There are two unusual terraces in the Design Building on the South Campus. It's not the flowers that decorate the terraces, but various kinds of vegetables, including tomatoes, loofah, cucumbers, grapes and peppers.

They all came from capenter Zhao Hailin’s hand. It only took him 20 days to transform the terrace of the Department of Architecture and Design into a mini farm.

Hailin Zhao is a carpenter in the Fab Lab of the department, usually responsible for guiding and helping students to do carpentry, as well as maintaining and fabricating wooden equipment for the department.

At first, the idea of growing these vegetables was initiated by Professor Gisela Loehlein, head of the department, who hoped that the Design Building can still be full of life even when students cannot come back to campus.

In the small pot, Mr Zhao set up a shelf, and planted tomatoes, cucumbers, loofahs. The tomatoes have already been produced some fruits.

Yet, Hailin Zhao said that there are still many restrictions on growing vegetables here.

"These vegetables need sunshine during daytime and dew at night so that they can grow up fast. The vines of the loofah are a little bit too thin," he said.

This is the grape vine planted by Mr Zhao. The original idea is to let it grow to the top, cover the entire shed and form a natural shade.

"The grape vine grew so fast that it was able to climb up right away. But the pot below is a little small for the roots to grow," he said.

The other terrace is also vibrant with greenness, where Zhao Hailin’s eggplants, peppers, corns and cucumbers thrive.


"These two aubergines are about to bloom and the fruits will soon grow," said Mr Zhao.


In this strip-shaped pot, Mr Zhao planted two corns on the left and cucumbers on the right.

"The soil here is better than that on the other terrace, so the cucumbers grow faster. There are already two little cucumbers here," he said.

"I want to make this place look even better in the future. I’ll get rid of all the plants next to the cucumbers, set up the shed and plant a row of cucumbers. Hopefully we can produce ten to twenty cucumbers each day by then," Mr Zhao said with a smile.


Hailin Zhao said the soil used to grow these vegetables was all transported from outside.

"I used to be a farmer, so I’m very familiar with planting these things," he said, "Vegetables in the wild field grow fast and strong. But now on the terrace, there are more restrictions and they need to be looked after all the time.”


Despite his rich experience, he still found it a little restrictive to grow vegetables on the terrace.

"They can grow even better if they can be planted outside," he said.


By Yi Qian, translated by Yi Qian

Photos by Yi Qian

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