The architectural concept is based on the contemporary reinterpretation of the traditional Italian farm “cascina” and comes to be anchored in the urban context of the 2015 Milan Universal Exposition, as the old farms where in the economic activity of the city. While reminding the iconic farm symbol to the collective memory, the project has the ambition to enhance a spirit of innovation, based on a sustainable agricultural approach, economic efficiency and social local vitality, all in the respect of the environment.
The Village + Farm Lab answers this question: how to live, produce, store, and sell in the same place, regarding the vital needs for its functions, while interacting harmoniously with its urban context?
Village + Farm Lab offers an unseen integration of functions and spatial experiences. Inhabited relaxing areas are contrasted by efficient, transparent and social spaces of production, exhibition and teaching. A new urban combination where new ideas and a concept for a healthy life style could flow freely between farmers and the young generations as an invitation for a respected environment.
Village + Farm Lab takes the best elements from the village traditional structure, as an outset to create a modern campus experience that enhances knowledge sharing, production and creativity. The Youth village relates to the concept of gathering small residential units together with, meeting places as center of social interaction, all surrounded by nature. We propose to translate these qualities into a contemporary architectural concept.
The Youth Village enjoys functional and recreational areas, located at the heart of the project, while providing a certain degree of intimacy. For the most part, the student’s spaces are the only elements in the project which can be completely partitioned and heated. On the contrary, the market place reinforces the idea of emblematic “piazza”: an open-space only covered by mezzanines. The market place is at the same time a busy area and a verdant space, where people can buy, sell, relax or just walk along.
Village + Farm Lab proposes several others dynamic meeting places on different levels, adding the third dimension to the classical piazza, to create a new concept of urban village.
Besides production of rice and cereals, the Region of Milan is also known to produce vegetable and fruits. Modern agriculture and research require space for testing and production. With our proposal the raw character of the Farm is imbedded into a creative lab for agriculture experiments and effective food production in which the public is invited to participate. The food production will be distributed on the various terraces dedicated to urban agriculture, scattered throughout the building. Special attention is paid to offering a maximum of natural light to each terrace.
Furthermore, large openings in the building have been created on the Eastern and Southern parts. Plants requiring more light like tomatoes will be located on the higher levels. Whenever necessary, additional LED lights can be placed on the lower levels. However, solar protection made of translucent removable clothes is integrated in the roof structure to handle the harmful summer radiations. We also considered setting up a general glass roof to be able to grow crops even during wintertime, but it was discarded as it would have a strong counter effect on the food production in the summer time.
The production systems will be made of containers with soil as a substrate and hydroponics systems (soilless techniques). These systems are appropriate for vegetable and fruit productions and offer the advantage to be light, flexible and modular. Their position can evolve with the season and with the market demand. Small greenhouses are designed to insure nursery for the plants and to grow fruit trees that need protection under Milan climate like citrus trees.
Flexible and multi purpose use spaces are created that can handle the changing situations demands over time, in a robust and scalable character. We invite the public into a creativity laboratory for agricultural experiments.
The various culture levels will produce 115 tonnes of food of which 80 tonnes tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers on the upper levels, 20 tonnes of leafy vegetables (such as lettuces, spinach,…) and 15 tonnes of aromatic plants on lower levels. Some space will be devoted to the production of poultry and rabbits. Food production is also foreseen on the piazza in front of the building following Todmorden’s Incredible Edible scheme. The aim is to offer people vegetables, small fruits and pome fruits for free, bringing them together around local food actions and raising consciousness about the need to change behaviours towards the environnement.
Along with the food production, our Farm Lab offers other added sustainable values at social, ecological and economic levels. The surface dedicated to the agricultural production (around 4.400 m2) is large enough to insure the economic viability of a farmer. He will be helped by seasonal workers. The farmer will be scientifically and technically framed by the agricultural and food sciences Faculty of the University of Milan. That Faculty is the largest in Italy in terms of the number of students (approximately 3000) and teaching staff (around 180). Our urban farm will then constitute a teaching tool and an ideal living laboratory with the participation of the farmer, the students living in the building and the Faculty.
The horizontal farm is divided into different levels, supporting the natural light needs of the various cultures. Specials labs for technical cultures take place into green houses and dedicated laboratories, for an experimental and didactic approach and to analyse food quality. Food market will be regularly organised on the ground floor of the building and the public place. Fruit trees will be also cultivated on the public place as a strong signal of the farm activities. Compost will be carried out to ensure direct ecological recycling of the organic matter.
