CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati has merged architecture with urban agriculture in the firm's newly-unveiled Jian Mu Tower in Shenzhen, China. The 218-meter high building incorporates a large-scale vertical hydroponic farm across its entire facade, producing vegetation that can feed up to 40,000 people per year. The 51-storey tower will also include housing offices, a supermarket, and a food court with inner gardens for recreation and social gatherings.
The Jian Mu Tower was an international competition entry organized by Chinese supermarket chain Wumart, occupying the last vacant plot in Shenzhen’s Central Business District. The self-sustaining proposal allows residents to cultivate and consume fresh vegetables and fruits from within the tower, producing an estimated 270,000 kilograms of food per year. The landscape terraces also include a wide variety of flora including water lily, fern, and lychee, further promoting biodiversity.
Small-scale urban farming is happening in cities all over the world – from Paris to New York to Singapore. Jian Mu Tower, however, takes it to the next level, Such approach has the potential to play a major role in the design of future cities, as it engages one of today’s most pressing architectural challenges: How to integrate the natural world into building design. In addition to producing food, the Jian Mu Tower’s farm helps with solar shading – a key issue in tall buildings. -- Carlo Ratti
The name of the tower is derived from the China's ancient mythical symbol of the “jian mu tree” which "connects heaven and earth". According to the traditional belief, heaven is round while the earth is square, and accordingly, the skyscraper translated this belief with its rectangular base that gradually transforms into a cylindrical form as it rises. The greenery across the building’s surface reduces solar irradiance in indoor spaces and promotes natural ventilation. The terrace gardens are double-height and seamlessly integrate into the interior spaces, merging the exterior with interior.
The project was developed with ZERO, an Italian-based company that specializes in innovative approaches to agriculture. The company introduced an AI-supported “virtual agronomist” system which handles the farm’s day-to-day operations, irrigation, and nutritional conditions, to optimize the vegetation production process.