Innovative Take on Mixed-Use Development; Multi-Family + Urban Farm

GROW is a 20-unit, multi-residential housing project that cultivates a diverse inner-city community (Bankview, Calgary AB) through the provision of varying unit sizes, using the binding social element of a barrier-free, 0.6 acre rooftop urban farm.


Photo credit: Ema Peter

This amenity-scape, while satisfying stringent landscape and amenity space requirements, introduces urban horticulture in the form of private gardens, vegetative roofs, apiaries, etc. at a scale not previously experienced in inner-city living in Calgary. It also creates a place to walk the dog or to get a breath of fresh air, encouraging spontaneous interactions amongst residents in an engaging and active context. To further support social interactions across intergenerational demographic backgrounds, GROW’s units suit a range of ages and family sizes, including small (450 sf) studios, medium-sized (600 sf) condos, 1.5 storey lofts, and large (850-1,000 sf) two-storey townhomes. 

GROW presents a reinterpretation of the ‘privatization’ of multi-residential living in which the only opportunities for social interaction typically occur in circulation areas or at the mailbox. Using both unit diversity and urban farming as a passive, non-forced approach to multi-residential housing, the building’s residents fall within the entire demographic spectrum and can participate in all facets of farming, including spring planting, daily maintenance and care, harvesting, and engaging with the broader community of Calgary through the weekly preparation and sale of harvest baskets. This granular approach to place-making is critical to building resilient communities as we navigate increasing social division, and the severe health impacts of social isolation. Trust is built through activities such as farming and the shared ambition to cultivate and care for a resource that benefits the community. In GROW’s emphasis on activated social spaces, differences in age and demographics become less pronounced.

If GROW’s approach to ‘social-engineering’ were to become more prevalent in our inner-city communities, and we were to focus on building social capital in tandem with real estate capital, we could create more equitable and inclusive inner-city urban spaces; schools, community centres, and grocery stores that serve multiple purposes by design.

About Modern Office of Design + Architecture

Founded in 2013 by architects Ben Klumper and Dustin Couzens, Modern Office of Design + Architecture is a Calgary-based practice working across the fields of architecture, urbanism, landscape, and design. The practice seeks the untapped potentials in limitation and constraint, exploiting them as opportunities for spectacle to emerge within the everyday. They seek to learn, to understand, to educate, and to pass along knowledge through actions and a collective voice. They relish conversations with like-minded thinkers, dreamers, and makers that yearn to produce something bigger than any one individual could accomplish on their own.