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  Consult   Design   Present

Shanghai Urban Masterplan
Urban Vertical Agriculture
with Isaac Strackbein

This project features a remarkably integrated design for downtown Shanghai: combining cutting edge sustainable design with exciting urban places, closed loop metabolism, urban agriculture and vertical farms, entrepreneurial opportunities and tight integration with social layers of the city.

This urban master plan concerns major parts of Shanghai, and focuses on a specific site, adjecent to Nanjing roads and featuring historic Lilong housing, as an example of its integrated sustainable development.

The solution makes use of both the macro-economic and local benefits and problems of the Chinese economy while using solutions that assist sustainable growth and social development in otherwise chaotic and multi-faced city growth. Re-introducing the city channel a part of Shanghai's history is used for functional and economical benefit.

An integrated solution
We propose a project that integrates several solutions to pressing problems of Shanghai, among which are pollution, traffic, replacement housing, decreasing agricultural land and runaway development, and lays the foundation for a sustainable city redevelopment. A master plan places core buildings in Shanghai’s typical Lilong social housing districts from the 1900's which are on the brink of demolition throughout the city, and connects them through channel systems that are accompanied with bicycle and pedestrians thoroughfares.

The plan gives new viability to the Lilong housing districts, and reinvigorates the city with local urban cores that encourage local trade, social interaction and high quality affordable living environments. The cores contain mixed use urban centers activated by a program of market places, cultural facilities, public gardens, retail, commercial, residential and large scale urban agriculture. Some Lilong districts are sacrificed to create new viable conditions for others and the diagram of these Lilongs are turned inside out.

Sustainable city development
The farms clean water and air while at the same time generating energy and food and laying a foundation for a sustainable future. It provides for the basic food requirements of 50.000 people per intervention, a range of 1km in diameter. Each intervention converts one lilong district to provide new viability to three others, plus surrounding areas. Clean water is produced from the polluted Sujou creek through evaporation within the towers, and fed back into the channel system to service large districts that require clean energy and water infrastructures. Renewable energy is captured from the sun through decentralized photovoltaic arrays, and through methane generation and subsequent co-generation of biomass composting in the basement of the vertical farms. City-heating districts are powered by this bio gas providing an efficient zero-carbon system. Shanghai's enormous agriculturally skilled labor force, that is currently largely unemployed, is used in the high-intensity vertical farms, and the urban markets integrated in the immediate surrounding converted lilongs. The local food production cuts food imports drastically and city goods transportation requirements.

Extensive research in Vertical Farms and Farming techniques, the traditional Lilong social housing districts, the city fabric and the social situation on the site made us propose this project which focuses less on aesthetic experience versus the programmatic, social and environmental response of the site.

This project is an example of a symbiotic relationships of historical sites within a city, natural application of resource generation and far-reaching infrastructural conversion towards sustainable urban areas.

Concept, Research, Planning, Design and Presentation by Except.


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  Images & Movies
click to enlarge

Masterplan Isometric Diagram
Isometric diagram of part of the plan

Shanghai Urban Core / Channel Masterplan
Urban Core / Channel Master plan

Vertical Farm Flow Diagram with Nutrients and Input Output
Vertical Farm Flowchart Section

Master plan Phasing Diagram

Lilong Channel Residential Pedestrian
Lilong Pedestrian Street Impression

Vertical Farm Flow Diagram with Nutrients and Input Output
Impression of Market Square

Lilong Channel Residential Pedestrian
Impression of Lilong Urban Market

Vertical Farm Flow Diagram with Nutrients and Input Output
Neighborhood Lilong Urban Plan

Lilong Channel Residential Pedestrian
Main Pedestrian Street Impression


About Except
Except is a think + design tank for a sustainable society. We are sustainability consultants, architects and urban designers. We develop our designs using a systemic life-cycle approach, where we integrate the complex issues regarding


systainability, society, economy and technology in inspiring designs built for the future. We also advise companies and governments how to approach policy and development similarly. Look here for more of our architecture and planning work, and here for consultancy and research.

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