This Dense, City-Like Campus Will Be Powered By The Food It Grows

The Agro Food Park, in Denmark, could be a model for future development that’s a hybrid of urban design and agriculture.

Urban farming is usually an afterthought: a vacant lot becomes a garden or an existing roof holds a new greenhouse. A new project in Denmark suggests a different approach. What if a dense neighborhood was designed to coexist with full-scale agriculture—and farm waste helped power the buildings?


Agro Food Park, on roughly 250 acres of land outside Aarhus, Denmark, isn’t inside city limits. But when the area—an innovation and research center for the future of food—redesigned its campus, it used a dense, city-like, walkable layout. Because the buildings are surrounded by farm fields, the plant waste and manure from the farms will be part of the new system design.

It’s a model, the designers say, for future development that’s a hybrid of urban design and agriculture.

A new master plan for the area connects farm operations to office space. “Part of the master plan is really to cluster these things so that we can get enough either heat or energy from some of the farm components to power some of the buildings,” says Alastair Reilly, director at William McDonough + Partners, the architecture firm that developed the project with Copenhagen-based 3XN/GXN.

As the new buildings are built, the developers will begin testing the use of manure, biogas, and other farm waste to help power them, and will slowly scale up. “The idea is to create a complex that could stand on its own with renewable energy,” says Reilly.

The architects are also beginning to use the same concept for a new city planning project in China. “Rather than having subdivided, traditional planning where you have urban buildings and then industrial and farming are put to the outskirts, we’re trying to bake it in,” he says. “The agriculture is part of the urban context . . . We see it as a template that can be carried forward.”


About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.