City Farms and Community Well Being
This week I visited two inner city community farms one well established - the 40 year old and going strong Vauxhall City Farm and the newly opened Oasis Community Farm. Both have chosen to work with young architectural practices to deliver their new education and community spaces. These particular projects illustrate how architects working closely with the local community can deliver on a tight budget without compromising quality and deliver beautiful new community spaces. The Vauxhall education space is light filled and flexible, surrounded by inspiring flower and vegetable gardens. The new buildings at Oasis Farm are not yet finished, but on view and planned is a wonderful wood framed barn, wild meadow garden, education space and wood framed architects studio – the architects love the project so much they plan to move in!
At both farms - the new community spaces have been designed to respond to the growing interest in local food production and the increasing recognition of the positive impact on well-being that the natural world can have on everyone, but particularly young people. Demand from local schools is high with over 40,000 young people visiting Vauxhall City Farm a year - set to grow with its new education centre by local architects Base. Oasis Farm located in a tiny slither of disused land in Waterloo, was established last year and is a joint partnership between two charities Oasis Academy Schools and Jamie’s Farm – a farming, family and therapy charity that works with troubled young people. Oasis Farm Waterloo is currently being built by Fielden Fowles, recently named Young Architects of the Year 2016. They plan to move their practice on site as part of the project and in return they will continue to animate the farm and provide opportunities for young people to engage with architecture.
Its interesting that both farms are also next door to very different types of artist spaces – Vauxhall City Farm, located on Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is overlooked by the new Cabinet Gallery, a commercial gallery which opens this year. Oasis Farm is next door to Old Paradise Yard Artist Studios – a hidden gem which looks a bit like Copenhagen’s free town Christiana, with a ramshackle collection of lovely wooden artists studios. Fielden Fowles have responded to this happen chance proximity particularly well, with plans to open up sections of the lovely Victorian wall which divides the two organisations to enable cross fertilisation. I can see all sorts of fantastic opportunities this will provide for future collaborations, which one hopes may encourage Cabinet to do the same at Vauxhall… making manifest the role of arts and community well-being.