“The scale in which our lives unfold is at a different scale than the accumulation of processes that create the metropolis over time. What this appears to be to any one person in the metropolis is just a standard field system that make up the context of everyday life.” -Joseph Sadoski
Joseph Sadoski’s Urban Agricultural Hub was produced in David Cook’s Conditioning the Urban Fabric studio at the University of Oregon School of Architecture. We had the pleasure of reviewing the studio in the spring of 2010. Conditioning the Urban Fabric was an exploration in sustainable urban agriculture, positioned in terms of lifestyle and individual choice:
“In terms of the built environment, ‘sustainability’ is really about acknowledging, rather than denying or restricting the diversity of patterns of use and the role of the individual in contemporary society. However, this is not only a design and construction issue, it challenges certain preconceptions about the city and questions how people perceive their built environment….It is therefore imperative to appreciate the subtle differences in the human condition and the role that ‘lifestyle’ can play. Individual ecologically sensitive buildings and environmentally responsible occupiers places less strain on the environment. Unfortunately this is highly localized and could be perceived as being of negligible benefit unless the subservient infrastructure evolves in a manner which actively promotes a manner of living which make the best possible use of resources, whilst also contributing towards a greater standard of living for the community as a whole”
Joseph’s proposal envisions a dispersed array of strategic ‘hubs’ and ‘sub-hubs’ that “intervene (visually/socially/physically/ecologically) within a few specific processes/infrastructures through a cross-section of Portland’s urban fabric.”
As an integrated system of piers, constructed wetlands, aquaculture ponds and hydroponic cells, the design scheme grafts new productive surfaces into an existing industrial waterfront:
“The HUB will pull water from the Willamette River and run it through a series of wetland vegetation bio-filters in which microorganisms will remediate the river water and remove harmful metals and toxins through the River Filter HUB. This [cleansed] water will be used to rear local organic fish (primarily Tilapia, Catfish) in the Aquaculture HUB while re-circulating the same water through solid removal cycles and bio-filters in which microorganisms will convert the ammonia into food for a new Hydroponics HUB field condition of urban agriculture.”
[River Filter - a constructed pier for awareness, demonstration and indicator of the Willamette River's degradation. Water is pumped from the river into an elevated equalization tank/tower. Water flows vertically down and through constructed remediation wetlands built into the pier. Once the water has reached the riverfront it is pumped into the aquaculture rearing tanks. If/when the aquaponic cycle is at full capacity, the River Filter continues to process, remediating water and cycling it back into the river.]
The River Filter utilizes the thin public promenade at the edge of the waterfront, merging it with avant-industrial uses. Vibrant, river-phobic wetlands lie in overhead juxtaposition to the degraded river. The contrast between the two speaks of the state of the Willamette while highlighting the processes of the constructed living systems.
[Aquaculture – Herbivorous Fish Production. On-site farm raised fish using collection of vegetable waste from farm and green food scrapes from restaurants on the West/near East side of Portland (Consumption: Tilapia, Catfish; Ornamental: Koi, Goldfish. Fish/Tank Size: 0.50 pound/gallon. 1ft3 Fish Rearing Tank / 2ft3 Pea Gravel Hydroponic Media 60-100 Grams of Fish Feed / 1 m2 (3.28 ft2) Plant Growing Area/ Day Hydroponic Lot Size / Tank Volume North Lot – 32,000 ft2 / 18,000 ft3 Fish Rearing Tank Space Middle Lot – 64,000 ft2 / 32,000 ft3 Fish Rearing Tank Space South Lot – 64,000 ft2 / 32,000 ft3 Fish Rearing Tank Space Feed for fish
The fish farms occupy the derelict space beneath massive highway overpasses running parallel to the river; an odd transitional space between the waterfront and the adjacent industrial district. Here again there is a deliberate layering of old and new arranged in allied functions. The shadow of the overpass provides structure and temperature regulation in the hot summer months (Fish in the Willamette river struggle with elevated temperatures due to loss of vegetative cover). Fish farming fits within the cycling of the proposed scheme and provides a response to how “productive surface [can] generate new economies, programs, typologies and public realms.” But one could ask why fish farming from the many agricultural choices possible here? For Joseph, this was based on embodied observation and perceived user experience:
“The formulation of this project dates back to 2008 and my witnessing of foreign deck hands fishing for dinner in the Willamette River between the Fremont Bridge and the Steel Bridge. From what I understood at the time, people were and still are advised to avoid eating certain parts of the fish caught from the mainstem of the river within the urban center of Portland. The ingestion could potentially result in the transfer of heavy metals, PCBs and dioxins and negative human health impacts.”
The impetus for the design responds to inadvertent programs of globalized trade and logistical streams of industrial agriculture. The bare, externalized architecture of pipes, trays, tanks and platforms simultaneously recasts the narrative and productive capacity of the “received urban field ” into which it has been placed.
[Railroad Distribution Hubs:elevated rail distribution centers are geared towards local and regional transportation. The two hubs are located on the tracks, allowing the hubs to come together at times for stocking and packaging, while separating and locating near the off-ramp of the Morrison Bridge and the on-ramp of Hawthorn Bridge for distributing. By utilizing the existing railroad system, the two sub-hubs anchor to the ramps coming off the bridges. Once positioned, their visual impediment and convenient locations provide urban agricultural product to passing pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles.]
The array of hubs erases edges between infrastructure, architecture and landscape via the consolidated matrix of sitings in the urban field. The varied agricultural programs utilize the existing field while altering how its accumulated processes operate. And rather than pulling apart uses or banishing industrial processes from the urban core, recreational and productive programs are merged and superimposed, inviting a new ecology of industrial systems to manifest.
-All images and unmarked quotes courtesy of Joseph Sadoski-