With nearly 24 million inhabitants to feed and a decline in the availability and quality of agricultural land, the Chinese megacity of Shanghai is set to realize the Sunqiao Urban Agricultural District, a 100-hectare masterplan designed by US-based firm Sasaki Associates. Situated between Shanghai’s main international airport and the city center, Sunqiao will introduce large-scale vertical farming to the city of soaring skyscrapers. While primarily responding to the growing agricultural demand in the region, Sasaki’s vision goes further, using urban farming as a dynamic living laboratory for innovation, interaction, and education.
Shanghai is an ideal city for vertical farming. High land prices make building upwards more economically viable than building outwards, while the demand for leafy greens in the typical Shanghainese diet can be met with efficient urban hydroponic and aquaponics systems. Sasaki’s masterplan therefore deploys a range of urban-friendly farming techniques, such as algae farms, floating greenhouses, green walls, and vertical seed libraries.
Sunqiao represents more than a factory for food production, however. Sasaki’s masterplan creates a robust public realm, celebrating agriculture as a key component of urban growth. An interactive greenhouse, science museum, aquaponics showcase, and festival market signal an attempt to educate generations of children about where their food comes from. Meanwhile, sky plazas, office towers, and civic greens represent a desire to create a mixed-use, dynamic, active environment far removed from traditional, sprawling, rural farmlands.
Sunqiao will not be an alien concept to Shanghai. Whereas western countries depend on large-scale, rural, corporate farming, small-scale agriculture has traditionally dominated Shanghai’s urban landscape. However, the scale of Sasaki’s approved scheme does indicate the increased value placed on China’s agriculture sector. China is the world’s biggest consumer and exporter of agricultural products, with the industry providing 22% of the country’s employment, and 13% of its Gross Domestic Product. The Chinese government is therefore keen to preserve, modernize, and showcase an industry which has helped to significantly reduce poverty rates, and has influenced the growth of the biotech and textile industries.
"This approach actively supports a more sustainable food network while increasing the quality of life in the city through a community program of restaurants, markets, a culinary academy, and pick-your-own experience” explained Sasaki in a press release. “As cities continue to expand, we must continue to challenge the dichotomy between what is urban and what is rural. Sunqiao seeks to prove that you can have your kale and eat it too.”
Construction of the Sunqiao Urban Agricultural District is due to begin in 2017.
News via: Sasaki Associates