Preface

We started thinking about this book in 2008 in Brighton when discussing with John Thakara the legacy of the DOTT07 Urban Farming Project in Middlesbrough and the need for a guiding set of actions for implementing productive landscapes; to which John simply and dryly said, ‘you need to write another book.’

Second Nature Urban Agriculture continues our exploration of how urban agriculture can be coherently integrated into cities. However, working on the book did not quite become our “second nature”, and too many worthwhile events, often related in one way or the other to the urban agriculture theme, distracted us, but also broadened and enriched our perspective.

For some time we called the book to be written “CPUL 2”, marking it as a direct sequel to our 2005 book which formulated the Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes (CPUL) concept. While Second Nature Urban Agriculture remains a companion volume, it also became clear to us that now, more than 10 years after the CPUL City concept’s inception, this new book will be less singularly about CPUL and much more about the production of urban space in a wider, productive sense.

The concept of second nature began to interest us. It seemed to complement strategies and desires behind the current practices of urban agriculture in towns and cities of the world.

The term “second nature” has a double meaning: on the one hand it describes embedded, normalised habits and customs that take place without a thought, and on the other it refers to the manmade, cultivated space surrounding us in a similar way to (first) nature. Can urban agriculture be part of a second nature to both people and cities in the 21st century? Or has it started to be so already? Why should it, and how? Can or should planners, architects and designers play a role in making urban agriculture a true second nature, given that their profession is engaged with the production of space and hence also influences people’s habits and behaviour?

It was only in the early 19th century that the term “second nature” was thoroughly developed in both senses to mean normalised habits and to define the manmade, the cultured, as a development of the natural, thereby suggesting that culture represents a somewhat higher, but different entity. Norbert Rath describes how the contraposition of “nature” and “culture”, as it was still sustained in philosophy at the beginning of the 20th century, could no longer be upheld towards the century’s end. However, human action will always be part of second nature, because it is subject to cultural conditions, as much as it produces them (Rath 1996).

Henri Lefebvre’s interpretation of “second nature” is helpful when envisioning a sustainable urban future and questioning methods for its design. For Lefebvre, urban environments are socially productive environments, and become second nature. According to Erik Swyngedouw and Nikolas Heynen, it is this notion that ‘paves the way to understanding the complex mix of political, economic and social processes that shape, reshape and reshape again urban landscapes’ (Swyngedouw and Heynen 2003). Regarding the social production of urban environments, Lefebvre suggests:

Nature, destroyed as such, has already had to be reconstructed at another level, the level of “second nature” i.e. the town and the urban. The town, anti-nature or non-nature and yet second nature, heralds the future world, the world of the generalised urban. Nature, as the sum of particularities which are external to each other and dispersed in space, dies. It gives way to produced space, to the urban. The urban, defined as assemblies and encounters, is therefore the simultaneity (or centrality) of all that exists socially. (Lefebvre 1976: 15)

Thinking about these interpretations in relation to urban agriculture, there seems to be a great opportunity here for the ‘town heralding the future world’ – that second nature – and its inhabitants to make a sustaining production their own, their second nature. At the same time, such new ownership reintroduces experiences of first nature into the urban, producing a new type of urban space that has the potential to lead to a greater unity with nature.

It is this interdependence of first and second nature that most significantly influences our thinking about productive urban landscapes. The term “productive” establishes a link between the urban and the landscape, both of which are still often considered opposites in the people’s perception of teh city. The link has already started to be made by those urban inhabitants that produce food. It has become their second nature.

So much has been written about urban agriculture, and much has been grown, built and experimented with during the last ten years marking the time between the press date of CPUL 1 and this book. Our 2005 CPUL book had to make the case for urban agriculture in the first place; the new book aims to make the case for planned and desired action in order to more permanently establish urban agriculture in our cities. Both times we apply an architectural and urban design perspective. And whilst our 2005 CPUL book collated diverse arguments which until then had not been related into a spatial understanding of urban food systems, the new book is already able to present not only written arguments, but also experience that has emerged from actual realised projects.

With the number of built projects expanding, and a long-standing international group of research friends and colleagues creating substantial repositories of case studies and practice, we drew our boundaries tightly: the focus is on project initiation and design strategies for productive urban landscapes. To that end, we opted for direct experience, so the book, in the main, refers to projects that we visited or were involved with from Germany, the UK and the USA. This is not to suggest that the ideas voiced are only relevant to these places. As if to confirm this, while finishing off this book, it has been agreed to translate CPUL 1 into Chinese.

As with the 2005 CPUL book, we follow the practice of entering a critical dialogue with invited specialists to contextualise our concept and to develop and deepen themes where we as architects remain generalists. We hope that the resulting varied and critical voices will help readers to understand urban agriculture as second nature in the full meaning of the term.

The book starts by engaging a series of urban design thoughts and theories that may hold keys to the successful implementation of a food-productive city and that contextualise the subject area from a variety of expert viewpoints. At the same time, this part of the book contributes to the refining of the CPUL City concept based on practice, research and observations since 2005.

The second part of the book presents the CPUL City Actions, our planning and design guide for implementing more localised urban food systems based on urban agriculture. These four actions have been formulated during our work and practice, and with them we aim to propose a framework spanning between community food gardeners, commercial urban farmers, academic researchers, architects, planners and, above all, local residents.

We conclude with a CPUL-relevant Repository of resources that has been compiled by bringing together all the references from proceding chapters, presenting a snapshot from the time of writing. The intention is twofold: one is to visualise the CPUL City concept in relation to significant urban agriculture texts and projects, the other is to provide an applied canon of important works that will remain useful to practitioners, professionals, academics, policy makers and the public for quite some time.

We conclude with a CPUL-relevant Repository of resources that has been compiled by bringing together all the references from proceding chapters, presenting a snapshot from the time of writing. The intention is twofold: one is to visualise the CPUL City concept in relation to significant urban agriculture texts and projects, the other is to provide an applied canon of important works that will remain useful to practitioners, professionals, academics, policy makers and the public for quite some time.

André Viljoen & Katrin Bohn                                                                                                             BOHN&VILJOEN ARCHITECTS