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Farmscape

Part 1 Dissertation 2002
Justin Bridgland
Mark Taylor
Andrew Wood
Oxford Brookes University Oxford UK

This study is a hybrid. It is innovatory in form and content, not least because it is a joint effort. We touch on many issues in contemporary urban theory, especially questions of ecology. What we want to do is to create new kinds of urban space through the linking theory and design, and have made a film to explain our ideological approach.

Our theme is the use of landscape to invigorate urban life and remedy the disastrous effects of capitalism on the planet. We are interested in sustainability, and in making our cities more attractive. Landscape and urban cultures have become commodified by capitalism, so what strategies might be operated within the constraints of consumerism? Our major concern is the effect of globalisation on the fabric and social composition of London. A new Carbon Exchange is be set up in London, following the Kyoto Protocol, to regulate the levels of CO2 pollution in signatory countries, and so our aim is to make writings about and offer images of a project for this exchange.

We have selected a site that haunts us, the Bishopsgate Goodsyards, located on the fringes of the City of London, near to Brick Lane Market and Spitalfields. This project for Bishopsgate we have called Farmscape. It is elucidated in three manifestoes informed by cultural and urban questions now raging within academia, plus three essays about example cash crops that are to be grown or manufactured. The essays mix historical and theoretical analysis to suggest that agriculture and recycling can infuse the Farmscape quarter with genuine vitality.

The study is a synthesis of cultural ideas rather than an academic exposition in itself, arguing that better spaces will arise by taking on urban sustainability and global concerns. Farmscape is an anticipatory strategy that mixes agriculture with the recycling industry to criticise our obsession with fixed end images, and to favour process and diversity and heterogeneity within the urban environment.

Justin Bridgland
Mark Taylor
Andrew Wood



Farmscape challenges conventional notions about architectural dissertations in two main ways.

Firstly, it is written by three students, whereas the usual assumption is that students must write history and theory assignments on their own. But why should this be? We hold a very different view about design projects, and there is also the fact that many of the best architectural texts being written today are collaborations.

Secondly, Farmscape does not fit the usual categories of written study. It knowingly combines history, theory, design ideas and manifesto. What it implies is that perhaps we cannot say where writing and thinking about architecture ends, and where design begins. Could not a design project consist largely of words, and could not dissertations contain speculative images?

In terms of scope, Farmscape is a tour de force. It uses environmentalism as a critical and liberating tool, not a dull necessity or guilt trip. Farmscape is written with a confidence and clarity of intent that is remarkable amongst students. The text is deeply informed by an extensive reading of cultural theory and sustainability issues, but it goes beyond exegesis and simple replication of thought. It digests many of the ideas and debates, and offers us a positive proposition for the future of cities.

The study’s use of an actual site, the Bishopsgate Goodsyards, and a specific project brief, that of a new Carbon Exchange, grounds the proposal in very real issues and settings. But it also argues a much wider message, which is for the use of a non-normative, ambitious and socially-motivated architecture driven by landscape, process and urban layout. Farmscape is stupendous, not least visually, and in terms of the fascinating short film that backs it up. The study probably works so well precisely because it refuses to be pigeon-holed, and instead seeks to provoke and stimulate the reader.

2002
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