The Vertical Farm – Monika Oum, RPI

-via Monica OumFutures+ is starting off the week with another submission from RPI.  This post features a project in which Monica Oum considers the notion of integrating the idea of the skyscraper with aspects of farming to create a highly condensed urban farm.  With urban farming the goal is to allow large urban areas to remain self sufficient, in terms of food production, without the use of large areas of rural farmland.  By picking an operative diagram,  Monica was able to use parametric design to develop her formal strategy for developing everything from structure to individual modules to overall circulation.
STUDENT : Monika Oum
SCHOOL : Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
CLASS : Architectural Design 6, Spring 2010
PROFESSOR : Sulan Kolatan
PROGRAMS USED : Rhinoceros, V-Ray Render, Adobe CS4
The brief for this studio required students to investigate the implications of modular thinking and minimal surfaces in the design of a vertical [and urban] food production facility. Dr. Dickson Despommier’s discourse on “The Vertical Farm” was recommended as a programmatic framework and hydroponic planting systems were preferred over traditional soil-farming.
Explorations in parametric modeling were encouraged.  I chose to work with the helicoid for my project. Modeling it from scratch in Rhinoceros was helpful in learning about and understanding the fundamental nature of the surface’s curvature and how to manipulate and control it.

via Monika Oum

A look at the helicoid in it's basic form.

via Monika Oum

Investigation into manipulating the helicoid's topology.

The helicoid ended up being the governing diagram of the project, influencing not only the overall architectural form, but also subsystems in and around the building.

The project module

Building systems derived from the module

Variations on the module.

It was also suggested that students consider taking an extreme and polemical position by making their designs hyper-efficient, optimizing them fully for the purpose of farming produce and livestock and keeping human inhabitation to a bare minimum or even deliberately disregarding it completely.

tower section

You can check out these relate links if you’re interested.  They are for Minimal Surfaces and the Vertical Farm, which both played a major part in Monica’s project.


3 thoughts on “The Vertical Farm – Monika Oum, RPI

  1. I enjoy its resemblance to DNA strands, as DNA are considered “the building blocks of life,” but as a vertical farm, I would expect to see a little more growth and life oozing out of it as it spirals vertically. Having an explosive fetish for green has left me itching on this submission titled so simply “The Vertical Farm.” I would tend to think the forms and modelling are the easy part, but employing successful farming techniques and circulation of resource becomes the true identity of this type of exploration. Farming/agriculture are so important to our existence, give this thing a little confidence and get growing! Good submission.

  2. Thanks for the great feedback, Ben! I definitely see what you mean and I’m in total agreement. It’s a vertical FARM! Where’s the FOOD, right? I knew that there was a little too much left to the imagination with this project and I think that is a reflection of the true nature of the studio; by the end of the semester it seemed more like an experiment to push the boundaries of complex geometries and parametric modeling in the production of architectural form than a serious investigation into the logistics of vertical/urban farming. But I know that’s no excuse for not adequately representing the program. As is the case with most if not all studio projects, there’s a lot more I could have done with this, even after the semester ended. I actually do plan to revisit this project and develop it further so you might actually get to see it ‘in action’ in the future. Thanks again for the great feedback! 😀

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