Fall 2013

Vertical Cities 2013: Everyone Harvests

How does a rapidly growing Asian city facing issues of sustainability and quality of life also address the region’s food production needs?

This was the exciting challenge that two interdisciplinary teams of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, and city and regional planning graduate students from the College of Environmental Design took up as they developed and presented their proposals for the third Vertical Cities Asia International Competition in Singapore.

The exponential speed of urban development in Asia requires new thinking around sustainable high-density solutions that reduce the potentially devastating effects of urbanization on land, infrastructure, and the environment. Vertical Cities Asia, a 5-year program organized by the National University of Singapore (NUS), each year challenges teams from 10 schools around the world, including three from the U.S., to contribute to this endeavor with solutions that address a unique theme and location in Asia.

By 2050, it is anticipated that 80 percent of the world’s projected population of 9 billion will reside in urban centers. Food production is expected to increase by approximately 70 percent globally and nearly 100 percent in developing countries. This year’s theme, “Everyone Harvests,” challenged students to create innovative approaches to urban agriculture and food production in the context of Asia’s accelerating urbanism at a site about 17km west of the city centre of Hanoi, Vietnam.

Farmways — Growing frames, parkways and boulevard Enlarge [+]

The Berkeley student teams — who participated as part of the studio course led by UC Berkeley associate professor of architecture and urban design, Renée Chow (who is also CED’s associate dean for undergraduate programs) — each selected an area of one square kilometer to house 100,000 people on no more than half of the land surface. Of the two teams of 15 students total, 14 traveled to Hanoi to research the project and two members from each team presented final proposals to the prestigious international jury in Singapore in July.

During their visit, students were awestruck by the transparency of the food system in the urban Hanoi environment. Food was commonly prepared, sold, and eaten on urban sidewalks, with agriculture production beginning just beyond the urban fringe. In an effort to bridge these divided realities and raise the prestige of the farmer, one team developed Farmways, which garnered an honorable mention from the competition judges. Via a three-dimensional framework of vertical farm parkways, Farmways integrates the urban and the agricultural with a closed-loop model of green market arcades, air purifiers, food forestry research laboratories, aquaponics, and clean energy cogeneration. Farmways works as an urban biofiltration system ensuring cleaner resources and healthier food production.

Farmways — Active locavore street life Enlarge [+]

The second team’s Edge City proposal responded to the challenge by reconnecting fresh food production and consumption economies through a fingered interface at the edge of the urban boundary. Edge City confronts the notion that an urban edge should be defined by a highway and instead joins urban residents to the source of their food. Re-envisioning Hanoi’s outer ring highway, they created a dynamic corridor that includes production, storage, packaging, processing, and distribution, in so doing, better integrating the urban and the agricultural. The result is a vibrant place where people live and work along the urban edge, maintaining a close connection to fertile farmlands.

Edge City
Edge City — Spine section Enlarge [+]
Edge City
Edge City — School site participation Enlarge [+]

The Vertical Cities Competition stands out as a major opportunity for CED graduate students to gain a truly interdisciplinary experience at an international level. Working closely with fellow students from diverse disciplines gives participants a taste of their potential future where an understanding and appreciation of different urban design systems and tools, planning strategies, and multidisciplinary collaboration are essential in the creation of successful urban-scale developments.

Group photo of Vertical Cities CED student participants
Vertical Cities CED student participants.  FRONT ROW, LEFT TO RIGHT: Jennifer Siquiera, Monica Way, Michelle Gonzales, Minjae Ahn, Rebecca Sunter, Niknaz Aftahi;  BACK ROW: Daniel Prostak, Max Edwards, Gabriel Kaprielian, Luis Jaggy, Ned Reifenstein, Leo Zhou, Stephen Steward, Ben Golze (Missing: Anna Konotchick) Enlarge [+]

From the perspective of a teacher, designer and architect, for Renée Chow this ranked as one of her most rewarding studio experiences. “The students were totally motivated to see and deeply understand another place. They learned to collaborate which also transforms their views. They now feel that as designers they can make a difference.”

Student Teams


  • Niknaz Aftahi (M.Arch) 2015 ATG
  • Minjae Ahn (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
  • Max Edwards (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
  • Luis Jaggy (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
  • Gabriel Kaprielian (M.Arch/MCP) 2014 ATG
  • Daniel Prostak (MLA) 2014 ATG
  • Rebecca Sunter (MLA) 2014 ATG


  • Benjamin Golze (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
  • Michelle Gonzalez (M.Arch)
  • Anna Konotchick (M.Arch/MCP) 2013 ATG
  • Ned Reifenstein (M.Urban Design) 2013 ATG
  • Jennifer Siqueira (M.Arch) 2015 ATG
  • Stephen Stewart (M.Arch) 2014 ATG
  • Monica Way (M.L.A.) 2014 ATG
  • Xin (Leo) Zhao (M.Arch) 2014 ATG