Rooftop Greenhouse Agrotopia

Client: Inagro and REO Veiling
Project initiation: Vlaams Bouwmeester and ILVO
Co-Architect: Meta Architecture Office
Project: 9500m2 Research facilities for vegetable cultivation with visitor facilities
Location: Oostnieuwkerksesteenweg Roeselare Belgium
Planning: design 2015-2017, implementation 2018-2021
Cultivation techniques: Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture
Constructor: Tractebel engineers
Installations: Tractebel engineers
Greenhouse construction: Smiemans projects
Photography: Filip Dujardin

Rooftop greenhouse Agrotopia is the largest public building for research into urban food production in Europe. 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 fruit and leaf vegetables, surrounded by an educational route for the general public. The cultivation of tomatoes and lettuce, but also pepper and strawberry can be experienced in four different climate zones.

The entrance with wide, ascending stairs leads to the Stadstuinbouwplein 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.

The building houses climates for plants and humans under one conservatory roof. Warm and humid climate compartments for plant research. The box-in-box spaces for meetings and education have a climate that is adapted to people. In between are the public spaces with air misting that can be used to temper the perceived temperature on hot days.

Transparent sculpture
Rooftop Greenhouse Agrotopia is a proud, transparent sculpture of glass and steel. The architecture consists of a thin greenhouse construction that stands out against the sky and rests on the concrete base of the box shed. The entire building consists of one standard conservatory with diffused glass.

The greenhouse on the two cantilevered building heads has a special appearance due to the expressive, faceted facades in transparent glass. On the entrance side, the faceted facade forms vertical glass bay windows that offer the option of applying targeted sun protection while retaining views in and out. On the west side of the facade conservatory along the ring road, the horizontal structure in facets guarantees a good incidence of the sun's rays for the crop and a reflection-free view from ground level.

Circular water and energy use
Not a drop of water is lost in this building. All the rainwater that is collected with the 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.

New generation of city farmers
Agrotopia is the building where the new generation of urban gardeners of the future are trained. The future urban horticulturist will not only learn how to grow leafy vegetables and fruit vegetables, but will also learn how to work with new technologies and revenue models.

Pilot project led by the Flemish Government Architect
With Agrotopia, the Flemish Government Architect focuses on innovative construction projects with the aim of establishing collaboration between different sectors so that architectural and social innovation becomes possible. To this end, the lessons learned from the design and construction process are widely shared in the form of a manual.