Growing urban populations in the next few decades will mean greater pressures on agricultural production, water use and soil health. One potential solution that's been bandied around are vertical farms, though it's debatable whether they're just a pie in the sky -- or necessarily made feasible once stagnating rates of future food production, rising energy costs and soil degradation are finally factored in.
Undaunted by the debate, French design firm Vincent Callebaut Architects recently unveiled another urban vertical "farmscraper" masterplan concept, this time for the expanding city of Shenzhen, China. Dubbed Asian Cairns, the project consists of six towers of pebble-like structures that have been stacked together to create a productive, mixed-use project.
Made with steel-ringed "pebbles," each farmscraper has three interlacing spirals of pebbles, linked to the central structural spine with Vierendeel beams. The pods' suspended gardens are intended to not produce food but to improve the region's air quality. The towers have been organized on a circular footprint to maximize their exposure to sunlight, and include residential, work and leisure zones.
The grounds include green spaces, rainwater harvesting, plus greywater processing using "large basins of viticulture and lagoons of phyto-puration." Energy is provided via fully integrated photovoltaics and wind turbines.
Vincent Callebaut Architects describes the scheme on World Architecture News:
In this context of hyper growth and accelerated urbanism, the Asian Cairns project fights for the construction of an urban multifunctional, multicultural and ecological pole. It is an obvious project to build a prototype of green, dense, smart city connected by the TIC [information and communication technologies] and eco-designed from biotechnologies.
The Asian Cairns project syntheses our architectural philosophy that transforms the cities in ecosystems, the quarters in forests and the buildings in mature trees changing thus each constraint into opportunity and each waste into renewable natural resources.
Though the idea of remaking urban centers into self-sustaining ecosystems is certainly a valid one, it still remains to be seen whether vertical farms will be a large part of this monumental, but vital, future transition. More over at Vincent Callebaut Architects and World Architecture News.