City Of The Future | Bay Area, CA

A design challenge by the History Channel to imagine urban life in 100 years. +

The premise of this project was simple and yet one of the most difficult architectural undertakings. Imagine urban life in one hundred years. There are over ten billion people worldwide will be straining for limited resources of water, land, and food. More than 80 percent of the world's population will be living in dense urban centers, and one of the main issues that will have to be solved is how they will be fed. Today's agricultural model has no answer: 80 percent of land suitable for raising crops already in use.

In 2008, we were given one week to conceive a new balance of urbanism, technology, and ecology in the City of the Future competition sponsored by the History Channel, IBM, and Infiniti, with the American Institute of Architects and American Society of Civil Engineers as partners.

Dickson Despommier, a professor of environmental health sciences and microbiology at Columbia University has developed the Vertical Farm Project. Using this research, the projects aim was to invision San Francisco as a model sustainable city, with agriculture woven directly into its urban framework. There would be deployed vertical agricultural systems, fed by reclaimed water and powered through renewable energy technologies, throughout the Bay Area region.

By re-appropriating existing structures and developing new agricultural centers along key nodes of the regional transportation network, this model cultivates an urban environment that is directly linked to its food supply and is agriculturally self-sufficient. Food can be produced and distributed with high efficiency, and gone are the costly environmental effects of the outmoded industrial agricultural model. A new base of industry, producing a safe, varied food supply, takes its place in an increasingly dense, stratified city.

This projection is not an idle exercise. Forces of climate change, high energy cost, globalization, and urbanization are all converging to press for better systems of food production, distribution, and consumption. As global food demand and prices are rising, new areas of hunger are steadily emerging in developing countries, and even middle-class city dwellers are being priced out of the food market. Solutions must come from architects with a social conscience. Committed to food equity and universal public health, they can lead a new type of civitas through urban vision and renewal.

  • Awards:
  • 2008 Infinity Design Excellence Award by history.com
  • Press:
  • 2009/07 Spur