Growing food on a public building roof

An ambitious venture combining architecture, technology, engineering, and urban horticulture, 'Agrotopia' in the city of Roeselare, Belgium, is said to be Europe’s largest public building devoted to food production, designed and implemented by Rotterdam-based van Bergen Kolpa Architects in association with META architectuurbureau from Antwerp. In realizing the 9,500 sqm research facility and greenhouse for clients REO Veiling and Flemish horticultural research institute Inagro, the two firms were aided by the expertise of engineering consultants Tractebel as well as greenhouse construction specialist Smiemans Projecten. Perched atop the headquarters of REO Veiling in Roeselare - which also acts as an agricultural auction market, the intervention takes the form of a massive greenhouse with aluminum, steel, and glass exterior that merges seamlessly with the concrete base of the industrial building beneath.

Serving as one of the logistical headquarters for access to produce - particularly with its role as the site for REO auctions, the monolithic concrete architecture of REO Veiling’s headquarters is a resolute and solid plinth for the multifaceted research and cultivation facility that crowns it. In fact, the glimmering layered steel and glass envelope of the new structure is a stark contrast to the heaviness of the datum it rests upon, which borders one of Roeselare’s ring roads on its western face. 

From the entrance, as one steps beneath the ceiling framed by an abundance of steel trusses, a sense of monumentality pervades the interior design. A broad, ascending staircase along the building’s front face leads into an urban horticulture square at the heart of the complex which contains visitor facilities. Mia Demeulemeester, Chief Executive Officer of Inagro, mentions in a press statement, “With Agrotopia, we have created a unique location for practical research and the development of innovative techniques for greenhouse and urban agriculture. At the same time, this is the ideal place in which to conduct large-scale and professional research into the emerging field of urban horticulture. Thanks to the proximity of REO Veiling, where the growers convene, we can strengthen the link between research and practice. We also want to use a visitor corridor in the greenhouse to give the general public a better understanding of greenhouse horticulture and contemporary agriculture and horticulture."

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