“We need agriculture back in our cities and in our minds”
Architects have an urgent mission, says Chris Precht, to bring food production back into the centre of our cities.
Our cities need to become part of our agricultural system. In recent decades it has become increasingly clear that the way we live and eat is a big threat to our health and the health of our ecosystem. Climate change is forcing us to rethink our way of life and to reconnect agriculture back into our urban fabric.
We need architects to reconnect the city with nature, creating buildings that appeal to all of our senses. Bringing the production of food back to our daily lives will not only democratise the food system, but also allow our cities to achieve food security.
There is a close relation between the beginning of agriculture and the birth of architecture. Our cities were shaped by food.
This is because, as the agricultural revolution ended our presence as hunters and gatherers, grain was a stable food source that allowed us to permanently settle. Farming and living were interconnected – they needed to be in close proximity due to a lack of efficient transportation and refrigeration. So all ancient settlements were dense areas with food distribution compounds at their centre and farmland in their surrounding.
Our cities were shaped by food
A close connection between food and our urban lives is still traceable on the maps of our cities and their street names. Near the River Thames in London you can find Cornhill and Fish Street, because grain and fish came on and from the river, while northern parts of London are named after meat and its production, because animals walked into the city before being slaughtered.
The invention of the railway, pasteurisation and refrigeration changed the delivery system of our food. The production and the consumption no longer depended on close proximity. All of a sudden it was possible to overcome long distances in a short amount of time and the food could be kept fresh for a longer. That made it possible to grow food far away from sight and mind. We became distant to it. We no longer witnessed the slaughtering of pigs or the dirt of the harvest, and merely became consumers of the end product.
With this disconnection to the origin of our food, we lost an understanding of its importance.
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