Urban Skyfarm, South Korea


So far, most existing vertical farms look like big greenhouses or plant factories all of the action happens on the inside. Warehouses in Chicago, Kyoto, Singapore, and a handful of other cities grow plants with ultra-high-efficiency systems under artificial light, and a recent skyscraper in Sweden, built by the urban farming company Plantagon, raises greens near the windows on each floor. But a new design concept from Aprilli Design Studio takes a different approach, using lightweight decks to provide growing space outdoors on the sides of a giant skyscraper.

The architects aren’t the first to embrace the trend of sticking greenery on towers, but they may be one of the first to look at how to use the technique to maximize food production. The version of the vertical farm was intended to become an independent, open-to-air structure which would be purely focusing on farming activities and sustainable functions such as generating renewable energy and performing air, and water filtration.

Designed to mimic the shape of an enormous tree, the Urban Skyfarm is covered in leaf-like decks that can provide 24 acres of space for growing fruit trees and plants like tomatoes. The “trunk” of the tree houses an indoor hydroponic farm for greens, and solar panels and wind turbines at the top of the tower provide enough energy to power the whole operation. The design would also capture rainwater and filter it through a constructed wetland before returning it to a nearby stream.

The architects envision the project in the middle of downtown Seoul, South Korea. It seemed to be an ideal place to test out our prototype since the specific area is very dense and highly active and has been suffering for a long time by all sorts of environmental problems resulting from rapid urbanization.

With the support of hydroponic farming technology, the space could efficiently host more than 5,000 fruit trees. Vertical farming is more than an issue of economical feasibility, since it can provide more trees than average urban parks, helping resolve urban environmental issues such as air pollution, water run-off and heat island effects, and bringing back balance to the urban ecology.

Vertical farming has already started in South Korea. Another project, based in Suwon, is growing food in a three-story building and may eventually expand into a skyscraper. But the outdoor vertical farm is just a concept for now. Vertical farming really is not only a great solution to future food shortage problems but a great strategy to address many environmental problems resulting from urbanization.



An event hub, a meeting place and an invitation to experiment, each MPavilion brings creative collaborators together to present a free, four-month program of talks, workshops and performances from October to February. The 2015 MPavilion has been designed by AL_A, the studio of Stirling Prize–winning architect Amanda Levete. The temporary installation, initiated by Naomi Milgrom Foundation, was unveiled in Queen Victoria Gardens. For the next four months, the public is welcomed to populate the artificial ‘forest canopy’, whose translucent petals were developed using aerospace technology to demonstrate how an ultra-lightweight structure that can ‘sit lightly on the landscape and gently respond to the climate’. The organizers explained that, each petal is fitted with LED lights that are activated by the sunset to give a light performance synchronized with music.

Amanda Levete stated that she is delighted that the 2015 MPavilion can now be shared with the public. She added by saying that the Pavilion is a celebration of those natural shelters where everyone comes together and which is achieved as an exceptionally light, open structure that sits gently on the land and allows the light, the wind, and sometimes the rain, to form part of the show. It is designed to provide a contemplative, personal experience as well as a place to congregate. The use of composite technology has revolutionized engineering industries such as aerospace and has the potential to do the same for construction. The use of composites enables structures of unprecedented lightness combined with great strength and the potential applications in architecture are tantalizingly unexplored. Composites are particularly exciting for AL_A because the sector is propelled by research into new techniques and processes that in turn give rise to new formal and expressive possibilities for us to discover. The MPavilion will remain on view through February 7, 2016, and will be populated with more than 200 free events.

GB House supported by Steel Pillars


A large decked balcony raised on branching steel piloti provides views towards the Pacific Ocean from this house near the Chilean city of Concón by Santiago studio emA Arquitectos. GB House was designed by emA Arquitectos for a family who wanted to move out of the capital and enjoy a quieter life by the coast. The plot is located on the edge of the village of Mantagua, in a wetland nature reserve that provides opportunities for kayaking, hiking and bird watching. The property’s position on the outskirts of the village, in an area defined by steep gorges, means it feels isolated and is not overlooked by other properties. The brief called for a family home with a separate office where the client could work and hold meetings for his construction business. The terrain of the plot informed the building’s position and orientation, with the living areas situated at the steepest point to ensure these spaces have the best views across the nearby dunes towards the sea. The owner’s small office is situated at the rear of the ground floor, in a volume separated from the main house by a void that passes below the timber-clad upper storey.

