Slideshow of this Project Press F11 for Full Screen
PROGRAM : A Metabolic Farm for Urban Agriculture / Mixing Uses
LOCATION : New York City, Roosevelt Island
SURFACE AREA : 350.000 m
HEIGHTS : Antenna=700m; Roof=600m; Top Floor=575m
MODEL STUDIES : Philippe Steels
PERSPECTIVES : Benoit Patterlini




The world of fast-food and frozen food is over! The urban keen interest of the beginning of our Century turns toward the garden flat bringing back the countryside in our overcrowded cities fighting from now on for a community urban agriculture able to contribute to the durability of the city and to rethink the food production.

On the roofs, terraces, balconies, in the hollow of the non-built public spaces, in the interior yards and the suspended greenhouses, the eco-warrior aspires to escape from its competitive and consumeristic universe imposed by the laws of the market. He desires to cultivate its immediate landscape so as to better take root in the ground by creating his own ecologic and alimentary biodiversity. The consumer becomes from then on producer and the garden inhabitant !

From the Parisian worker gardens to the community gardens of New York going though Muscovite vegetable squares , eight hundred million of urban farmers, i.e. more than one human being out of ten, consume nowadays chlorophyllous products from these cosmopolitan kitchen gardens. These new gardens, aware of the emergency to reduce our fuel consumption and the necessity to modify our behaviour facing the climatic changes, decrease thus their environmental impact and build eco-responsible cities on a community way.


According to the PNUD (Programme of the United Nations for the Development), the worldwide urban population will go from 3.1 billion of inhabitants in 2009 up to 5.5 billion of inhabitants within 2025. Looking for a positive energetic assessment, the contemporary city aims within fifteen years at producing cleanly and intensively more energy than it consumes so as to pack this urban exodus! It develops therefore the urban agriculture to become food self-sufficient by recycling at the same time its liquid waste by phyto-purification, its solid waste in fertilizers by composting and by producing energy by biomass, photovoltaic cells and other renewable energies (thermic solar, photovoltaic solar, wind, tide-turbine energies).

In order to avoid the asphixiation of the planet and the feeding of its 9 billion of inhabitants within 2050, it deals thus with reinventing the traditional energetic pattern between the city and the countryside between western countries, emerging countries and developing countries. This sums up as following: on the one hand import of natural and food resources, and on the other hand export of waste and pollution. The ecologic city aims at reintegrating the farming function on the urban scale by emphasizing the role of the urban agriculture in the use and the reuse of natural resources and biodegradable waste so as to close the loop of ecologic flows.

The urban agriculture can feed the city without any pesticide or chemical fungicide (whose toxicity is proved on the human being : cancer, sterility), and make it less food dependant of its backcountry or other regions of the world. Organising the distribution of fresh products in short circuits, that means linked directly with the consumer, the urban agriculture complete thus the traditional agriculture. In addition to the nutritive quality of the produced and consumed food, the urban agriculture is also a growth lever of the urban unemployment market and the local economy. It is used directly as a social link in the conciliation of the primary needs of the newcomers with the challenge of their integration in the life of the city, fighting thus against poverty and exclusion. On the sanitary level, this farm approach presents also an interesting potential for the decontamination of polluted grounds and undergrounds as well as for he purification of the polluted atmosphere in CO2.

Due to the fuel crisis and climatical change, the rural agriculture of the western countries must answer to the worldwide food crisis of the developing countries and mainly Africa. Its role is from now on to produce (with an increase estimated of 60% within 2050) all the foodstuffs transportable by boat such as cereals or corn. This is based on the evolution of the science and the most advanced biotechnologies. In addition to this nutritious role, the rural agriculture is newly challenged to recycle its own culture rebus for the green chemistry in order to produce the bio fuel called second generation fuel using the energy of non-consumable materials from the plants, that means fibres such as celluloses.


The architecture has to be in the service of this new agriculture and to design this new social desire in this context of ecologic mutation and food autonomy! The Dragonfly project suggests therefore building a prototype of urban farm offering around a mixed programme of housing, offices and laboratories in ecological engineering, farming spaces which are vertically laid out in several floors and partly cultivated by its own inhabitants. This vertical farm sets up all the sustainable applications in organic agriculture based on the intensive production varied according to the rhythm of the seasons. This nourishing agriculture is furthermore in favour of the reuse of biodegradable waste and the keeping of energy and renewable resources for a planning of ecosystemic densification.

