SPARK unveils Homefarm – a concept for the next generation of retirement housing – at today’s Retirement Living World China 2014 conference in Shanghai. The bold conceptual project proposes the combination of apartments and facilities for seniors with vertical urba farming. SPARK’s aim is to generate discussion about the many potentials that can emerg from the mixing of two typically separate realms.
The question of how to support and accommodate a rapidly ageing population confronts man nations in Asia. In Singapore, for example, a substantial demographic shift is underway. By 2030, one in five Singapore residents will be aged 65 years and over (up from 6 per cent in 1990). The swelling proportion of seniors will place significant demands on social, economic and infrastructural systems.
Achieving a secure food supply for growing city populations is an equally pressing challenge for rapidly urbanising Asian nations. This challenge is keenly felt in Singapore, a small and fully urbanised city state without a hinterland. Currently, Singapore imports over 90 per cent of its food, and has in place strategies for the diversification of food sources and the boosting of local production through intensive agricultural technology.
The Homefarm concept allows seniors live in a garden environment created by a vegetable farm, where they may also find employment. The concept introduces vertical aquaponic farming and rooftop soil planting to the realm of high-density and flexible housing that has been designed to cater to the needs and preferences of seniors. Residents may combat the financial stress that is often faced post-retirement by working part-time at the farm under the direction of a professional vertical farming implementation team. Facilities catered to the needs of an older population are provided in the lower levels of the development (and are also open to the public), while the housing is stacked above in a curvilinear terraced formation reminiscent of land contours.
“We designed this concept for Singapore,” says SPARK Director Stephen Pimbley, “but there is the potential for it to be applied in any location that would support the growth of leafy green vegetables on building facades and rooftops.” He continues, “We are keen to see this project materialise at some point in the future. The concept is a realisable solution to real and pressing problems faced by many of the world’s growing cities.”
The gardening activity would offer numerous benefits beyond personal income generation, including community connectivity and the promotion of health. Simultaneously, beyond boosting the resiliency of Singapore’s food supply, the production of food in the heart of the city could provide a platform for community education, help lower Singapore’s high carbon footprint by closing the gap between producers and consumers, and contribute to the perpetuation of Singapore’s ‘City in a Garden’ vision in a productive capacity.
SPARK believes it is the duty of the architectural profession, through its capacity to imagine and shape both the city and the ways in which we live, to contribute to overcoming the challenges of urban life. Homefarm is the second conceptual project to emerge from SPARK’s Singapore studio this year, following the Solar Orchid floating hawker centre. Homefarm is part of a growing portfolio of research and visionary design being undertaken by the studio in the interests of imagining untried responses to real urban problems.