Vertical allotments for urban farming
Self-sufficiency is no longer a dream reserved for downshifters. The modular building system named The Farmhouse designed by Studio Precht allows residents to grow food in big cities.
“Since the industrial revolution, we have grown apart from our food and that has had a harmful effect on the health of people and the health of our environment” – the founders of Studio Precht architects Chris and Fei Precht see themselves as heading a new cluster of architects who are refusing to accept the status quo. Specifically, the Prechts have produced designs for an urban development model called The Farmhouse. Their idea uses stacked gardens that enable people to grow their own food despite living in cities.
You could also call it urban farming for the sophisticated. Or vertical allotments. At any rate, their concept adopts the approach taken by the garden cities of the past. And suitably modifies it in line with the technological and structural possibilities available in our current times.
It started with a tent
Although the garden city model and Vienna settlement movement from the 1920s pursued similar objectives, they used too much land. At least for today’s requirements. In contrast, The Farmhouse is based on a modular style of construction suitable for urban areas. The individual modules can be stacked on top of each other to construct high-rise models. Somehow the images remind you of the elaborate creations that are built using Kapla planks.
A tent that is surrounded by nature.
Each module has the basic shape of a triangle. In fact, the Austrian-Chinese architects describe this smallest nucleus in their architectural system as “a tent that is surrounded by nature”. Under the gables, the couple have designed living space – with stepped vertical farms for fruit and vegetables in the inverse spaces.
It all creates the appearance of a house of cards. But the design doesn’t just play with shapes, it is also extremely functional. “The angled walls give space for gardening on their outside and create a V-shaped buffer zone between the apartments,” they say. “This also lets natural ventilation and natural light into the building.”
The circle of life
The Farmhouse consciously aims to distance itself from concrete landscapes and instead to create a direct connection with natural surroundings. However, the ecological aspects of this residential building are not merely restricted to allowing people to grow their own food. “Our Farmhouse runs on an organic life cycle of by-products inside the building, where one process’s output is another process’s input,” say the architects.
And the heat produced in the building can be used for growing potatoes, nuts and beans, for example. According to the architects, a water-treatment system filters rain- and greywater, enriches it with nutrients and returns it to the greenhouses. Food and organic waste are collected in the building’s cellar, turned into compost, and ultimately reused for the next season.
Timber is the most important building material in the project, as a renewable resource with a considerably smaller ecological footprint than other materials. The individual elements are prefabricated and subsequently assembled on site. Flat-packed building kits shorten construction time, therefore also reducing the effects on people in the neighbourhood. This approach itself consequently achieves even greater sustainability.
Self-sufficiency and homebuilders
According to the architects, the design of the vertical farms is largely oriented on the DIY movement. The future inhabitants can become not only self-sufficient, but even proper homebuilders. In fact, a catalogue with building technology modules – from solar systems to hydroponics – is on hand to help with planning. Depending on the chosen layout, the owners can construct their tiny house themselves. “Architecture that is home-built with food that is home-grown,” the project description reads.
Buildings should be a part of our productive grid and should be able to give back to the surrounding and to the community.
Chris Precht, architect
The architects Studio Precht, who also received the Architizer A+Award in 2016, see themselves as representatives of a new era of architecture. An era that is moving away from celebrity architects and their eternal pursuit of superlatives. For the architects who have now made their home in Salzburg’s mountains, it is now a new age of authenticity, sharing and collaboration. They passionately believe that “buildings should be a part of our productive grid and should be able to give back to the surrounding and to the community.”
Text: Gertraud Gerst
Translation: Rosemary Bridger-Lippe
Renderings: Studio Precht
that might interest you
MoDus Architects have restructured a hotel complex that has decades of growth behind it. The external space created by a new layer of timber on the outside of the Icaro Hotel brings together the existing buildings to form a uniform whole. On the inside, guests encounter plenty of affectionate references to Alpine clichés.
A luxury campsite at the foot of Vorarlberg’s Rätikon mountain range has been enlarged, with the addition of ten timber tiny houses. These hilltop chalets are a reinterpretation of the Alpine hut, and their design has won several awards.
The first five-storey hotel in mass timber design is located in Zillertal, Austria, created by celebrated Italian architect Matteo Thun. It is no coincidence that one of the leading players in structural timber construction is based only a stone’s throw away.
VALO is the name of a complex on the outskirts of Helsinki that combines hotel accommodation with office facilities. With a dual use that is both efficient and viable, the beds are folded away during the day, making way for fold-out desks.
