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The Agricultural Forum

Part 2 Project 2010
David Bates
Liverpool John Moores University UK
The grim reality of UN predictions is that the human race will expand to a population of 9 billion by 2050 with an increased global temperature of 2-4OC. Global food production will be significantly hit, raising the question of how we feed a growing population on rapidly decreasing agricultural land?

Located in a sustainable Masterplan, the Forum is positioned at the threshold between the Agricultural Quarter and main Civic space. Possessing the functional properties of an ancient Stoa market, the Forum enables scientific development, informs and teaches the public about local and global issues, and produces a high volume of crops for the immediate local community.

The Forum was directly influenced by the scientific field of Agronomy; created through the reinterpretation of a plant cell structure where the nuclear envelope encloses, protects, and services whilst the chromosomes or knowledge is protected at its core. This enables the building to turn its back on the main public realm whilst the market units in the northern block unfold, providing a high level of permeability at street level. The research element is contained at the buildings core, splitting the interior space into a winter garden and courtyard.

The crop rotation system facilitates growth and movement by allowing pallets to rotate between the market, research labs and three different growing environments. These comprise of greenhouses in the trusses that form the south façade and roof space, outdoor growing areas on adjacent rooftops, and scientifically controlled underground growing chambers where exact climatic conditions are replicated to investigate the effects of climate change on foreign ecosystems.

The pallets use a hydroponic system which directly sprays the plant roots with nutrients, negating the need for soil and increasing yield by up to 300% making it both lightweight and efficient. At capacity 4 hectares of crops can be grown at any given time without occupying any ground floor space.

The Forum creates a pedestrian journey through a series of concealed environments revealed upon entry, whilst the feel and appearance of the interior spaces are continuously moulded by the varying shadows cast from the crop system and roof structure.

David Bates

David’s project stems from initial group work, of research and design strategies for a zero net carbon quarter of the city of Liverpool. With intimate knowledge of the significant history of the area, and of the physicality of the territory involved, they critically structured cultural and scientific sources and precedents with inspired design thinking to create a strategy from which individual projects were born.

The building project itself is embedded within an individual urban design proposition, after each member of the group democratically evolved a section of the overall group masterplan.

The Comprehensive Design Project proposition seeks to juxtapose a range of programmes in a critically important location within both the individual strategy and the group masterplan. David sought to elegantly resolve the interplay of several geometries, and to appropriately address the boundary of the principle urban square within the masterplan. Programmatically the project addresses pertinent issues around urban farming and the supply of food to ever increasing urban populations, in particular when perceived through a long term view.

The project is both architecturally and technologically thoughtfully considered, with particular attention to detail. Innovative design thinking has created a rich and multi-layered project that warrants in-depth study. In a well-considered manner it embodies the strategy of ‘working through the scales’, with each subsequent step making references to the ones that preceded and follow it.

Dr Charlie Smith


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