Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The 8 Most Interesting Ideas to Revolutionize Urban Farms


Today, while the Center for Science in the Public Interest was busy coordinating Food Day events across the nation, we got to thinking about all the delicious plants that will have to grow on buildings if our rapidly urbanizing world is to produce enough sustenance for the projected 9.1 billion people who will need access to fresh food by 2050. Could it really be a coincidence that so many of the causes CSPI addresses—healthy eating, hunger, food security, agriculture policy—find some resolution in the promise of agritecture, farmscrapers, and other utopian portmanteaus? We think not!
As the vertical farming trend has taken off in recent years, many architects and designers have begun tackling the question of how to marry agriculture with architecture. Here’s a look at some of our favorite concepts (most of them un-built) for fanciful food-producing pyramids, geodesic domes, flower pods, and insects.

1. Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut‘s design for the 132-story Dragonfly—a solar- and wind-powered vertical-garden concept for New York City’s Roosevelt Island—packs in 28 agricultural fields as well as meat and dairy production. Two oblong towers sandwich a greenhouse in clear glass "wings," which are buttressed by a pair of inhabited rings.

2. The Swedish organization Plantagon‘s concept for a vertical garden tower (left) and a rendering of a new Plantagon Greenhouse, which will begin construction in Linköping, Sweden, in 2013 (right). The approximately 175-foot-tall greenhouse will house a Center of Excellence for Urban Agriculture and begin food production in 2014.



3. Pictured here is Plantagon’s now-iconic design for a geodesic greenhouse, released in 2009. Inside, spiraling ramps make up the main circulation. The dome’s curved glass allows light to reach crops at varying angles, and to penetrate deep into the structure in winter when the sun is low.

4. Studio Mobile developed this concept for a vertical farm in Dubai. Addressing the coastal city’s scarcity of fresh water, the design borrows the logic of flowers to irrigate the gardens inside its five greenhouse-pods, which are made of polyethylene-wrapped steel. Studio Mobile’s “plant” has five stems that send humid and cooling sprays of seawater up through the pods, and condensers separate out fresh water that can be used to water the plants.

5. Designers Michaela Dejdarova and Michal Votruba conceived this cactus-like farm as a communal garden on the outskirts of Prague. The garden gets its structure from clusters of tetrahedrons that form an exoskeleton, which in turn supports hundreds of terraced agriculture plots. And since the tetrahedron clusters are modular, the structure can grow with demand or even be “harvested” to seed new farms across the city.


6. Columbia professor Dickson Despommier and collaborator Eric Ellingsen designed their speculative farm as its own ecosystem. In addition to raising crops and fish and poultry, this futuristic food pyramid manages its own waste with a heating and pressurization system: sewage separates into water and carbon, which in turn powers machinery and lighting. As Despommier writes on his Vertical Farm website, “We cannot go to the moon, Mars, or beyond without first learning to farm indoors on earth.”

7. Mithun’s concept for a Center of Urban Agriculture in Seattle envisions full-on urban-farm living. The design combines 318 affordable apartments with vegetable fields, greenhouses, and a chicken farm, all on a condo-friendly site just under three-quarters of an acre. Rooftop rainwater-collection tanks would keep the center off the city water system; the design also calls for 34,000 square feet of solar arrays, whose unused energy could be stored as hydrogen gas.

8. Taking an approach we can only guess at (techno-utopian rainbow… Swiss army knife?), FABLAB designer Kevin Chu proposed this concept for a vertical farm in London—and took home an award for it. As the Atlantic Cities’ John Metcalfe marvels, the design specifies a dizzying array of features, including solar helium balloons, a laterally mounted wind turbine, transparent wing canopies, and the tallest organic restaurant, sky lounge, conference hall, and theater in the world.
This post originally appeared on Architizer, an Atlantic partner site.
Lamar Anderson is a San Francisco–based freelance writer. Her work has appeared in Architectural Record, ARTnews, the Hairpin, and Salon.

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