Gallery: Spiraling Skyscraper Farms for a Future Manhattan


As the world’s population continues to skyrocket and cities strain under the increased demand for resources, skyscraper farms offer an inspired approach towards creating sustainable vertical density. One of three finalists in this year’s Evolo Skyscraper Competition Eric Vergne’s Dystopian Farm project envisions a future New York City interspersed with elegantly spiraling biomorphic structures that will harness cutting-edge technology to provide the city with its own self-sustaining food source.

When considering the future needs of our cities, few urban designs address the world’s burgeoning population better than vertical farms. By 2050 nearly 80% of the world’s population will reside in urban centers, and 109 hectares of arable land will be needed to feed them.

Designed for the Hudson Yard area of Manhattan, Eric Vergne’s Dystopian Farm aims to provide New York with a sustainable food source while creating a dynamic social space that integrates producers with consumers. Based upon the “material logic of plant mechanics”, the biomorphic skyscraper is modeled after the plant cells of ferns and provides space for farms, residential areas, and markets. These organic structures will harness systems such as airoponic watering, nutrient technology and controlled lighting and CO2 levels to meet the food demands of future populations.

In addition to infusing dense urban areas with CO2-consuming green spaces, Vergne envisions the structures as dynamically altering the fabric of city life: “Through food production and consumption, this skyscraper sets up a fluctuation of varying densities and collections of people, bringing together different social and cultural groups, creating new and unforseen urban experiences that form and dissipate within the flux of city life.”

This year’s Evolo Skyscraper Competition resulted in an incredible crop of 416 projects from designers, architects, and engineers in 64 different countries. Their website currently lists the finalists, boiled down to three winners and 15 special mentions.

+ Dystopian Farm

+ Evolo Skyscraper Competition


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  1. Destrie August 22, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    I really wish there were more artciels like this on the web.

  2. kirst May 16, 2010 at 8:09 am

    I am neither architect nor engineer,but I think ideas like this should be celebrated whether or not they are feasible. It’s forward thinking and it all goes toward development. I LOVE the look of the place, awesome aesthetics. wish I could see stuff like this when driving to work. Love the concept. kudos!

  3. Roadcruiser1 April 10, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    How about this we build a building that has about 1 acre every floor about 80 floors tall and it is open to the elements but the building is designed to survive the elements. It would have solar panels,wind turbines and a giant pool which collects rain water at the roof, the solar panels and wind turbines light up the lights which is inside the buildings and give them the light for ATP meanwhile pipes would collect water from the pool which takes about 2-6 floors and distribute it to the plants via sprinklers and pipes which would give plants water and heat is created by the sun which would still give it heat Light Heat and Water=ATP it would work and it would be green and fit in with urban lifestyle.

  4. lynn January 9, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Unworkable, but stimulating ideas bounced around gather more ideas, refinement and could blossom into something workable but un-thought of at the beginning. “Evolution” is a wonderful thing when applied to concepts as well. Please allow others to see, consider, communicate and evolve ideas.
    It may benefit all of us, and possibly the planet if we can evolve an idea into being. Most of our structures and constructs today had naysayers.
    Thinking about and attempting to use capillary action, surface tension, wind, magnet
    Will the tiny brained, in the box thinkers please allow for possibilities outside their precepts. You just may miss a concept or two.

  5. Grendel August 12, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    First off I like the design, I want 1.

    Through use of water evaporation, mirrors, solar panels this is possible, the hydroponics and air con problems are easily solved by growing different things in the differing conditions. Don’t try to raise the water with power just use a massive condenser near the top. Water raises it self if you ask it nicely, rain forest style. Water use is minimal its all recycled and collected from rain and the amount of clean air this would make for a large city would be great, no shortage of CO2 outside

    Its a lot of work at first, computer simulations and then the teething problems with evo control but once they have done it once it becomes easier, cheaper, more viable. Back in the 50s everybody said renewable energy is a waste of time. Now we got energy costs going through the roof cause demand is hi and we running out. Now we have suddenly changed our mind. Mother nature will bite back, and is nibbling right now (Katrina) just to mention 1 nibble.

    This is and will be more viable once the price of food goes even higher, if it grew a lot of different imported expensive fruit that would be profitable. With efficient solar energy and use of batteries it could give some plants a 24 hour cycle, tomatoes and chillies like that.

    The only other option is to put a world bad on population growth on the scale it is now, ask the USA to stop using cars that do less than 30mpg also use 33% less power than they do and then throw away 33% less rubbish. Then kindly ask china to stop building coal fired power stations. Maybe even fly over some unnamed countries and blanket bomb them with Durex.

