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Building Farm

Part 2 Project 2008
Janita Han
Delft University of Technology Delft The Netherlands
“Cities are like organisms- sucking in resources and emitting wastes. When archeologists of the future look at the deposits of the last quarter millennium, they will find a biological discontinuity as big as any in the past. They will expose a richness not of fossils but of plastic bags and other human refuse.”
- Sir Crispin Tickell, Introduction for the book Cities for a Small Planet by Lord Richard Rogers .

Cities accumulate material and the disposal of excess material becomes logistical problem. By creating temporary process and storage strips on an abandoned site, the project makes a commentary about material consumption of cities. These process and storage strips consists of a construction and demolition (C&D) waste retail building, a C&D waste processing factory, a recycled concrete panel processing factory, and a transfer station for waste to be taken away from the city by train.

The process and storage buildings are temporal occupants on the land, to be taken down after 10 years. As cities develop the pressure on land will be increased. By designing with deconstruction in mind, the temporal nature (circa 10 years) of the building is a deliberate design move to engage the material cycle of the city. The notion of temporality is particularly relevant to a city like Berlin, whose devastation led to piles of rubble designated to landfills in the city.

The site starts out as a terrain vague- empty, unoccupied and vacant. It is an incidental condition left behind by the shrinking railway site. It sits in a marginal area near the Berlin Ostbanhof station, hemmed in by the many suburban relics- the hypermart, handy stores, convenience stores with only one route out of the site.

The building engages the public in two ways. Firstly, public access to the retail building and through the site allows the public to be in proximity to recycling processes. Secondly, the large 30m high retail building acts as a metaphorical billboard for the city. The facade made out of perforated corten steel allows (semi) visibility to the material sold in the building, thereby making the entire building a statistical indication of the amount of waste discarded by the city.

Janita Han

This project was completed under the Territory in Transit studio, where a small group of committed architecture students tackle 'the large dimension' of territory through the lens of architecture. The ‘territory’ is both the context the studio operates in and the material at hand for research and design.

This project, situated in East Berlin, is the result of an attempt to reposition architecture as a productive force in the material processes of the territory, rather than a fancy material obstacle sprung from an expedient gesture. The concern with the temporary relevance of buildings and the permanence of materials lead to the modification of an abandoned and residual terrain in a productive site recycling the materials left behind by the complex processes in the city. Instead of marketing the general interest in sustainability in the banal way too often observed, this project managed to frame the concern for sustainability within issues of the material, temporariness and the public relevance of architecture in a convincing way, stretching the limits of what architecture is able to do.

It is a sobering thought that this ambitious investigation of architecture-itself, has crystallised in a project for a recycling centre on an abandoned railway site.


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