Amidst the climate crisis, food and water scarcity pose tremendous threats to human civilization. Once abundant agrarian societies rich with food sources, Bangkok and cities across Southeast Asia have become victims of unregulated urbanization on rice-producing regions, pushing food sources further away from cities and their consumers. By 2050, 80 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. To ensure global food security, and prioritize human and environmental health, cities must utilize wasted urban spaces to produce food efficiently and sustainably.
Repurposing 236,806 sq. ft. of wasted rooftop space, the landscape architect helped Thammasat University envision and implement a climate solution with Asia’s largest organic rooftop farm—Thammasat Urban Rooftop Farm (TURF). Integrating modern landscape architecture with the agricultural ingenuity of traditional rice terraces, TURF creates an inclusive circular economy for the campus, incorporating sustainable food production, renewable energy, organic waste, water management and public space for all.
Inspired by the ingenuity of traditional agricultural practices on mountainous terrains across Southeast Asia, TURF’s landscape architect integrated the earthwork of rice terraces with modern green roof technology. The 236,806 sq. ft. cascading rooftop can slow down runoff up to 20 times more efficiently than a conventional concrete rooftop.
As rainwater zigzags down the slopes, each level of TURF harvests runoff from the previous cell, forming unique clusters of micro-watersheds along the terrace to helping absorb, filter and purify rainwater while growing food for the campus. By the end of its journey, four retention ponds await on each wing, capable of holding up to 3,095,570 gallons of water once combined. These ponds significantly reduce the volume of stormwater leaving the site while mitigating unexpected flood and drought disasters. They present a solution to storing excessive runoff during intense storms for future use during dry spells.
Reusing restoring water at four retention ponds, the TURF manages on-site water management to minimize water footprint on food production. A solar-powered pump pushes stored water upward for roof irrigation. Furthermore, the cascading layers of rice and vegetable plantations enrich the soil’s nutrition, reducing the amount of soil mass lost during heavy rainfall. This prevents polluted runoff as well as particulate airborne toxins from entering drainage systems and natural water bodies.
By carving into the mountainous architecture and maximizing the use of the inclined surface, TURF utilizes every level of the terrain to create multi-functional public spaces. Twelve individually designed areas on the slopes serve as oval-shaped outdoor classrooms, while small pockets dispersed along the staircases provide intimate social spaces and access to the crops. TURF rewards those who climb to the top with a 360-degree panoramic view of the Bangkok centered in an urban farm and under the open sky. A large amphitheater provides an accessible and flexible recreational and educational space for all visitors.
As lush green turns to dry brown, TURF is a realistic, but hopeful solution that puts modern urban dwellers back in tune with ancestral agricultural practices. The landscape architect implemented a holistic approach inspired by local ingenuity. Carried on through several generations of farmers who learned from the land and water they lived with—TURF holds with it the history of Thai culture, landscape and native soil, embedded as lessons to communities and city builders on how to adapt to and embrace climate challenges in building the sustainable cities of the future.