From May 9 to 17, 2019, as part of the « Seine Landscapes and Valley » program, the French National School of Landscape Architecture (ENSP) organized the third edition of the interschool traveling workshop, in partnership with the Town Planning Agency for Le Havre and the Seine Estuary (AURH) and the UniLaSalle Rouen agronomy and agro-industry engineering school.
From Cherbourg to Versailles, « from the pitchfork in Normandy to the knife and fork in Greater Paris », a multidisciplinary team of ten students explored the agricultural landscapes in the Seine Valley and Bay.
The students, from agricultural, landscaping, architecture and fine arts schools, followed the course of the Seine to observe the complexity of the modern agricultural world, the quality of the open spaces and the practices that maintain them, and to reflect on how they fit into major planning projects.
Agricultural areas are often seen as « blank spaces » in development plans for the Seine Valley. The aim of the workshop was to demonstrate the value of these spaces for the landscape and the importance of incorporating them into planning projects.
The workshop promoted the notion of collective and individual accountability in food production, revealing the geographical context of the food on our plates with the aim of raising awareness among the general public of the issues involved when agricultural land is converted [an area approximately the equivalent of Reunion Island or the Yvelines department has been « artificialized » in France over the past ten years (source: Cerema), an average of 250 hectares every day (source: Mairie de Paris)].
The students met farmers and agricultural stakeholders and were able to develop a critical, empathetic perspective on the various agricultural practices that are currently shaping the land in the Seine Valley and Bay.
The students adopted a cross-cutting approach to produce and land, exploring a number of topics that are closely linked to agriculture such as the history of urban areas and farming, respect for the land and nature, animal and human well-being, the impact of climate change, public policies, short and long supply chains, food marketing, health, etc.
They also observed a wide variety of farming practices at first hand, moving beyond the overly simplistic approach that reduces agriculture to two models: conventional and organic.
From the Pays de Coutances to the Pays d’Auge, from the Pays de Caux to Greater Paris – every evening the farmers and agricultural stakeholders whom the students had met earlier in the day were invited to listen to a summary presentation and discuss the issues raised.
At the end of their journey, as with every edition of the workshop, the students presented their findings in an exhibition, which opened on May 17 in the Potager du Roi at the Palace of Versailles. The exhibition sets out each student’s views on agriculture and the future challenges facing the industry. It includes films, texts, culinary demonstrations, sculptures and artwork and is part of the Architecture and Landscape Biennial of the Greater Paris Region.