Finally, the non-covered rooftop will ensure the production of seasonal commodities and will help the residents and the visitors to be connected to the nature and its nurturing function, while the rolling fabric screens will help control the harmful excess of direct sunlight.
The Labs are thus both productive spaces as well as social spaces of interaction, bridging production and urban life – benefitting both, where work, learning and exhibition coexist.
VILLAGE + FARM LAB/
Combining the two worlds, Village + Farm Lab creates a hybrid space, an integrated productive and welcoming part of the city. Village + Lab allows for a totally inclusive urban experience with a diversity of spatial experiences.It is a place between social uses and economy, where innovations and knowledge coexist in a participative management for a “win-win” exchange between students and farmers, while including citizens in the process. This is why the functions are not separated in layers but are inter-connected, visible by all, adding a dynamic aspect and value to the process.
LIVING THROUGH THE SEASONS/
The village is an open-air space where interacting functions take place. The open-air concept allows the elements such as the sun, the wind, the cold and the rain to contribute to the global farming purposes.
A simple system of external shutters and unrolling blinds protect from the sunlight while the rain is directly absorbed by the cultures. The village offers a magnificent way to live in step with the seasons, with sustainable development in mind and responsible management approach.
The village is anchored in the architectural codes of the traditional market. An apparent metallic structure selected for its functionality, durability and elegant lightness, supports the closed functional boxes. This project is designed to collect natural light and distribute it through the levels.
The visitors are invited in a green landscape walk through, which prolongs and intensifies the animation of public space. Living through the seasons, inviting the nature in the city, letting the biodiversity take place in our urban environment. The Village Farm Lab tends to reach an autonomous model, which does not take anything but gives back to its environment, in a sustainable way, existing independently through the generations.
We applied for the project the Brussels EPB passive building concepts, adapted to the Milanese climate, meaning :
- good solar screens to limit overheating: window shutters in the facades and roof rolling fabric screens, vegetation will also contribute to the general shading of the outer and inner spaces of the village, and in particular the groundfloor market.
- efficient thermal insulation (passive house standards adapted to the Milanese situation)
- good thermal inertia: the light, reusable and expandable steel structure is combined with concrete floors and partitions.
- heat exchange double flow mechanical ventilation for the residential and cultural areas (allowing up to 90% recovery of energy in winter time)
- natural ventilation for social and commercial areas: market, gathering places, sports areas, …
- passive cooling systems with geo-cooling or the use of the canal waters are considered but need further investigation.
Based on a first energy summary appraisal, the energy needs are as follows:
Gross needs (MWh/y)
Cooling (no active cooling)
Sanitary hot water
Lighting, auxilliaries, elevators (plug-in equipement not included)
• Heating: 100% of the heating energy needs will be supplied by a heat pump unit (HPU) using the canal water (system that has proven its efficiency for the expo pavilions) and eventually completed with a geothermal HPU with shallow geothermal probes.
• Domestic hot water: water will be heated partially with a heat recovery system on the greywater streams (waters cooled from +/- 23°C donw to 8°C) and complimentarily with a HPU.
• Lighting, auxiliaries, elevators, … : 100% of the electricity needs, including those for the HPU’s, will be supplied by PV panels integrated in the roof and the facades, using the acting facades and building skins techniques developed by Issol, a Belgian based company active internationally. The overall needs could be achieved with around 850 m2 of solar PV panels. The use of vertical axis urban wind turbines is also foreseen on the building roof pursuant a thorough local performance analysis. It is thus possible to achieve a positive energy building.
• Alternate solutions: green waste from the farm could be used to produce biogas that could be used in a cogeneration unit working intermittently to produce electricity and domestic hot water. This technique would not be financially profitable but could be implemented for R&D and educational purposes.
WATER AND WASTE MANAGEMENT/
• Rainwater will be collected in 10 water tanks, 20m³ each, and be used mainly for the Farm.
• Greywaters heat will be recovered to pre-heat about two-thirds of domestic heat water (see above) and then collected and treated for further use in the restroom water systems (100% of the needs).
• A biological wastewater micro-plant will collect and treat blackwaters which will be injected underground after treatment à zero water dumping.
• Farming and kitchen waste will be gathered in a composting station whose yield will be used for the soil based production areas.
By doing so, Village + Farm Lab will be an outstanding positive energy building whose design is based on the principles of circular economy.