2020 Steel Competition

Honorable Mention: Hongkou Hub – Sustainable Community Farming in Urban Shanghai

Wenzhu Li, Feifan Chen, Richard Robinson, and Bruce White

Juror Comments
Hongkou Hub – Sustainable Community Farming in Urban Shanghai receives an honorable mention for how it spoke to the local culture of bamboo adapting it in steel. The sophisticated design uses steel structure to allow the building flexibility.
Project Description

The “Hongkou Hub” is a model for sustainable community-based urban farming in Shanghai’s Hongkou neighborhood. Shanghai is among the world’s most populous cities, with over 24 million people. That means 24 million mouths to feed, or over 500 million meals to be consumed every week. This urban food hub proposal aims to increase the local community’s access to clean, healthy, and fresh food. Using innovative aeroponic-driven vertical farming, this food hub and others like it around Shanghai can help provide healthy food for neighborhood residents, serve as a center point for bringing the community together, and provide agriculture based work for Shanghai’s many rural-to-urban migrant workers.

The design of the “Hongkou Hub” is sensitive to its surroundings and the community it aims to serve. The food hub is constructed from a system of modular steel frames inspired by the temporal bamboo framing traditionally found in China. The modularity of the system allows for the structure expand vertically and horizontally in response to programmatic, hierarchical, and food production needs.The modular steel framing system hearkens to the bamboo framing historically used for a number of temporary structural applications all across China. The modularity of the system allows for the structure expand vertically and horizontally in response to programmatic, hierarchical, and food production needs. The chuck and clasp-based connection system allows for structural members of various circumferences. This facilitates the potential for a hybrid approach of using tubular steel members for the more permanent structure, with bamboo additions for temporal adaptations of spaces such as seasonal pop-up markets or community events in the outdoor flex space. Bamboo is particularly interesting in relation to an urban food hub, as it is not only a staple in Chinese construction, but is also a staple of the Chinese diet. In an effort to further strengthen the project’s connection to the surrounding community, the iconic window pattern of the historic 1933 Old Mill-fun building adjacent to the site has been used to develop a perforated steel panel. These panels will offer diffused light, airflow, and aesthetic interest to the building. Additional Façade options include corrugated steel panels which celebrate the materiality of steel, are cost effective, and offer privacy and protection from elements in certain areas of the hub where it’s required, and drone charging panels that offer locations for the harvesting and delivery drones to dock and charge.

Traditional food markets are some of the most important community spaces in Chinese culture, but they also raise concerns over hygiene and food safety. The Hongkou Hub seeks to provide the strong community spaces that traditional markets offer, while improving on some of their shortcomings. Through an on-site ultra-efficient aeroponic farming system that utilizes drone-assisted harvesting, clean and fresh food can reach the consumer within minutes of being harvested. In addition to the market, a restaurant, food vendor stalls, and a coffee shop provide additional spaces for the local community to enjoy and serve as economic stimulators. The on-site teaching kitchen adds an educational aspect to the project and can teach the local community about healthy eating, and modern urban farming techniques. The Urban Food Hub serves as a center for community food-based bonding, but in order to meet the food demands of bustling Shanghai and the Hongkou neighborhood, our site expands into the neighborhood with additional aeroponic tower modules, vegetable growing walls, and hydroponic farming systems along the stream. The food production is expanded beyond just the food hub, as the aeroponic growing towers and green growing walls are placed throughout the Hongkou neighborhood. This initiative creates a strong sense of connection visual identity within the neighborhood.

Ultimately the Honkou Hub is a project that will address some of the most pressing issues currently facing urban Shanghai, while being an asset to the local neighborhood and community.