An intersection-space among two worlds: nature and the city. A gap immersed in a natural world with a wide farming tradition in the middle of a changing city. Located in a strategic place and designed to become what it is: a neuralgic center in the north of Spain. These intrinsic circumstances of the pre-existence generate the entire project: An urban and territorial laboratory transforming the actual “Mercado de ganados” into a “Farm-Lab”. This new concept of an urban-farm inhabits a new dweller: “the Transfarmer”. A human being between two worlds coming from diverse urban collectivities and different sectors that becomes the new productive engine of the city. These conditions of the new user make it possible to create a new productive network on different scales and an alternative system which requires a transverse organization where knowledge of very different departments collaborate. The farmer of the XXI century, the transfarmer, is a being that also inhabits and produces in the third space; the digital space. For this reason, the created knowledge and productive network gets improved and expanded into an unlimited consumption and production. In addition, this project develops the optimization of the programmatic organization system of the building creating primarily a platform that makes an infinite type of interactions complemented withinstant spaces possible. All this allows for innovative ways of understanding the production concept in an urban environment and its complexity when implementing it in its social fabric.
What prompted your response to the Europan competition?
The Europan competition put out a call for submissions for a research and a meditation of the productive city. The “Mercado de ganados” in Torrelavega, spain, was dominated by the pre-existing program in the main building. The principal idea of the proposal was re-imagining the future of farming in an urban environment. Also, it was the perfect challenge to propose how the farmer of the future could be and to explore their role within this context. Both elements, farm and farmer, need to be analyzed with an aim toward being preserved and improved, considering the problems and declines the sector is going through.
In addition to that, the architecture of the pre-existing building was very interesting and inspiring yet the possibilities that the building and its surrondings offer to us in terms of resilience are infinite.
What informed the choice of the site and context into which you chose to develop your project?
Torrelavega, which is an urban island surronded by an ocean of farmlands is the perfect place for developing and transforming the new “Farm-Lab” into an ecological research center. Technology is an essentil complement to the new way we think about ecology within the development of programs, applications and specialized machinery. This growing sector shows, more than ever, the demand for expansion and creation of research and development environments for renewable resources. An intersection between two worlds: nature and the city. An oasis in a natural world with a wide farming tradition in the middel of urban environment. Located in a strategic place and designed to become what it is:a neuralgic center in the north of Spain.
These pre-existing circustamces drove the entire project: an urban and territorial laboratory transforming the actual “Mercado de ganados” into a “Farm-Lab”.
Do you see the potential of a network of farm-labs across multiple European cities?
Not really. It was not the main idea of the project but it is something that could be further developed. The proposal was focused on a small territory solution rather than on European scale.
What do you imagine growing at the farm lab? Would this be sit specific or would this be homogeneus througout all sites?
Our proposal was not suggesting any specific kind of agriculture. It was a platform that could allow the growth of multiple kinds of products and plants. By considering the “Mercado de ganados” as a resilient building we allow many programs to be developed inside it. The inside-outside structures , were most of the farming would take place, were designed thinking about the present and future needs of this field.
How would the farm lab connect to the wider infrastructure of the city and its supermarkets, restaurant and the individual itself?
The growth of the new center will appear in implementation phases. Each one of them is independend and its development, except for the first phase, might not be carried out but it would not affect the aim of the project. It assumes the present need for mantaining the “Mercado de ganados” program but the proposed system would be able to accommodate a future end of the market itself. The three proposed phases are intended to eliminate the barrier which currently is the “Mercado de ganados” and so interconnect the city. The first proceedings would imply the creation of a pedestrian aand cycle axis that would connect green areas such as the “Avenida de España”, the park of “Manuel Barquin” and the squares near the social housing buildings. The aim is to support Torrelavega by connecting it from north to south, which a pedestrian and cycle axis from the main station to the University area. These urban networks would be implemented in time with the possibility of creating new pedestrian areas around the market and the gradual growth of the park towards the “ferial”. Likewise, the phase system and possible growth of the park assumes the possibility that the future requirements would change, and the proposal includes flexibility in which new programs and structures could be accomodated.
What role does the digital play within the project? How could the urban farmer use this tool?
The complex weekly schedule of the buidling is managed in different ways: On the one hand, the “flexible layer” allos the entrance and the exit of architectural “islands” creatingprograms inside and outside the building (livestock fair three days a week, other exhibitions, concerts and specific events that provide economic growth to the city). On the other hand, a structure
with “pending buds” is designed, where different sizes of inflatable modules are hanging from the roof structure or from the substructure “cow modules”. These inflatables create instant spaces inside and outside of the building creating closed spaces in a matter of a few minutes. Business owners can interact and negotiate with privacy. Finally, the creation of a digital space or a digital app is proposed, which can manage the totality of the “Farm-Lab”. Throug this app, every user can rent an inflatable module, get information about training courses related to the “Fab Lab”, or buy ecologic products from the local dealers.
Would this urban farmer be an individual who has migrated from the countryside to the city or rather someone living in the cities who choses to adopt a more "nature" oriented job? Could anyone become an urban farmer?
This new concept of an urban farm introduces a new dweller: The “Transfarmer”.
A human being between two worlds coming from diverse urban collectives and different sectors that become the new productive engine of the city. These conditions make it possible to create a new productive network on different scales and an alternative system which requires a transverse organization where knowledge aof very different departments collaborate. The farmer of the XI century, the transfarmer, is abeing that also inhabits and produces in a third space: the digital space. For this reason, the accumulated knowledge and productive network gets improved and expanded into unlimited consumption and production. This relationship between the countryside and the city is something mutual rather than the current unilateral situation.
What do you see as the most important tool of the urban farmer?
The proposed urban farmer, the “Transfarmer” is a human that inhabits the first space, as every traditional farmer always does, but also the third space. This new situation is only possible with an approach to the city. The tools that an urban farmer would have are in both spaces, the first and the third one. The third space would allow to the farmers a biggest capacity to optimize the information and the performance of the land we have. The networking and the interchange of ideas would also reward the profession introducing the youngest into the farming concept.