China has been run by farmers for four thousand years: just one hundred years ago, farmers accounted for 97 percent of the country’s total population. The history of traditional rural settlements in China gives indication as to how Chinese agricultural techniques have evolved. Led by small-scale peasant economies, traditional rural construction works remain multi-field and trans-scale projects that admirably integrate 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. Through these projects, architects have been investigating “agricultural inclusive urbanism”: exploring the ways agriculture can feed cities, they have designed an experimental model that utilizes PVC pipes.
Sky Farm, located in Shenzhen, is one of the VRAP 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