Tropicalizing a City – London Yields: Urban Agriculture

An Indian immigrant by the name of Gibreel Farishta fantasizes about a London more familiar to him: “Gibreel enumerated the benefits of the proposed metamorphosis of London into a tropical city: increased moral definition, instution of a national siesta, development of vivid and expansive behaviour among the populace, higher quality music… Better cricketers, […] Spicier food; […].” Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses (pp 354-55)

A lot has happened since The Satanic Verses was published in 1988. The food has indeed gotten spicier in parts of the city. And now, an exhibition called London Yields: Urban Agriculture has recently taken place in London’s Building Centre. In this exhibition, different ways of incorporating food production to the urban environment are suggested. To fight the disconnectedness modern people have with their food, a new agricultural solution is envisioned; a world where we would eat ultra-locally produced foods. This could mean cucumbers cultivated on 87th street, (or as BLDGBLOG suggests,) tomatoes grown on places like the Times Square. One of the projects, Soonil Kim’s Vineyards in King’s Cross, describes a way to grow grapes right in the middle of London!  (see picture). In another vision, Farmadelphia by Front Studio NYC, cows roam about in the streets (see picture).

Cows in the streets sure would have made Gibreel Farishta comfortable! I think Rushdie may be pleased; the postcolonial process is alive and well.

In the previous post, hanba talked about the end of the mall era. What is going to happen with urban planning after the malls? The idea of turning cities into greenhouses seems very appealing. After all, who wants the sci-fi dystopian megacities with fast spacey vehicles, endless concrete and billboards, and no greenery? Is it still possible to change the course of development away from the dystopias? Let this new green vision be the next utopia!

Hmm, why does that thought feel creepy? Many dystopias are, after all, utopias turned sour. A road to hell is paved with good intentions. How to prevent the utopian vision of green, or tropicalized, London from turning sour along the way? Maybe one possibility could be to work through a small scale. Work with what we already have. Start by transforming individual buildings or windowsills. Leave the modernistic, utopian social/architectural engineering masterplans aside?

Also, in the Satanic Verses, the narrator states that “newness” enters the word through hybridization with the old. Maybe if this idea of agricultural London develops like a hybrid between the old London and a tropical/postcolonial London, it may have a greater chance of success? Somehow it sounds like a “hybrid” has a better chance of succeeding than a “utopian vision.”

Coming soon: Exhibition Review: Future Architecture Is Green by Lousiana Contemporary in Copenhagen, Denmark.



9 responses to “Tropicalizing a City – London Yields: Urban Agriculture

  1. Very interesting! 🙂 I’m looking forward to your Louisiana exhibition review. I’m also crossing fingers that I’ll be able to see the same exhibition this summer 🙂

  2. Pingback: What Is In the Dead Center of Your Town? « THE HANBABLOG

  3. I can only feel dread bordered with despair when I think about the future and the possibilities for a utopia. Turning a metropolis into a green bowl is a great idea, but think of the all the forces against such an idea. I think we’re only at the beginning of the long collapse of the mall era, yet, for any change to occur there must be drastic upheaval right? I hope wrong.

    Thanks for posting on my blog; I hope we can get to know each other, Art, Literature and Architecture are only second to intellectual learning in my book ^_^

    • Hi Kaefka!

      Thanks for the comments – 🙂 I enjoyed reading your posts, too! Maybe we can exchange links? Cheers /hanba

  4. Wow! That would be surely interesting.

    Architecture has developed through ages due to innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. Surely what Gibreel Farishta fantasized is a bit of exaggeration but we can always use try the feasible part of Tropicalization, as far as architecture is concerned. Can we?

    Remember how steel construction and steel buildings revolutionized the entire construction industry?

    Thanks for sharing this very interesting observation.

    Kirk J. Steel

    • Thanks for the comments, Kirk! Steel is exactly what i thought about in this exhibition in Louisiana, Denmark i wrote about. Hopefully tropicalization will be a revolution unlike that of the steel fortified concrete.. 🙂 Of course Farishta doesn’t exactly have his feet on the ground talking about tropicalization, but maybe we can assume a bit more pragmatic version of his thoughts. I looked through your site, it seems interesting, i’ll go back to it when i have more time :)– regards/h

  5. Thanks a lot! I really appreciate it.

  6. Pingback: Enter urban jungle | THE HANBABLOG

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