Urban Agriculture


Creating a fully self-sustaining community in the Lea Valley. Leaders: Christophe Egret, Josh Thomas (Studio Egret West) Maria-Chiara Piccinelli (PiM Studio). Students: Alexandra Totoianu, Margaret Ibeawuchi, Judit Korpai, James Gordon, Amir Noori, Joshua Sturgess, Sabrina Leung. Mentor: Alec Crisp

To occupy the Lea Valley site being vacated by the New Spitalfields Market, Urban Agriculture propose a new self-sufficient ecosystem comprising 500 homes and a myriad of growing resources to feed residents (plus visitors) and bring them closer to nature and food growing and production processes.

A series of rounded islands form a mini archipelago in a new water basin that allows the site to exploit flooding and rainwater. The landscape is built up from different layers of soil, sand, peat and wetland, and underneath has a remediation basin and hydroplant so water can be stored, drained, filled and reused as freshwater. In winter, higher water levels allow wild rice to be grown.

UN Sustainable Development Goals:
1 Zero Hunger
3 Good Health and Well-being
11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
12 Responsible Consumption and Production
13 Climate Action

The complex, self-sufficient system comprises many more elements working together to make the site a thriving producer of food. These include: an anaerobic digester using organic waste from homes and food production to create biogas; a CHP plant run on biogas to generate and distribute heat and electricity; a pasteuriser turning excess organic waste into biofertiliser for the food production systems or sale and export; an algae bioreactor, powered by the excess heat and electricity from the CHP plant; and a seed house that reveals the seeding and growing process through its living hydroponic ceiling of tomatoes. These eminently visible processes epitomise the celebratory culture around growing food on-site, exemplified most by an annual festival that coincides with the site’s cherry trees blossoming.

The most public area of the site – three buildings of concentric circular cloisters – houses a production exhibition, brewery and large communal kitchen. On other islands, meanwhile, can be found a food market, orangery, playgrounds, farms for different foods, and specific islands for spices and aromas. These amenities are for non-residents too, attracting them to the area to get a taste – literally – of how fulfilling a life more entwined in the production of the food we eat can be, fuelling similar change across other areas of the city.

Design Think Tanks

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.

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.

Each year the LSA selects a shortlist of DTT topics to be studied from a long list of suggestions made by the LSA Practice Network. The study topics suggested are ones that require urgent consideration, innovative thinking and design solutions that will generate significant social and environmental progress and beneficial urban change.

Students elect to work on one of the shortlisted study topics in collaborative groups of between six and eight led by senior staff from the sponsoring practice that suggested the DTT study topic. Generally, at least one member of each study group works with the sponsoring practice. LSA Faculty work with the DTT leaders to guide students through the research and design process.

We asked fourth-year students at the London School of Architecture to share their proposals for transforming the lives of Londoners in the borough of Hackney. Within eight design think tanks, students and practices collaborated to reimagine how we occupy our cities, as well as our relationship to work, food and travel.