Permaculture is a set of principles that promote self-sufficiency and sustainability, encouraging observation of natural patterns to grow food and creating ecosystems that are self-perpetuating and high-yielding. Permaculture is about systems in practice, formed around the belief that everything is connected and nothing exists in isolation. Ecosystems designed using permacultural principles thrive not only for their usefulness to humans but equally for the benefit of the natural world.
Somers Town in Camden has low population density and high access to green space but residents still have low physical and mental health when compared to the borough’s average. Greater involvement with nature should, theoretically, improve well-being in people who have easy access to it, so perhaps it is the design, delivery and management of the green spaces available that are failing the residents of Somers Town. Jalal’s ecologically designed Grow House offers an alternative model.
Grow House has permaculture at its core. The project features a library, a food forest and a kitchen which exist holistically, creating positive feedback loops for visitors and local residents. Grow House is designed to have a continued impact on the future of Somerstown, truly embodying the perma in permaculture.
Food is the quickest way to most people’s heart, so Grow House has a monthly free dinner for local residents, where all ingredients will be sourced from the food forest on site. Get people excited about the food they are eating, then show them the plants that grew their food, and something magical happens. When you understand how food grows, and thus have the confidence to grow your own, control over both physical and mental health becomes more tangible. Suddenly, nature is not a thing to look at but something that nourishes us, that we need to nourish in return.
Once this fire has been lit, and communities have access to and ownership of growing spaces, we will see Somers Town's health improve. We need to implement strategies that benefit all communities in our urban environment. Grow House offers a model that considers the whole system, a permacultural haven for all residents of Somers Town.
Written by Helen Carter Ba CCC for Jalal Sajan Ba Architecture