Tuesday, May 26, 2009

DeWinging: Dragonfly

Ok, let me start off by saying I'm a big fan of wildly speculative work that pushes the boundaries of thought and expands the thinking of our urban spaces and landscapes. That said, I'm started to chafe at the preponderance of overwrought schemes flown about under the guise of skyscraper or vertical farming (previously discussed here, here, and here). It seems as a fashion du jour, anything goes both stylistically and fantastically, and has recently spawned a new species - the Dragonfly - by Vincent Callebaut Architects which if you've been hibernating, or out working in the garden like myself, you've spotted on no fewer than a dozen blogs in the last couple of weeks. So here's my half-hearted rant against the inevitable (given with a grain of salt, or maybe a sprinkle of slow-release organic fertilizer).

:: image via Inhabitat

Ok, maybe it's not fair, but I despise this building... for starters, it's ugly as hell (even for a future new york). Second, it's derivative biomimicry hidden behind flashy graphics and some equally derivative text: Some of the derivation, via Arch Daily: "The metal and glass wings, directly inspired by the exoskeleton of a dragonfly, house the plant and animal farms. Due to the appropriate sun and wind conditions within these wings, proper soil nutrient levels can be achieved to maximize plant growth. Exterior vertical gardens filter rain water, and once that water is mixed with domestic liquid waste, both are treated organically in order to be reused for farming needs."

:: image via Inhabitat

The building is essentially sci-fi, so is specifically framed as a futuristic technology that I guess the world isn't quite ready for. Materially, it's got some cool imagery, specifically the derivatives from Dragonfly biology - although I'm not quite sure how this particular insect is the optimal housing for

:: image via Clean Air Through Green Roofs

:: images via Arch Daily

I think it's best put on Inhabitat, as a utopian superstructure, which as I mentioned is fine fodder for the vision, but needs a bit of grounding in some form of reality. So there is some valid research that proves, in theory, that the foundations of vertical farming are solid. It seems, to pardon the puns, that we continue to look for a chicken prior to the egg, and firmly put the cart before the horse in the visualization of schemes with little reality to back them up. One good example of this technology in action, even a somewhat homely and utilitarian one, to prove the technology and cost-effectiveness is all I'm asking for.

In response to the Dragonfly and many of the other over-glamourized examples, I offer some reality (let's call it literally grounded) from Vulgare, by artist Helmut Dick, for an installation entitled 'Lettuce Field as Big as a Skyscraper Building': "10,000 lettuces were grown right beside a sky scraper, on a 1200m² field which is as big as the fa├žade of the building. After a growing period of 5 weeks the salad heads were ready for harvest. These were given to the local inhabitants during the one week harvest period." Call it the anti-vertical farm...

:: images via Vulgare


  1. Thank you. I thought I was the only one actually pointing out that this building is ridiculous. I'm a big fan of wild and crazy ideas but at the same time, I'm getting annoyed at all these buildings that not only seem distanced from reality but also distance themselves from their surroundings to create this little enclosed world unto themselves. I feel some designers aren't taking vertical farming seriously and instead using it as a way to dress up their buildings. And in the dragonfly's case, I don't see at all how the form fits the function. Or why there are palm trees in NYC...

    Honestly I still don't get the fad of farming inside of a building on a large scale...what's wrong with a roof garden? Vertical farming itself seems great for areas that are conducive to that sort of thing to make use of vertical space that is otherwise unused but if a building is going to be designed with farming in mind, it doesn't make sense to me to go for vertical farming instead of rooftop farming. In combination might be better.

    Really, what needs to happen is looking at ways to provide a technology or system rather than a totally out there building that would maybe be done once and that's all. But most importantly really get down and dirty and think about what a city should be as a sustainable model as a whole and to include things like strong green infrastructure, urban farming, etc. moving into the future rather than just plopping down futuristic buildings into an non-sustainable infrastructure. To me, that isn't moving in the right direction of a healthy, sustainable city.

  2. I totally agree... it's a good concept, but the building is ugly and unrealistic, exagerated. NY deserves better ideas, the whole view of the city could change if the let this happen, where is the sence of place, the culture, the ny lifestyle... non of this fits with the building, it doesn't belong there.

  3. Talk about hubris. This whole project is a swing and a miss, let's start buildings spaceships in a time when human beings desperately need to become more grounded in practical and functional solutions. Bah!


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