In order to conceptualize this project and give our point of view in the ecological and social crisis debates, Dragonfly sets up along the East River at the South edge of the Rooselvelt Island in New York between Manattans Island and the Queens district. So as to face the landed pressure, Dragonfly stretches itself vertically under the shape of a bionic tower relocating a new urban biotope for the fauna and the local flora and recreating a food production auto-managed by the inhabitants in the heart of Big Apple.

Floor by floor, the tower superposes not only stock farming ensuring the production of meat, milk, poultry and eggs but also farming grounds, true biological reactors continuously regenerated with organic humus. It diversifies the cultivated varieties to avoid the washing of stratums of soft substratum. Thus, the cultures succeed one another vertically according to their agronomical ability to provide some elements of the ground between the essences that are sowed and harvested. The tower, true living organism, becomes thus metabolic and self-sufficient in water, energy, and bio-fertilizing. Nothing is lost; everything is recyclable to a continuous auto-feeding!


The architecture of Dragonfly prototype suggests reinventing the vertical building (that outlined the urbanistic booming of New York City since the 19th Century) as structurally and functionally as ecologically and energetically.

To ensure the social diversity and a permanent life cycle (24h/24) in the tower, the mixed programmation is mainly laid out around two poles of housing and work places. Around housings, offices and research laboratories as well as the most private to the most public agricultural and leisure spaces are designed in gardens, kitchen gardens, orchards, meadows, rice fields, farms and suspended fields. The distribution of flows is made around a true safe spine spreading in loop the numerous elevators, the goods elevators and stair wells serving all the levels by separating simultaneously the inputs and the outputs recycled from plants, animals and human beings.

Architecturally, the functional organisation is represented by two oblong towers symetrically arranged in pair around a huge climatic greenhouse that links them and deploys itself between two crystalline wings. These very light wings in glass and steel retake the loads of the building and are directly inspired from the structure of the dragonfly wings coming from the family of Odonata Anisoptera whose transparent membrane is very finely nervured. Two inhabited rings buttress around these wings. Their organically chiselled exo-structure accommodates the inter-climatic spaces that receive the agrarian cultures. They buttress.

The whole set forms double layer architecture in bee nest mesh that exploits the solar passive energy at its maximum level, by accumulating the warm air in the winter in the thickness of the exo-structure, and by cooling the atmosphere by natural ventilation and by evapo-perpiration of the plants in the summer. Protecting thus the cultures from climatic changes in New York (from -25.5C in the winter to +41C in the summer), these plug spaces are useful to reflect on the agriculture not anymore in terms of surface area but really in terms of volume. Actually, whereas grounds nourish orchards, each wall and each ceiling are metamorphosed into three-dimensional kitchen gardens. The interior frontages of the housing and offices throw towards the skyline of New York the cantilever of their hydrophonic balconies with hexagonal section thanks to what it multiplies the culture layers by floors. The vegetation abounds, the earth is swarming of insects and animals are freely brought up in holding tanks by urban consumers with low income. The architecture becomes eatable !

In addition to this thermal called passive system, the integration of renewable energies has been thought from the design of Dragonfly to meet the needs of a completely energetically self-sufficient project in urban centre. Actually, the South prow of the tower receives in all the heights of its curve a solar shield producing half of the electric energy needed for its functioning. The other half is ensured by the three wind machines with vertical axes of Darrieus type that coils itself up in the three lenses hollowed in the North part of the micro-pearled shell towards dominated wind of New York. The exterior faades of the tower present a double personality. Actually, in the West of the Island near Manhattan, the faades are treated in planted walls, whereas in the East near the Queens district, the wet exterior walls are cultivated with tropical essences. These vertical gardens enable to filter the rain water and the effluents of domestic liquid waste of the tower inhabitants. The collected waters undergo an appropriate organic treatment for the farming reuse, bringing all the nitrogen and an important part of phosphor as well as potassium needed for the production of fruits, vegetables and cereals.

