Urban Agriculture: Explore the regulatory/zoning challenges with Harvard GSD Exec Ed

Harvard University Graduate School of Design

'Urban Agriculture and the Form of the City,' July 25-26, 2013, at Harvard University Graduate School of Design Executive Education

This course will explore how farming in cities is being incorporated into sustainable building design and neighborhood planning strategies. The two-day program will focus on the practical benefits and issues associated with economically viable production of agricultural products in the context of urban densities and environmental condition. The opportunities and impacts on built form will be discussed, using images and examples drawn from projects being advanced locally, nationally, and internationally. The course will consider the cultural and community dimensions of urban farming, and their implications for the quality of life in towns and cities.

The instructors will use a series of case studies to investigate emerging best practices, and reveal the technical and regulatory challenges that projects have encountered and overcome. These examples will describe farming in urban open spaces, including Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) that is being accomplished in neighborhoods on surprisingly small lots. Other case studies will focus on the relationship between architecture and urban agriculture, considering examples of farming in, on, and on top of buildings. Technical considerations will be described, ranging from roof loading, insulation, soil safety, the use of pesticides, storage and transportation of materials and food, and regulations that are associated with growing food in buildings and in urban areas. The course will consider the urban design and urban planning associated with urban agriculture, including a segment focused on Boston’s current citywide zoning initiative to encourage and manage urban agriculture, from production to the point of sale through farmer’s markets and farm stands.

Key Topics include

-Urban agriculture and urban landscapes: best practices;
-Buildings as farms: technical implications for structure, building systems, and architecture;
-Urban design for agriculture within urbanized areas;
-Zoning and other regulatory considerations;
-Agricultural processes and their effect on the urban environment.

Class Activities

The course will be conducted through a sequence of presentations and interactive seminar sessions exploring the courses major topics. Each segment will be accompanied with summaries and links or references to programs, technical information, and projects. The course will include a field trip to two operating farms in urban neighborhoods of Boston, one which is a for-profit organization and one with a non-profit structure. The field trip will set the context for a presentation and discussion of how the City of Boston is advancing new zoning rules and design standards so that urban agriculture blooms in the dense, New England environment of this city.

Audience and Applications

This session is appropriate for architects, landscape architects, urban designers and planners, and environmental planners and community advocates. Attendees will develop and understanding of the technical issues in each field related to urban agriculture and then be able to apply that information to help their communities and clients implement urban agriculture projects.


Steven Cecil, President, The Cecil Group, Boston, MA
Diego Angarita, Associate Executive Director, Nuestras Raices, Holyoke, MA
Marie Mercurio, Senior Planner, Boston Redevelopment Authority, Boston, MA
Lauren Rathmell, Greenhouse Director and Founding member, Lufa Farms, Montreal, Quebec

For more information

Harvard University Graduate School of Design / Executive Education
48 Quincy Street, S102 / Cambridge MA 02138
Tel 617-384-7214

Published on:
June 28, 2013 - 11:45am
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email