Urbanism Topics: Edible landscape typologies in strategic planning to promote ecological urbanism in the district of Bad Cannstatt - Stuttgart, Germany

Guest authors: Isabela L. Tavares, Jonas Bailey-Athias

Blog post background: Complementing MCTspaceLab’s Tree per House Initiative (TpHI) Link to full toolkit: (pages 1-12 arabic, 14-25 english), we bring forth a case study research with theoretical insights on the thematic topics of tactical urbanism and the relationship with urban ecology via showcasing an article developed by two students of Integrated Urbanism and Sustainable Design at the University of Stuttgart, in Germany.

The TpHI strives to encourage the users of Muscat, to take ownership of their outdoor spaces. Following the discourse of tactical urbanism, the short-term goal of TpHI combines the methods of foraging and pop-up urbanism in order to encourage the residents to plant a tree per house between their parking space and the street. The presented article below, well elaborates these two concepts with thought out examples. Furthermore, supporting the long-term vision of TpHI of developing a pedestrian street in the neighborhood, the article showcases the importance of understanding the urban regulations and functions, keeping in mind the concept of sustainable community development and local governance. Lastly, under the current events of COVID-19, the article presents the application of public participation methods through the perspective of a new paradox of social interaction in a post-pandemic city.

The research presented in the article was developed as part of the studio Integrated Research and Design II, a core subject of the Integrated Urbanism and Sustainable Design master course from the University of Stuttgart. The class, developed through online platforms during the new-normal system, was held from April to July of 2020. It was coordinated by Prof. Dr. Leonie Fischer together with Msc. Shaharin Elham Annisa from SI - International Urbanism Institute and M.A. Aaron Schirrmann, from the ILPÖ - Institut for Landscape Planning and Ecology. Within the context of Germany, the main objective of the research was to produce a strategic plan for the district of Bad Cannstatt district in Stuttgart, southern region of Germany, Baden-Würtemberg state.

1. Introduction to research

Urban agriculture, in general, is a practice that holds an historical connection with the development of society itself. In Modern history, some piece of evidence bring attention to the desire of integrating food harvesting into the cities: From Ebenezer Howard’s “Garden Cities”, where allotment gardens and farms composed the surrounding landscapes of the urban environment to the German architect Leberecht Migge’s idea, which proposed that spaces for food production should be incorporated into public housing systems in Frankfurt (Lawson, 2016). The matter and the necessity to develop energy and resource sufficient societies, is explored by multiple areas of science and technology. However, the argument of urban ecologists goes into a simpler direction: they envision a progressive plan for our cities, in a gradual transition from our concrete jungles towards a city that works as a productive environment.

This urban environment can be expressed into multiple typologies of implementation, seeking the intrinsic connection between the urbanised territory and the natural and biological processes of creating life. From green infrastructure systems (the introduction of green areas and strategies in the urban environment) to urban farms, it is explicit that, in a decade marked by the strength of local initiatives and community engagement towards the common-good, it became possible to create a vision where the public spaces could also bear the mission of producing food for everybody. 

The plan developed in this research was designed envisioning the potentiality for a multidisciplinary approach towards urban food production. According to the New Urban Agenda, set during the Third United Nations Conference in Quito in 2016, Urban and Periurban Agriculture (UPA) could be a possible solution for the future of food supply in urban settlements (Caprotti
et al., 2017). The theme was, therefore, motivated not only out of the current and historical links in Bad Cannstatt (situated in Stuttgart, Germany) with the productive landscapes of its surroundings, but also in synergy with a broader perspective of a sustainable future.

2. The process of the research

This study was divided into three parts. The first, was established through the assessment of the outcomes from the first master semester site analysis worked on by 10 different student groups. The knowledge gathered collectively was complemented by each group individually, through an additional analysis according to our field of research. In this case, we sought information about the existing productive landscape in the district, as well as information about the spatial analysis. Following the methodology applied on Tavares and Leonelli (2018), the semester project also looked for an overview of the supporting programs and legislations that could offer financial subsidy for the strategies that could to be implemented.

