Urban Epicenter

도심 수직농장 프로토타입

Project Information

Award: Gold Medal and Bienal Medalion, “Bienal Miami+Beach,” Competition, 2009
1st Prize, Seoul Association of Architects’ “Collaboration with Nature,” Competition, 2009
Finalist for the James Templeton Kelly Thesis Prize, GSD Harvard University, 2009
Top 10, Emilio Ambasz Award for Green Architecture, Project of the Year Competition, Architecture of Israel + the European Union 2009/10

Architect: Jungmin Nam
Advisor: Ingeborg Rocker
Location: New York, U.S. (Thesis Proejct, GSD Harvard University, Spring 2009.)

Project Description

According to a UN report, by the year 2050, the human population will reach about 9.2 billion people. Nearly 80% (7.2 billion people) of this population will reside in cities. The exponentially increasing population will continue to raise the issue of human environmental impact, including the question of food availability. As available land for agriculture continues to decrease due to population growth and urban expansion, food consumption already exceeds production. The huge migration from rural areas to urban megalopolises will induce a dramatic cultural and social crisis. Massive urbanization will deplete natural resources, and exhaust urban infrastructures and transportation systems, increasing air and soil pollution.

Modern agriculture consumes the majority of the world’s land and water resource. It is the primary reason for water pollution and negative landcover change such as deforestation and desertification. It accounts for 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Fresh produce travels several thousand kilometers in order to reach urban consumers, adding to traffic congestion, and consuming additional energy in refrigeration in order to preserve. In addition, it requires additional energy to engineer fresh produce for a longer shelf life and the use of fertilizer and pesticides. Along with agriculture, increasing urbanization worldwide is another primary impact on the change of the earth. In the United States, buildings account for 39 percent of total energy use, 12 percent of water consumption, and 38 percent of CO2 emissions. The Urban Vertical Farm, which brings the farm into city and especially into the building, addresses both of these challenges.

The “Urban Vertical Farm” is a new urban and social vision at an architecture scale in response to these global problems. Situating food production within a building in the city suggests a different worldview and a new urban life style, which challenges the norms of modern life today. It goes beyond simply producing food vertically; rather vertical farm suggests a more holistic approach including the creation of a new civic space, as an urban epicenter. It has the impact of change on its surroundings. It challenges the existing urban food system, from food cultivation, to packaging, distribution, and consumption. It responses to the needs to reduce the dependence on food grown and transported long distances before arriving on urban consumers, due to decreasing farmland and increasing population within urban area. It responses the need to reduce the impact of agriculture and buildings on the environment. This approach tests the architectural prototypes which incorporate the high-profit, controlled environment agricultural industry into a vertical building type and locate them in the urban environment.

Constructing the ideal vertical farm will require considerations of a diverse set of issues including hydrobiology, engineering, industrial microbiology, plant genetics, architecture and design, public health, waste management, physics and urban planning, to name a few, my thesis explores the architectural logic of this new program within the urban context and how it addresses building types with its inter-relations with social and cultural context. It addresses the issue of architecture’s effective means to promote a sustainable way of living.
It is located in the middle of meat packing district, surrounded by the residential neighbors. Its location will take advantage of the well established cultural, commercial and pedestrian oriented networks. By shortening the gap between production and consumption, it will challenge urban food consuming patterns in the city. Rather than driving out to supermarket, urbanites will walk to pick up organic food within their neighborhoods. By participating in the existing farmers’ market network, the vertical farm serves as a market as a new civic space as well as food production, where people gather, communicate, shop and grow food. It provides an educational place about food and other urban issues for a productive urban sustainable living.


The vertical farm is suggested as an urban epicenter serving as a tool for social change; a sustainable way of consuming, food distribution, job creation, healthy food source and civic space for local community, by reshaping urban life style and being manifestation on how the urban life can be in the future from a day-to-day impact on our cities. In the middle of the social effect of vertical farm, it implies the notion to restore ecosystems back to nature. It will help the recovery of the ecosystems by reducing farmland. It reduces greenhouse gas emission, transportation distance, and negative effect of agricultural industry. It provides a healthy alternative food source for the increasing urban population, reestablishes local food sovereignty, produces O2 while recapturing CO2, and reduces the waste water.

In terms of architecture, the vertical farm thesis is a part of research to bring back function as an intrinsic character into architecture, away from contemporary profusion of iconic and branding gesture. Integrating vegetable crops into a built structure introduces a whole new set of design considerations and is further intensified by the infrastructure required for food production. In the effort to reduce energy consumption and its environmental effect, the daylight, natural ventilation and water recycling system will be engaged as a primary infrastructure of this new kind of architecture. The building prototype addresses the issue of infrastructure as an agent shaping architecture. Daylight will be engaged to reduce the use of artificial light and heat. Natural ventilation through the stack effect will help to reduce heating-cooling energy costs and to control the CO2 and humidity level. A water recycling system will reduce the urban waste water by using it for irrigation and emitting clean water into the river.

Urban Epicenternammin54