2013 Erasmus Intensive Programme “UPWARD – Urban Project Workshop and Responsible Design”

Urban agriculture, a new challenge for Urban Project

2013 Students' Works


For centuries, cities have been fed by their agricultural hinterland. Nevertheless, after the WW2 huge phenomena as the demographic explosion in cities, the globalization of the economic system and new lifestyles, deeply changed this relationship.

As a consequence in the planning schemes normally agriculture was not taken into account: it was corresponding, in fact, to a white surface on the map awaiting urbanization.

This spatial and functional rupture between city and agricultural hinterland remains associated to a social and economic breakdown between the two worlds.

Until recently, urban planning has been considering Urban and Peri-urban Agricultural areas (UPA) as reserve for new developments. Now, many of these areas come back dismissed and degraded or remain still unused. Another city comes back, expressing the need to be recovered within a framework of sustainability at all levels: environmental, social, economic and functional level. How to rescue these areas, excluding a mere real estate development? How transform them by retrieving an urban quality in terms of beauty, culture and productivity?

Today several policies are underway worldwide, not enough consolidated but full of potential and positive impacts on urban and natural life. UPA is becoming a true concern to such an extent that local officials are rethinking their approach to town planning either to maintain existing agriculture or to introduce new forms of agriculture. New institutional frameworks foster the entering of agriculture in the urban project perspective and raise the question of its sustainability. In fact, agricultural areas are more and more considered as a target of urban planning.

The 2013 Socrates IP-Upward intends to propose solutions for strengthen this process, not yet consolidated but full of potential and positive impacts on urban life. Related to this a broad question arises: the defense of agriculture as a 'public good'.

Finally, the choice to work on UPA over other fields of urban transformation fosters a new way of urban rehabilitation and provide a new field for Urban Project. It follows an Urban Project that chooses a 'slow' and truly innovative change in urban space and society, different by the usual urban reuses focused on tertiary complexes and prestige projects.

Mains goals

The work of the IP wants to contribute to this defence by addressing two goals/actions:

  • training tools to plan and reuse UPA areas with an interdisciplinary approach, contributing to raise the urban quality;
  • innovative practices and development opportunities contributing to the growth of the agricultural sector.

Associated goals

A set of goals linked to the demand of urban quality is associated as follows:

  • increase the potential of synergy among city, planning and agriculture;
  • enabling the diffusion of an Agri-Culture within the urban community;
  • making available big green areas which maintenance is not depending on the public funding;
  • contributing to the general process of environmental rehabilitation of dismissed or abandoned areas;
  • involving citizens and consumers, also through educational measures within a public dialogue on "food and cities";
  • sensitizing young people and adults in UPA activities;
  • addressing the question of short supply logistics (km 0);
  • enlarge the new training process to the labour market stakeholders;
  • support new job opportunities in urban areas so that they can bring income and employment.

Different approaches to UPA

UPA is today addressed in radically different ways. The 'western way', with worldwide movements mainly advocating for a soft revolution in terms of urban orchards, roof gardens, container gardens, garden towers etc.; on the other hand the 'emergent countries way', advocating for a UPA deeply related to the need of producing food to reduce food shortage.

NGOs give a strong impulse to bottom up actions. But the institutional bodies don't show a same engagement and often don't give to local stakeholders the support they deserve. There is a lack of response to urban agriculture issue at social, economical and political levels, especially in terms of capacity to tie all these levels in an integrated and multi-layered strategy of UPA development. In short, there is a need of planning and design agri-urban projects.

Field of study

The field of study has been chosen in the periphery north of Turin, in an area expected to become a 'agricultural park'.


The methodology is set with reference to two integrated approaches:

  • a Project Based Teaching (connected to the Workshop activity);
  • a Participative 'learning by doing' (as far as possible), correspondent to the involvement of local co-partners and stakeholders, producing an iterative process top-down and bottom-up, among Institutional and non Institutional levels.


The concept of Urban Agriculture arises during the 1990s within the work of the Urban Agricultural Network supported by the United Nation Development Program (UNDP) and reported in 'Habitat II' (Istanbul, 1996). The report proposed to define the Urban Agriculture 'as a distinct industry that needs to be recognized and treated as such'.

A few years after, in the European Community, it arises the need that "the various peri-urban areas come together and provide an administrative body that pursues not only the protection but also the revival of agricultural land and agricultural activities, through territorial schemes of conservation, use and management of the land" (European Economic and Social Committee, Peri-urban agriculture, Brussels, 2004).

Today, Urban Agriculture is the object of a widespread set of policies and practices carried on by institutional and non-institutional entities, in the developed as in the emergent countries, ranging from the urban to the environmental policies.

In Italy the Carta dell'agricoltura periurbana (2006), promoted by a consortium HEIs and Farmers Unions is a broad reference for promoting UPA activities.

At European scale a broad reference is the European Charter for Peri-urban Agriculture (2010).

Giuseppe Ciną, coordinator of IP-Upward

Patronage 2013

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