Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
DRAGONFLY, A METABOLIC FARM FOR URBAN AGRICULTURE at NEW YORK CITY, U.S.A. by Vincent Callebaut Architectures
February 16th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
2009: 800 MILLION OF URBAN FARMERS FOR RESPONSIBLE ECO-CITIES
The world of fast-food and frozen food is over! The urban keen interest of the beginning of our Century turns toward the garden flat bringing back the countryside in our overcrowded cities fighting from now on for a community urban agriculture able to contribute to the durability of the city and to rethink the food production.
On the roofs, terraces, balconies, in the hollow of the non-built public spaces, in the interior yards and the suspended greenhouses, the eco-warrior aspires to escape from its competitive and consumeristic universe imposed by the laws of the market. He desires to cultivate its immediate landscape so as to better take root in the ground by creating his own ecologic and alimentary biodiversity. The consumer becomes from then on producer and the gardener inhabitant!
From the Parisian « worker gardens » to the « community gardens » of New York going though Muscovite « vegetable squares », eight hundred million of urban farmers, i.e. more than one human being out of ten, consume nowadays chlorophyllous products from these cosmopolitan kitchen gardens. These new gardens, aware of the emergency to reduce our fuel consumption and the necessity to modify our behaviour facing the climatic changes, decrease thus their environmental impact and build eco-responsible cities on a community way.
2025: 5.5 BILLION OF CITY SLICKERS FACING THE FOOD CHALLENGE OF THE 21ST CENTURY
According to the PNUD (Programme of the United Nations for the Development), the worldwide urban population will go from 3.1 billion of inhabitants in 2009 up to 5.5 billion of inhabitants within 2025. Looking for a positive energetic assessment, the contemporary city aims within fifteen years at producing cleanly and intensively more energy than it consumes so as to pack this urban exodus! It develops therefore the urban agriculture to become food self-sufficient by recycling at the same time its liquid waste by phyto-purification, its solid waste in fertilizers by composting and by producing energy by biomass, photovoltaic cells and other renewable energies (thermic solar, photovoltaic solar, wind, tide-turbine energies…).
In order to avoid the asphixiation of the planet and the feeding of its 9 billion of inhabitants within 2050, it deals thus with reinventing the traditional energetic pattern between the city and the countryside between western countries, emerging countries and developing countries. This sum up as following: on the one hand import of natural and food resources, and on the other hand export of waste and pollution. The ecologic city aims at reintegrating the farming function on the urban scale by emphasizing the role of the urban agriculture in the use and the reuse of natural resources and biodegradable waste so as to close the loop of ecologic flows.
The urban agriculture can feed the city without any pesticide or chemical fungicide (whose toxicity is proved on the human being : cancer, sterility…), and make it less food dependant of its backcountry or other regions of the world. Organising the distribution of fresh products in short circuits, that means linked directly with the consumer, the urban agriculture complete thus the traditional agriculture. In addition to the nutritive quality of the produced and consumed food, the urban agriculture is also a growth lever of the urban unemployment market and the local economy. It is used directly as a social link in the conciliation of the primary needs of the newcomers with the challenge of their integration in the life of the city, fighting thus against poverty and exclusion. On the sanitary level, this farm approach presents also an interesting potential for the decontamination of polluted grounds and undergrounds as well as for he purification of the polluted atmosphere in CO2.
Due to the fuel crisis and climatical change, the rural agriculture of the western countries must answer to the worldwide food crisis of the developing countries and mainly Africa. Its role is from now on to produce (with an increase estimated of 60% within 2050) all the foodstuffs transportable by boat such as cereals or corn. This is based on the evolution of the science and the most advanced biotechnologies. In addition to this nutritious role, the rural agriculture is newly challenged to recycle its own culture rebus for the green chemistry in order to produce the bio fuel called “second generation fuel” using the energy of non-consumable materials from the plants, that means fibres such as celluloses.
DRAGONFLY, A NOURISHING VERTICALY CULTIVATED CENTRAL PARK
The architecture has to be in the service of this new agriculture and to design this new social desire in this context of ecologic mutation and food autonomy! The Dragonfly project suggests therefore building a prototype of urban farm offering around a mixed programme of housing, offices and laboratories (in ecological engineering), farming spaces which are vertically laid out in several floors and partly cultivated by its own inhabitants. This vertical farm sets up all the sustainable applications in organic agriculture based on the intensive production varied according to the rhythm of the seasons. This nourishing agriculture is furthermore in favour of the reuse of biodegradable waste and the keeping of energy and renewable resources for a planning of ecosystemic densification.
In order to conceptualize this project and give our point of view in the ecological and social crisis debates, Dragonfly sets up along the East River at the South edge of the Rooselvelt Island in New York between Manattan’s Island and the Queens’ district. So as to face the landed pressure, Dragonfly stretches itself vertically under the shape of a bionic tower relocating a new urban biotope for the fauna and the local flora and recreating a food production auto-managed by the inhabitants in the heart of Big Apple.
