Rooftop greenhouse Agrotopia is Europe’s largest research centre for urban food production.
With its faceted glass facades, monumental entrance staircase and stacking of functions, Agrotopia gives a striking architectural appearance to horticulture on the roofs of the city. The innovative building is an example for future food production in the city, intensive use of space, circular energy and water use and making greenhouse horticulture more sustainable.
Agrotopia is built on the roof of the vegetable and fruit auction REO on the ring road of Roeselare; the logistics heart of West Flanders for fruit and vegetables. With a spectacular view of the wider area and the city, urban horticulture on industrial roofs is given a prominent place in the skyline of Roeselare.
Building for research and education The 9,500 m2 building contains high-tech research facilities for the cultivation of fruity and leafy vegetables, surrounded by an educational route for the general public.
The entrance with wide, ascending stairs leads to the Urban Horticulture square with visitor facilities in the heart of the building. In the facade conservatory on the ring road there is a double-height conservatory for innovative vertical cultivation. The foot of the double-height facade conservatory is used to store rainwater from the roof, which is used to irrigate the crops.
Transparent sculpture Rooftop Greenhouse Agrotopia is a proud, transparent sculpture of glass and steel. The architecture consists of a slender greenhouse construction that stands out against the sky and rests on the concrete base of a crates shed. The entire building consists of one standard greenhouse with diffused glass.
Circular water and energy use All the rainwater that is collected with the building’s roof is used to irrigate the plants and the residual water is cleaned and reused. Municipal residual heat from the nearby Mirom waste incinerator heats the greenhouse. In short, Agrotopia lives in a circular symbiosis with the city.
With the rooftop greenhouse Agrotopia, META architectuurbureau (BE) and van Bergen Kolpa Architecten (NL) have delivered Europe’s largest public building dedicated to urban food production, a commission from the Flemish research institute for agriculture and horticulture, Inagro, and REO Veiling. With its faceted glass frontages, monumental entrance staircase and stacked functions, Agrotopia gives a striking, architectural face to horticulture on the city’s rooftops. Through innovative water recuperation and by reusing urban waste heat, Agrotopia enters into a circular symbiosis with the city.Agrotopia was constructed on the roof of the REO Veiling headquarters: the logistic heart of West Flanders for fruit and vegetables. With a spectacular view across the expansive landscape and the city, urban horticulture atop industrial rooftops is afforded a prominent place in Roeselare’s skyline.Together with the clients, Inagro and REO Veiling, META and VBK have realised an ambitious building with numerous innovations. A single building featuring different climate zones, sustainable and economical use of space, research into leafy vegetables and fruit vegetables in the city, opening up the rooftop to a public function, circular use of space and energy, to name but a few.
Building for research and education In the 9,500 m2 building, high-tech research facilities for the cultivation of fruit and leafy vegetables are surrounded by an educational trail for the general public. In four different climate zones, the cultivation of tomatoes and lettuce, but also peppers and strawberries, can be followed.
"Agrotopia as a test case: building a greenhouse atop an existing building has never been done before on this scale and it presented many opportunities and challenges. The integration of the steel greenhouse with the concrete substructure and complex installations has resulted in a true public building with exceptional architectural quality for the city of Roeselare." Niklaas Deboutte, META architectuurbureau
One of the challenges was to reconcile the needs for research facilities in a greenhouse – and therefore a warm and humid environment – with the requirements for visitor facilities. In Agrotopia’s greenhouse climate, it is not only plants that must thrive; it is also a place where people come to learn and work.
"To achieve this, box-in-box spaces were created for research and education with a climate adapted to people. For the public spaces, fogging is used to temper the wind chill on hot days." Frederik Ghyssaert, Tractebel engineering
Transparent sculpture Agrotopia is a proud, transparent sculpture of steel and glass, which underscores both its agricultural and its public function. To this end, the architecture is composed of a slender greenhouse construction that stands out against the sky and rests on the concrete base of the crate sheds.The entrance, with a broad ascending staircase, leads to the urban horticulture square in the heart of the building where the visitor facilities are located. A double-height greenhouse for innovative vertical cultivation can be found in the façade greenhouse along the ring road. The foot of the latter stores the rainwater from the roof, which is then used to irrigate the crops.The entire building consists of one standard greenhouse with diffuse glass. The greenhouse on the two cantilevered building heads owes its striking appearance to the expressive, faceted façades in transparent glass. On the entrance side, it forms vertical glass bay windows to which specific sunscreens could be added whilst also preserving the interior and exterior views. On the west side of the façade greenhouse along the ring road, the horizontal faceted construction guarantees a good incidence of sunlight for the crops and a reflection-free view at ground level.
Sustainable and economic use of space The increasing and urgent need to use space as sustainably, efficiently and economically as possible has created a growing trend for urban agriculture, especially as a way of activating residual space in the city. In Agrotopia, two previously independent worlds – architecture and agriculture – are united in a single building dedicated to urban agriculture.
Circular water and energy use Not a drop of water is lost in this building. When irrigating the plants, the run-off is recycled and reused. The same applies to energy: the greenhouse is warmed by the surplus heat from the Mirom waste incinerator. In short, Agrotopia exists in a circular symbiosis with the city.
"Agrotopia: where the urban farmer of the future is trained. The next generation urban farmer will not only learn how to grow both leafy and fruit vegetables; they will also learn how to work with new technologies and business models." Sjaak Bakker, Wageningen UR Glasshouse horticulture
A multidisciplinary and international team for a multifaceted project – collaboration between different specialisations Specialists in the field of architecture, horticulture, greenhouses, climate and construction. META architecture office, van Bergen Kolpa Architects, Wageningen UR glasshouse horticulture, Tractebel Engineering and Smiemans worked together on this project.
Agrotopia is one of the Flemish Government Architect’s ‘Pilot Projects for a Productive Landscape’ (PPPL). With these projects, the Flemish government architect places the focus on social challenges that demand innovative building projects. The aim of a pilot project is to establish cooperation across different sectors so as to facilitate architectural and social innovation. The strength of these pilot projects is that theories are directly tested against reality. Agrotopia was born out of this process.