Productive Urban Landscapes

Research and practice around the CPUL design concept

Food production, logistics and marketing near Castrop-Rauxel in the Ruhrgebiet (source: Ulrich Häpke 2020)

Urban agriculture as green infrastructure element in the Ruhrgebiet, Germany

Spatial planner Ulrich Häpke made us aware of an article he recently published in sub\urban, the German journal for critical urban research. His article, Urbane Landwirtschaft im Ruhrgebiet: Verdrängung und kreative Resistenz [Urban agriculture in the Ruhr region: Displacement and creative resistance], explores the changes to agricultural practices and spaces within the Ruhrgebiet due to the area’s industrialisation. These changes are ‘characterised by processes of displacement, but also by the creativity with which farmers close to urban centres have so far asserted themselves’.

The Ruhr region is one of the biggest conurbations in Europe and, with its likewise densely populated surrounding area and the conurbations along the Rhine, forms the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Region. As such, studies about its agricultural past, present and future can help us understand the current state of its urban food system activities and envision its sustainable food-productive future by, at the same time, gaining insights for similar urban regions elsewhere.

Ulrich Häpke approaches the subject from different angles looking at the ecological, economic, spatial consequences of the local urban development as well as changes in the social negotiations of space and food production over the centuries. We read with interest how, in the early 20th century, farmers and newly-arriving factory workers striked alliances to secure the feeding of the region’s growing towns as well as the existance of its local farms.

Two thoughts of the author are especially important in relation to our CPUL concept work and work around the “scattered metropolis”: Ulrich Häpke writes that in the region ‘agriculture is economically insignificant: in 2018, agriculture, forestry and fisheries will contribute only 0.7 percent to Germany’s gross domestic product and will only account for 1.4 percent of the workforce’. However, ‘the impression of insignificance changes when the areas are considered […] In the Ruhr Area, 5.1 million people live in 53 cities and municipalities on a total area of 4,440 square kilometres. Of these, as many as 37 percent are accounted for by agriculture […] This makes urban agriculture the most important element of the “green infrastructure” in the cities’.

And, surely controversially, Häpke suggests that ‘in the meantime, it is ecological progress to which agriculture in urban vicinity must give way’ using as an example the IBA Emscher Park (which developed a housing area on agricultural land).


The article, in German, Urbane Landwirtschaft im Ruhrgebiet: Verdrängung und kreative Resistenz by Ulrich Häpke was published in sub\urban: zeitschrift für kritische stadtforschung vol 8, issue 1/2 2020: 243-252, see here.

For one of our own articles dealing with the “scattered metropolis” see here.

Image: Food production, logistics and marketing near Castrop-Rauxel in the Ruhrgebiet (source: Ulrich Häpke 2020)

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* food systems* green infrastructure* urban agricultureEurope

Katrin Bohn • 4th May 2020

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