Urban cows, sheep and apple orchards on top of tower blocks could be a way for cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi to feed themselves.
Over population in places such as Cairo could also be alleviated as architects consider setting up “vertical farms”.
When Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut put forward the concept for a twin-tower development called Dragonfly, in 2009, he says he was laughed at.
But with growing concerns over food shortages, overpopulation and climate change, Callebaut’s ideas have gained renewed interest.
His design has been exhibited at an international fair for a farm which would produce meat, dairy products and eggs and would feature orchards, and rice fields.
The event also heard how Middle Eastern cities could benefit from the concept as it would reduce reliance on imported food in places such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi – and provide homes in already overpopulated cities.
“They made fun of me,” Callebaut said of his original detractors. “They said I created a piece of science fiction.” Apart from having cows and orchards, the Dragonfly “farmscraper” concept for Shenzhen, China would harvest energy from the sun and wind. Hot air trapped within its structure would provide heating in winter.
Plants would grow on the exterior shell of the development to filter rain water, which would be captured and mixed with liquid waste from the towers, treated organically and used as fertiliser. And at the base would be a market.
“We need to invent new ways of living in the future,” said Callebaut.at a press conference.
The ideas are gaining in currency among design professionals from across the world. Australian government architect Chris Johnson is one man who sees the possibilities.
“Buildings shouldn’t be separate from nature,” said Johnson, the chief executive of the Urban Taskforce and author of a book entitled “Greening Cities”.
“A lot of buildings in Sydney and Melbourne have expansive rooftop gardens, the next step is to make them usable.”