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Finland: Farming the city. Creating opportunities for urban agriculture in Helsinki. How can architects engage?

(Photo via Sophia E. Hagolani-Albov, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland)

Architects can contribute as facilitators in the discourse. They can have different roles: as initiators when creating favourable conditions for a practice to start and operate, as mediators between practitioners, authorities and citizens, as well as curators or advisors supporting UA practices.

By Moinel, Caroline
School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master’s thesis
Aalto University
2017

Abstract:

This master’s thesis explores urban agriculture typologies and their respective potentials to increase urban quality of life, ecosystem services, and urban experiences for citizens; while also analysing how architects can contribute to create opportunities for the development of urban agriculture.

Urban agriculture has remerged in developed cities over the last fifteen years in a variety of forms and scales, empowering people to access local and healthy food, while creating a sense of place and community. The contemporary movement of urban agriculture started as a response to global sustainability challenges and a strong wish to place food at the centre of urban agendas. This re-emergence also reflects an ongoing participatory urban culture movement and the redefinition of public urban spaces and urban life.

While the multiple benefits of urban agriculture are increasingly recognized, practices remain small in scale and often isolated, having limited impact on their local food systems. Therefore, integrating urban agriculture as part of the urban fabric on a larger scale can bring opportunities to urban life, sustainable living and local food culture.

The case study of Helsinki, performed through ethnographic methods, illustrates that urban agriculture needs to be perceived as a practice with versatile activities, actors and motives, which unfolds through time. Currently, it remains vulnerable as many practices are temporary or rely on voluntary community effort. Therefore, the challenges of integrating urban agriculture on a larger-scale will require a holistic approach: an interdisciplinary approach between professions and multiple efforts from top-down and bottom up initiatives. For instance, supportive regulations and policies are key to preserve urban agriculture and establish it as an important part of the city infrastructure, as well as bottom-up initiatives are crucial to spread its influence in the city.

Architects can contribute as facilitators in the discourse. They can have different roles: as initiators when creating favourable conditions for a practice to start and operate, as mediators between practitioners, authorities and citizens, as well as curators or advisors supporting UA practices.

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