Back to Content

Emerging Tools: Homesteading the City

The trellis allows light to filter down to ponds and walkways at ground level.

How can design improve the way we live in cities? Design Think Tanks (DTTs) at the LSA put forward proposals to help meet the targets set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Emerging Tools proposes ‘Homesteading for the City’ — an alternative model for sustainable urban communities based on the production, consumption and celebration of fresh food.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

  •  2: Zero Hunger
  • 12: Responsible Production and Consumption
Using conventional agricultural methods it would require 285 ha to feed 1500 people. By using modern agricultural technologies it’s possible to provide 75 per cent of a resident’s diet in just 10m2.
Dwellings back onto the growing core, with excess heat promoting growth.


London’s population is predicted to reach more than 10 million by 2025. Current modes of food production and consumption have drained agricultural land of natural minerals and nutrients, reducing the quality of the food we buy. Supermarket shopping and home deliveries encourage mass food farming, causing a dislocation between urban residents and the origins of the produce they consume. According to charity Recycling For London, 910,000 tonnes of food waste is thrown away in the capital each year, costing local authorities some £50 million per annum and contributing 19 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.


The trellis provides additional growing space. Areas of hanging netting provide space for children to play and protect crops from birds.



A high-density, intergenerational, cross-cultural neighbourhood for 1,500 people on the banks of the River Lea which uses sustainable agriculture to produce its own food and deploys the rituals of farming, cooking and eating as the framework for cultural celebrations and community life.

In the last decade, the Borough of Tower Hamlets has been subject to rapid densification with little attention paid to the community-led urban realm.This proposal combines high-density housing with a variety of agricultural methods – including soil-based seasonal growing, greenhouses, orchards, hydroponics, aquaponics and fish ponds – giving residents a diverse diet and a year- round supply of seasonal fresh food. A riverside fish restaurant catches and cooks fish as required.

The development is served by a market hall run as a co-operative by residents and members of the wider community – a system which promotes skill sharing and fosters connections between the diverse inhabitants. Traditional shopping aisles are replaced with a vertical hydroponic system of stacked growing shelves on rotating paternosters. Stacks rotate at different speeds to reflect the rates of growth of different crops and ensure that plants arrive at ground level at the point when they’re ready for harvest. Shoppers pick the produce they need, eliminating the need for transport, packaging and waste. The combined growing area of the scheme amounts to 15,000m² producing 430 tonnes of fresh produce every year, suggesting that up to 75 per cent of residents’ diets can be produced on site.


The market hall is served by a system of rotating stacked growing shelves. Customers pick fresh produce, eliminating the need for packaging, transport and waste.
A riverside fish restaurant catches and cooks fish as required.


The commercial value of the project lies in the sale price of the residential buildings.The project will only become viable if there is a means of subsidising, offsetting or capitalising on the cost of delivering this model of housing rather than conventional homes. Measures could include:

  • Increased house prices to reflect the quality of shared amenities, public spaces and community life.
  • Reduction in the required percentage of affordable housing (on the basis that providing alternatives to unsustainable agriculture is as important as providing affordable housing), resulting in increased profits from the sale of market-value homes.
  • Support from the proposed ‘Feeding Cities Initiative’, which offers relief on planning obligations – including Section 106 contributions and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) payments – in order to fund integrated urban agriculture in residential developments.
The combined crop area of the scheme amounts to 15,000m2, producing 430 tons of fresh produce every year.


Design Think Tanks are collaborative projects between students and leading architectural practices at the London School of Architecture. The UN Sustainable Development Goals address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. They are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

Leaders: Angie Jim Osman and Sarah Curran (Allies and Morrison), Maria-Chiara Piccinelli and Maurizio Mucciola (PiM.studio Architects). Students: Daniel Booth, Alec Crisp, Chiara Dognini, Dante Hall, Jessica Hodgson, Fruzsina Karig, Alex Pringle.