The second part was the development of the project vision and the strategic plan. The plan was developed in five phases of implementation, distributed into a period of 20 years. Through an extensive site analysis, it was possible to tailor strategies of implementation for the neighborhood. In addition, to measure the public interest on new urban agriculture projects in the district, a survey was also conducted with local residents. Furthermore, in the development of the strategic plan, a set of goals and milestones were defined according to each phase of implementation, aiming to strengthen each phase and create recreational opportunities and cultural activities for the community. Due to restrictions of COVID-19, the concepts were not tested on site. 
3. Concepts applied

3.1 Nature-Based Solutions: The concept of an urban infrastructure inspired by nature and natural cycles, capable of acting as a cost-effective method and to integrate multiple ecological benefits is called Nature-Based Solutions (Kabisch et al., 2016). Some authors also explored the capacity of NBS to improve mental health and well-being in urbanised areas, though strategies to promote stress alleviation and social activities, as studied by Vujcic et al. (2017). In their research, they could infer that the exposure to urban green spaces and the participation on urban agriculture projects is capable of improving the recovery process of people suffering with stress-related disorders, such as depression, anxiety and stress itself (Vujcic et al., 2017)
3.2 Edible City: The concept of Edible City applies NBS in the city scale, intersecting not only the biodiversity and natural aspects of the solution, but also integrating nutrition and provision values to the strategy. It can be defined as a city that is capable of acting as a productive landscape. The term was coined by Bohn and Viljoen (2005) in an early research that explored the possibilities of integrating edible vegetation into the city landscape as a social and cultural asset. Productive landscape per se can be defined as open spaces in the city or its surroundings, that are currently being sustainably cultivated for personal or economical purposes. Furthermore, cultivation of species can greatly benefit the local biodiversity, through an intensified pollination, and the creation of wildlife corridors (Lin, Phipott and Jha, 2015). Edible City Solutions (ECS), as defined by Säumel, Reddy and Wachtel (2019), goes a step further, and integrates urban agriculture strategies and concepts into urban planning and urban policies. The idea is to enhance the applicability of the practices, sustaining the project resilience through legal and financial support. 
3.3 Foraging: The practice of collecting goods from urban trees or urban vegetation, such as edible plants, fruits, or any vegetable produce for nutritional, crafts or medicinal purposes is denominated as foraging (Landor-Yamagata et al., 2018). Foraging is a practice that has ancient roots, and it is gaining more  prominence in the present days which can be utilised when planning ECS. McLain et al. (2014) in their study, highlights the social and environmental benefits of foraging practice in urban ecosystems. When analysing the urban foraging practices in the US by literature review and interviews conducted with 234 people in 5 different studies they found correlation between foraging with food security, human and community well-being.

Other studies have tried to understand the connection of foraging practices with community integration benefits, as studied by Fischer and Kowarik (2020). In their study, they analysed the city of Berlin, through a field survey with 535 participants, and could infer that 71% of the respondents would engage into foraging practices. Those results, according to the analysis, would be dependent on sociocultural backgrounds and other factors. As a conclusion, the researchers discussed that the practice holds potential to integrate urban societies to the natural environment, and that foraging is especially popular with people who often reap the benefits of staying outdoors and are more engaged into nature-related activities (Fischer and Kowarik, 2020).
4. The development of the plan

The design integrated the concepts of NBS, Edible City and Foraging, together with knowledge gathered from the site analysis, developed in the district of Bad Cannstatt. We will first present the typologies of implementation on Section 4.1, followed by the phasing distribution on section 4.2, represented by Table 1.

During the studies for the typology’s development, it was necessary to understand and assess the different cycles of plants and species that could be cultivated throughout the year. Following, Table 1 shows the yearly cultivation calendar with the traditionally farmed species in Germany.

Table 1 - Traditional edible species cultivated in kitchen and small gardens. Based on information available at the Bellaflora-Aussaat-Kalender (<https://www.bellaflora.at/fileadmin/Bibliothek/Downloads/info_kalender/aussaat-kalender-gemuese.pdf> [Accessed 6 June 2020].)

