Extracting Urban Green Potential: critical design-based use of digital and bodily co-mapping methods
Paper i proceeding, 2014
The 2011 Swedish FORMAS Report on Urban Sustainable Development identifies a knowledge gap in the relationship between citizen and city. The report maintains that there is an unquestionable link between built environment and living conditions through which urban inhabitants, by acting within and appropriating their surroundings, also become co-creators of the city's fabric. This lack of encompassing citizens’ interpretation, and the communication gap between citizens and experts, calls for alternatives to mainstream urban design processes especially when it comes to urban foodscapes. To encourage more resilient approaches, we must actively engage city dwellers and seek to comprehend their immediate contexts, perceptions, and how they engage with urban green spaces – in sum, a transfer and democratisation of spatial agency.
This paper sets out the preliminary stages of using some explorative tools in critical cartography to initiate this transfer, thereby creating opportunities for transforming urban food-related lifestyles. Comparative modes of inquiry incorporating the digital and bodily, tool and platform, are explored through active and design-based research as an alternate approach to greening the city and engaging the citizen as agent. These methodologies invite interrogation of what we eat and where our food comes from, while also encouraging a certain intimacy to emerge with the urban landscape and a revaluation of its seasonal rhythms.
Urban CoMapper is a digital tool that explores connections between citizen, built environment and experts though a smartphone interface for community mapping. Its research thematic for locating urban green potential in foodscapes is to investigate the role of food in both the urban landscape and policy-making. Via their devices, participants can effectively contribute to the urban green planning process. Through this approach we can investigate citizens’ links to their immediate environment, exploring their perception of urban conditions to identify creative strategies for engagement and change. In the first phase, the tool charts existing and potential Stockholm sites for urban farming via a real-time comprehensive survey. In the second phase, the body is engaged as interface to explore creative cartographical methods from an organoleptic perspective. This phase presupposes the capacity of such green spaces to stimulate the senses, leading to a heightened awareness of ‘food behaviours’ that cannot be captured by a digital device. The assumption holds that through an social-ecological lens, these heightened sensorial encounters render inhabitants more emotionally inclined to adjust food-related habits.
The transdisciplinary Gröna Linjen platform plays a significant role in evaluating such cartographical research and digital tools through a series of events that facilitate bodily contact with the sites. The platform provides a vibrant alliance of artists, architects, landscapers, gardeners, performers, geographers and others to depict urban food in creative and engaging ways. Here, interventions called ‘safaris’ are staged to foster interest in urban farming, encourage tactile engagement with the neighbourhood fabric, knit together existing farming initiatives, as well as showcase potential sites for further exploration. Participants embark on overland expeditions to discover existing green treasures and potential ‘acupuncture points’ that could revive community involvement, integration, underutilized spaces, and increase biodiversity.
The safaris serve as bodily, cartographical exercises whereby the process of actively engaging with soil, body and stomach takes on an organoleptic dimension. Through eating, growing, and traversing a landscape, sites are ‘interpreted’ and reciprocally stimulated. The challenge remains whether the interplay between these methods of digital and bodily cartography leads to an emergent space for food as an inclusive medium in sustainable urban design, planning and living.
sustainable urban development