Urban Ecotones: Transitional Spaces for Commerce and Culture
This design intervention provides a vision for how innovative home building centers can thrive economically, adapt to anticipated future city conditions, and provide a model for regenerating critical habitat corridors at a city-wide scale. We assert that the major challenge to current and future big box developments will be their reliance on fossil fuels, and generic, non-site specific land development.
Two Portland planning documents advised our design: Metro’s 2040 Growth Concept and Portland’s Peak Oil Task Force 2007 Report (Descending the Oil Peak: Navigating the Transition from oil and Natural Gas). Both documents critically examine transportation infrastructure and propose actions Portland should take to prepare for the future. Portland’s Peak Oil Task Force predicts that there will be a dramatic change in transportation and lifestyles due to fossil fuel shortages within the next 30 years. This fact has led our team to critically assess the prescribed parking requirement and its utility in the future. Our design proposal meets the current parking requirement and offers a regenerative economic replacement strategy should large parking areas become obsolete.
Our design strategy is guided by time based, economic and ecological systems to provide an adaptive development model for the shift from fossil fuel dependency to a more localized economy. For example, unwanted yard and food wastes are brought on site and transformed into compost to assist with the regeneration of low HCA areas and to generate economic capital. Stormwater management strategies utilize existing topography and hydrological patterns to collect and cleanse water with technologies that replicate wetland processes and habitats.
Particular attention has been given to thresholds at which commercial development meets natural systems. Rather than seeing these interactions as points of confrontation, they are approached as environments of unique richness—a synergy of both habitats akin to an ecotone: the transitional area between two ecosystems containing more diversity and biotic activity than singular habitats. Rather than impinging upon natural systems on site, habitat buffers are increased to provide a shared zone of mutually-beneficial interaction.
Economically, our development model taps into Portland’s leading market for sustainable building practices and lifestyles, and fosters community by creating service- oriented building centers near regional and town centers to meet the challenges of post peak-oil conditions. Through day-lighting, façade articulation and site responsive features, the architecture provides a contrasting experience that will attract nearby shoppers from adjacent big box developments for the engaging experience the site will offer them.
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