With the ever increasing urbanisation of western countries, coupled with the ever growing population, farming and agriculture are practises in crisis. It is interesting to note that some farming techniques have not changed in hundreds of years. The issue of global warming, with increased risk of flooding and droughts have put a strain on existing methods. Consequently, a new idea has been developed which, in the near future, could replace traditional techniques.
Interior vertical farming uses the very latest technology and design ideas to create an artificial growing environment for many different plant species. Whether this is used to help purify the air in a city landscape or produce food and animal feed, it is an interesting idea which has been utilised by many architects and designers. Many vertical farm concepts are based on the exterior of a building however, the interior of a building is also something that can be utilised.
Vertical farming can be used on large scale architectural projects but can also be used within an interior. If every home had something like this then they would be taking a step towards being self-sufficient in regards to food. This may be a priority for many home owners in the future so it is important for interior designers to think about how these issues can be combated with design, after all, design is often the overcoming of a problem or challenge, with of course an aesthetically pleasing outcome.
This vertical garden in a hotel lobby might look simply decorative, however the balance of planting is crucial. Behind the planting lies an intricate irrigation system and UV filters. There is perhaps however, a factor here which could limit its general appeal, this system does involve maintenance and will need watering regularly, so perhaps this is ideal for the greener fingered households and larger businesses where there is adequate resource to maintain such a product.
The installation also works in an aesthetic way, creating a design feature that not only creates depth within a space but also produces a partition that is substantial without being overly dominant in the existing space. This is an option that needs to be pristinely maintained, however the production and harvesting of crops also needs to be considered in order to ensure a functioning yet aesthetically pleasing finish.
There is a self-watering option for vertical gardens. These walls are made from individual pockets of plants where the irrigation system will work to disperse water accordingly. However, this type of wall would require careful consideration in regards to the type and variety of planting, which could make it difficult when growing vegetables for consumption.
Recently, an interesting concept from the US has emerged which still involves farmers, however, it allows households to keep living produce that is delivered and installed by the supplier, an extension perhaps of the ‘living lettuce’ which is readily available in supermarkets.
This reduces the amount of effort and knowledge required by the consumer, which, although practical is not necessary aesthetically pleasing enough to be deemed a ‘design feature’.
This is an interesting example of how you can use vertical farming for a commercial venture. The O’Hare Airport in Columbus Ohio boasts this beautifully designed vertical farm.
It is both something to keep delayed passengers occupied, as you can educate yourself with how the farms works, whilst also adding a more relaxing aesthetic to a space which almost always has a captive audience in a less than relaxing environment! It is great to see that the end user of the produce is actually the airport itself.
You can see here how the product is packaged to sell within the restaurants at the airport. This must be a great cost saving measure as the farm takes up space which is not currently used, and reduces supplier and transport costs of importing fresh produce. This is certainly something which could be utilised for many commercial spaces such as restaurants, but also schools, care homes and community centres. These can be multi-purpose problem solving devices in such spaces as they can also be used as an activity within these buildings for school children and residents, after all, educating the population on the issues that farming faces is an important piece of the puzzle in implementing these new systems.
There are ways to successfully incorporating these vertical farms into the design of a space. These ‘living pantries’ have been installed in the Bouley Botanical restaurant and event space to use up the otherwise underutilised space around the window. This also helps to make full use of the natural light for the growing of the produce. This restaurant is based in New York so seemingly this is one of the easiest ways for the restaurant to acquire fresh vegetables and herbs. This concept also now provides a unique selling point to the restaurant itself, making it more of a destination in relation to the thousands of competing restaurants in the area.
The owner of the space championed the initial concept, however it is only with the collaboration and expertise of farmers, professors, nutritionists and an organic growing consultant that enables this idea to evolve into a realistic viable system. It is perhaps this that provides the best lesson for interior designers, the input from experts in fields such as this really are invaluable. There is always a considerable leap in knowledge to achieve something as complex as a vertical farm within an interior. Therefore, it is always important to source the expert consultant and sometimes sub-contract specialists in order to effectively realise a design proposal.
Although a lot of ideas for vertical farming remain only at the concept stage, it is clearly an idea which will begin to grow in popularity with the general public as well as with architects, designers and engineers. With the price of produce from supermarkets forever on the increase, solutions for this issue will need to become much more commercial and mass produced in the very near future. With this in mind, examples of this are already starting to emerge so I leave you with an example of a commercially viable product which is due to arrive in the market place very soon. This design even uses waste to create compost which then fertilises the soil for new growth. The design creates both an interior design feature and also a realistic way of introducing this process into the average residential space.
Han, Gregory. (2012)
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Grow Up!, (2012) WOLLY POCKET SYSTEM [Online Image]. Available from: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/569973520/grow-up-vertical-farming-for-everyone
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