Farmhouse: A Speculative Future of Urban Food Supply

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Colour, Students

Farmhouse: A Speculative Future of Urban Food Supply

Kara Verbeek


Loss of farmland and increasing populations are placing immense strain on the world’s food supply system. As food security is an increasingly critical topic in cities, one of the main solutions has been a movement toward urban farming technologies. Using such technology to respond to the anticipated food crisis, this project speculates on the future of urban living where residents’ entire diets would be grown alongside their living space.


A completely automated and robotic vertical farming system which utilizes aeroponic, aquaponic, and food computer technologies within residential towers would allow for efficiency, density, availability, conservation and consistency in residents’ customizable pescetarian food supply. Crop planting densities, growth cycles, rotation, turnover, and the amount of fish and produce needed to fulfil a large diet weekly were used to calculate how much space would be required to ensure a constant supply of food for each resident in the tower. Applied to each of the forty types of produce and four types of fish, the calculations determined how much floorspace should be allotted for living vs. food. Above each floor is a space for robotic arms to move on a grid, attending to the crops below and delivering produce to the residents. The crop surplus would be brought to the (automated) ground-floor market via an internal food elevator and made available to the public for purchase while any waste produced is processed beneath the building.


Windows create a visual connection between people and food. Like in a traditional farmhouse, the residents look out over their crops while they are being grown and harvested. In the public main floor, courtyard and underground of the building, demonstration gardens allow market customers to observe in a similar way.

While the world’s food supply becomes increasingly strained, this community will have a continuous supply of nutritious food.



Who influences you graphically?

I have always been influenced by a wide variety of disciplines: architects, graphic designers, illustrators, fine artists, and photographers. It is difficult to narrow down my ongoing inspiration to only a few names. For this project my inspiration ranged from the work of Canadian fine artists Lawren Harris and Alex Colville, to graphic designer Saul Bass, to multidisciplinary designers Peter Behrens and Geoff McFetridge, to the work of Office KGDVS, and illustrators Rob Bailey, Malika Favre, Tom Haugomat.

What defined the language of representation for this project? How does the ‘style’ relate to the theme of a robotic system? 

My approach to design and architectural representation is to let the content lead. Sometimes the theme of the project will be more realistic, requiring a particular aesthetic approach, other times the topic will lend itself more towards collage, illustration, or technical depiction. In this case, the futuristic, mechanical, and fictional narrative led to a series of illustrations, playful line drawings, and descriptive diagrams.


What dictated the choice of colour palette? 

Throughout the development of the project, the colour palette was stripped down to three colours (and their tones). It was a process of eliminating the unnecessary until a clear system of colour was established. Pink was used for people and LED lights, green for plants, and blue for constructed elements. The use of these particular colours demonstrates the ways in which the three components of this architectural proposal come together- the human, the growing, and the built. The project is not only about the architecture of technology and built form, but also the way it is occupied by people and plants.


How important is colour, how would a monochromatic palette effect the perception of the proposal? 

While perhaps a monochromatic palette would express ideas of future and technology by referencing films such as Metropolis and Modern Times, the use of colour was very intentionally chosen to represent the three aspects of this project. To me, a monochrome palette, although beautiful, would fail to highlight the life of the space. Markets are full of colour and activity and new farming technologies emit an eerie but fantastical pink glow – with a monotone approach the beauty of growth and human occupation is lost.


How could the proposal be formatted as maybe a users manual to really convey the extent and implementation of this strategy?

Accompanying the proposal was a series of diagrams that described, from a resident’s point of view, the way the system worked to grow and deliver food. Fully developing a user manual in the form of an app could be a next step of this project. Shifting the focus to the residents and the system of production rather than the building would help to convey the type of lifestyle associated with these future food production systems.



Kara Verbeek is currently in her last term as a student of the University of British Columbia’s Master of Architecture program after having completed a Bachelor of Design degree in Toronto. She has a keen interest in multi- and cross-disciplinary design which stems from her experience working in architecture, interior design, and communication design offices in Vancouver, Toronto, and Copenhagen.


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