Parallel Strips: London Allotment Gardens, Self-help as Ideology and Solidarity as a Project. A lecture by Olivia Neves Marra. Neighbours Vol. 2.


Event details

Date 29.11.2023
Hour 12:3014:00
Speaker Olivia Neves Marra (UCL, Bartlett School of Architecture)
Salle Archizoom
Category Conferences - Seminars
Event Language English

Olivia’s research practice reconsiders the enclosed garden as a paradigm of ideological enclosures connected to concepts of ownership, household, and urban territory. In her essay "Parallel Strips," she proposes an alternative design theory with London allotments as possible nexuses between individuality and mutual solidarity. Often overlooked by architecture histories and theories, English allotments emerged around the late eighteenth century as experiments of shared garden schemes invented by philanthropists and the rural elites for the peasants (newly dispossessed of their custom rights to common land). As these schemes have spread with the parliamentary Enclosure of open-field systems, it is possible to identify the allotment as an ambiguous spatial paradigm of re-parcellation, distribution, and reproduction of land. On the one hand, they have normalised private property by individualising horticultural gardening – traditionally collective before Enclosure – and celebrating the Evangelical value of self-help over mutual solidarity. On the other, allotments were relatively affirmative spaces as they secured workers with minimal means of production by keeping low-value land permanently affordable. From 1830 to the present, these schemes have significantly changed in culture, policy, quantity of sites, and size of plots, but only slightly as to the deep structures behind the logic of their plot grids, gardening rules, and self-help ideology. The essay questions this consistency as it closely reads three examples of allotment whose subtle transformations may illuminate critical historical shifts in the London production of urban space and subjectivity. This critical genealogy culminates in a projective epilogue proposing an alternative design methodology that gives form to current trends and aspirations of existing allotment associations lacking free time for gardening and struggling with threats of state-planned gentrification, followed by eviction from their sites. Moreover, these strategies may enable these groups to do things in common within local networks of allotments by introducing new gardening rules and spaces that reconcile individual self-help with mutual solidarity.

Biographical note
Olivia Neves Marra is an architect based in London (United Kingdom), born in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). She is a programme head of the AA Visiting School Rio de Janeiro, a lecturer at UCL Bartlett and an associate lecturer at UAL Central Saint Martins. She earned her PhD from the AA in 2020 with a thesis on the relationship between ideological enclosures, ownership, and urban form. As a practising architect, Olivia has worked on urban design and public housing developments in Rio and Paris (France).

Practical information

  • General public
  • Free


  • The lecture will be presented as part of the Neighbours Vol. 2 lecture series on the History and Theory of Architecture. It is organised jointly by Pier Vittorio Aureli (TPOD), Christophe van Gerrewey (ACHT), Sarah Nichols (THEMA), Alfredo Thiermann (HITAM) of the EDAR School.

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