A floating dairy farm designed by Peter van Wingerden and Minke van Wingerden of Beladon a company that specializes in waterborne architecture, and local architecture studio Goldsmith, has opened in Rotterdam, showing how food production can become less vulnerable to climate change.
It is now home to 32 cows, producing dairy products that will soon be on sale in Lidl stores all over the city. The project is designed for a future where rising sea levels mean that farmland is increasingly out of action due to flooding. It aims to show a new way of bringing farming back into the city, with minimal impact on resources and the environment.
“We are seeing an ever-growing world population,” explained the Floating Farm team. “In 2050, it is expected that two to three billion people will have been added.”
The design is, in essence, an agricultural building based on nautical principles. Organization, structural principles and use of materials are used to enhance the buoyancy and stability. The result is a stacked organization that places all heavy structural- and technical components in the submerged part of the building. All significant and transparent functions are situated on in a lightweight structure on top. The result is a 3-layered façade ranging from concrete to translucent polycarbonate to entirely open.
The Floating Farm Dairy is a compact and logically stacked structure that merges technical installations, storage, processing and production in a singular entity. Three connected concrete pontoons house the production of fruits (ingredients for yogurt), rain- and wastewater recycling and additional installations. On the upper factory floor combines milk and yogurt processing, feeding system, manure handling and retail. The covered cow garden will house 40 cows that will be supported by a manure cleaning robot and a milking robot along with various elements regarding animal welfare like the centrally placed ‘green columns’ that ensure cooling. The cantilevering floors and roof address the multi-level agricultural hub, and articulate its architecture.
The two galleries around the cow garden – vertically connected via two steel bridges – string together various evocative spaces to make an educational route. Along this route visitors gain insight on all activities in the Farm without disturbing the business process. Feeding fences around the cow garden and glass walls around the dairy processing facilitate the sensory experience of visitors and underline the transparent character of the company. Feeding-, dairy-, and manure processing are all organized to a compact and efficient logistic system that make this unique multi-level program possible.
Through the process of scale enlargement, and the automation of activities, the harbor of Rotterdam shifts to the west of the city, and the border between harbor and city shifts accordingly. Consequently, the decline of traditional trade activities make room for residential- and other urban developments. The harbor economy with its corresponding trading dynamics is disappearing from the basins; the original contrast between the relatively calm residential landscape and the lively center point for trade is revolving 180 degrees. The basins of the Merwehaven threaten to become open and empty spaces in a densifying urban landscape of the Merwe-Vierhaven (M4H) area. With the Floating Farm Dairy these beautiful, but slowly orphaned spaces, find meaning in a rapidly changing environment through the introduction of urban farming.
If the project proves a success, the team will move forward with plans to expand the business with a floating chicken farm and a floating greenhouse, producing fresh fruit and vegetables for the city.