China, a country where farmers accounted for 97 percent of its total population one hundred years ago, has been run by farmers for four thousand years. The history of traditional rural settlements in China demonstrates how Chinese agricultural techniques have evolved. These traditional rural construction works, led by small-scale peasant economies, are multi-field and trans-scale projects that have admirably integrated geography, irrigation works and agriculture.
In late 2015, Vernacular Research and Practice (VRAP) began to apply the concept of agri-tectonic to a number of micro-projects. With “agriculture inclusive urbanism”, the architects try to find the possibility of agriculture feeding cities by designing an experimental model.
Sky Farm, located in Shenzhen, is one of these projects that emphasises production-promoting compound public spaces in an urban village. Sky Farm is an “agri-tectonic device” that functions simultaneously as a rain collector, an urban agriculture promotion and a community builder. Aiming to discover the potential ecological significance and productivity of urban villages, Sky Farm, with minimal land occupation, manages to provide extra space for social gatherings as well as a brand new way to run a community.
In Shenzhen, around 10 percent of the land is covered by urban villages that accommodate nearly 50 percent of the city’s population. These urban villages exist as a special form in urban spaces where the small-scale peasant economy is mixed with small-scale industries and where constructions are designed to potentially be integrated closely with local settlements. For urban villages that lack public space, Sky Farm is an iterative product that can transform cheap residential space into effective production space and unique consumer space, which is why Sky Farm is so appropriate for the new urban village economy.
At a reasonable cost, Sky Farm can provide a highly productive space and thus help achieve the maximum promotion effect possible. PVC pipes, easy to obtain in urban villages, have been chosen as the main material. A standardised structure featuring convenient dismantling and transportation processes has been applied so that the device can be built even by ordinary people. On four sides of the device are farming nets for climbing vines with relatively large meshes to make space for plants and fruits while an anti-bird net is placed on the top for fruit protection and rain water collection.
Architects | VRAP Vernacular Research and Practice, Shenzhen, China
Location | Shenzhen, Guangdong, China
Technical info | PVC pipes
Picture credits | Jiang Wang, Minjie Si, Lei Yang, Peng Deng