An exhibition of projects that integrate food production into architecture highlights the need for incorporating sustainability into building design
A recent exhibition at the Roca London Gallery in Fulham brought together a number of architectural schemes and products addressing the issues facing a burgeoning city that, by 2026, will have a population of over 10 million.
The exhibition named ‘Recipes for Building a Food Capital’ was curated by Clare Brass, director of the circular economy consultancy Department 22, and looked at ways that London can be more integrated with food, as well as produce more itself so that food doesn’t need to be transported.
With soil quality declining and between 30 and 40 years of healthy soil left in parts of the UK, the exhibition also looked at different farming methods that are workable within an urban environment, and repurpose anything left over for energy production and soil nutrients.
Many of the schemes propose working with the current architecture of the city. The Green Belly project, which is currently in the design phase, is a modular, vertical vegetable garden using a mix of soil-based, hydroponic and aeroponic technologies, that converts existing blind walls into productive food centres for local communities.
The EnerGaia Project, which already has three farms running in Thailand, Bangladesh and Indonesia, turns rooftops and disused urban spaces into high-productivity spirulina farms.
The Growing Underground project is already complete, and occupies tunnels 100 feet below Clapham Common that were originally built as air raid shelters in WWII. Around 20 different types of herb are grown in a controlled, pest-free environment with the help of LED lights, and sold to retailers such as M&S, Waitrose and Ocado.
Educating both adults and children about sustainability is a theme that runs throughout the exhibition, and Growing Underground aims to reconnect British consumers with local products as well as reduce food miles.
Floating Farm is another project that has been completed, and is a floating platform in Rotterdam harbour that houses 40 cows mainly fed on waste produced by local businesses. They wander freely on the platform’s top floor of the farm, which produces dairy products while enabling pupils from local schools to learn about farming.
Similarly, the Edible Schoolyard launched in New York in 2016 tackles the poor diet of inner-city children but also teaches them about organic gardening and cooking.
The issue of future food sources is also touched upon in projects like the Buzz Building, which is still in the design phase, and aims to make cities self-sufficient in protein production through the cultivation of insects, and crickets in particular.
With half the food produced in London never actually eaten, the exhibition also addresses food waste. The Parasitic Urbanism concept proposes harnessing both the gas and residual nutrients from food waste to use it as a resource.
The fact that so many of these projects are up and running is proof that a sustainable approach where food production is integrated into the urban landscape is entirely possible, giving any businesses involved in the design of both commercial and residential buildings plenty to think about.