The new green frontier

Written by Eleonora Usseglio Prinsi & Desy Frezet
Artwork Diego Soprana

Week 44

One gets lost admiring photos of the German photographer Michael Wolf. It is difficult to detect the subject of the image, difficult to perceive ground lines or the horizon, yet one can sense the order that the subject generates. A sequence of apartments, balconies and stairwells, set in loops that define the urban landscape and the failure of a model of metropolitan development, taken to its extreme.

1,200 skyscrapers and 7 million people, all nestled into 1000 square kilometres. We are in Hong Kong, which literally means ‘fragrant harbour’. A poetic translation that is difficult to grasp until you peek between the rooftops of the Ngau Tau Kok district, one of the areas with the highest residential densities, located north of the Kwun Tong district, to find HK Farm; an oasis in the concrete jungle that offers a new model for urban agriculture.

HK Farm is the project of Michael Leung, founder and creative director, who also runs HK honey and an art and design platform called Shanghai Street Studios in Yau Ma Tai. His passion for agriculture, food ethics and origin was cultivated whilst living in London, traversing between food markets on the weekends. He spent three months in New York working on the world’s largest rooftop farm, Brooklyn Grange, an experience that inspired him to focus on community urban agriculture in his home of Hong Kong.

Projects like these keep the community close, allowing them to collaborate and understand the importance of locally produced organic food.

Repossessing a roof, a flowerbed or a park is a great strategy to re-establish a connection with nature, and between diverse individuals themselves.

From 2012, The HK Farm project has worked on activities to promote social and environmental awareness, but also educational and creative workshops.
Workshops, exhibitions and projects for artists in residence, are a winning tool to open the project to the community and create networks of knowledge, experiences and sharing with local farmers, restaurants and businesses.
To teach younger generations a hierarchy of values within the metropolitan area, which is not dictated by market dynamics, but from a scenario where abandoned buildings are transformed into resources in order to reclaim the city.

The space is furnished with casual furniture and structures made of recycled materials, creating the ideal environment for the cultivation of fruits, vegetables and breeding of bees. The project is not the result of a concrete plan, but rather of collective will, continually evolving depending on the amount and type of people who participate, strengthening social relationships and bringing people together in the realization of a common purpose.

Berlin, New York, Milan and Sao Paulo, between their numerous skyscrapers, host many green projects such as Roof Water Farm, Brooklyn Grange, Habitami and GREEN SP. These projects are an important step towards changing our food system, and creating awareness about the reduction of arable land and the exponential growth of the global population.

Desy Frezet is an architect based in Sao Paulo and is part of the GREEN SP board, founded in 2014 by Tomás Tojo, to develop green areas in Sao Paulo with the help of the wider community.