Decoding Design

Dutch architecture firm rethinks the urban farm

Posting in Architecture

An architecture firm in Holland has plans to make eating locally possible in big cities. Is this the future of the urban farm?

When most city-dwellers think of eating locally, they think of heading to a farmers' market, not heading to a farm.

Popular opinion maintains that choosing locally grown produce, butchered meats and other products is the most eco-friendly way to pick your groceries. However, the most densely populated areas are often too far away from farmable land, making eating locally a challenge for huge numbers of people.

Until now, that is. Dutch design firm, van Bergen Kolpa Architecten, has plans to build a 4,000 acre park in the middle of Holland's most populous area, the Randstad, that includes Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.

This mega-park will also be a fully functioning farm.

The project, entitled Park Supermarket, aims to make urban food production an attainable reality. The goal, as the title so clearly states, is to be able to provide residents with everything one could find in a grocery store. There is one obvious difference: you'll now be getting it from the source.

Van Bergen Kolpa’s Jago van Bergen told SmartPlanet that his office specializes in architecture and urban planning that offers "sustainable solutions for the cities of today and tomorrow." Or, as he calls it, the “Architecture of Consequence.” The idea that food cultivation should be brought to cities is not new, though in most cases it is largely fantasy. Designs like Park Supermarket offer hope.

The firm plans to control the climate of the park strictly, allowing for what they call “new climate zones” such as moderate, Mediterranean and tropical areas that will produce foods unable to grow in the North Atlantic. According to the project description, they plan to achieve this feat by using “old techniques such as warmth accumulating snake walls and more contemporary solutions as insulating water spray 'roofs' and floor heating on the basis of thermal warmth.”

Currently, according to van Bergen, the firm is working with the Dutch farmers' cooperative Oregional and the governments and residents of Rotterdam and Nijmegen toward the realization of the first phase of Park Supermarket.

The firm is full of food-centered ideas, and a housing project, dubbed CoHousing Hoovliet, follows the same theme. It offers what van Bergen calls “solutions for social cohesion through food production by the local community.” In other words, CoHousing Hoovlier is a housing compound that includes three large community gardens in addition to the private gardens that will accompany each of the 48 residences.

Both projects were shortlisted for the World Architecture Awards coming up this November in Barcelona, and have been exhibited worldwide. This month, Park Supermarket is on display at the Architecture and the City Festival in San Francisco, and the group has organized tours and presentations.

Projects like Park Supermarket, though maybe less attainable here in the US, spark useful discussions about food and the future city, and what good design can do to help.

[Via van Bergen Kolpa Architecten and Fast Company Design]
Photo: van Bergen Kolpa Architecten

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Beth Carter

Contributing Editor

Beth Carter is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has worked for Catalyst magazine, the New York Times Syndicate, BBC Travel and Wired. She holds degrees from the University of Oregon and New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure