Category Archives: planned communities

MIT’s Kent Larson Shows Us a Glimpse of a More Efficient Tomorrow

At present, urbanization around the globe appears to be an unstoppable trend.

Architect Larson wants us to have the good things we like about cities and remove the bad things like too much space for cars and emissions. Using old-Paris as an example, neighborhoods are set up providing compact urban cell inhabitants of 20,000, or so, with everything they need in just a 5 or 10 minute walk.

He says that the city design of the 50s and 60s which is continuing to be built, is obsolete. The innovations that could make the city of the future more desirable will work a lot like a small village of the past.

He did not discuss food in particular, although he shows some urban farming on a top level space. Food stores would obviously be included in his compact urban cells.

In this video, Larson discusses:

  • “Robot” apartments with movable walls
  • Folding cars
  • Driverless cars communicating with pedestrians
  • Melbourne Laneways
  • Boulder’s bike paths and bike-share program

The 2011 Solar Decathlon: Three Entrants Which Included Food Growing in their Models

Each year, as a blogger, I’ve enjoyed covering the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon which takes place on the National Mall in Washington D.C. In this post, I’ve picked three of the college student’s models which each incorporated gardens into their plans. At the end is a link to view all of the contest model videos, if you wish, including entries from China, New Zealand, and Canada, too!

We should all pay attention, because I do believe that small, energy efficient houses incorporating growing your own food spaces are the way of the future. A house doesn’t have to be expensive to provide reliable shelter, either, but we American’s have a hard time imagining something other than what is being thrown at us by the profit-driven developers in the housing industry.

Less will be more. Stuff will be less.

1) The modern homestead from Appalachian State University:

2) Not surprisingly, from Middlebury, Vermont, we get a team which includes food growing in their design:

3) Florida International University’s model also has an outdoor eating garden:

TED Talk by Carolyn Steel, A Food Urbanist

TED talk: How food shapes our Cities by Carolyn Steel (16 minutes – October 2009). Carolyn is a “food urbanist.”

“If the city looks after the countryside, the countryside will look after the city.”

For anyone interested in some historical background of how cities such as Rome and London were designed around food supply routes, and how smart city planning today should also be planned around food access, don’t miss this delightful talk by this delightful lady. If you like listening to her as much as I did, I also recommend this article she wrote on her blog about Dutch farms and her book webpage containing excerpts and audio files.

Carolyn Steel MA (Cantab) Dip Arch RIBA

The question of how to feed cities may be one of the biggest contemporary questions, yet it’s never asked: we take for granted that if we walk into a store or a restaurant, food will be there, magically coming from somewhere. Yet, think of it this way: just in London, every single day, 30 million meals must be provided. Without a reliable food supply, even the most modern city would collapse quickly. And most people today eat food of whose provenance they are unaware.

Hungry City by Carolyn Steel

A UK Guardian book review of her book Hungry City: Our Recipe for Disaster.

“Wal-Mart currently dominates the global grocery trade with profits reckoned by the UN at the start of the century to be ‘bigger than the gross domestic product of three quarters of the world’s economies’. Today those profits have doubled. Five companies control 90 per cent of the global grain supply. The world tea market is in the hands of three. Eighty-one per cent of American beef belongs to four giant processing companies.”

Vauban, Germany: A Green City Model

[wikipedia photo]

It is my intent to dedicate Saturdays to sustainable subjects. Featuring the city of Vauban, Germany was in my line-up of subjects I’d hoped to cover. But, since Energy Bulletin has a good article up featuring this small German town established in the mid-1990′s using green, walkable, bikeable, car-free, alternative energy, and passivhaus city planning techniques, I thought I’d take the easy way out and just link it today.

From Energy Bulletin: Real green living by Heather Rogers
From Wikipedia: Vauban, Freiburg

This is a 3-minute video providing a good overview of the town project:

The Agriburbia Model


Urban Agriculture. Food security. Apocalypses. 2012. Peak Oil. Michael Pollen. Financial melt-down. War. Cyber-threats. Supply chains.

You-name-it. The band-wagon to jump on right now is the grow-your-own food one. Know where your food comes from. Don’t rely upon someone else. The 100-mile diet. Prepare for a future of less oil. And so on.

Real estate is in trouble. There is an over-supply of well over a million houses in this country. Based on that, new construction is not needed. There is a level of unemployment not seen since the early 1980′s. Clearly jobs are needed. The young adults are especially lacking job opportunities, with an unemployment rate at 19%.

Anyone who has read James Howard Kunstler’s blog or has watched The End of Suburbia, understands that something is inherently lacking and wrong with the suburbian development model in this country. It has relied upon longer and longer commute times, cheap oil, and alienation from our neighbors and communities.

Now, finally, the public is ready to invest in a new concept that makes a lot of sense. According to the Denver Post article, below, Matthew Redmond proposed his idea of building homes around agricultural land six years ago. Then, they laughed. Now, not so much.

Today, Milliken’s 618-acre Platte River Village is ready for construction, with 944 planned homes surrounded by 108 acres of backyard farms and 152 acres of drip- irrigated community farms. The plan is for the farms to feed local residents and supply restaurants while paying for community upkeep. And Redmond, a 47-year-old planner-farmer, has 13 other Front Range projects mulling his “agriburbia” concept.

I only hope that these homes are small, zero energy, passive solar, sun oriented south-facing, grey-water utilizing, rain-water collecting, and built-to-last quality construction. Now, that, would be the perfect model!

Agriburbia. Remember that word. You’ll be hearing it again.

“Agriburbia” sprouts on Colorado’s Front Range

…Today, Milliken’s 618-acre Platte River Village is ready for construction, with 944 planned homes surrounded by 108 acres of backyard farms and 152 acres of drip- irrigated community farms. The plan is for the farms to feed local residents and supply restaurants while paying for community upkeep. And Redmond, a 47-year-old planner-farmer, has 13 other Front Range projects mulling his “agriburbia” concept.

Redmond, co-founder of the Golden-based design firm TSR Group, travels the country preaching his urban farming and development idea. He envisions a future where the nation’s 31 million acres of lawn are converted to food production. He sees golf-course greens redefined with herbs; sand traps as “kale traps.” He sees retirement homes engulfed by farms and office buildings where workers escape cubicles on farming breaks.

Redmond, along with his born-on- a-farm biologist turned planner wife, Jennifer, sees an urban landscape like none before. “This is where we are all going to go. We need this,” said Redmond. “Everyone thinks they are so smart by crafting a 2030 plan for the future. I say we need a $180-a-barrel plan, on how our communities can be self-sufficient when oil becomes too expensive to ship food across the country.”

Self-sufficient. Sustainable. Locally produced. Agriburbia incorporates all three concepts….
And thirdly, the Redmonds are trying to develop farm-cultured communities like Platte River Village in Milliken. Homes surrounding farms already are planned for the middle of Littleton and Boulder, using small spaces. Planners in Lakewood two months ago approved agriburbia in the city’s Solterra community. In Douglas County, the Redmonds are proposing agriburbia in the development of Sterling Ranch near Roxborough State Park……