Author: Mathew Pryor
Numerous small-scale rooftop farms have spontaneously appeared over the last ten years on buildings in high-density urban districts worldwide. This wide-ranging study documented, tested and codified rooftop farms, and investigated the motivations of participants. Environmental and community limits in the design of rooftop farms were determined, together with their potential contribution to enhancing urban environmental and community well-being. Key conclusions of the study revealed both that extensive farmable roof space existed within dense (and aging) urban populations, and personal social values motivated participants to initiate rooftop farms, indicating that government policy on urban agriculture policy should shift their focus on the generation of social capital rather than food production.
These findings indicate that urban agriculture could help address some mental health challenges that high density cities face. The conclusions, along with technical design information, were disseminated through an award-winning book and website. Through these outputs, practitioners inside and outside Hong Kong have developed communities of practice that allow them to coordinate their efforts and to advocate for the formalization of the practice with land and building processes.
The study was instrumental in encouraging Hong Kong Government to expand its 2016 New Agricultural Policy to include these new forms of urban agriculture, and actively promote them within development proposals. The study has attracted media attention from both local and international news organizations, and has been recognized with design awards both internationally and in Hong Kong. It has also helped to broaden thinking about the role of landscape architects in high density cities, and demonstrated the efficacy of community-enterprise projects and spaces generated through the activation of grassroots organizations.