One might question the casual use of Howard’s ‘Garden City’ in this policy, as it is definitely not one of the followers of his planning masterpiece. Rather, the ‘Garden City’ Programme in Taipei is a new type of urban farming that puts hundreds of small edible gardens into densely built-up areas for providing horticultural therapy, recreational opportunities, environmental education, and broad environmental benefits through engaging citizens in food cultivation. This practice has gained increasing popularity in the Global North within the narrative of nature-based solutions for cities, which reintroduces greenspaces and associated functions into built environments, with the aspiration of leading to a socially and ecologically more sustainable city. Amid the coronavirus outbreak, urban farming has seemed to become an even more critical practice for cities experiencing lockdown, as food supply chains are upended and a piece of edible garden close-by residents could enhance both food security and mental health.
田園城市計畫這個看似隨性的政策名稱或許會受到質疑，畢竟它並不是霍華德『田園城市』這部都市規劃巨作的奉行者。台北市的田園城市政策其實是一種新型態的都市農耕，它在高密度發展的建成區中設置了數百個小型的可食園圃，透過讓居民參與食物耕種的方式來提供園藝治療、休閒遊憩、環境教育以及廣泛的環境效益。都市園圃深受已開發國家的歡迎並將之視為城市中『以自然為基礎的解決方案 (nature-based solutions)』之一，透過在建成環境中引入綠地以及連帶的功能來達成對於社會與生態永續城市的嚮往。在新冠肺炎爆發的此時，都市農耕對於正經歷封城的城市來說似乎越發重要，畢竟食物的供給鏈受到延宕，而在居家附近能擁有一小片可食的園圃，不但有助於提升食物安全，同時對於身心健康也有正向的助益。
The Taipei Garden City programme was officially launched in 2015 after a long incubation period of practices in local societies, which eventually formed a ‘Farming Urbanism Network’ and proposed a White Paper that were accepted by current mayor – Ko Wen-je. Since then, 733 garden city sites have been established across Taipei City, covering 19.75 hectares and involving in 54,013 citizens (as of Feb 2020). This includes four main types of gardens:
- Happy gardens (30%): the use of disused public lands for engaging local communities to plant vegetables and to maintain the site;
- Green roofs (11%): the use of rooftop of public buildings for engaging surrounding communities to plant vegetables and to maintain the site;
- School gardens (45%): the use of grounds and rooftops of schools (from primary to senior high schools) to engage teachers and students in environmental education;
- Allotment gardens (14%): larger privately-owned lands that are designated as agriculture zones and were created long before the Garden City programme and are mostly located in the urban outskirts.
Apart from allotment gardens, most of the first three types of gardens were newly established in the most populated districts of the city, where population density is often above 20,000 per km2. Amongst them, finding lands for establishing a ground-level ‘happy garden’ is particularly challenging. As these activities often make use of lands owned by the public sector and are temporarily available, it subsequently reduces the need to alter land use zones and building codes and save budget for land acquisition. Allocating doorstep gardens within urban communities, however, requires enormous efforts to negotiate and coordinate between public and private sectors. Innovative approaches are also developing to gain more spaces for public gardening. For example, the garden at Dexing Park, which is right next to SOGO department store, was donated by Shihlin Electric as part of its corporate social responsibility activities.
The existence of a champion in the city government, who is in charge of coordinating nearly 15 sectors, has set a good foundation for cross-sectoral collaboration and allows relevant issues and policies to be integrated and considered in the programme, such as elderly care, youth entrepreneurship, low carbon communities, food sanitation, horticulture therapy, and environmental education. The strong and proactive local communities, including community universities, wardens, and planning and design consultants, also enable the programme to gain important knowledge and technique support on the ground.
Several edible greenspaces are now flourishing in the city, from the most valuable commercial lands, residential areas, rooftops of community centres, hospitals, social houses, and business buildings, to hundreds of schools. And now the Taipei Garden City programme is moving toward the second phase, where its future direction is still being shaped by the interactive process with bottom-up and top-down dynamic to conquer emerging challenges.
Wan-Yu Shih’s research into the Taipei Garden City initiative is supported by the JPI Urban Europe-Belmont Forum-funded IFWEN project, on which she is a Co-Principal Investigator funded by Ministry of Science and Technology Taiwan under grant number MOST 107-2621-M-130 -001 -MY3.