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Horticultured Cities is a photographic project about European urban and community gardens: the photo series, by Helsinki-based photographer Maija Astikainen, was shot between 2009-2014 and the pictures have been taken in 20 different community gardens in London, Helsinki, Berlin and Madrid. Horticultured Cities project has now turned into a book with essay by Beirut based writer Aischa Berg: it includes over 60 photographs of the gardens by Maija and essay about the history, present and benefits of the gardens by Aischa. You can buy the book online from here.
Fine Dining Lovers has reached Maija Astikainen to ask few questions about the project and the urban gardening trend.
Could you please tell us more about the Horticultured Cities project?
It’s a book about community and urban gardens in Europe. The idea of making the Horticultured Cities book took beginning when I met Aischa Berg in Madrid in 2010. We became friends and realized that we were both really into urban gardening, and were actually both already working on the subject. I was photographing and Aischa was making research on community gardens. We thought that it would be a good idea to put our things together and make a book with my photos and Aischa’s text. At the moment we hadn’t seen any similar books so we thought it would be good to make one, since urban gardening was already a big phenomenon then. With the book we wanted to make community gardening more known to a broader public.
When did you start being interested in urban gardens and where did you get the inspiration from?
My photographing of the gardens took beginning in 2009 when we had a contact photography course in the university. We were supposed to follow some group or a person for a week and take photographs. I was already interested in urban gardening and found out about the community gardens in London. At the moment there weren’t any similar gardens in Helsinki, and I wanted to go there and see what was it all about.
You've taken pictures in 20 different community gardens in London, Helsinki, Berlin and Madrid: which are the main differences you've noticed among the different cities?
I would say that London is more focused on the socializing, horticultural therapy and bringing green areas to the city, whereas Berlin and Helsinki are more into growing food. Madrid is something in between.
You spent four years photographing urban gardens and communities: do you think is this trend changing the cities' landscapes and habits? How?
In London the phenomenon was already so big when I first went there, that I don’t think it hasn’t changed so much during the four years. But in Helsinki it’s definitely got way more bigger. Before we’ve had here lots of allotments, but they are not communal, there you rent your own allotment for a year. Now the urban gardens and specially container gardens have spread out, and it has also become more a community thing. I don’t think you could say that it has changed the actual landscape yet, but I would say the city people are now more conscious of what they eat and how to grow their own food. Generally there are more possibilities of urban gardening, growing and foraging your food. People also go to pick berries, pears and apples in public areas of downtown Helsinki.
What is the most interesting situation that you've experienced while visiting the garden communities?
I think it must have been the party at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden in London that we visited with Aischa. There I could really see how the community garden works at its best in bringing a whole load of local people from different backgrounds together. And we had lots of fun!
You're also a food photographer: how would you describe the role of food in your life?
I’m really interested in food. Besides photographing it, I love cooking. I’m specially interested in trying new flavors and using the ingredients from nature. I have a kitchen garden where I grow many different vegetables, and whenever I can I go foraging mushrooms and other wild food.