Underground Farming

Project Tittle : Underground Farming (2010)
Site : Kuantan, Pahang
Program : Post disaster refuge for food
Project Team : Yasmin Rahman
Supervisor : Wan Azhar Sulaiman

I started off this project exploring the mechanism of a rear derailleur from a bicycle. I admired the x-y-z movement along its axis and started drawing out its three significant states of motion.

The main aim of this project this semester was to imagine and create a post-apocalyptic scenario of present day Kuantan. Its geographical location near the South China Sea makes it an easy target when the next big wave hits the straits of Malaysia.

The site sits directly in the center of 5 major roads connecting Kuantan. This inspired me as it had huge potential to relate not only the surrounding folks, but also for a  much wider radius of people. When a disaster occurs, the first thing people do is find their loved ones. Next will be food, as it is the prime factor for survival. As I analyzed further, I took into consideration the ‘predicted’ behavior of people when an unexpected disaster occurs. Many examples shown that people will tend to get wild; stealing, vandalism, immoral behaviors and this may even lead to killing one another.

I have decided to take action to minimize the severeness of such behaviour, because full prevention would be merely impossible. Haven taken into account all the above factors, I have decided to propose an area where food, namely agriculture will be grown. And since this is a proposal of a further future, why not build below instead of above? Factors such as pollution, rubbish, floating debris as well as raging people themselves have been among the many reasons why I choose to farm underground instead.

I derived my design from the existing site itself. It had to be taken into account as the structure will stand there even before the great flood arrives. Other influencing factors were the shopping lots on the south end of my site. I gridded my design accordingly as I didn’t want the final outcome to be unrelated to the existing surrounding. The main gridding of the site has become the prime influence of the triangular farming modules.

The whole project  is mainly divided into three major zones.

Zone A consists of the floatable market deck. The deck is divided into two sub sections, the West side meant for food distribution to the public and the East side meant for distribution of food in larger quantities such as to suppliers, factories, shop owners and restaurants. This is considered the public area where the grown products are being sold and distributed. This zone is mainly mechanized as it can move vertically according to the water level. Before the flood, the deck is on the ground level and as water comes in it rises with the help of air filled cylinders placed below the floor structure.

Zone B consists of two levels, above ground and underground. This is the transaction zone whereby goods from Zone C are brought via lifts and conveyor belts to Zone A. This is the semi-private area whereby only those authorized are able to access it. The main level underground is where seeds and fertilizer are stored safely. Other spaces include the manager’s room and lounge, public toilets, a 4.5 meter shelf to temporary store the harvested goods and 4 lifts to transfer goods to the first storey of the structure. The area under the staircase is meant to place the harvesting trolleys.

The main and most dominant zone in this project is Zone C. This consists of the triangular planting modules and their horizontal alleys underground. Zone C expands as time passes and as demand rises. The alleys underground is where harvesting takes place. The trolleys are designed large enough for two trolleys to manoeuvre in both directions. Simple ladders are used to access the mezzanine floor to harvest the vegetation on the higher levels. Lighting and ventilation is adequate as a huge part of the structure still depends on natural lighting and natural ventilation. These alleys are not only performing as a usual harvesting area, but they also give a beautiful ambience because of the interplay with light coming through the vertical shaft.

The triangular farming modules are basically the root of this design and make up the major area of the site. One of the first questions I asked myself was ‘how BIG should this structure be?’ My answer came to the fact that an area cannot be specifically determined as the demand for such farming can only be determined by demand. As this project focuses on a post-apocalyptic scenario, the demand of this method of farming will increase vividly after the disaster happens, as the people of Kuantan will be desperate to find food nearby. Therefore, modular architecture has been incorporated as my design expands within time.

Triangular modules have been chosen as it is the most efficient form when heavy waves hit the structure as the pressure of the water will be disputed and flow right past the modules, protecting them during the occurrence of the disaster. These modules have also been slanted to a certain degree and oriented to achieve maximum morning sun exposure.

Each module is made of 10 smaller modules which travel vertically along the triangular shaft. This will allow underground harvesting to be carried out efficiently. Each smaller module than carries a total of 3 triangular planter boxes which maximizes planting area. Above the top most planter box is an expandable shading device which will act as a sun barrier to diffuse the penetration of extremely hot sun rays.

XXII Architectural Workshop 2010 – Archustic Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
12 June 2010 – 16 June 2010

PAM Annual Student Exibition 2010 One Utama Shopping Center
18 Oct 2010 – 24 Oct 2010

Selangor Property Expo Exhibition (SELPLEX) 2010 Shah Alam Convention Center
29 October 2010 – 31 October 2010