AGROPOLIS: sustainable systems m-xl

Class: Agropolis: sustainable systems m-xl
Instructors: Mona El Khafif, Nataly Gattegno
Dates: Fall 2009

A cooperation between CCA Ulab and Elab

Student Projects: Algea Scapes, Hydroponic Highway, Flower Power, Our Farm

By the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth’s population will live in urban centers. Applying these estimates to current demographic trends, human population will increase by about 3 billion people generating an estimated need for 109 hectares of new land – an area larger than the country of Brazil – to grow enough food. The expanding footprint of urban areas coupled with the need for more agricultural land is a reality we have to confront in a time of fresh water shortages, climate change and a persistent resistance to renewable energy sources and technologies.

What can be done to confront this up-coming challenge? What are the implications for design? Can we rethink the relationship of our urban spaces to the realms of infrastructure and production? This studio will question the presumed purity of urban space by recoupling it with high yielding landscapes of production. Can multiple cycles, processes, programs and systems be brought together to create a vibrant, productive, performative urban space? What can this crossbreeding yield?

AGROPOLIS: sustainable systems m-xl will analyze and envision several block sites in San Francisco by exploring the potential for synthesis of productive green spaces for urban farming with on-site water/energy remediation and urban fabric. We will experiment with the super green eco-block as a self-sufficient urban unit and explore the design of radical, mutant, hybrid types. We will rethink existing zoning restrictions and recalibrate them to foster a complex, hybridized urban realm; generating an alternative gene code for the city.

The city of San Francisco, with its widely varied terrain, microclimates, and neighborhood identities is an ideal laboratory for testing environmental zoning concepts at both the macro and micro scales.  As a cooperation between the Architecture Department’s CCA/Ulab and CCA/Elab, two related design studios will explore and investigate the interactivity of sustainable systems across scales covering the micro (building modules, construction details) as well as the macro (urban typologies, block) scales. The urban studio will explore the relationship of energy and resource consumption / production with urban typology at the scale of the urban block. The main focus will be the design of urban and architectural typologies able to integrate and synthesize environmentally active green and blue layers to generate hybrid programmatic and systemic organizations of flexibility and high density.

What if San Francisco’s urban fabric were designed as an agri-urban-eco-system? What are the implications of re-thinking and re-designing our existing urban typologies and aggregations?

The studio will begin with a study of precedents, productive and consumptive systems, and an analysis of specific processes taking place on the site. These will lead to larger scale speculations about the entire site and culminate in detailed sectional investigations of relationships developed between the various cycles and programs. Issues of temporality, phasing, seasonality, performance and the relationship between form and energy will be key to our interventions.

The studio output will include a first set of guidlines for environmental zoning plans for the city of San Francisco. This is intended to be a thought-provoking manifesto encouraging a spirited conversation at the final studio presentations and at a related exhibition and public panel discussion at SPUR Urban Center. The studio will be supported by a professional workshop, an introduction to ECOtect and lectures throughout the semester.

Precedents: META CITY DATA TOWN, MVRDV Architects