is consumed by the students themselves during lunch break. Primary education, in Havana, also includes a weekly participation on the cultivation field.

Sense of openness:


Variety of function:


When in empty plots, windows facing the site enjoy a different urban-rural environment.

From this scale on, agriculture has also a commercial goal. Spaces is used at its best,

Re-use of brown fields. Production of food.

Relations between producer and costumers, and costumer-costumer. All of them inhabitants of the same block.

UNUSED PLOT In Havana it is common that some old building might suffer a partial or complete collapse. During the special period, those unused spaces have been cleaned and turned into production fields. It happens in the city center too. At this scale, Agriculture starts to become commercial activity, and people from all the block enjoy its products.

Sense of openness:


Variety of function:


When in empty blocks, facades facing the site enjoy a different urban-rural environment.

This size make it compulsory the use of an optimized linear organization. The selling point appears.

Visual delight. Production. Community magnet.

Due to its visual proximity, the production site stimulates interaction between inhabitants of the same neighbourhood.

EMPTY BLOCK Beautiful examples of Urban Agriculture have been observed at the scale of the block. When so big, they are usually led by cooperatives, and they have to give a certain amount of vegetables to the state market. All the surplus can be sold at the selling point, to encourage the production. Those points are usually close to the production field, as in the example illustrated next.

Sense of openness:


Variety of function:


In its biggest scale, Urban Agriculture stands in peri-urban areas, where the landscape is already green.

The existing infrastructure is used at its best to optimize transportation within the production site itself.

Re-use of existing infrastructure. Landscape planning. Production.

Due to its visual proximity, the production site stimulates interaction between inhabitants of the same neighbourhood.

PRODUCTIVE LANDSCAPE The biggest scale of Urban Agriculture, the productive landscape, is usually led by state organizations. In this example, the old military airport, in Miramar, has been turned into a plantation of bananas and vegetables. The old infrastructure is re-used to optimize transportation within the field itself. More then one selling point is present, to distribute equally all the products.

SPACES OF PRODUCTION: 12 blocks of the district “Vedado� were chosen for the analysis of potentials of Urban Agriculture. Using the language extrapolated with the previous abstract, the space is occupied by organizational patterns. All typologies of Agriculture are used according to the availability of space and their characteristics. From A to E, the diagram shows how Urban Agriculture has a rhizomatic growth, filling all the space available and being the counterpart of the built environment. Different greens represent different typologies, hence different functions. C







Once the diagram has been cleaned from buildings and streets, what is left is a Productive Urban Language. Not only a way of designing space, optimizing its use, but also a manner of reading the empty areas within the urban environment. A proper vocabulary used as a starting point to cross the boundary between urban and rural, in the attempt of creating a spatial common denominator.

SHADOW PATTERNS: Every crop need a certain amount of water and shadow. Especially in a Caribbean climate as the one of Havana, the amount of sun is crucial. In the following pages, the shadow pattern of the district is analyzed. First it is shown every hour, then combined all together in a diagram. The darker the area, the more hours of shadow a certain place enjoy (or suffer). Since different crops have different needs, to cross the shadow diagram with the Productive Urban Language is a design strategy. Aimed at defining in which area every part of the program should be placed, the combined diagram is also useful to evaluate tridimensional relationship and eventually decide where to raise the landscape. What is also visible is that roofs and the biggest street are, of course, always sunlit.

LA HAVANA, 23° 8′ 0″ N, 82° 23′ 0″ W















Urban Tomato  

Unsuspected relations in metropolitan gardening

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