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Cultures, Communities and Design

Cities without Country: High-density urban agriculture and the cities of the future
L. Mártires & J. Doyle
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm


The proposed presentation and paper will unpack recent speculative design research projects exploring how the uptake of high-density vertical farming and other disruptive agricultural technologies might shape future cities. The world is urbanising at an accelerating rate. While the population expands rapidly, more people are living in cities. The dispersed megacity is the fastest growing urban form. This and human caused climate change is drastically reducing the world’s arable land, jeopardising world food supplies. The future of food production lies in intensive industrialised processes that make maximum use of land and other resources. While not yet practical, or economically feasible, this future might include high-density vertical farming. In response to this the project has adopted a research model of projective design speculation, followed by analysis and reflective critique. Future urban scenarios were developed, then explored through the framework of Masters design research studios in which a series of counterfactual propositions and scenarios were put to students, who developed detailed design responses. Cities without Country studios, run at the University of Melbourne explored the scenario of a fully self-contained urban district growing and consuming its own food. FarmHD, run at RMIT University, explored strategies for urban agriculture in the ultra-high density urban environment of Hong Kong, a city famous for its lack of food security and dependence on others for agricultural production. Working at the scale of the building and the mega-structure, these studios explored both the possibility of new architectural typologies emerging to accommodate high-density urban agriculture, and the broader impact that the adoption of these systems might have on cities. Leaving aside the scientific, engineering or economic challenges of vertical farming, what these speculations indicate is that the adoption of intensified urban farming technologies has the potential to radically change the way our cities look and work.



Laura Martires is a design practitioner based in Melbourne and co-founder of COMMON. Laura was educated at the Faculty of Architecture at the Technical University of Lisbon in Portugal, before completing a research based masters degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Tokyo. Laura has worked internationally and completed projects in Europe, Asia and Australia. Laura is a faculty member at the Melbourne School of Design. She has led design studios at Monash University and RMIT University, and has been a visiting academic at Tokyo Institute of Technology. Through both teaching and practice, Laura has been engaged in speculative design research, drawing on a broad range of tools to imagine possible futures for architecture and urbanism. Her recent work has focused on the relationship between agriculture and cities, and how the production of food in urban environments might shape the cities of the future.

Dr John Doyle is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture and Urban Design at RMIT University. He is the director of the Master of Architecture program, and a Visiting Professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology. He is a practising architect, and partner at Common. He was the co-curator, along Graham Crist and Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, of the 2019 Supertight exhibition at the Design Hub in Melbourne, and a contributor to the 2019 Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, 2019 Shenzhen Biennale of Architecture: Cities Exhibition, the 2019 Shenzhen Biennale of Architecture/Urbanism and to the 2010 and 2012 Venice Architecture Biennales.