    Lets face it the above paragraph ain’t happening soon so in the meantime we need to do what we can, we ain’t got much choice. Look at what happened on Easter Island, now imagine 6 billion people in the same position better to do something now than stick our heads in the sand and pretend it don’t exist cause our super market still has food on the shelves and therefore we must be fine.

    Comments Welcome

  6. Ricky182 June 5, 2009 at 12:24 am


  7. tchalvakspam March 18, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    With boxes like that, I\’d prefer boxes that work over the fanciful organic form mentioned in the article.

  8. cmaosrstaonndra February 22, 2009 at 11:26 am

    In response to all those who are doubting the sustainability of vertical farming, there are a number of technologies that rely on the fact that the vertical farm is part of an urban center. Many schemes of this sort use grey water recycling from the city, and if you look up 2008’s winner of the Buckminster Fuller award, you will find John Todd, who has developed an ecology-based method of cleaning grey water that functions like a wetland. As to the electricity required for the lighting (because the designs don’t rely on sunlight – that’s part of the point), biomass generators that use the leftover greens when the produce is harvested are often included, there will likely be wind turbines and solar cells included in any of these farms that get built. It will be a multi-source building. Yes, some energy might come from the grid, but then the energy that drives combines isn’t exactly eco-friendly.

    As to its biomorphic form, yes, it’s arbitrary, but aren’t you tired of boxes?

  9. etymological February 21, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    I’ve been hearing about and seeing designs for farm towers for years, and I find them quite an interesting thought. (My favorite design thus far had aquaculture tanks in the bottom, with fish like tilapia; the plants were grown hydroponically, using some of the fish waste as fertilizer; the overall interior design was a spiral, so water was essentially pumped to various levels and trickled down from there; the lighting was provided by lamps powered by solar and wind generators on the roof and upper levels – still on the grid, but drastically reduced energy consumption).

  10. jomegared February 18, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    In response to, ‘real logic’ some people have to push the boundaries. Otherwise people like you would constantly hold us back. There would be no progress in society if we always went with the ideas that work. Dream a little big guy. Its these, “Whale of a fail,” ideas that spark discussion, creativity, and innovative solutions. Go back to your box!

  11. Ken J February 18, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Vertical farms are most likely not feasible. The thing that makes a farm work is horizontal square footage. This isn’t because of space requirements but because of sunlight density. Vertical farms would be missing out at the most efficient time of day. I don’t think there is enough sunlight to farm the side of a skyscraper, but perhaps I will be proven wrong.

  12. sysop February 17, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Most excellent idea, one that will surely be an integral part of our new economy, the Robotic Wageless Economy

  13. maestral February 17, 2009 at 5:32 am

    incredible ! is it workable?

  14. mangrenade February 17, 2009 at 3:03 am

    “Since there is no further design information available besides an artist’s concept, none of you can make any claims as to the feasibility or ’sustainability’ of this particular design.” – ‘engineer’

    On the contrary, there is plenty of design intent and content conveyed on the full submission panels ( If anything, the extent of detail and resolution put towards structural systems and water delivery (i.e. aeroponic flooring) makes the project vulnerable to a lot of criticism – both positive and negative – especially with regard to resources. In all fairness though, the author of this “Dystopian Farming” project stated that the concept is about the social and spatial realm of farming and how urban dwellers could experience production/consumption in a more immediate and local way. For that reason, I agree with ‘engineer’ that it’s irresponsible to lump this project in with the greater discussion of technical efficiency in vertical farming.

    “Nobody is talking about building a self-contained biosphere. Obviously, you will need off-site power generation (just like the rest of the city) and you will need to have water pumped in… Nobody is making claims about water or power or anything other than having more space to grow crops.” – ‘engineer’

    I wish more people were making those claims. There are countless design schemes that specialize in displacing resource pressure and passing the buck. Given that change is an incremental thing, we have to live with those intermediary steps and their shortcomings… but that doesn’t absolve those intermediary steps from criticism. Even from non-engineers.


  15. ec February 17, 2009 at 1:44 am

    an engineer coming to the aid of an architect.. I find that somewhat amusing 😀

    to the critics, please also bear in mind that this is an entry in a design competition
    aimed to propose / flesh out certain ideas and concepts

    There’s still an enormous amount of work involved & details to be resolved in turning something like this into a buildable solution.

  16. real logic February 17, 2009 at 1:10 am

    “…skyscraper farms offer an inspired approach towards creating sustainable vertical density…”

    And we all know just how critical “sustainable vertical density” is. WTF?

    “By 2050 nearly 80% of the world’s population will reside in urban centers, and 109 hectares of arable land will be needed to feed them.” A hectare is a little less than 2 1/2 acres. Whatever does the author intend to mean?

