Urban Green-House Project

New York, New York

Competition Entry - Honorable Mention [2011]
d3 Natural Systems Competition

The Age of the 3,000-Mile Caesar Salad is Over...

The Urban Green-'House' Project uses New York as the example for a new urban typology that integrates housing with the space where we grow food - an enclosed glass vessel, with its own self-sustaining climate, that sees food and man cohabit together in communal symbiosis: an urban green-‘house’. The site, establishing a template for the urban green-house project, is positioned in Manhattan along the gridded streets of midtown. Located at the intersection of ‘anystreet’ and ‘any-avenue’ on an 80’x225’ plot, the architectural solution is adaptable to suit many sites across New York and other cities. Although the project integrates into the urban environment and lends itself to connectivity and unification, the project itself is also designed to be self-sufficient in the event of urban decay or collapse. It is integrated into the urban context, but not dependent on context except context that lies beyond our human boundaries.

The Urban Green-House Project was a top-selected entry into the 2011 Natural Systems competition held by d3. It was exhibited as part of the 'Natural Systems - Origins' show at M3 gallery in New York City from May 9th-June 3rd 2012. 

Rethinking the cycle: food and people benefiting from each other respectively; food and people sharing the same place. It is a new relationship between man and food: 'I live among the trees, my waste is used to fertilize my garden.' Similar to a forest, the Urban Green-House utilizes what would typically be considered waste, and converts it into opportunities. Hitherto now green building design has, almost exclusively, been limited to either rural or suburban areas. The 21st century will see the most rapid increase in the population of cities in the history of mankind; thus it is the ambition of the urban green-house project to find a unification of green design with these exponentially growing cities, while encouraging a social and community revolution.

Problem: The urban and suburban growth pattern of New York has left little space for expansion without impeding upon the areas where we grow food. furthermore New York is running out of rural space to not only meet increased housing needs due to population growth, but also to satisfy the ever increasing need for agricultural production.
• we are running out of space in suburbia
• we need to develop green housing typologies for urban environments
• we need more space to grow food

Solution: Using biomimicry of architectural and tectonic systems of the tree and forest, create a new urban typology that integrates housing with the space where we grow food. The result is an enclosed glass vessel with its own self-sustaining climate that sees a societal unit of food and man cohabiting together in communal symbiosis: an Urban Green-‘House.’ 


The forest is a natural habitat that serves as a precedent of symbiosis. Are there lessons we can learn from the tree and its habitat the forest that can inform the cycle of systems and the relationship between elements in the urban green-house? Is there a way to integrate man into the system and retain self-sustenance? 

The urban green-house is a new housing typology, not where the living units form the shell of the building, rather the glass shell forms and defines the space the living units are within. The urban green-house is a sociological evolution in community habitation through human interaction and process. Communities cohabit and coproduce their sustenance, lending itself to environmental unification through study of intrinsic environmental geometries, social behaviors, urban implications, and programmatic flows.

The controlled internal climate of the urban green-house allows the building to suit multiple climates, while also allowing a variety of different food to grow in local locations where it would normally be impossible. Ultimately it creates a local community of social cohesion through the  wide range of plants, fruits, and vegetables. 

Similar to a forest, the biomass of the urban green-house is located at the top, maximizing the use of sunlight and co2 conversion; the living units are just underneath the gardens, allowing for diffuse light and cooler units; the amenity areas along the ground floor connect with the streets, creating an interconnected network of social green spaces and gardens. Below the ground floor is the conversion and treatment area where natural filters and decomposers such as coal and fungi convert the waste into nutrients and clean water.

While converting waste into usable materials, the entire system of the urban green-house is designed to maximize air, light, space, and water. Working together the garden spaces create a unique bio-diverse environment that not only produces food, but houses people. The elevated floor of the urban green-house is covered with high-efficiency photosynthesis plants that convert waste co2 to oxygen (areca palm, mother-in-law’s tongue, money plant). Forming the side wall of the building is a double-skin vertical garden where herbs and vegetables grow. The garden pods are composed of a variety of plants, fruits, and vegetables. The cores themselves, in addition to serving as the vertical circulation for the movement of people, are the axis mundi of the building acting as the respiratory (air/ventilation), skeletal (structure), circulatory (water), and aerobic (energy) systems between the various areas of the urban green-house.

The glass shell serves as the enclosing membrane that can be both permeable and impermeable. Each of the 1280 operable panes of high-transmittance glass are computer-controlled to create optimum internal climate conditions through ventilation, temperature, humidity, and wind pressure. thus perfect growth conditions are created year round despite the varying external weather.

Rain-water collectors gather and channel rain water to the treatment area below the building. Capturing excess methane from the decomposition process are two methane traps located within the collectors. This methane is redistributed to the living units to serve for heating and fuel.

‘Suburbia is the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. We’re gonna have to down-scale, re-scale, and re-size virtually everything we do in this country and we can’t start soon enough to do it. We’re gonna have to live closer to where we work, we’re gonna have to live closer to each other, we’re gonna have to grow more food closer to where we live. The age of the 3000 mile caesar salad is over.’ - ‘James Kunstler Dissects Suburbia’ James H. Kunstler



Charles Vega and Matt Teismann attended the closing party for the 'd3 natural systems - origins' exhibition at M3 gallery in midtown Manhattan June 1st, 2012. The Urban Green-House Project was displayed, with 19 other projects from the 2011 competition run by the New York non-profit d3.


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