Friday, November 4th, CITIES organized an Urban Agriculture tour for a group of 40 students and their teachers from the NHTV Breda, studying Urban Design, Logistics and Mobility. Completing minors in Sustainable Cities, they were interested in taking a look at some Urban Agriculture initiatives taking place on a local level.
The students were welcomed at ARCAM, were Francesca gave a presentation on CITIES´ project FARMING THE CITY.
After some questions and a coffee, Anke took them on a tour to three projects taking place in Amsterdam-Oost. First destination was ´Schoffeltuintje Transvaal´ at Afrikanerplein, one of 9 community gardens that were created in the spring of this year in the neighbourhood of Transvaal. The project takes place on a square that was previously just a patch of grass, more used by dogs than humans. This spring a beautiful garden was laid out, where currently 40 neighbours are growing fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers.
Sebastiaan Weijers, who was involved as the project leader from Stadsdeel Oost, welcomed the students and explained how the garden came into existence. While the initiative came from a group of local residents, Stadsdeel Oost provided cooperation and assisted the neighbours in realizing their project. Money was given by the Ministry of VROM. One of the neighbours, Eva, was also present and explained to the students how the garden connected her to other neighbours she previously had not known, and how the garden had improved the image of the neighbourhood as a whole. Both students and teachers were impressed with the self-management of public space by local residents and by the aesthetics of a garden, especially considering the garden has only been there since Spring.
In a warm autumn sun, we walked along Ringdijk to the Amsterdam University Campus, located at the new Science Center in Watergraafsmeer. Here, three students took the initiative to start a garden to grow food for the campus community.
On a strip of land along the water they created vegetable beds and a chicken coop. Being a bit late in season, most of the food had already been harvested, but as the students said themselves, they were not expert on gardening and were really learning by doing. Their main goal is to inspire other students at the campus and to do something for the campus community.
From the campus, we made our way to the last project. Located on an inner courtyard, all 40 students had to pass through the narrow hallway and kitchen of a small Amsterdam apartment to enter the domain of Stadstuinder (‘city gardener’) Wiek de Keijser. Surprised by the size of the garden, obscured from street view by the facades of houses, the students were impressed to see how an inner courtyard that was previously unused, could be transformed into a productive, bio-diverse space, providing fresh food and recreational space for the neighbours. Unfortunately time was too limited to enjoy a fresh cup of tea from the garden, kindly provided by Wiek.
Back in ARCAM, there was some time to debrief from the day’s activities. Students expressed being impressed with the effect that small-scale community initiatives can have on urban life, especially with regard to the community garden on Afrikanerplein. They also observed that the projects we visited were more orientated towards community building and improving urban life, than to food production in itself. Some students commented that they would have been interested to see projects that were more orientated towards food production, on a larger scale. We discussed the current lack of implementation of larger scale urban farms and reflected on the roles they could have as urban planners, taking into account food in urban design. What could a (sustainable) city look like if designed through food? The teachers were enthused to work more on this with the students.
We look back on an inspiring day and would like to thank all the project managers for their time and hospitality. We are also really thankful to the students and the teachers that gave us the possibility to bring our knowledge and experience to them. Here at CITIES we really look forward to working more and more on “food and architecture” education.

Posted on 15 November 2011 and filed under Uncategorized