4.1 Typologies of implementation

We proposed six different typologies to be implemented on site: Pop-Up farms, Foraging, Edible Facades, Rooftop farming, New Allotment Gardens and Agritourism. The idea was to design small scale solutions that could integrate the community participation into the project development, as well as raise awareness for the project. In this article, we will discuss the first three solutions only. After assessing the issues we could find through the research question and site analysis, we present five ideas for tactical urbanism focusing on the cultural and recreation aspects of urban agriculture, in different scales.

a. Pop-up farms
This typology would work as an acupuncture tactic, promoting integrational activities during the summer period. Making use of the current parklet legislation and inspired by the Wanderbaumallee project, developed for a group coordinated by the former IUSD student Jesus Martinez (http://www.wanderbaumallee-stuttgart.de/) we aim to implement street furniture such as benches, hammocks, hang-out spaces and so on, integrated with movable raised beds and planters, so the activities are complementaries and provide a spatial proximity. Ideally, those raised beds would be constructed through workshops with the community, so they could have the chance to participate actively in the implementation process, also learning new skills and being able to create new networks within the neighbours.

b. Foraging 
New implementations of foraging would be an initiative that has the focus on tackling the streets without trees. Through the analysis developed in the first part of the semester, it was possible to infer which parts of the district had a lack of vegetation, and cross data with the areas that had a high social and environmental vulnerability - the latter, usually expressed through heat-stress related problems assessment. The project would install the trees in parking spaces, initially in a movable structure, as a temporary element. Later, with the community approval, as a permanent street element. Furthermore, the idea is to connect these fruit trees with the existing ones in the district, creating fruit tree corridors among the existing productive landscapes - an effort that can have positive effects such as incrementing the cultural, ecological and touristic value in the district.

Through an assessment of open-access geodata provided by the municipality, it was possible to measure the amount of edible trees in public spaces in Bad Cannstatt, as well as its spatial distribution. The main objective was to identify which edible species had a more frequent occurrence and their location. Taking in consideration the areas which lack edible trees, green cover, and social vulnerability, we identified potential streets for foraging, making up a total of 14km of streets. We were mostly inspired by the German city of Andernach, considered an Edible City and a role model of food initiative for us. The idea is to follow the example, and transform Bad Cannstatt in a living lab for Edible Landscapes.

c. Edible facades
This typology is set to utilise from the “Yard, roof and facade greening. Guidelines for the municipal green program of the state capital Stuttgart” (City of Stuttgart, 2014). Through the revision of the legislation that gives financial incentives for green facades and rooftops, and also bringing attention to the law and promoting the benefits for its dissemination, this typology will work with vertical elements in the facade, to enable edible plants such as the “climbing salads” or Klettasalat - the popular name for Malabar Spinat, an edible dark green specie, suitable for the summer, that can be harvested until the beginning of the autumn, a species native from India and the Philippines, that is being cultivated in Europe for centuries and contains multiple vitamins, as stated by Maynard and Hochmuth (1997), in the “Handbook for vegetable growers”. 

4.2. Development of strategic phases

5. Conclusion

In summary, we present in this article the concepts of Nature-Based Solutions, Edible Cities Solutions, and Foraging, and how applying them on the urban environment can be done through simple but efficient strategies. The side benefits are multiple, from having a positive impact on carbon storage potential, increase in biodiversity, community well-being, to some level of food security. After analysing the district of Bad Cannstatt in Stuttgart, Germany, we identified the potentiality in applying ECS, through the six proposed typologies into a Strategic plan. However, the ideas developed here can have the methodology replicated for any district.

With our theoretical review and developed typologies, we show that it is possible to achieve an edible city through simple implementations and promote a transition to ecological urbanism. Our role as planners in this project was to access a value that is kind for the community, and transform it into a tool to catalyse community integration, recreation and environmental awareness. Food brings together not only people and cultures, but can also have the power to integrate the natural and the urban environments in a synergetic way.

For more information on the student's semester project, visit the website for the Integrated Research Design II from MSc. Integrated Urbansim and Sustainable Design (IUSD) master program.

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