Madeira Terrace Urban Farm, UK
As a first year architecture student at the University of Brighton, I finished the module ‘Design, technology and architectural practises’ in June. The module required students to design a building which would operate an urban farm in Brighton. The existing site is the grade 2 listed historical Victorian Madeira Terrace along Brighton seafront.
The crop I chose to design my building around is cauliflower. Part of the decision for this is because it is a fairly hardy vegetable with many varieties allowing it to be grown around the year. It can survive in a salty air environment, and besides the initial sowing and germinating of seeds, the crops can be grown outside, minimising the need for excess energy consumption to heat or light the crops, an important consideration as the brief required also required the building to be off-grid and self sufficient.
The operation of my proposal has 3 elements, the first of which is that it operates as a year-round farm growing multiple varieties of cauliflower. The second is to educate members of the community in growing, cooking and preserving food. I considered that as cauliflower is a vegetable that can be pickled and fermented – two processes a lot of people are unaware of how to do – then why not incorporate a space that allows for these processes to be done and taught. I decided I wanted my farm to educate people, not only in the horticultural side of the operation, but in preserving and cooking processes too. Thirdly, the space hosts a café in which food cooked and prepared by the team and public can be enjoyed.
As the main focus’ of my operation are the growing of cauliflower and the integration and education of the community, I wanted the architecture to reflect this. My design proposal is an asymmetrical building with the farm operating on the exterior and first level of the building. The café and workshop spaces are underneath the existing Madeira Terrace. The East bay protrudes forward and the exterior is a series of stepped levels which accommodate the crops as well as seating, and creates access to the first level. When sitting on these steps to enjoy a coffee and fresh salad from the café, you’ll be surrounded by cauliflowers whilst looking out to Brighton beach. As Madeira Terrace is a part of Brighton’s history and an iconic structure along the seafront, I didn’t want to hide the existing arches. My design therefore showcases the western arch as part of the façade. The Eastern arch adds to the aesthetic in the interior of my building, reminding people inside the café of the history of the original site.
Something I really enjoyed about this module was seeing how my fellow students’ designs were so different despite us all following the same brief. It was fun to imagine the Madeira Terrace, which is currently underway to being partially restored, attracting people for a new reason – because it would be unique site of a collection of urban farms offering all sorts of produce, activities and facilities.
For information on the restoration of Madeira Terrace see here.
For information on the first year module ‘Design, technology and architectural practises’ see our news post.
Image: We were required to make a fragment model to highlight the technical elements of our design. (Source: Jasmine Cook, 2022)
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