A special kind of discovery world is taking shape in Gothenburg, where Swedish vehicle manufacturer Volvo is using timber construction and nature to create its World of Volvo. The components and engineering for Henning Larsen’s design are being provided by Austrian firm Wiehag.
The Klimatorium in Lemvig, Denmark, devises strategies to counteract global climate change. Situated on the coast of Jutland, the building designed by architects 3XN has already achieved iconic status.
As Dusseldorf’s Theodor Heuss Bridge needs a complete overhaul, the team at RKW Architektur + put their heads together – and produced a spectacular new design. It is literally packed with potential.
The town of Jessheim is getting an impressive new centre. Designed by Norwegian firm Mad arkitekter, it promises to combine sustainable urban development with attractive indoor and outdoor areas.
Metropol Parasol has achieved a phenomenal rejuvenation of a neglected square in Seville. The iconic timber construction by J.MAYER.H architects is a prime example of successful intervention in public space.
The Forestias is one of the largest property development projects in Thailand. The highlight of this project by Foster + Partners is a 48,000 m² urban forest designed by TK Studio.
The Kajstaden Tall Timber Building in Sweden marks the beginning of a new generation of mass timber blocks. Using this building material saves around 500 tonnes of CO₂, and it also facilitates deconstruction later on.
There’s a rocket preparing to launch in Switzerland. The residential timber high-rise named Rocket in Winterthur’s Lokstadt neighbourhood will reach a height of 100 metres. The tower’s residents will be part of the 2000-watt society.
May we introduce Carl? Using timber for its facade besides the supporting structure, the apartment block is currently under construction in Pforzheim. Architect Peter W. Schmidt explains how this is being done.
Kautokeino skole in northern Norway is a project that seeks to embrace the uniqueness of Sami culture and educational style. The mass wood building is so hygge, you’ll want to check in for a few nights.
If you love the far north, you’ll love the Lyngen Alps. And if you love the Lyngen Alps, you’ll love the bungalows by architect Snorre Stinessen.
Canada’s megaproject Waterfront Toronto includes a new district called Quayside, an all-electric and climate-neutral community. Its highlights are a two-acre urban forest and the residential Timber House by architect David Adjaye.
The city of San Diego in Southern California has plans for a new district, one that will be entirely void of cars. Known as Neighborhood Next, it must be one of the most radical projects in the USA.
The new urban quarter Zwhatt near Zurich is designed to enable climate-neutral living at affordable prices. One of its buildings is a 75-metre-high timber hybrid tower known as Redwood, whose facade generates solar power.
Architect and biologist Timothée Boitouzet has used nanotechnology to give wood an upgrade. The new material “Woodoo” is translucent, fire-resistant, weatherproof and up to five times stronger than normal wood.
Timber construction can be decidedly high-tech, as illustrated by the head office built for SR Bank in Stavanger, Norway. Bjergsted Financial Park offers workplaces that are fit for the future, and it is among Europe’s largest engineered timber buildings.
So, what does "Noom" actually mean? While Sanzpont [arquitectura] and Pedrajo + Pedrajo Arquitectos don't exactly reveal this, their "Living the Noom" concept is pretty clear: it’s all about a fresh take on housing. With environmental protection and quality of life as a top priority.
HafenCity Hamburg is an urban quarter fit for the future. Its eco cherry on the top is the “Null-Emissionshaus” (Zero Emissions Building), which is completely carbon-neutral – and can be dismantled like a Lego house.
Snøhetta creates high-calibre architecture, including accommodation at high altitudes amidst Norway’s glaciers. The architects have enriched the Tungestølen mountain cabins with a special feeling of hygge.
Apple’s former design head BJ Siegel has developed a concept for a timber modular house. The urban prefab named Juno is designed for mass production – and hopes for success on the scale of the iPhone.
Communal vegetable patches, car sharing and a timber building that overtops many others. Sweden’s largest housing cooperative is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a project called Västerbroplan that shows how people will live in the future.
Bearing the name Tree House Rotterdam, Holland’s new landmark-to-be looks like a gigantic stack of wooden shelves with glass lofts added on top. It aims to take the sustainability of timber high-rises to a new level.
Three tonnes of lettuce and vegetables annually will be farmed on top of the We-House, a timber construction project in Hamburg’s HafenCity. The on-site restaurant serves meals for residents of this sophisticated eco-house at cost price.
The design for the urban office building Saint Denis in Paris shows the potential of parametric design in timber construction. Architect Arthur Mamou-Mani is a luminary in this new discipline, and we were able to meet him online.