Outlining the bank of the Roosevelt Island, the tower widens at each side of its basis to better integrate the flows that cross it and to welcome two marinas along the East River. This widening out forms two huge photovoltaic vaults such as a solar dress floating above these two urban harbours: on the western marina side, the wooden pontoons of the taxi boats open panoramically on the Midtown bank and on the eastern marina side, the floating market oriented towards the Queens district is designed to distribute through the river the food production of this vertical farm to the heart of Manhattan and to its million and a half of city slickers. Moreover, these two marinas accommodate two huge aquaculture ponds, true tank of soft water filtered by the planted frontages and dedicated to be reinjected in the hydroponic network of the Dragonfly tower.

According to the evolution of the urban agriculture enhanced by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) that has been realising since 2007 that the organic agriculture on a large scale would be able to nourish the planet, the Dragonfly project challenges the city of New York to rethink its food production. In response, this project of inhabited vertical farm replies to the contemporary dilemma of producing not only ecologically but also more intensively on non-extensive earth. This by merging also directly production place and consumption place in the heart of the city!

Vincent Callebaut Architect




Fini le fast-food et le surgel ! Lengouement citadin de ce dbut de sicle soriente vers lappartement potager rapatriant la campagne dans nos villes densifies et militant dsormais pour une agriculture urbaine communautaire capable de contribuer la durabilit de la ville et de repenser la production alimentaire.

Sur les toits, les terrasses, les balcons, au creux des espaces publics non-btis, dans les cours intrieures et les serres suspendues, lco-citoyen aspire se soustraire de son univers comptitif et consumriste impos par les lois du march. Il dsire cultiver son paysage immdiat afin de mieux senraciner dans la terre en se crant sa propre biodiversit cologique et alimentaire. Le consommateur se fait dsormais producteur et lhabitant jardinier !

Des jardins ouvriers parisiens aux community gardens new-yorkais en passant par les carrs de lgumes moscovites, huit cent millions dagriculteurs urbains, soit plus dun humain sur dix, consomment aujourdhui les produits chlorophylliens de ces potagers cosmopolites. Ces nouveaux jardiniers, conscients de lurgence de rduire notre consommation de ptrole et de la ncessit de modifier nos comportement face aux changements climatiques, rduisent ainsi leur impact environnemental et construisent communautairement des cits co-responsables.


Selon le Programme des Nations Unies pour le Dveloppement (PNUD), la population urbaine mondiale passera de 3.1 milliards dhabitants en 2009 5.5 milliards dhabitants dici 2025. Vers un bilan nergtique positif, la ville contemporaine vise dici quinze ans produire proprement et intensivement plus dnergie quelle nen consomme afin dencaisser cet exode urbain ! Elle dveloppe pour cela lagriculture urbaine afin de sauto-suffire alimentairement tout en recyclant ses eaux uses en eaux pures par phyto-puration, ses dchets solides en engrais par compostage, et en produisant de lnergie par biomasse, piles combustible et autres nergies renouvelables (solaire thermique, solaire photovoltaque, olien, mare-motricit, etc.).

Afin dviter lasphyxie de la plante et de ses 9 milliards de bouches nourrir dici 2050, il sagit donc de rinventer le modle nergtique traditionnel entre ville et campagne, entre pays occidentaux, pays mergents et pays en voie de dveloppement qui se rsume comme suit : importation de ressources naturelles et alimentaires dune part et exportation de dchets et de pollution dautre part. Par raction, la ville cologique a pour objectif la rintgration de la fonction agricole lchelle urbaine en soulignant le rle de lagriculture urbaine dans lutilisation et la rutilisation de ressources naturelles et des dchets biodgradables afin de fermer la boucle des flux cologiques.

