Carlo Ratti Associati have released the design of an office tower in Shenzhen, China whose entire façade will be a vertical hydroponic urban farm. The Jian Mu Tower was designed to fill the last real estate open in Shenzhen’s Central Business District. It was also entered in Chinese supermarket chain Wumart’s building design competition.

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A large tree in front of a hydroponic garden wall

“Small-scale urban farming is happening in cities all over the world – from Paris to New York to Singapore,” said Carlo Ratti, founding partner of CRA and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Jian Mu Tower, however, takes it to the next level. Such approach has the potential to play a major role in the design of future cities as it engages one of today’s most pressing architectural challenges: how to integrate the natural world into building design. In addition to producing food, the Jian Mu Tower’s farm helps with solar shading – a key issue in tall buildings.”

Related: A mini rainforest thrives in the Nanbo Bay Reception Center

Multiple floors of a building with each floor filled with people and green spaces

The tower is 218 meters tall and dedicates 10,000 square meters of its surface to growing space. A vertical farm in such a space could produce an estimated 270,000 kilograms of food per year, which would feed 40,000 people. Cultivation, harvest, sale and consumption of the food is intended to take place all within the same building to cut down on supply chain waste and pollution. The tower will also house offices, a food court and a supermarket.

(Left to right) A tall skyscraper building, outside pavilion with a tall skyscraper in the background

“Jian Mu” is a mythical Chinese tree that reaches to heaven. To reflect the Chinese traditional belief that heaven is round while earth is square, the Jian Mu Tower is designed to slowly morph from a rectangular base to a tubular rounded top.

A terrace, outside area with people standing on multiple levels

It is full of green spaces that also intended to be beautiful. Outdoor landscaped terraces fed by sustainable irrigation on various levels will hold lychee fruit, water lilies and ferns. Interior gardens will be open to office spaces inside the building. Workers will be able to use a phone app to adjust micro-climates within their offices, which lead on to two-story green spaces created to minimize the need for air conditioning.

+ Carlo Ratti Associati

Images via Carlo Ratti Associati