The design of this house respects the topography of the site and the perimeter made up of native vegetation. It seeks to isolate itself from the rest of the houses in the sector, by placing the volume in such a way that its location releases and extends views towards the coast. The entire building is raised above the ground on steel supports to minimise disruption to existing native plants, which are free to grow underneath the building. A decked terrace that wraps around the lounge and dining area is supported by branching pillars that rise from the steep slope at the front of the plot.

The architects took into consideration the local vegetation of the place and trying not to intervene the natural terrain. For these reasons the house was designed on piloti and with gangways that connect the access with the house and exterior office. The gangways extend along either side of the house, connecting the terraces with a porch area on one side that incorporates a raised plant bed and a ramp descending to the garden. One of the gangways leads from the front gate to the opening between the house and office. It continues to the house’s entrance, which opens onto a corridor flanked by the kitchen.

The corridor culminates in a step down to the living and dining area, which is lined with full-height glazed walls incorporating sliding sections that open onto the decking outside. A timber staircase ascends to a small sitting and study area on the first floor landing, from which a corridor leading towards the rear of the property connects with the three bedrooms on this level. The architects applied black-painted timber cladding to the exterior of the first floor and weathered steel on the ground floor to contrast with the pale wood used throughout the interior. The topography of Chile’s dramatic coastline has been exploited by many of the country’s architects, who often position houses on the clifftops or raise them off the ground to gain better views of the Pacific. Mas Fernandez Arquitectos, LAND Arquitectos and L2C have all designed recent examples.

LOG Rhythm House


Huge steel beams with I-shaped profiles were stacked to form the framework of this Tokyo house by Mount Fuji Architects Studio, which features a red spiral staircase winding between its floors. Local firm Mount Fuji Architects Studio – whose past projects include a house centered around a tree-like column – designed Log Rhythm house as a home for a couple, in a modern residential development on the outskirts of the Japanese capital.

The design of the three-storey building is informed by the traditional methods of constructing azekura log cabins – an ancient building typology featuring walls made from lengths of rounded timber that intersect at the corners. The architects reinterpreted this technique to suit the property’s contemporary urban context by swapping the layered logs for industrial steel I-beams, also known as H-beams or universal beams. The beams have a large section of 700 millimeters by 350 millimeters and are more typically used in major construction projects. Here, they are stacked to form a monumental structure that is accentuated by the exposed profiles at the building’s corners. An alternating arrangement creates gaps between the top and bottom edges of the beams for bands of windows, which are frosted in areas where privacy is required. Internally, their joints are smoothed off to soften the material’s industrial quality.

H-steel’s material properties, such as enormous weight and strength, mathematical regularity and gentleness expressed in rounded corners were assembled into a log-house shape and intensified in an attempt to furnish a desirable locality to a featureless, newly-developed residential area. The stacked beams are left exposed internally to evoke typical Japanese shinkabe wood-framed construction, which does not conceal the frame behind plasterwork, and instead uses plaster to fill in spaces around the structure. Within the living areas, the visible framework enhances the building’s materiality and simple construction, with the beams forming integrated shelving and benches around the edges of the rooms.

The ground floor accommodates a bedroom with built-in storage and a bathroom housed in two rendered volumes on either side of the central corridor. The spiraling metal staircase is positioned at the corner of the building and connects a reception area with the living and dining space on the first floor. A simple kitchen is located at the far end of this storey. The stair ascends through a double-height void between the living room and the top floor, which is designated as a studio space. Corrugated metal extends between the beams on either side of the building to support the floors. The underside forms a textured ceiling that adds to the utilitarian feel of the interior.



The glass-encased lift and elevated walkway have been created by architecture studio Vaumm to improve access between the new and historic centers of Spanish town Hernani. The old and new parts of Hernani’s town center are separated by a steep grassy bank, dividing the historic center at the top from a sports complex and a medical center below. This proved difficult to negotiate for some older residents, so San Sebastian-based Vaumm was commissioned to develop a solution, improving the connection to the newly developed part of town. The team responded with a metal-framed structure incorporating a lift, a staircase and an elevated walkway. This new infrastructure – the lift and the footbridge – will improve the accessibility between the new developments of the town and the historical and commercial center.

The practice previously created a similar outdoor elevator in the nearby town of Errenteria and, while the structures are the result of two distinct projects, they both had the aim to provide better access to amenities for ageing citizens. The improvement of accessibility is a current concern because of the complex topography of our territory, and because of an ageing population.