Lagriculture urbaine peut nourrir la ville sans pesticides ou fongicides chimiques (dont la toxicit est avre sur lhomme : cancer, strilit, etc.) et la rendre moins dpendante alimentairement de son arrire pays ou des autres rgions du monde. Organisant la distribution des produits frais en circuits courts, cest--dire en lien direct avec le consommateur, lagriculture urbaine vient ainsi complmenter lagriculture traditionnelle. En plus de la qualit nutritive des aliments produits et consomms, lagriculture urbaine est galement un levier de croissance du march de lemploi urbain et de lconomie locale. Elle sert directement de chanon social dans la conciliation des besoins primaires des nouveaux arrivants avec les dfis de leur intgration dans la vie de la cit, luttant ainsi contre la pauvret et lexclusion. Du point de vue sanitaire, cette approche agricole prsente aussi un potentiel intressant pour la dcontamination des sols et des sous-sols pollus ainsi que pour lpuration de latmosphre vicie en CO2.

Lagriculture rurale des pays occidentaux doit quant elle, crise du ptrole et changement climatique obligent, rpondre la crise alimentaire mondiale des pays en voie de dveloppement et principalement de lAfrique. Son rle est donc dsormais de produire (avec un accroissement estim 60% dici 2050) toutes les denres transportables par bateau comme les crales et le mas et cela en sappuyant sur lvolution de la science et des biotechnologies de pointe. En complmentarit de son rle nutritif, lagriculture rurale se voit attribuer le nouveau dfi de recycler ses propres rebus de culture pour la chimie verte afin de produire les biocarburants appels de seconde gnration tirant lnergie des matires non-consommables des plantes c'est--dire des fibres comme les celluloses notamment.


Dans ce cadre de mutation cologique et dautonomie alimentaire, cest larchitecture de se mettre au service de cette no-agriculture et de traduire cette nouvelle aspiration sociale ! Le projet Dragonfly propose donc de construire un prototype de ferme urbaine offrant, autour dun programme mixte de logements de bureaux et de laboratoires en gnie cologique, des espaces agricoles tags verticalement et cultivs en partie par ses propres habitants. Cette ferme verticale met en place toutes les pratiques durables en agriculture biologique base sur la production intensive et diversifie suivant le rythme des saisons. Cette architecture nourricire est, de plus, favorable la rutilisation des dchets biodgradables et la conservation de lnergie et des ressources renouvelables dans la perspective dune planification de densification cosystmique.

En vue de contextualiser ce projet et de se positionner dans les dbats sur la crise sociale et cologique, Dragonfly vient simplanter au fil de leau sur lEast River la pointe sud de la Roosevelt Island New York entre lle de Manhattan et le quartier de Queens. Pour faire face aux pressions foncires, Dragonfly stire verticalement sous forme dune tour bionique relocalisant un nouveau biotope urbain pour la faune et la flore locale et rinsufflant une production alimentaire autogre par les habitants au cur de Big Apple.

De palier en palier, la tour superpose non seulement des levages assurant la production de viande, de laitage, de volaille, et dufs, mais aussi des sols agricoles, vritables racteurs biologiques rgnrs en continu en humus organique. Elle diversifie les varits cultives pour viter le lessivage des strates de substrat moelleux. Ainsi, les cultures se succdent la verticale selon leur aptitude agronomique fournir certains lments au sol entre les essences qui y sont semes et rcoltes. La tour, vritable organisme vivant, devient ainsi mtabolique et auto-suffisante en eau, en nergie et en bio-fertilisants. Rien ne se perd, tout se recycle vers une auto-alimentation continue !


Larchitecture du prototype Dragonfly propose donc de rinventer la construction la verticale qui a marqu lessor urbanistique de la ville de New York depuis le 19me sicle aussi bien structurellement et fonctionnellement qucologiquement et nergtiquement.

Pour assurer la mixit sociale et un cycle de vie permanent 24h/24 au sein de la tour, la programmation mixte est principalement dcompose autour des deux ples du logement et du travail. Autour des habitats, des bureaux et des laboratoires de recherche, sorganisent ainsi les espaces agricoles et de loisirs, des plus privs au plus publics, en jardins, potagers, vergers, prairies, rizires, fermes, et champs suspendus. La rpartition des flux se fait autour dune vritable colonne vertbrale scurise rpartissant en boucle les batteries dascendeurs, les monte-charges et les cages descaliers desservant tous les niveaux tout en scindant les inputs et outputs recycls des vgtaux, des animaux et des humains.

