Vertical Farm Chicago: Oil & Water

This project began with experiments between oil and water, video recorded to show their relationship over time. The liquids were poured together creating a fleeting bubbling mixture. Bubbles joined together to form larger masses, eventually billowing to result in stratification. This relationship of separation is called immiscibility; water is molecularly dissimilar to oil and has very strong hydrogen bonds to itself. Despite the apparent separation however, research has showed that at the boundary between the oil and the water exists a layered structure of ions where to some degree, they mix.

Agriculture and urban living have traditionally been immiscible.
Designing a vertical farm in Chicago is similar to the forced oil-water combination experiment. Oil can be understood as human space; water can represent space for hydroponically grown crops. The building shell relates to the container used in the experiment. The container used in the experiment correlates to the physical building – a container and influence of activity. If the building is first thought of as a container for the interactions between oil and water, or plants and people, the design must serve the logic of each element.

Oil and water are thought of in stagnation. In reality, both are resources are constantly at work from precipitation and drilling to utility pipes, use in heating, drinking, cooking, etc. to wastewater treatment and repeat. The source model of oil and water then must be in their moving interaction.

The best container for the vertical farm meets the needs of the crops and the needs of the people. A sloped, rounded and transparent south façade permits maximum sunlight for plants. Shifting floor planes for human spaces provides varying degrees of shade, identification, and views. Sinuous forms lend themselves to the changing programs: one curve may create a courtyard for students; another curve may project into the farming section for scientists to study within a closed environment. The utility of the building is measured in its ability to provide food, shelter, and space.

Good design uses given resources, in this instance: sunlight, wind, water, and technology. The environment determines programmatic location (especially crops), materials, and energy sourcing. Technology is integrated by solar paneling, water filtration systems, wind energy systems, and overall building design. Two environmental concentrations will be on water (collection, filtration, and purification by plant transpiration) and sunlight (diffusing it to every part of the building by the farming core).

Socially, the vertical farm bridges the agrarian and urban. Urbanites understand where food comes from. The coexistence of mass food production and consumption is new in modern cities. The building forges physical links by covered public walkways. The restaurant, residences, school, river walk, markets, offices, and commercial space draw in the public.

Urban systems must be connected and enhanced. In Chicago, commerce and transportation are important for distribution and consumer needs. Roads, bus routes, the El, trains, waterways, bike and pedestrian routes all cross or are adjacent to the site. This prime location is ideal for extending commerce with on site markets, commercial tenants, and restaurants. With easy access, mixed program, and shelter within a central location, the building will function as an easy node of urban activity.