The Jian Mu tower is an office building to be located in the southern city of Shenzhen in China and it is a green skyscraper with a twist. An international architecture competition was set up by the leading supermarket chain Wumart in which Carlo Ratti Associati’s (CRA) design was among the finalists. The building design conceived by CRA incorporates large scale production of vegetables, fruits and herbs within the glass facades; a first of its kind. 

This is possible with a vertical hydroponics farm that will run throughout the outer façade of the skyscraper absorbing the solar radiation that penetrates through, while also efficiently aiding with the cooling of the building.

"World’s First Farmscraper" Featuring Vertical Hydroponic Farm designed by Carlo Ratti Associati - Sheet1
The Jian Mu Towers ©Carlo Ratti Associati

The vertical farmscape that occupies 10,000 square meters will allow its occupants to cultivate, harvest, purchase and consume fresh produce from within the building, making it a more personal and meaningful experience for shoppers. While doing, so it nurtures a more conscious mentality in buyers by promoting self-sustainability in consumerism as a self-sustained food supply chain in itself. It is estimated to harvest 270,000 kilograms of produce per year, enough to feed up to 40,000 people. 

Carlo Ratti, the founder partner of Carlo Ratti Associati, says, “Small-scale urban farming is happening in cities all over the world – from Paris to New York to Singapore. Jian Mu Tower, however, takes it to the next level, such an approach has the potential to play a major role in the design of future cities, as it engages one of today’s most pressing architectural challenges: How to integrate the natural world into building design.”

The firm, in collaboration with ZERO, devised a system that enables the production of fruits and vegetables. An AI support system manages the day to day needs of the hydroponics farm, from irrigation to maintaining the required climatic conditions for growth. ZERO is an Italian company that works with innovative solutions in agriculture.

"World’s First Farmscraper" Featuring Vertical Hydroponic Farm designed by Carlo Ratti Associati - Sheet2
The Jian Mu Towers ©Carlo Ratti Associati

The 218-meter-high building is to be built on the last available plot in Shenzhen’s Central Business District and hence will complete the sleek-tech skyline with a touch of greenery. It houses a total of 90,000 square meters of area in 51 stories that will encompass housing offices, a supermarket, a food court and vast inner gardens that will facilitate social gatherings and events. The double-height garden space seamlessly integrates into the interior vistas providing an enriching setting for its staff and visitors to relax and interact. 

The gardens and hydroponics farm create a microclimate within, effectively reducing the need for air conditioning. Carlo Ratti Associati’s design allows thermal comfort in the office spaces to be controlled by the user with the help of a mobile application.

"World’s First Farmscraper" Featuring Vertical Hydroponic Farm designed by Carlo Ratti Associati - Sheet3
The Jian Mu Towers ©Carlo Ratti Associati

The Carlo Ratti Associati’s proposal integrates natural and artificial elements in many other beneficial ways. The outside area surrounding the tower exudes diversity with a series of terraced gardens. Utilizing Shenzhen’s abundant precipitation, these terraced gardens have sustainable irrigation systems and house a wide variety of flora ranging from water lilies, ferns to lychee shrubs. 

The tower is named after the Jian Mu Tree, which is a mythical symbol that connects heaven and earth in ancient Chinese folklore. The rectangular base of the building that transforms into a tubular form coincides with the traditional Chinese belief that the earth is square while heaven is round.

"World’s First Farmscraper" Featuring Vertical Hydroponic Farm designed by Carlo Ratti Associati - Sheet4
The Jian Mu Towers ©Carlo Ratti Associati

The CRA had worked on the Future Food District at the 2015 Milan World Expo for a leading Italian supermarket chain before this. Dubbed as the “World’s first Farmscraper,” this innovative design by Carlo Ratti Associati will definitely gain popularity for its efficient utilization of solar energy while also reducing its energy consumption. Shenzhen has in recent times seen many prominent commissions led by international architects to transform this into a city hub. 

"World’s First Farmscraper" Featuring Vertical Hydroponic Farm designed by Carlo Ratti Associati - Sheet5
The Jian Mu Towers ©Carlo Ratti Associati


“Jian Mu Tower.” Carlo Ratti Associati, Accessed 3 Sept. 2021.


Mary is a final year B.Arch. student eager to find her place in the multiverse that is architecture. She believes that words have a hidden ability to inspire, providing an in-depth perception. Deeply passionate about preserving the natural world and its heritage, she also finds solace in penning down her thoughts, travelling and enjoys being cooped up with a good book.

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