We have shown a lot of vertical farms that are in the city, but they are rarely part of the city. They are usually freestanding, independent and designed for drama, from butterflies to spheres. But successful buildings in real cities are part of a fabric, usually full of mixed uses. We shop for food often, so it should be part of our local neighborhood, not some tower standing at the waterfront or in the middle of downtown. If vertical farming is going to get real, then it has to get really local and mix it up.
Michelle Cheng, a graduate of the Ryerson University School of Interior Design, (and a former student of mine, I teach sustainable design there) has designed a vertical farm for her thesis. She didn't place it at the waterfront or in the theater district like Gordon Graff did; she put it in the middle of a transitioning residential area with a large social housing component, full of people who need affordable fresh food.
The farm is built around an interior piazza that can serve many functions, with permanent retain in the base and with temporary markets in the middle. Michelle describes her concept:
To design a holistic, self-contained vertical farm that supports several levels of food diversity in a socially engaging community within an urban fabric; one that socially, economically, and environmentally encourages the city’s populace to adapt a holistic and healthy lifestyle. All the while emphasizing alternative systems can be added to any existing building to offset waste and contribute to the city’s urban metabolism.
Technically, the farm builds on the work of Gordon Graff in his thesis at the University of Waterloo: a closed loop where waste from the building and from the farm is processed in an anaerobic digester, producing biogas that is used to heat and power the building. Unlike Gordon, Michelle makes use of natural sunlight as well as artificial light.
Michelle has some fun designing a very urban intervention; with the courtyard and the decoration, it almost seems more french than her most relevant precedent, the Zudikas by Paul de Ruiter.
Food for thought from Michelle Cheng, with thesis advisor Professor Catherine Dowling.