Grad’s ‘vertical garden’ high-rise gains international attention

SAN DIEGO – A local college student’s high rise design has the attention of architects all over the world.

Brandon Martella’s idea sprouted while living in a small downtown apartment and now has a life of its own.

“I grew lettuce in my apartment in January and in two months enough lettuce grew to feed us for another half a month,” Martella said. “I figured if I can do it in my apartment why not scale it up to 500 feet?”

That’s where the recent architecture graduate Martella’s senior thesis project took root. He designed a 60,000 square foot high rise “vertical farm” in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter.  The 500-foot high building would be made up of residential living and two-thirds growing space.

The farm would be on the south side of the building to get optimal sun while people would live on the north side with views of the mountains and harbors, Martella said.

The ground floor would be a market capable of bringing millions of pounds of fresh produce to San Diego.

“It’s been done before, but I thought it hasn’t been done in San Diego,” he said. “I mean it’s an idea that needs to be done. People have interest in it. It’s possible, you just need the money.”

Excitement about the idea grew like a weed – all over the world. Martella’s been contacted by several firms including publishers and potential investors.

This building won’t be part of the San Diego skyline anytime soon.  Martella said he wants to get more work experience under his belt.

“My short term goal is to get my license and then see where that takes me and then hopefully make this a reality.”