The Architecture of Allotments: Suburbia across the Urban Landscape

Jennifer Mack with Justin Scherma

Project Period: 2014-2015
Type: Senior research project
Program Area(s): Critical Historiography, Material Conditions, Critical Projections


While “community gardens” are today often conceived of as bottom-up spatial reclamations, the tradition of allotment gardens in Sweden began with the top-down interventions of early 20th century social reformers. They sought to encourage newly urbanized populations to preserve rural agricultural practices while also addressing wartime food shortages. In this project, I examine the relationship between ideals of suburban living and allotment gardens in and around Stockholm. I postulate that two forces in post-war Sweden – the rapid growth in food security and largescale immigration since the 1960s – eventually resulted in two spatially and formally distinct types of allotments that reflect evolving definitions of both “urban green space” and suburbia.

Today, most centrally located, historic allotments have shed their productive function, becoming surrogate private flower gardens for older, middle and upper class Swedes who live in apartments. Meanwhile, allotments in suburbs developed in modernist suburbs (especially those built during the Million Program) are often the domain of immigrants, who typically cultivate vegetables. Thus, while earlier allotments reinforce a Swedish
rural vernacular, more recent allotments include imported crops and techniques and sometimes contribute to an informal economy.

Researcher(s) Bio and Publications