“Live Share Grow” is the brainchild of Brandon Martella, 24, a recent graduate of San Diego’s NewSchool of Architecture and Design, and his vertical farm proposal, posted online, has gone global. Martella’s proposal says:

side viewFood as a resource is limited. Supply will soon not meet demand. With population growth, food production in the United States is reaching maximum capacity. Current trends in development create a struggle between farming and living. These two practices are modeled for their own benefit and are soon to clash in a disastrous agglomeration.

Martella’s solution? He envisions a family farm modeled as a high-rise foodie palace with 23 acres of vertical growing racks. That is, half of the structure would be dedicated to growing produce and half would be for housing. “Climate control would be monitored by a system of sensing and actuating. With operable panels on the ETFE façade, cross ventilation could naturally condition the growing environments and be monitored with sensors to keep the ideal climate.”

His plan allows urban farmers to grow 2.1 million pounds of fruits and vegetables for use not only by its residents but to supply the San Diego Convention Center, Gaslamp Quarter restaurants and thousands of other downtown residents who would shop in the planned farmer’s market attached to the building.

In his proposal, he cites the need for the city to handle the critical issue of importing more than 20 million pounds of produce on a daily basis for downtown residents. Why should residents import produce when they could produce crops where they live? “Our city needs to handle this critical issue with an architecture that responds. A new type of residential tower needs to come forth,” he notes.

Martella said the innovative idea came to him while living downtown and attending weekly farmer’s markets. “Talking to local farmers, I discovered that San Diego needed a permanent venue for these grassroots social interfaces to take place and truly make the farmers local by bringing their production methods to the city.”

farmer's market
He says his mother’s side lives on a family farm in upstate New York, and while living in San Diego, their self-sustained lifestyle partially influenced the project. “I created a hydroponic system in my downtown residence, growing various types of lettuce and herbs and figured if I could do it in my window, I could scale it up 500 feet.”

He says his concept could work in any type of community and that large-scale hydroponic crop productions are presently taking place across the country. “However,” he adds, “these facilities are removed from cities and operate on remote locations, disengaging the consumer.”

photo-7Employed at Roesling Nakamura Terata Architects, Martella said after posting his proposal on eVolo, a progressive architecture forum website, he began receiving emails from developers as far away as Egypt and Germany offering millions of dollars to develop the urban farming project.

The vertical farm, a mixed usage building, which would include 1,484 residential units designed to supply some 30,000 people with produce, would stand in the heart of San Diego.