    And yes, this is just another student architect’s absurd design fantasy that is both counter-logical and wholly impractical–simply more architectural eye/mind-candy with no relevance to the real world as any kind of design solution. Any structure of this kind would in reality (you know, where most of us actually live) cost hundreds of millions of dollars just to construct, would be resource and energy intensive, and addresses none of the valid concerns and criticisms noted above regarding lighting, water, power or other practical matters. Whale of a fail.

  17. Eclipse Now February 16, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    See Valcent’s greenhouses. They use 1/20th the water and 1/10th the land for certain crops as “normal farming”. Also, nutrient cycles are what is most interesting! Valcent have actually put thought into how to turn sewerage into nutrient rich water that cycles through the greenhouse. Google “Vertical farming” for a variety of other sources of vertical farm, including enclosed greenhouse towers that can grow food 24/7 365 whatever the local climate. “Grow-lighting” is powered by biomass cookers in the basement (drawing on the local city’s biomass waste), some sunlight during the day, and the rest from the grid.

    If that grid is “green” and the skyscraper farm reduces our need for fossil fuels in farming, then we may have created an oil free agricultural sector that uses recycled nutrients. However, the true bugbear may be generating enough green electrons in this “electric skyfarming” of the future.

    Oil free farming is very, very important, as peak oil is nearly here. The sooner we can experiment with alternative technologies and find what actually works, with experience in the field and not just on paper, the better!

  18. jeff-H February 16, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    People need to read carefully. This isn’t a building with HVAC needs, apartments or offices, but a high-rise farm. And it doesn’t use traditional growing methods — there is no dirt. Nutrients are sprayed directly on the roots. Love it or hate it, I give the guy props for creativity.

  19. engineer February 16, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    Do any of you have any engineering background, or are you just spouting misunderstood “green” talking points?

    Nobody is talking about building a self-contained biosphere. Obviously, you will need off-site power generation (just like the rest of the city) and you will need to have water pumped in. Yes, the wording is somewhat unfortunate in the article (specifically “self-sustaining food source”), however what this design and other vertical farms provide is a large amount of arable land on a relatively small footprint. Nobody is making claims about water or power or anything other than having more space to grow crops.

    Since there is no further design information available besides an artist’s concept, none of you can make any claims as to the feasibility or ‘sustainability’ of this particular design.

    The entire point of vertical farms is to provide local capacity to grow crops, eliminating costly and inefficient supply chains that are often transcontinental. By making vertical farms a standard form of construction a decade or two from now, it would be possible to design cities to take pressure off neighboring ecologies and reduce the incentive to deforest the planet to provide adequate cropland.

    I’m not even going to touch the HVAC issues or apt numbers because seriously dude. That’s like saying “hybrids won’t work because where will the seats go!”

  20. RamJet February 16, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Could you image trying to control the heating and air.conditioning in a building such as this, not to mention how you would assign apt. numbers/address’?

  21. mangrenade February 16, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Good point, bobocop. I would like to add to your criticism by including this extension: where does the water come from?

    “As the world’s population continues to skyrocket and cities strain under the increased demand for resources, skyscraper farms offer an inspired approach towards creating sustainable vertical density.”

    It’s funny that this article begins with the premise of resource scarcity, and then introduces a project that would be extremely water-intensive. Vertical farming, in general, can only attempt to reach a self-sustaining state when there is enough in-situ surface area for water capture… otherwise, the demand for external resources far outweighs any farming benefit. I would not expect a proposal like those submitted for the eVolo competition to contain a detailed system for water capture or any form of quantitative information, but there needs to be evidence of consideration for the principle resource required.

    Proposals like these, with the obligate (and arbitrary) biomimetic structure and specious consideration for resources, contribute nothing to discussions about future cities and future farming that has not already been said. Paper architecture does not necessarily need to be embedded in reality, but it should suggest some form of feasible application. In this case, the proposal merely propagates the problems it sought to mitigate.

  22. Hogan February 16, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    They can use mirrors all around the building to direct light where they want :p

  23. davidwayneosedach February 16, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    It’s very futuristic. I can’t say I like the design, but I am behind their intention $100%!

  24. bobocop February 16, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    If you want to build a green building like this, where does your energy come from? It is certainly not coming from the sun, as you will be shading a majority of the floors. Do you get your energy from the grid then, connecting to coal-burning power plants? I am certainly an advocate for denser population centers, they are inherently more efficient as you reduce your largest energy cost, transportation, down by quite a bit. However, you are trying to defy the laws of physics, which is hardly ever a good idea. Leave the farming to the countryside where it belongs.

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