urban farms of the future?

Fresh off the heels of our urban agriculture review comes this article on the future of urban farms. Pretty neat idea: from an engineering perspective, this may be a good way to, ahem, beef up our food security and grow crops in a manner that is efficient enough to allow us to rededicate existing cropland into more effective carbon sinks.

The future of urban agriculture, or the ultimate greenwash?

As Peter Marcuse points out in this trenchant artcile, however, we need to view sustainability initiatives such as this with a critical eye. Should we be creating a room with a view for rows of corn stalks, or should we be tackling social justice concerns (such as urban poverty and homelessness) before we pour money into projects like these, which are sure to absorb large amounts of increasingly scarce public funding? Is this a way to gloss over social justice concerns with glitzy technology, or is this a valuable step towards sustainability, and if so, what is the true cost of sustainability?

You decide.



  1. Derek · November 28, 2009

    I’m highly skeptical of many of these urban agriculture ideas, especially when they’re portrayed in such a 1984-style monolithic building. Where are you going to find the water for these things? It’s not like it falls out of the… oh. Never mind.

  2. Jonathan Teghtmeyer · December 2, 2009

    Have you looked into the work of Friedensreich Hundertwasser – a visionary artist and architect who had some great ideas about sustainable urbanism.

    Check out http://www.motherearthnews.com/Green-Homes/1978-03-01/Hundertwassers-Grass-Roots.aspx and http://www.hundertwasser.com/english

  3. Tom Howard · December 7, 2009

    @Derek – I’m always skeptical of technocratic/arcologist approach myself as well. I think that people are easily seduced by the glitzy, technical solution rather than structural/social one. Of course, these sorts of designs if they can at least introduce urban agriculture as part of the popular discourse, but I think that the design in question is expensive and unnecessary at best.

    @Jonathon – Hundertwasser is a great: crazy, but in a really important way. If you are ever in Vienna, make sure to make your way over the KunstHausWien, a museum designed by Hundertwasser and stuffed full of his art and art/architectural manifestos (and his infamous uneven floors, of course). I think Hundertwasser was on the right track with trying to realign architecture with nature (even if he is an engineers worst nightmare), but again, I think its important that sustainability iniatives be taken into consideration in a wider discussion of social justice issues, rather than being blindly pursued as some sort of universal ideal that everyone has an equal stake/interest in.

  4. Sarge! (Tom S.) · December 15, 2009

    I seem to have the same opinion as others; Design has it’s place but to rely on it is to await inevitable failure. Having said that, design is inspirational and keeps people dreaming about how things could be changed for the better. Instead of expecting a massive project to make everything better, why not a series of small ones to show off the idea and you know, actually test out the idea in reality moreso.

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