From fitness-centric communities ringed by designated speed walking paths to “inclusion, not seclusion”-minded geriatric wonderlands in the California desert, architects have dreamt up some rather intriguing ways in which to keep seniors healthy, happy and, above all, socially engaged.

SPARK, an architecture studio with offices in London, Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore, recently unveiled a conceptual retirement community that takes a novel approach in promoting an active lifestyle for its residents: by putting encouraging them to work in a massive, on-site urban farm.

Dubbed Homefarm, this curvaceous, high-density development sets out to tackle the issue of housing Singapore’s rapidly growing elderly population (by the year 2030, 20 percent of Singaporeans will be 65 and older) while addressing the fact that all these long-in-the-tooth mouths need to be fed — according to SPARK, a staggering 90 percent of food in the prosperous Southeast Asian city-state is imported. Once heavily agricultural and now a highly urbanized commercial hub, Singapore's meager remaining agricultural operations are largely limited to fish, poultry and vegetables.

Designed to "generate discussion about the many potentials that can emerge from the mixing of two typically separate realms," SPARK’s vision is a bold new typology that melds urban farming with senior living. It's the type of place where bok choy and bingo collide; a place where you’ll find spring non-spring chickens tending to spring onions; a place where wheelbarrows might very well outnumber wheelchairs.

Homefarm in Singapore

Homefarm in SIngapore

While the Homefarm concept was designed with Singapore, a locale that’s certainly not lacking in the vegetation-clad edifice department, specifically in mind, SPARK director Stephen Pimbley explains that the urban farm-meets-retirement village concept can be replicated elsewhere throughout Asia and beyond:

We designed this concept for Singapore, but there is the potential for it to be applied in any location that would support the growth of leafy green vegetables on building facades and rooftops, We are keen to see this project materialize at some point in the future. The concept is a realizable solution to real and pressing problems faced by many of the world’s growing cities.

To be clear, Homefarm’s retiree residents wouldn’t be required to put in a set amount of weekly hours tilling and toiling in the dirt. This isn’t a labor-for-lodging type of arrangement. Rather, the farm would provide residents with an optional social outlet, a mentally stimulating physical activity and a source of additional personal income — a sense of purpose that just happens to revolve around domestic food cultivation. While many residential retirement communities are offer both private and communal gardens, Homefarm elevates golden age greenthumbery from a satisfying hobby to a matter of national food security.

Home Farm is imagined as a private rather than public entity, but one that is within the reach of seniors who encounter financial stress. The architecture has been conceived for economic construction using simple materials and modular parts. The concept offers multi-dimensional benefits related to economics, food security and quality, social engagement, health, sustainability, place making, and healthcare provision.

The farm itself would be run not by its residents but “under the direction of a professional implementation team." And as detailed by SPARK, Homefarm's gray-haired farmers-in-residence would have the option of offsetting apartment rental, utility or healthcare costs through their work which might include planting, harvesting, packing, cleaning, sorting and/or delivering produce. Another payment option: hyperlocal veggies.

Homefarm in Singapore

Homefarm in SIngapore

Powered by an on-site biomass boiler that converts plant waste to energy and equipped with a sophisticated rainwater collection/recycling system, Homefarm would include three types of farming: an aquaponics-based vertical farm covering the terraced building’s courtyard facade that’s capable of producing 27 metric tons of greens per month; a soil-based linear farm on the building's rooftop and in planter beds; and a “traditional” soil-based farm surrounding the development that would generate 114 part-time jobs. SPARK has also included a farmers market, organic supermarket and agricultural center alongside more standard retirement community amenities such as a library, social center and healthcare facilities.

In terms of Homefarm's 300 residential units, a large majority are modestly sized (388- to 505-square-feet) studios joined by a small smattering of two-bedroom apartments, dual-key configurations and multigenerational living quarters.

The development’s parking garage would be tucked away underground, out of sight and out of mind.

Homefarm in Singapore

Plenty more, including further details on the aquaponics system, at SPARK.

Via [Designboom], [ArchDaily]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Agriculture-minded retirement community keeps greenthumbed residents happily occupied
Offering its residents much more than a small plot, Homefarm is a retirement development with full-on urban farming operations.