Architecturalement, cette organisation fonctionnelle se traduit par deux tours oblongues et jumeles symtriquement autour dune immense serre bioclimatique qui les relie et se dploie verticalement entre deux voiles cristallins. Ces voiles ultralgers de verre et dacier reprennent les charges de ldifice et sont directement inspirs de la structure des ailes de libellule de la famille des odonates anisoptres dont la membrane transparente est trs finement nervure. Autour de ces ailes, viennent sarque-bouter les deux anneaux habits dont lexo-structure cisele organiquement abrite les espaces inter-climatiques recevant les cultures agraires.

Lensemble forme une architecture double-peau en rsille de nid dabeille qui exploite au maximum lnergie solaire passive en accumulant lair chaud lhiver dans lpaisseur de lexo-structure et en rafraichissant latmosphre par ventilation naturelle et par vapotranspiration des plantes lt. Mettant ainsi labri les cultures des forts contrastes climatiques new-yorkais (de -25.5C en hiver +41C en t), ces espaces tampons sont mis profit pour repenser lagriculture non plus en termes de superficie mais bien de volume. En effet, tandis que les sols nourrissent des vergers, chaque mur et chaque plafond sont mtamorphoss en potagers tridimensionnels. Les faades intrieures des logements et des bureaux jettent quant elle vers la skyline new-yorkaise les porte--faux de leurs balcons hydroponiques section hexagonale multipliant par ce biais les couches de cultures par tage. La vgtation foisonne, la terre grouille dinsectes et les animaux de ferme sont levs librement en viviers par les consommateurs urbains faible revenu. Larchitecture devient comestible !

En complmentarit de ce dispositif thermique dit passif , lintgration des nergies renouvelables a t pense ds la conception de Dragonfly pour rpondre aux attentes dun projet compltement autosuffisant nergtiquement en centre urbain. En effet, la proue sud de la tour reoit sur toute la hauteur de son galbe un bouclier solaire produisant la moiti de lnergie lectrique ncessaire son fonctionnement. Lautre moiti tant assure par les trois oliennes axe vertical de type Darrieus qui se lovent dans les trois lentilles creuss dans la partie nord de la coque micro-perle en direction des vents dominants new-yorkais. Les faades extrieures de la tour prsentent quant elles une double personnalit. En effet, lOuest de lle vers Manhattan, les faades sont traites en murs vgtaux arides tandis qu lEst vers le Queens les parois extrieures plus humides sont cultives avec des essences tropicales. Ces jardins verticaux permettent de filtrer leau de pluie et les effluents des eaux uses domestiques des habitants de la tour. Les eaux rcoltes subissent ainsi un traitement biologique appropri pour leur rutilisation agricole, apportant tout lazote et une bonne partie du phosphore et du potassium requis pour la production des fruits, lgumes et crales.

Surlignant la rive de la Roosevelt Island, la tour svase de part et dautre de sa base pour mieux ingrer les flux qui la traversent et pour accueillir deux marinas pousant les flots de lEast River. Cet vasement forme deux grandes voutes photovoltaques telle une robe solaire flottant au dessus de ces deux nouveaux ports urbains : dune part ct marina Ouest les pontons en bois des bateaux taxis souvrent panoramiquement sur la rive de Midtown et dautre part ct marina Est le march flottant orient vers le Queens est conu pour distribuer par voie fluviale la production alimentaire de cette ferme verticale au cur de Manhattan et son million et demi de citadins. De plus ces deux marinas abritent deux grands tangs daquaculture, vritables rservoirs deau douce filtre par les faades vgtales et destine tre rinjecte dans le rseau hydroponique de la tour Dragonfly.

Suivant lvolution de lagriculture urbaine encourage par la FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) qui constate depuis 2007 que l'agriculture biologique tendue grande chelle serait mme de nourrir la plante, le projet Dragonfly lance donc le dfi la ville de New York de repenser sa production alimentaire. En rponse, ce projet de ferme verticale habite rpond au dilemme contemporain de produire non seulement plus cologiquement mais aussi plus intensivement sur une terre non-extensive et cela tout en fusionnant directement lieu de production et lieu de consommation au cur de la cit !

Vincent Callebaut Architecte