Flower grower and sustainability activist Joost Bakker finally has the chance to help realise one of his long-held ambitions – to see the tops of our metropolitan buildings harnessed to become productive urban farms.
Frasers Property Australia has enlisted Bakker to establish an urban farm and restaurant on the 2000-square-metre rooftop of its proposed shopping centre development on the former Burwood Brickworks site in Melbourne's east, which begins construction mid-year.
"It's the kind of [project] I've been talking about for years and years, and here's a company that actually has the balls to go out and do it," says Bakker, best known for his pop-up restaurants promoting sustainable design, recycling and zero waste.
In what the developer is labelling an "Australian first", the Burwood Brickworks rooftop will feature a mix of greenhouses, planter boxes and gardens, both horizontal and vertical – something Bakker has been instrumental in designing – supplying food and beverage outlets.
Bakker also envisages a larger version of his terracotta-pot vertical garden design, growing Asian produce, reflecting the area's strong Chinese and south-east Asian communities, as well as event and activity areas, especially for schoolkids.
The rooftop urban farm and restaurant is part of Frasers' larger initiative to create "the world's most sustainable shopping centre", a mixed-use development with 12,700 square metres of retail space incorporating such green measures as a solar PV system and embedded electricity network. The developer expects the centre to open in the second half of next year.
At this stage, Frasers has released an expression of interest without approaching prospective tenants. Bakker says he has designed the urban farm without anyone particularly in mind. "I deliberately haven't spoken to the Neil Perrys and the like," he says. "I like the idea of someone who is a conventional hospitality player that can [use this garden to] inform the rest of their business."