Fields In The Sky

Perhaps you saw Dickson Despommier on the Colbert Report last month, or maybe you first came on the name in today’s FYI. Whatever. Point is, this guy is one weird public health scientist who is taking this whole “build up, not out” concept of urban design, and the locavore concept of eating food, and mashing them together in his hands to come up with something like this:

That there is a vertical farm, people. A place to grow food right here in the city, avoiding the costly, stinky diesel motors involved with trucking produce all over the country. Not exactly amber waves of grain, but still quite a striking symbol.

However, Armando Carbonell, chairman of the department of planning and urban form at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, states in today’s International Herald Tribune article, “Would a tomato in lower Manhattan be able to outbid an investment banker for space in a high-rise? My bet is that the investment banker will pay more.” That seems to be the rub.

You could design around sunlight problems and other functional hurdles, but in the end, city-center real estate is just really expensive, and shows little sign of getting less so anytime soon. How far into, say, New Jersey, would you have to build one of those towers in order to make it economically viable? And by the time you’re that out of New York City, wouldn’t it make more sense just to farm the regular way?

One hopes not. The vertical farm really should work. It’s such a cool solution to a growing problem. Maybe they could put offices in it too, to jack up revenue. Maybe by the time one of these things gets built, produce will be so expensive that the tomato really could compete with the investment banker. For right now, it seems it’s a project that would have to rely heavily on outside funding. But that could be ok, too.

Whatever the method, this really needs to get built, not just for practical reasons, but because it will bring us so much closer to a flying-car, curvy-building, jetpack-having future utopia.

The Colbert Report: Dickson Despommier [Comedy Central]
Country, the city version [International Herald Tribune]
The Vertical Farm Project [Official Site]

[Photo: via the Vertical Farm Project]

Fields In The Sky