Five options for a community greenhouse

Food may be a secondary benefit of community supported agriculture.

Food may be a secondary benefit of community supported agriculture. Culture, community building, local business based local resources and alternative workplaces offer benefits that can far outweigh the food production. This case study explored scenarios for a community oriented production space that was being developed by a local public authority.

The City of Brussels launched “Food for change”, a project to develop urban agriculture within its dense urban fabric. The aim is to focus on local, short supply chain production of food. For this, the closest possible market gardeners and suppliers were targeted. Within the framework of an urban renewal program (Contrat de Quartier Durable Bockstael) a potential production site, a greenhouse, had been identified but the exact function of this site and how it would be managed in the long-term was unclear.

 

This raised a series of questions about the very nature of food. Is food production in cities simply about substance? Or should urban agriculture also involve an element of community and culture? These questions could radically change the form and function of the greenhouse.

 

In a project commissioned by the City of Brussels, we coordinated a participative process to define what kinds of community based agricultural projects could be activated on the site, what kind of infrastructure would be needed and develop a business plan for the realisation of the project.

Case study

Project: Serre de Bockstael

Client: City of Brussels

Year: 2020

Location: Brussels

 

Team: Hanne Van Reusel. Stephan Kamplemann

Sector: Public space & community, production

Services: Vision

Interviews, focus groups and public exhibitions were the main modalities for feedback. Firstly, the project involved reaching out to local organisations actively involved in urban agriculture to identify how this site could support existing initiatives. Secondly, it involved looking at how neighbours and local inhabitants would react to scenarios of how the site could be used.

 

As the end-use remained unclear until the project was built, it was important not to over-promise any ideas to the neighbours and local residents. We therefore created a series of abstract sketches to define the general mood, without showing a resolved design. This meant that the design concepts could be presented to the community, yet they remained conceptual and local residents did not feel threatened. Four scenarios emerged:

 

  1. A greenhouse for in-ground food production.
  2. A community plant nursery.
  3. A plant production space for temperate crops (above ground).
  4. A food processing space.
  5. A community café.
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As an organisation was sought to activate the space, the scenarios also gave the community a chance to independently put forward proposals. Osmos developed a business plan for the planned greenhouse and provided input to adapt the outline of the plans according to the needs of its future users.

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