Too Futuristic and Too Unnatural?: A Speculative Design Approach to the Issue of Citizen Acceptance of Urban Vertical Farming


Urban vertical farming has received much attention in recent years for its potential to transform global food production and supply, tackling many crippling, systemic issues. Current technology promises a new vision of the future of food; however, studies show that it is not always embraced by the public. This paper takes a speculative design approach to the issue of citizen acceptance of urban vertical farming, particularly with regard to the perception of the technology as ‘too futuristic’ and ‘too unnatural’. A literature review sets out secondary research conducted into the psychological, spiritual, and social roots of this barrier, as well as the interrelated topics of organic food certification, nature connectedness, and rewilding. On this basis, a range of qualitative primary research methods are used to uncover new insights. Photo elicitation interviews with citizens explore their aversion to ‘futuristic’ and ‘unnatural’ farming practices while in-store vertical farm observations uncover certain key customer behaviours. Finally, in-depth expert interviews on the future of food and vertical farming are set out. Using the grounded theory methodology, all results are analysed and synthesised, and three speculative scenarios are developed that demonstrate possible future perspectives in which citizens live in different relationships with urban vertical farming and nature. The scenarios are visualised and presented in a virtual exhibition space where an audience can engage and contribute their comments and criticisms. The aim of this project is to inspire debate and action to address the barriers to urban vertical farming and help to realise the technology’s potential.


Charlotte Britton
User Experience Designer, Design Management, Macromedia University, Germany

Oliver Szasz
Professor , Design, Macromedia University , Bayern, Germany


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Design Management and Professional Practice


Urban Vertical Farming, Unnatural, Citizen Acceptance, Speculative Design, Virtual Exhibition

Digital Media


Too Futuristic And Unnatural (Embed)