Inspired By Ferns: Eric Vergne's Dystopian Farm

By the year 2050, it is projected that 80 percent of the world's population will live in urban centers; about 50 percent of the population live in urban areas today. But the population trend is not the only problem facing cities in 2050, or even before then; it's the world food crisis, already impacting many areas of the world.

Global food prices have surged 75 percent since the year 2000 because of the over-foresting, over-cultivating, and global warming affecting soil conditions in farming regions throughout the world. Local, state, and world politics, play a major role in food supply as well as growing conditions, because any protest, disturbance or major political crisis can slow down the delivery of food to a region. We need to look no further than what Hurricane Katrina, an environmental crisis, did to halt all activity in an entire region of the country.

It's very promising then that there are forward looking architects like Eric Vergne whose entry in Evolo's 2009 Skyscraper Competition is something to be seriously considered -- so seriously, that Evolo has awarded his "Dystopian Farm," third place in the competition.



The Dystopian Farm would utilize the principles of aeroponic farming in a vertical structure. While designs of such structures are not new (see Urban Farming), what is new about the Dystonian Farm is that it creates an entire human society around the farms. Homes for growers, marketplaces, distributor offices... the whole production chain as well as the consumer co-exist in the same skyscraper.

The structure and organization of the Dystopian Farm is biomorphic, mimicking the fern plant in the way that its cells hold water (food, metaphorically speaking) centrally until it is needed by the leaf and it is then distributed by the leaf cells to its ends. It is also a plant that's survived for more than 400 million years on land.

With apologies for the fuzziness of the following image... I enlarged it from one that was definitely too small to read... but it shows, from left to right, the structure of "cells" in the Dystopian Farm: Large Farms, Small Farms, Housing, Markets, Local Circulation.



A larger perspective shown below... From left to right: Farms, Markets, Housing.



Here are the structures combined.



Eric Vergne warns that what is implied in the Dystopian Farm is that all the romantic notions of farming, like one's attachment to the soil, for example, must be put to rest. There won't be much, if any, soil in the methods used in skyscraper farms. In the future, food-growing will have to rely not only on water and air for life, but genetic engineering, controlled light, and aeroponic nutrients. Farm workers will bring a new culture to cities, which will have to assimilate them. The farm workers will add to the demand and competition for food, thereby cutting through what we observe now to be haves and have nots. The "haves and have nots" will no doubt be redefined.

Vergne's name for his skyscraper farm is not hopeful. "Dystopia," the opposite of "utopia," has such a pervasively gloomy meaning, that you have to hope, or work, for a more harmonic future, knowing that a devastating world wide food crisis is predicted.


The American Fern Society, The Sunday Herald, Evolo, via Gizmag