It is estimated that it will be completed in 2022. And that it will cover an area of 14,000 square meters, the equivalent of two football fields. It will undoubtedly be the largest green roof in Europe. The chosen place has been the roof of Pavilion 6 of the Expo Porte de Versailles de Paris, the largest exhibition center in France, located in the 15th arrondissement, and was created with the aim of promoting a model of sustainable urban development and offering alternatives to industrial agriculture.
To do this, more than 30 different types of plant species will be grown organically. And it will be a space free of pesticides and chemical products so that it can also favor urban biodiversity. The cultivation techniques used will be the hydroponics, by which plants grow on a coconut fiber substrate, and the aeroponics, which leaves the roots suspended in the air (and protected from contamination by an isolated circuit) and the plant grows vertically.
Those in charge of the design of this green giant have been the companies Agripolis and Cultures in Ville, who hope to export the model to other large cities. According to his estimates, a thousand kilos of fruits, vegetables and vegetables will be produced daily, which will be sold to the neighborhood and to local businesses. The garden will have 22 gardeners, and a space for events and a restaurant where these fresh and seasonal foods can be consumed. In addition, there will be 135 plots for rent. And for 320 euros a year it can be grown on a square meter of surface at 15 meters high.
Paris is a city that has made headlines on other occasions for its urban greening initiatives. Through the project Parisculteurs pledged to plant 100 hectares. And in June 2015, it passed a law whereby whoever so wishes could do so in its immediate surroundings (walls, facades, sidewalks, etc.).
And next to it, other large cities are witnessing, in recent years, the resurgence of urban agriculture in its streets and rooftops. Well known are, for example, the City Farm in Tokyo. Or the largest urban garden in New York, the Brooklyn grange, which promotes sustainable agriculture on the roof of industrial buildings on Northern Boulevard. The garden that the Hotel Wellington in Madrid cultivates on its roof. Or the green roofs of Barcelona or Copenhagen. The Parisian will now be a pioneer in cultivation techniques and minimizing his carbon footprint. It is a serious bet for local production in a country where the average distance that food travels is about 1,200 kilometers.
The garden will have 22 gardeners, and a space for events and a restaurant where these fresh and seasonal foods can be consumed. In addition, there will be 135 plots for rent
And it is that, ultimately, everything has to do with the challenge of feeding a growing human population. That, despite being increasingly urban, it is still dependent on the natural environment for its subsistence. And it is barely aware of the landscapes that, in the distance, take care of feeding it.
It was not always like this. Until a century ago in Paris, crops were produced within the city. Each year up to 30 centimeters of horse manure was piled up on the cultivation plots and various natural methods were used to control the soil. Three to six crops of fruits and vegetables were harvested per year, and each farmer earned a living on less than one hectare of land. Between the two world wars the courtyard of the Louvre was planted with leeks.
Starting with the Industrial Revolution, and with new impetus after World War II, a food model based on long-distance food transport and the use of fossil fuels was established in European cities. Currently, it reaches a global scale, with only five multinational companies controlling 80% of the food trade. At the same time, half of the poorest people in the world are small producers or farmers who produce 70% of the world’s food.
The environmental and social costs of the food system are visible. “Because food goes where there is money,” he maintains Carolyn steel, and “its commercialization has shaped our landscapes.” The creator of the concept of sitopia (from the Greek sites, food and moles, place) proposes to rethink urban design based on food flows. So that a balance can be established between human needs and those of nature. In his own words: “food is the sine qua non of life and if we treat it as such, it would profoundly change the way we live. “The design of our world, he argues, is the result of the way we eat, so we could use food to make a better design .
This concern about how to feed the cities is not new either. Aristotle already defined people as political animals, that is, interdependent with each other but also with the natural environment they inhabit. And Plato expressed his concern for a city scale that would allow the subsistence of the inhabitants with the surrounding countryside.
Today, and possibly due, in part, to the current pandemic, this ancient concern has been rescued. And the fragility of the current feeding system is back on the table. Thus, designing new scenarios for the sustainability of an increasingly urban and unequal planet, rethinking the urban-rural relationship, working in favor of nature and not against it, and democratizing the food system, become current challenges and necessary.