Lea Valley Super Farm: Institute of Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
Initially, the idea of failure was approached by making a short film about the A13 heading east from London to contain something temporary / obsolete / abandoned / desolate. What I found were fragments such as “car crash”, “rotten fruit” and “waste collection” along the road followed by a series of speculative sketches envisages a table that could mechanically handle all the incidents / accidents during our breakfast time. This was an important exercise as the whole “act” of drawing was approached unconsciously and spontaneously. The spontaneity and potential of the sketches drove the project to the next stage.
A mechanical device based on the sketch of breakfast table was built by re-using some old clockworks, electronics and used everyday objects. One of the features that was deliberately tested out in the device was to undertake crash test for fruits: if the fruits can remain in good shape they will be served on the table, otherwise they will be crashed, juiced and thrown away. The mechanism has successfully driven the form and spatial logic of the architecture while the scale, programme and site were still unknown. After a series of relief and computer modeling exercises, I decided to create an architecture that would turn failed (by not passing EU Marketing Standards) fruit and vegetables into sustainable energy for London. At the same time, an extensive super-farm running north and south of the architecture was also proposed to make London self-sufficient in fresh produces.
From London to the east, Lea Valley has been chosen as the site. It has been a socially and economically deprived area, but also has a remarkable history of horticultural industry in the last century. The proposed super-farm will be an urban regeneration project through urban strategies, which could generate self-sufficiency at 43.7% in 7,933 hectares of land. I have explored the potential agricultural technologies that can boost the levels of productivity and environmental performance: hydroponic farming and the closed-glasshouse system. Thanet Earth and Sky Farm provide examples which I have examined and analysed the technical data of hydroponic farming. The core architecture in the centre of Lea Valley will be responsible to distribution and the use of anaerobic digesters to convert “non-standard” failed produce into bio-fuel, suggesting that 400,000 local households could have energy provision from this source in London. After all, the project attempts to response the challenges of food and fuel supplies that the UK faces from the environmental, social and economic aspects.