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China’s city of the future may include the “farmscraper”

Future Farmscrapers 01Architects are often pushing the boundaries of the possible, often in response to challenges posed by the ongoing problems of urban sprawl, pollution, and overpopulation.

And in China, where one-fifth of the world’s total population lives and urban population density reaches into the thousands per square kilometre, forward-looking architects are finding a receptive audience.

Consider for example the case of Shenzen, a city of 10,357,938 people located just north of Hong Kong. As part of the larger urban mass known as the Pearl River Megalopolis, which contains 120,000,000 people at a density of 3047 people per square kilometre, concerns over overpopulation and urban sprawl are pretty grave indeed.

Especially when one considers that the total number of people living in China’s cities outnumbers that living in rural areas and an additional 800 million people are expected to make the transition from rural to city living by the end of this decade.

Hence why the Chinese government is entertaining concepts for future cities from a number of sources, the most recent being that proposed by the firm of Vincent Callebaut Architectures. Known as “Asian Cairns”, this Shenzen-inspired design incorporates vertical architecture, vertical farming and sustainable living, culminating in a concept known as a “farmscraper“.

The selection of this city as their source of inspiration was no accident, as it is essentially a microcosm for what is happening all over China. Since Deng Xiaoping launched his program of reform and opening over thirty years ago, Shenzen has transformed more than any other city in the country. In the late 70’s, the city was mostly farmland, but has since turned into an urban landscape filled with skyscrapers and high-rise apartments.

Future Farmscrapers 02To deal with the problem of further growth and migrations to the cities, the architects at Vincent Callebaut have proposed a “green, dense, smart city connected by the TIC (total integrated communication) and eco-designed from biotechnologies.”

Viewed from an external vantage point, the city they are proposing looks like a series of stacked pebbles that are largely transparent, accommodating vast green spaces and farmscapes.

Each tower will be self-sufficient, providing for its own power needs through the extensive use of photovoltaic and photo thermal solar cells, large forests of axial wind turbines and biofuel cells.

In terms of food production, every pebble will contain its own share of suspended orchards and vegetable gardens which will be irrigated thanks to recycled water and get plenty of sunshine thanks to the transparent domes and open roof segments.

A central transportation and communication system will also ensure a serious drop in carbon emissions, guaranteeing that the city will be sustainable and eco-friendly in the long run.

Given health concerns in China’s modern cities, where hundreds of thousands of deaths are attributed to respiratory illness through exposure to pollutants, and population growth is outstripping food production, ecologies such as the “Chinese Cairns” are likely to become the mainstay of urban planning.

In addition to the Pearl River Delta, there are also the megalopolitan regions of the Yangze River Delta, where an estimated 105,000,000 people live at a concentration of 2,700 inhabitants/km²; and the Bohai Economic Rim with 66,400,000 people that includes the capitol region of Beijing.

In time, these areas are also likely to see their own share of proposed self-sufficient cities, places where several hundred thousand people can live, work, eat and grow without fear of contracting lung cancer or leaving a massive carbon footprint.


About storiesbywilliams

Matt Williams is a professional writer, science fiction author, Taekwon-Do instructor, and the curator of the Guide to Space at Universe Today. His articles have been featured on Popular Mechanics, Business Insider, Gizmodo, IO9, and HeroX. His first published novels, The Cronian Incident and The Jovian Manifesto, were published by Castrum Press. He lives with his wife and family on Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia.


7 thoughts on “China’s city of the future may include the “farmscraper”

  1. Reblogged this on Stories by Williams and commented:
    Latest article over at China Daily Mail.


    Posted by storiesbywilliams | March 15, 2013, 11:38 pm
  2. I think China likes to build for the sake of building. I saw a TV magazine report where China has build some 24 major metropolises just for the sake of producing jobs. Imagine Boston with all it’s highrises, shopping centers, town homes, condos, and suburbs, and freeway systems, but one one person living in them – times 24.
    What a waste.


    Posted by MythRider | March 16, 2013, 10:38 pm
  3. Reminds me of the silent film, Megalopolis, the better off you are, the higher up in the building you are. I play Star Wars The Old Republic and the Republic capital of Coruscant and the neutral planet of Nar Shaddah both are planted in which the city has taken over every usable surface and the only way to move is upwards. This cities contain many elements of cyberpunk social structures. I feel like I’m starting to sound like a broken record. Areas in may of these large Chinese and Japanese cities look much like the concepts written about and then later filmed. I love the look of the buildings because they are curved rather than angular and have a more organic feel to them. I wouldn’t even mind living in a place like that, I think. It is hard to say how they might play out. But I really think the world is just going to get more interesting year by year. I can’t wait to see all the changes.


    Posted by urbannight | March 22, 2013, 2:41 am
    • Glad this finally got approved. I saw your comment this morning, read it, but was unable to respond all day! Anyhoo, do you mean Metropolis, as the name of that film? If so, I know exactly what you mean. The 20’s black and white where the immense skyscrapers functioned as a sort of social commentary. Working lives on the bottom levels while the revolutionary underground met – literally – underground.

      As for Star Wars, girl, you’re speaking my language! We should talk more 😉 And I happened to do a post about the different worlds in the SW universe and naturally, Coruscant and Nar Shaddaa were pretty central to it. Did you know they were inspired by Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels, specifically the city-planet of Trantor which was the capitol of his universe?


      Posted by storiesbywilliams | March 22, 2013, 8:40 am
      • Yes, I meant that film. I was so exhausted yesterday that I’m not shocked I got the name wrong. And no, I didn’t know those two worlds were inspired by Asimov’s work. I am not as well read there. I tended to read more Bradbury and Heinlein instead. And I know what you mean, I’m having problems replying to this via the notification’s panel.


        Posted by urbannight | March 22, 2013, 3:10 pm


  1. Pingback: China: World’s tallest skyscrapers will also be pollution-eating | China Daily Mail - July 5, 2014

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