The Metroplaza rooftop farm occupies close to a third of what Sun Hung Kai Properties describes as an “outdoor piazza”, which also includes “an al fresco dining area, seasonal flowers with a floral selfie wall, Starlight Walkway, and Fun Park.” The budget for this extensive rooftop refurbishment exceeded $20 million HKD (ie 2.19 million Euros).
Within its 13,000-square feet area, the Sky Garden farm features 3,000 square feet of soil-based growing space, which provide the opportunity to nurture over 30 different species of vegetables and herbs.
As one would expect, the farm’s layout and design account for site constraints, such as the loading capacity of the roof and the amount of sunlight it receives. It also seeks to provide good growing conditions (for example via providing suitable depths in growing beds) for different crops such as perennial edibles that can thrive year-round and vegetables, subject to seasonal rotation.
Given Rooftop Republic’s ambitions in facilitating behavioural change and community building around food, as well as Sun Hung Kai Properties’ expectation for a rooftop attraction that would attract families, young professionals and people interested in sustainable living, design was strongly focused on enabling quality interactions between visitors and the crops. “We knew that this [project] was an important touchpoint for the Hong Kong community to connect with nature and see how food is really grown,” explains Eden Pang, Marketing Manager at Rooftop Republic.
Design implications from this were two-fold: creating opportunities for meaningful individual interactions and providing space where visitors can create relationships with others around a common experience of interacting with the farm and with food. Practically, this translated into ensuring all different cycles of food growth can be seen at all times. It also meant having wide open spaces between sufficiently raised plant beds so that visitors can easily browse the farm and take a close look at what is growing as well as to the explanatory label provided for each crop. All plants are labelled with their common name, origin, use, and a few fun facts about their properties. The farm’s layout also includes larger open spaces that can be used as a community space for performing arts, workshops, and more.
Both the soil and the seedlings used are organic and locally sourced. For seedlings, Rooftop Republic has entered into growing contracts with farmers. This helps enhance plant supply reliability – as explained further below, Hong Kong’s farming and nursery industry is very small, and dominated by family businesses. This approach to plant procurement is also part of Rooftop Republic’s wider Five Gs model, which includes “generating new ecosystems” around healthy food as it ensures the economic returns that stems from the urban farm projects are not just felt in the urban environment where they occur, but also in the surrounding rural communities.