Floor by floor, the tower superposes not only stock farming ensuring the production of meat, milk, poultry and eggs but also farming grounds, true biological reactors continuously regenerated with organic humus. It diversifies the cultivated varieties to avoid the washing of stratums of soft substratum. Thus, the cultures succeed one another vertically according to their agronomical ability to provide some elements of the ground between the essences that are sowed and harvested. The tower, true living organism, becomes thus metabolic and self-sufficient in water, energy, and bio-fertilizing. Nothing is lost; everything is recyclable to a continuous auto-feeding!
A BIONIC AND ENERGETICALLY SELF-SUFFICIENT ARCHITECTURE
The architecture of Dragonfly prototype suggests reinventing the vertical building (that outlined the urbanistic booming of New York City since the 19th Century) as structurally and functionally as ecologically and energetically.
To ensure the social diversity and a permanent life cycle (24h/24) in the tower, the mixed programmation is mainly laid out around two poles of housing and work places. Around housings, offices and research laboratories as well as the most private to the most public agricultural and leisure spaces are designed in gardens, kitchen gardens, orchards, meadows, rice fields, farms and suspended fields. The distribution of flows is made around a true safe spine spreading in loop the numerous elevators, the goods elevators and stair wells serving all the levels by separating simultaneously the inputs and the outputs recycled from plants, animals and human beings.
Architecturally, the functional organisation is represented by two oblong towers symetrically arranged in pair around a huge climatic greenhouse that links them and deploys itself between two crystalline wings. These very light wings in glass and steel retake the loads of the building and are directly inspired from the structure of the dragonfly wings coming from the family of “Odonata Anisoptera” whose transparent membrane is very finely nervured. Two inhabited rings buttress around these wings. Their organically chiselled exo-structure accommodates the inter-climatic spaces that receive the agrarian cultures. They buttress.
The project forms «double layer» architecture in bee nest mesh that exploits the solar passive energy at its maximum level; by accumulating the warm air in the winter in the thickness of the exostructure; and by cooling the atmosphere by natural ventilation and by evapo-perpiration of the plants in the summer. Protecting thus the cultures from climatic changes in New York (from -25.5°C in the winter to +41°C in the summer), these plug spaces are useful to reflect on the agriculture not anymore in terms of surface area but really in terms of volume. Actually, whereas grounds nourish orchards, each wall and each ceiling are metamorphosed into three-dimensional kitchen gardens. The interior frontages of the housing and offices throw towards the skyline of New York the cantilever of their hydrophonic balconies with hexagonal section thanks to what it multiplies the culture layers by floors. The vegetation abounds, the earth is swarming of insects and animals are freely brought up in holding tanks by urban consumers with low income. The architecture becomes eatable !
In addition to this thermal called « passive » system, the integration of renewable energies has been thought from the design of Dragonfly to meet the needs of a completely energetically self-sufficient project in urban centre. Actually, the South prow of the tower receives in all the heights of its curve a solar shield producing half of the electric energy needed for its functioning. The other half is ensured by the three wind machines with vertical axes of Darrieus type that coils itself up in the three lenses hollowed in the North part of the micro-pearled shell towards dominated wind of New York. The exterior façades of the tower present a double personality. Actually, in the West of the Island near Manhattan, the façades are treated in planted walls, whereas in the East near the Queens’ district, the wet exterior walls are cultivated with tropical essences. These vertical gardens enable to filter the rain water and the effluents of domestic liquid waste of the tower inhabitants. The collected waters undergo an appropriate organic treatment for the farming reuse, bringing all the nitrogen and an important part of phosphor as well as potassium needed for the production of fruits, vegetables and cereals.
Outlining the bank of the Roosevelt Island, the tower widens at each side of its basis to better integrate the flows that cross it and to welcome two marinas along the East River. This widening out forms two huge photovoltaic vaults such as a solar dress floating above these two urban harbours: on the western marina side, the wooden pontoons of the taxi boats open panoramically on the Midtown bank and on the eastern marina side, the floating market oriented towards the Queens’ district is designed to distribute through the river the food production of this vertical farm to the heart of Manhattan and to its million and a half of city slickers. Moreover, these two marinas accommodate two huge aquaculture ponds, true tank of soft water filtered by the planted frontages and dedicated to be reinjected in the hydroponic network of the Dragonfly tower.
According to the evolution of the urban agriculture enhanced by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) that has been realising since 2007 that the organic agriculture on a large scale would be able to nourish the planet, the Dragonfly project challenges the city of New York to rethink its food production. In response, this project of inhabited vertical farm replies to the contemporary dilemma of producing not only ecologically but also more intensively on non-extensive earth. This by merging also directly production place and consumption place in the heart of the city!
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Category: Mixed use
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