Prato Food Factory - a new agricultural landscape to reconstitute communities
More than ten thousand years ago, the invention of agriculture allowed men to seattle down. Then for thousands of years agriculture has shaped the anthropized landscape and marked human life, bounding man to nature and its cycles. Afterwards the mechanization of labour shifted its demand from the countryside to the city, generating the phenomena called urbanisation, a real exodus that led the city to spread into the surrounding countryside.
Since then, the inhabitants have no longer felt part of a community inside the new urban landscape. On the other hand, they have lost every bond with the surrounding farmland, now remote, by then inadequate to meet the needs of the citizenship. Therefore, it was entrusted to the large retail trade, that now grants food security in terms of quantity, not quality, but also cut permanently the relationship between citizens and the surrounding.
However today a countertrend is strengthening in the food market which sees the consumers increasingly interested in the the short chain supply for many reasons: quality, traceability, ethic, environment. To meet this demand, it is necessary to bring the producers closer to the consumers, through an urban agriculture strategy.
By doing so, it is then possible to benefit from the multifunctionality of agriculture by offering new places for integration, recovering the social aspect of food, right from its production; as well as creating opportunities for food and environmental education through schools, rediscovering agriculture as the bond between man and nature; moreover, it is possible to develop an eco-friendly farmland, increasing the ecosystem services for the citizenship.
A deep analysis of the territory of Prato focuses on how the fast industrial development engulfed the surrounding countryside, creating several enclosed farmlands within the city. Although these are small and not disconnected to each other, they are still fundamental because they can provide the citizenship some very important ecosystem services. In fact linking these areas to each other and changing the way of cultivating, it is possible to respond many critical aspects related to the urban context. For example on the environmental aspect, the anthropogenic pressure on the territory can be reduced. From a social point of view, these areas can become community gardens to help including different ages and ethnicities. Economically, through we can respond to a raising local food demand, while helping local farmers. These and other pros may emerge from the surrounding territory, through a multifunctional view of agriculture and a cofarming model.
Masterplan development (11-A1)
To develop the masterplan the entire territory was partitioned through a permaculture approach, based on the care needed by the crops and the environment.
So the enclosed agriculture fields, next to the residential areas become the core of the urban agriculture strategy, called Zone 1. Here the horticulture production is related to environmental and social aspects, in fact here citizens can cultivate their own crops and the relationships with their neighbours, various ethnicities and ages through a cofarming model. Further in the Zone 2 cereals and trees are here cultivated integrated to each other. Lastly the Zone 3 corresponds to the public green and the Zone 4 corresponds to the wooded hills.
Close to the Zone 1 many ruined farmhouses would be restored to create new educational farms, where students would take part in laboratories in the farmland with tutors. Through agriculture students can be educated to nutrition, environmentalism and more. Furthermore here farmers can host interns who would approach to a multifunctional agriculture. Indeed young graduated agriculturists are increasingly interested in these new integrated attitude.
Moreover many other abandoned buildings, especially factories, are restored to create Vertical farms, both to improve the food production and the research on this field. This research program will be coordinated from the old Medici Tavola farmhouse that will host also a new agroforestry technical institute, in partnership with the one in Florence, settled in a Medici farmhouse as well.
After the masterplan, mobility was designer taking into account residential areas, schools and the surrounding Zone 1. Here the speed limit is established to 30 km/h in order to guarantee more safety to pedestrians and cyclists. Moreover these areas are linked to each other thanks to a web of cycleways that pass through the farmlands and public parks in the Zone 2 and the Zone 3. Doing so citizens can move from one side to another of the city without risks and enjoying the landscape.
La Banci – Food Hub (A1)
Finally, all these issues are explored in detail focusing on the restoration of the industrial area Ex Banci, that will turn into the Food Hub, the coordination centre of the urban agriculture. Thanks to its strategic location La Banci host many laboratories, events and meetings related to food, agroforestry and green economy, open not only to the whole citizenship but also the surrounding communities. In fact La Banci stands between the highway that brings to the cities around Prato and the district Le Badie, where the visitors will have the chance to explore also the different permaculture Zones, the community gardens, the education farm, the vertical farms and the green bridge that brings to a rediscovered agricultural landscape.
Università degli studi di Firenze
#Università degli studi di Firenze