The town is located just inland from the sea port of San Sebastian, whose ship-filled harbors influenced the slender steel banisters and framework used to enclose the decked walkway and lift shaft. A ridged concrete tower partially embedded into the grassy slope provides access to the lift. It stops at a midway point below the walkway to link with a secondary bridge that provides access to the sports center. This section of the bridge shelters the entrance to the lift at ground level.

The elevator has a concrete base, but, the rest of the structure is glazed, offering users with views over the urban landscape and into the countryside beyond the town. The decked bridge extends out from the elevator tower over the slope, and rests one end on an old stone retaining wall at the top. It widens as it approaches the wall, joining a broad promenade. The intention was to invite passersby to approach. A flight of stairs runs up the slope below the walkway, providing an alternative route when the lift is in use.



Thin sheets of brightly painted steel have been folded to create this origami-inspired canopy, designed to shelter a school playground in an Andalusian village. Featuring a pale turquoise roof and a hot-pink underside, the angular pavilion was created by Spanish architect Julio Barreno Gutiérrez for a school in Algodonales – a small village in the Cádiz region of Andalusia in southern Spain.

The playground of the Principe de Asturias School is split over two levels, which before now were poorly connected. To improve access between them, the architect added a ramp and a short flight of stairs. “Two playgrounds are separated in two different levels to the west and north sides, a different level that became dangerous for the little kids,” explained Barreno Gutiérrez, whose past school-design projects include an extension featuring lime-green interiors and a zigzagging walkway. The goal for this project was the functional necessity of building a space protected from the strong sun or untimely rains, to allow everyday breaks, and an interesting improvement of the connection between the two playgrounds.

The metal canopy was anchored across the two different levels to shade the ramp and staircase from the sun and rain. Sheets of one-centimeter-thick steel were bent to create the faceted shape and pointed legs. Both the bright coloring and folding technique were intended to be reminiscent of origami, ultimately lending a unique appeal to the structure. The architectural tool was found in the fancy children’s world full of color and fun. The structural quality and the inherent flexibility of origami, typical of the many craft activities developed in class by the children themselves, became the genetic property to formally develop the managed element.



Urbanest’s latest London scheme will have some of the most sought after views in the capital for its students and residents. Located next to County Hall and Waterloo Station, 199 Westminster Bridge Road overlooks the River Thames affording views of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Designed by architects AHMM, the hybrid scheme will deliver 1,092 rooms in a variety of formats. Student accommodation is spread over 16 levels from floor 3 to the uppermost level 18. Below level 3, the lower part of the scheme includes four floors of college (ground, mezzanine, first and second floors), flexible and affordable workspace for small local start-up businesses, as well as a double height basement containing plant rooms, music rooms, a gym and a 16m x 5m swimming pool.

Level 3 of the scheme is essentially a transfer deck and the most crucial element of the project design as this is the main interface between the reinforced concrete residential zone and the steel framed college below. From basement level up to the third floor structural steelwork with metal decking has been used as the framing material and Bourne Steel fabricated, supplied and erected 1,570 tonnes of steel for this part of the scheme.

Steel was chosen for the college as the design includes a number of long span areas, such as a large central atrium. Bourne Steel’s erection sequence has been split into two programs. Initially the company erected the bulk of the project’s steelwork from basement slab up to third floor transfer level during a 12-week period in early 2014. Currently Bourne is working on a return visit to site erecting a further 80t of hot rolled steel to form the project’s sloping roof. The basement contains the initial elements of steelwork to be erected. This area contains a plant mezzanine formed with 3.5m high steel columns supporting metal decking, while longer 7m columns in the basement support the reinforced concrete ground floor slab.

From ground floor upwards the scheme’s steelwork zone incorporates a central atrium around which the college’s mezzanine, first and second floor facilities are arranged. Most of the steel beams are designed as downstand beams acting compositely with the slab above. Shear studs welded to the top flange of the beams provide the required composite action. However, there are a few areas of the building where composite construction was not suitable. Around the building’s perimeter and the internal atrium, primary beams are required to cantilever out from the columns. These beams are designed as non-composite as the top flanges will be in tension under hogging action. To ensure the internal spans still behave as composite sections all the moment from the edge cantilevers (both internal and external) are taken by the columns with pinned connections between the column and internal primary beams.