My investigation began with a study of London's Smithfield meat market. It examined the way in which a central urban location was occupied and transformed. The study looked at spatial occupancy on several levels, but primarily focused on the way in which spaces are transformed through their occupation.
In the market, the hanging animal carcasses become part of the market's architecture. They subdivide and screen the market hall when they are hung up, and animate it when they are being moved or dissected. As passive (dead) bodies they become part of the market territory that has to be moved through by the human occupants. However unlike the static configuration of the market, the carcasses have to be negotiated differently as their configuration, through time, changes. This creates a mobile and fluctuating spatial landscape.
This realisation was used to design and make a modular component that can alter 3-dimensionally its shape and location in a space, over time, in a similar way to the carcasses. This component was used in the formal generation of part of the building programme. The design also continues to investigate the broader ethical and political issues related to the architecture of meat production and consumption.
The building program is a pig farm, abattoir and processing plant that links into the existing meat market on the west side of Manhattan, unifying the linear process of meat production and consumption in one urban location. The scheme strategic and internal planning follows strict functional necessity of any process based programme. The buildings, however, attempts to suggest ambiguity through varying levels of concealment.
The choice of site for the proposal is significant in a number of ways. The scheme relies upon, and exploits, the existing infrastructure. The pre-industrialised nature of the site and the cultural acceptance of the existing market enable the proposal to be 'plugged' into the city in order to draw from, and feed, it simultaneously. Using existing farming methods the size of site allows the farm to produce 6% of the pork consumed by the meat eating population of Manhattan and at a competitive rate because no vehicular transportation is necessary. The pier (which is semi-detached from the city by the peripheral road) also allows isolation for the farm and abattoir (for hygiene reasons) while the processing areas and the restaurant are inserted in the existing (finer) fabric of the market where the is more public interaction. The existing waste disposal plant to the south of the pier allows the pre cleaned effluent form the buildings to be recycled so the buildings can use it to heat themselves and clean condition the exhaust air farm.
The program highlights the hypocrisy existing around the consumers perception of meat production and suggests that it is possible to introduce existing farm systems to the edges of certain cities and still maintain the ambiguity between food source and it's consumption. Moral issues between food source and consumption are further challenged by incorporating a restaurant and club at the end of the chain of pork production. (Two programme types that are already part of the meat market in Manhattan).
The modular component system devised earlier in the investigation is introduced to change the internal and external configuration of the club/restaurant building during different times the day depending on the various activities in the other parts of the buildings. For example specific activities such as the movement and dissection of carcasses in the processing hall affect the internal modules though electronic sensors (indirect) and though the carcasses descending to the loading bay below. The cyclical activities in the rest of the building affect the club/restaurant so it is possible to predict its overall arrangement, but never the exact configuration. In this way the building becomes an interface between the city and the internalised activities of the rest of programme.
The project submitted by Matt Springett represents a thoughtful and highly sophisticated piece of work. The strategic rationale that determined the building type and its location was thoroughly researched with great consideration given to the political and ethical issues that surround meat production. The buildings combine great ease and simplicity of planning together with brilliant theatrical flair.
One of the initial studies abstracted the choreography of Smithfield market to produce a formal model that initiated the architectural language of the buildings. The idea of space and spatial occupation changing over a period of time characterised the design. The form is a simply organised linear process building; the abattoir, sequentially organised and electronically linked to the restaurant and club. The physical actions of the process determine changes to the interior of the restaurant. It is a building that beautifully demonstrates a complete physical cycle from inception to consumption contained within three elegant and sophisticated structures.