Retirement housing meets vertical urban farms – this in a nutshell defines the the aptly named ‘Home Farm’, an impressive architectural scope put forth by the firm Spark (for World Architecture Festival 2015). In essence, the spatial ambit combines elderly care with sustenance, thus resulting in a community with a bevy of homes, healthcare facilities and verdant farms. And beyond what may as seem gimmicky, the entire infrastructure will be based on the core empowerment of the residents living inside, while incorporating a range of sustainable measures including rainwater management and biomass power plants.
Now in practical terms, the Home Farm is envisioned as a solution for two different issues affecting the urban class in South East Asia, one social and the other economic. The first predicament relates to how a significant part of the urban population accounts for elderly people with no social security, while the second problem alludes to how most cities tend to import food rather than producing the volumes. In theory, the Home Farm solves both of the issues – by allowing old people to reside in a safe urban community, and using their contribution in growing localized food ranging from vegetables to fruits.
Simply put, the residents can be offered part-time employment in micro-agriculture for their community. The economic returns from the produce in turn can be used to fund healthcare institutions and other amenities. But it should be noted that farm-based employment shouldn’t be a prerequisite for tenancy – as that could put undue pressure on the potential occupant. Rather they should be given the option to work on farms (and other ancillary activities, like packing the food), and thus create some income for future empowerment. As the Spark director Stephen Pimbley said (in an interview with Dezeen) –
We have no intention of ‘forcing’ the residents to work, some naturally will be interested in the gardening activities and some will be disinterested, and this is perfectly normal. For this reason there will be a professional team employed to run the productive garden as a viable business.
To that end, the Home Farm will incorporate spatially efficient agricultural technologies like vertical aquaponic farming and rooftop soil planting. As for the dwelling side of affairs, the community will comprise different house types, ranging from studio flats to bigger homes with four-bedroom plans. These habitats will be specially integrated along stepped curvilinear blocks, and these collective spatial hubs in turn will be arranged around the inclusive farming areas. As Pimbley further explained –
Home Farm brings together the normally siloed activities of commercial farming and aged-care living. The commercial farming activity supports its residents in a socially and environmental sustainable environment, helping the older generation retain an active community involvement that mitigates against dementia and promotes self-esteem.
Lastly, the good news is – the Home Farm is more than just a concept, with its first iteration to be constructed in Kuala Lumpur by 2018, by the collaborative effort of Spark and a Malaysian real-estate developer. Furthermore, the architects are looking forward to built more such ‘livable farms’ in other parts of Asia, including Singapore.