Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« The New World of Desire | Skatepark Meeting Tonight »

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Seattle Vs. Dubai

posted by on May 8 at 13:24 PM

Last year, Seattle-based Mithun Architects designed the Center for Urban Agriculture, tailor made for a site on 9th Avenue and Olive Way downtown. “We wanted to demonstrate that a project of this type is feasible in a downtown setting,” says Mithun’s Bonnie Duncan. Behold, a vertical farm for the city.



Fantastic, is it not?

Each residential unit is retrofitted from a combination of two or three recycled shipping containers to create studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments. The CUA employs a “shelf system” within its superstructure to speed construction time through off-site assembly and crane erection techniques.

The CUA reintroduces 1.35 acres of native habitat, farmland and community gathering space to its urban environment. Birds, insects and native plants would inhabit the 22,000 square feet of planters and upper terraces. The use of native plants increases the variety of insects that support the food chain. For example, maple trees support 18 species of insects while native oaks support 1,800 species of insects. The goal is to increase biodiversity in the city that will begin to support broader species of birds. A 19,000 sq. ft. chicken farm operates on the CUA’s lower terrace.

Other than the fact that it relates poorly to the street (which could be easily remedied), here’s the problem: Nobody has stepped up to the plate to build the thing. “Every once in a while there are murmurings; we just have to find a developer who is up for it,” says Duncan. “I could get a call from the Sheik of Dubai to say that he needs a 100-story high-rise farm—that could be where it happens first.”

Seattle, don’t let Dubai show you up again.

RSS icon Comments


No developer wants to build it because there isn't a market for it. Anyone who tells you different is full of shit and doesn't own a home (nor would this motivate them to make the purchase).

Posted by Bill | May 8, 2008 1:31 PM

I think I remember reading an article a long while back (in Toronto) on the same concept of vertical farms in cities. The artists' conceptions then had a greater resemblance to giant pyramids or cylinders.

Posted by Gloria | May 8, 2008 1:31 PM

A friend of mine lives in Dhubai and sent me a cool vid of the city.

The thing is, they have this thing about human representation, so the entire vid was without people.


But great buildings.

As to markets ... the market here is not the market there.

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 8, 2008 1:36 PM

I would live in that. That's awesome.

Posted by Lobot | May 8, 2008 1:38 PM

Kinda looks like a giant air filter. But instead of filtering the air, makes people with asthma and allergies swell up and die.

Posted by Dougsf | May 8, 2008 1:40 PM

I am instinctively skeptical of this sort of "Oh Wow!" project. Too many Rube Goldberg moving parts, too much the appearance of "something for nothing." Too groovy. The organic cafe? Give me a break. All too often (such as with the Downtown Library) architectural rehetoric far exceeds architectural performance. I would think that the use of recycled (no less) shipping containers for what looks to be a very skinny 18 story structure would be novel.

Then again, Mithun has some exceedingly bright people and maybe they have thought it through convincingly. As well, every once in a while something new does come along.

The first thing to ask Mithun is if they have a financial pro forma.

Btw, I agree about the sidewalk frontage so far as we can see it, but as you say that is easy to fix.

Posted by David Sucher | May 8, 2008 2:00 PM

Why did they put the wall on the south face and the plants on the north...?

Posted by uh, hello? | May 8, 2008 2:05 PM

Yes, it is fantastic - fantastic on a conceptual and (at least to people like me) on a visual level.

But damn, the market for a place like that would be extremely small. I say this because A) you need people who are okay with living in shipping containers (retrofitted, but still), B) you need people who will pay exorbitant downtown housing prices to live underneath a farm in a shipping container, and C) you need a developer "edgy" or "ahead of the curve" enough to sacrifice 22,000 sf of potential residential unit space in favor of farm space.

With that confluence of factors, it would take nothing short of a miracle to get it built here. I'm hoping for such a miracle, but I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by Hernandez | May 8, 2008 2:06 PM

woah what the hell is up with the way that photo of the towers launches????

Posted by Non | May 8, 2008 2:07 PM

Part of me hates it and part of me loves it....

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | May 8, 2008 2:07 PM
Posted by Non | May 8, 2008 2:09 PM

I love it. I love it love it love it love it. Love. It.

Posted by Carollani | May 8, 2008 2:23 PM

Another liberal wet dream of returning to the cave. Take those rusty shiping containers, chickens, bugs etc. and ride of into your dream land without me.

Posted by Jeff | May 8, 2008 2:26 PM

@7 - because to the south is desert and to the north is water. Dhubai is on the northern edge of the Saudi landmass.

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 8, 2008 2:33 PM

Perhaps if they build something a bit smaller (2 story bar!) and demonstrated the benefits of that, it would be an easier sell.

It also seems that the terraced growing areas use up quite a bit of space to allow in sunlight. That doesn't really scream economical with land values the way they are. Tenants would basically have to pay a huge premium to compensate for all the space that is not being used.

Posted by El Seven | May 8, 2008 2:33 PM

um, and chicken farms smell *really bad.*

Posted by clausti | May 8, 2008 2:40 PM

#14, isn't this the one made for Seattle? I thought it was because the wall is a solar panel array (thus would face south), but since there's no link I can't know for sure.

Posted by w7ngman | May 8, 2008 2:53 PM

I'm wet just looking at it.

Posted by Jeremiah | May 8, 2008 2:53 PM

If Mithun cared more about actually designing sustainable structures and less about simply greenwashing their public image, they might try a design that doesn't violate several dozen Seattle land use codes. And then there's the issue of feasibility. Don't be fooled, this isn't a "thought exercise", it's a PR stunt.

Posted by Design Gal | May 8, 2008 2:54 PM

@19 - I thought that was already obvious.

Posted by Hernandez | May 8, 2008 3:05 PM

VF could well be the wave of the future, but VF + residential is probably one of the few cases where mixed use is not a good idea. A proposed development like this does make a great case for more modular construction techniques for vertical urban housing projects, I think it also makes a great case for units with decent sized balconies which can be more supportive of vertical green spaces. With some alterations aimed at bringing this project a little closer to what's that word, realistic, this could well be an innovative, marketable direction in which to take city housing.

Posted by kentankerous | May 8, 2008 3:09 PM

I used to play on a co-rec soccer team sponsored by Linda's Tavern. We played against the Mithun soccer team (inventively named "TEAM MITHUN"). They were all fucking assholes.

Posted by Sporting Fellow | May 8, 2008 3:10 PM

Who keeps it from being taken over by weeds and blackberry bushes?

Posted by Brian in Seattle | May 8, 2008 3:23 PM

19: Having actually done work for Mithun, I can tell you that there's a little more to it than greenwashing and that you're full of shit.

Posted by Jay | May 8, 2008 3:33 PM

@19: its a CONCEPTUAL design.

why don't you back up off your antiquated LUC, relax, & have a bong hit from a human skull?

do you work there or something?

Posted by max solomon | May 8, 2008 3:37 PM

the 19,000 sq.ft. chicken coop on the lower floor doesn't sound like such a good idea---chickens stink

Posted by tomitron | May 8, 2008 3:50 PM

Chickens don't stink, their proverbial shit does. It can be dealt with if harvested on a regular basis.

Posted by El Seven | May 8, 2008 4:17 PM

#14, I'm talking about the Seattle rendering, dunderhead! What are you talking about in the Dubai picture? (?!)

Posted by uh, hello? | May 8, 2008 5:29 PM

haha @28; best retort to one of Will in Seattle's (many) stupid comments. Fnarf would approve, I'm sure.

Posted by Conchis | May 8, 2008 7:17 PM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).