The way(s) forward for urbanism, part VI

Particularly astute readers might have noticed that this is the second time part VI has appeared. Why? Because the post formerly with this title, which can be found here, really isn’t about urbanism at all. I lost focus, and now I hope to correct that by redoing this correctly.

Yes, this is strange, and far more flashy and polished than most urban gardens, but I do think it's interesting enough to merit a photograph. (I certainly would like this garden.) Photo courtesy Bella Online.

Apparently, in some major cities, urban gardening is on the rise. More on this new trend after the break.

As NPR reports:

Detroit is a surprisingly green landscape during the spring and summer months. The site of many houses that are crumbling, boarded up or missing altogether is tempered by community gardens and even some urban farms.

The article goes on to describe a number of individual urban farmers, including 58-year old teacher Paul Weertz:

Weertz has been buying abandoned homes and vacant parcels in his neighborhood, where lots go for as little as $300. He’s been encouraging young people who want to farm to move into the neighborhood. Weertz’s neighbor, Carolyn Leadley, runs Rising Pheasant Farms when she’s not caring for her 10-month-old son.

What a financially innovative, sustainable and architecturally fascinating approach to solving a serious urban problem. Often in cities, a vicious cycle emerges where as more land is abandoned, land deteriorates, and people not wanting to live near deteriorating land abandon their own land. This leaves blighted neighborhoods — the sort many of us associate with cities like Detroit. But this breaks that cycle while also providing an interesting way for regular people to try their hand at something architectural.

But could this trend go too far? In the past I’ve complained about some people’s singleminded approach to reusing old factories or knee-jerk worship of bicycling culture, among other such trends, not because I’m against reusing factories or bicycling, but because the ‘progressive fad’ mentality that accompanies them clouds the judgement of many and often leads to some negative things happening. Of course to some degree, the general populace does need to get on board with things, especially urbanism-related things that require widespread support to be effective, and architects need to in a way dumb down their theoretical discussions (not because most people are too dumb to understand them but because they don’t have much wide appeal). So popular movements are important. I just have trouble with them when instead of working to pursue well though-out ends, they end up pursuing something simplemindedly, even if that thing, in moderation and with reason, is not a bad thing.

But so far I see no sign of urban farming turning out like that. In fact right now I’d like to see far more people get on board with this, not because urban gardens are the only good approach to vacant city lots, but because they’re clearly viable and they’re far more desirable than vacant eye-sores. Way to go, Paul Weertz & co, and way to go, NPR for reporting such an interesting story.


The way(s) forward for urbanism is a Concrete Aspirations series intended to explore the future of living in America and around the world. You can find previous entries by clicking “urbanism” in the menu below the nameplate.

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