High and Mighty: Sky Farming Is An Idea On The Rise

San Diego’s Farms Get Vertical

By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

“Live, Share, Grow” aren’t the buttons of a new social network, but the name of a vertical farm. Twenty four year old Brandon Martella, a recent graduate of the New School of Architecture and Design in San Diego, has designed a series of residential buildings with annexed vegetable gardens. His aim is to make people aware that food resources are sure to diminish soon, and to  provide a solution for this.


Vertical Farms have become a frequent topic of discussion in the last few years: statistics say that by the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth’s population will reside in urban centres; populations will increase by about 3 billion people and about 109 hectares of new land will be needed to grow enough food to feed them all. With that in mind, Martella investigated his hometown’s specific situation and discovered, through the Food and Drug Administration, that in San Diego’s 30 thousand residents consume 21 million pounds (9,5 million kilos) of fruit and vegetables a year.

The young architect came up with his sky farming project when he started cultivating some lettuce on the windowsill of his apartment: “I was able to feed myself for two entire weeks. I thought that if I could do it on such a small scale, why not try expanding it to a 500 feet skyscraper,” he says.

The architectural structure of “Live, Share, Grow,” was inspired by the Unitàd’Habitation, the modernist residential housing project located in Marseille, France, designed by Le Corbusier and Nadir Afonso.


Technically, the skyscraper will be equipped with a photovoltaic and aeolian system, with geothermal heat, to allow the building to be energetically self-sufficient. Waste, grey water and black water can all be redeemed through recycling to create thermal energy. Additional green measures will be hydroponic cultivation and the collection of rainwater.

The 1000 square foot units are intended for residents who are  conscious of resources and willing to partake in local commerce. The presence of an open air market, accessible to all, will allow local vendors to sell the products cultivated on the skyscraper: this will create a micro-economy that will not only endorse local products, but will also enrich a sense of community.


An extra trait of Martella’s vertical farm is represented by the close collaboration with the Children’s Museum in San Diego. Through the motto “Think, Play, Create,” it will be possible to educate even the youngest generations on the importance of sustainability. There will also be the chance to live the life of an urban farmer through educational tours, and a large convention centre will also attract visitors to the project.

Several sponsors are now considering making Brandon’s “Live, Share, Grow” skyscraper become a reality. In the meantime, Martella is working with the American branch office of the prestigious Roesling Nakamura Terada Architects Studio, hoping his high and mighty plans will soon take off.

Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

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  • Reply
    jake carr
    Jul 9, 2017 at 3:23 am

    Great and helpful information.
    Thank you for sharing.

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