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A Comic-Book Proposal for a Vertical Urban Farm

A Montreal-based architecture firm has Snoopy make the case for turning New York’s MetLife Building into the world’s tallest farm.


It’s early yet in this young year, but we may have an entry for the trendiest design proposal of 2016 in hand.

Metals in Construction magazine sponsored a contest to rethink the MetLife Building (formerly the Pan Am Building) in Manhattan. The journal invited architects, engineers, and other designers to submit a project proposal and renderings of a more sustainable façade for the tower at 200 Park Avenue, which was the largest corporate building in the world when it opened in 1963.

Two big prizes were up for grabs: one, recognition for revising the work of Walter Gropius, one of the architect GOATs; and two, $15,000. In the end, the jury carved up the cash and glory among six winners. One of them stands out.

Lemay, a Montréal-based architecture firm, proposed turning the MetLife Building into the world’s tallest farm. That alone might be enough to earn it a top seed in the brackets for an architecture-trend March Madness. The entry not only reimagined the Gropius-designed building as an urban, vertical farm—it did so in comic-book format.


What would Mies van der Rohe say? Less is moo?

The comic-book treatment follows after Yes Is More, the graphic novel monograph by the Bjarke Ingels Group. Farm Follows Fiction (lol) isn’t exactly a super-hero comic, unless you count Gropius, who comes off as more of an anti-hero here—maybe even a Dr. Doom–type villain. Grand Central Terminal could be considered his victim: Many New Yorkers hate the way the MetLife Building looms over the Beaux-Arts station.

Also appearing in Farm Follows Fiction (that’s never going to not be funny) are Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Linus, or at least highly identifiable outline drawings of these figures. (Outlines only, for copyright reasons.) It makes sense to cast Snoopy as a sort of Virgil, leading the reader through the rigors of placemaking and triple-paned glass curtain walls. Snoopy has been the face of MetLife for longer than the Geico gecko and the Aflac duck have been alive. (Although—awkward!—he and MetLife may be breaking up.)

In the real world, urban farms don’t look viable financially. And treescrapers are more fantasy than reality, despite the sweeping promises attached to this new typology. So this speculative proof hits the trifecta: urban farming, verdant tower, and graphic novelization. Looks good on the page, anyway.


About the Author

  • Kriston Capps
    Kriston Capps is a staff writer at CityLab. More

    Kriston Capps is a staff writer at CityLab, where he writes about housing, art and design. Previously, he was a senior editor at Architect magazine.