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Architecture Workroom
Brussels

Urbanising in Place— Building the Food-Water-Energy nexus

Processes of urbanisation tend to marginalise the role of small holders in managing the food-water-energy nexus: farmers and food producing communities are often spatially interstitial, and operate within precarious conditions in which nutrient cycles, energy conservation, water harvest, soil management and food production happen under marginal and residual conditions. Nonetheless, peri-urban areas and the urbanising fringes of metropolitan areas tend to harbour a rich variety of farming practices and there is empirical evidence that urban farmers play a key role as localized and distributed operators of the food-water-energy nexus.

© Jean Brusselmans, 1935

‘Urbanising in place’ will explore how farming and food growing practices on the metropolitan fringe, threatened by an ever expanding urbanisation, may be reimagined and reconfigured within what we call ‘agroecological urbanism’: a model of urbanisation which places food, urban metabolic cycles and an ethics of land stewardship, equality and solidarity at its core. The project will explore the physical and metabolic context, scenarios for economic valorisation and political processes that can enable alternative metabolic capabilities, and the specific practices and configurations that farmers and food growing communities could develop in order to regain control over resources and claim an active role as agroecological urban food-water-energy actors.

‘Urbanising in place’ brings together innovative practices from 4 different contexts (Riga, Rosario, Brussels, London) in an international platform aimed at mutual learning and the identification of critical pathways for change. Architecture Workroom is responsible for the setup of an international platform (together with partners Shared Assets and RUAF and the Brussels case (with Ghent University, BoerenBruxselPaysans and Terre-en-Vue

The Brussels case will explore alternative mechanisms to provide access to land for agroecological food growing activities, linking peri-urban food production to metabolic challenges in the wider metropolitan region.

The simple slogan for this project could be that the horizontal metropolis needs farmers. The distributed settlement patterns around Brussels were traditionally productive. Its production used to be geared (in part) to local consumption. Given the general political economic context that is geared towards larger farms with less farmers, the peri-urban fringe is rapidly losing its farmers. This is not only problematic in terms of the increased carbon footprint caused by bringing food from further away, it makes for an urbanized landscape that loses its productive base. The infrastructure of the horizontal metropolis is largely based on borrowed infrastructure of rural/agricultural origin. The existence, maintenance and reproduction of that infrastructure largely depends on its bioproductive use. In light of the efforts to bring back new forms of food production in this region we want to look both at the farming models and at the links that need to be built to the core urban market (Brussels) which belongs administratively to another political administration that the peri-urban fringe.

Brussels, as the stage for both the opening workshop and the closing conference, is put to the fore as the consortium’s central F-W-E innovation hub. From 18 – 20 September, the international consortium came together for the first time at the You Are Here working spaces at WTC tower I in the Brussels Northern Quarter.

‘Urbanising in place’ is one of the selected projects of the Sustainable Urbanisation Global Initiative (SUGI) Food-Water-Energy Nexus, jointly established by the Belmont Forum and the Joint Programming Initiative Urban Europe. The cooperation was established in order to bring together the fragmented research and expertise across the globe to find innovative new solutions to the Food-Water-Energy Nexus challenge. SUGI-FWE Nexus is supported by the European Commission and funded under the Horizon 2020 ERA-NET Cofund scheme.

Architecture Workroom is supported by Innoviris Brussels, the European Commission and Urban Europe.

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