Re-encountering Past, into the Future

Above: Market before demolition (source:

Above: Ghost of the Past (photo transfer)

Providence Fruit and Produce Market
was established in 1929 as a warehouse and market between the train and the consumer. Since then for 69 years, it has served the Providence community well until the industry was dominated by the large super-markets. After long period of bidding process, it fell into the hands of the developer and unfortunately was resumed of its life and purpose by demolition in 2008.

Working with the ghost and memory of this thin building of 965 feet in length, I first considered its location, purpose and meaning.

While there is scarce green space, Providence River stream flows above the site, as the freeway and train tracks follow below. The north side of the building across the street is residential development, only surrounded by industrial buildings and the mall. The souther view towards the veins of freeway system is not desirable, and there is lack of public space, repose and congregation.

Availability of fresh produce is not found anywhere near. I find it paradoxical that more health related businesses are entering the neighborhood, without any strategic change on their environment itself. Now architects are at work.

In given circumstances, we needed to maximize the solar gain for commercial growing while maintaining public spaces, education facilities and marketplace.

I split the building in two by scooping away a steep valley of void in the center, eroding roof and floor plates in length, much similar to the grain and the direction of other surrounding veins. Opening up the middle of the building in a courtyard scheme not only introduced light, but also created its own river within.

Basement Plan: Public may enter in the central Market Place through basement and/or 1st floor level.

1FL Plan: From North Facade, the public is immediately drawn to the transparent glass box of the restaurant section.

2FL Plan: Restaurants and cafe, incubator kitchens, classrooms and community gardens.

The grain of the building is defined by the planting beds fountains and fish tanks in modules. From the basement level in the valley one looks up to the courtyard balconies of the upper levels and up to the sky. Main stream of fish ponds and fish tanks flow in the basement.

Large portion of the public functions and engagement occurs on the north side of the river while private growing facilities are on the south side, mostly enclosed for sanitary reasons. They become indoor greenhouse. And the space between the building and the freeway becomes outdoor farming and live-stock area.

Water collection occurs in the roof, draining from east to west, back to the basement treatment system for irrigation and plumbing. Both public and commercial composting area is also located in the basement.

This building serves as the hub of public interaction and the provider of fresh produce, fish and grocery as a giant backyard for neighboring community and local citizens. However, its sheer capacity also provides opportunity to send what is harvested to other states as well. Above all, the building runs on its own ecology, amidst light, water and soil, in a temperature and humidity controlled environment while providing pleasure to the eyes with its green space in and outside of the building.

A garden is growing out of an old mill building on the Blackstone River near downtown Pawtucket; one of the birthplaces of the American Industrial Revolution. Pawtucket was dotted with old mill buildings that were used as sweat shops in the early 1800's with long working hours, and in some cases employing child labor. Two centuries later, textile manufacturing had left Pawtucket, being outsourced to other countries and the old mills were left abandoned in the landscape; beginning their process of decay.

The people have stripped away the skin from the wooden A-frame portion of the building, letting the weather in to feed their plants growing up amongst the bones of the old building. Atop the garden the people reside in a modified portion of the building that incorporates new cladding that they built using the clapboards from the removed skin. In some places on the wall they have extended rows of the clapboards out to hold soil for plants to grow along the wall.

The complex was chosen primarily because of its discrete nature, its protective qualities, and its easy access to the river. The garden is located in the center of the complex surrounded on all sides by different buffers. On the East side there is a 3-story, rectangular brick building. It has a good view of the surroundings from the roof and lots of large rooms filled with old equipment. On the South side there is a large rock embankment of mostly poison ivy bordering the complex and the old school. The West side is the river, 120 feet wide; it flows at a pretty good pace because the Pawtucket Falls are only a half-mile downstream. To the North, the only access to the garden is down a narrow alley between the brick building to the East and the wooden building that holds the garden.

On the West side there is a path that runs along the river. It has limited access to the garden by means of drawbridge across a moat that is separated from the river by a large ceramic wall that supports the path itself. The people water their plants during dry times using water from the moat. Once a week, the people lay the bridge across the moat to allow visitors to cross the moat to barter and trade with them for the surplus produce from their garden.

This summer, people will be seeking out new sites for growing. . .

Land Farm to Vertical Farm

Through the remembrance of the demolished "Providence Fruit and Produce Warehouse" this new structure reignites the column bay structure, dimensions, floating lanterns on the roof and reinterprets its meaning.

The transition from land farming to vertical farming has become more familiar to society. Land farming (gardening) is an individual experience where as vertical farming represents production. This agricultural center encompasses these two components. Growing beds are designed and constructed for the production of fruit and produce, which then begin to transition and manipulate in form to become a land farming experience for the entering public. This transition allows for the public to be more interactive with the idea of farming and gardening. The experience from land farm to vertical farm is physically portrayed through the manipulation of growing beds.

The longitudinal grain of this building is utilized with a train running within the structure; transporting fruit and produce from the vertical farming area (west) to the public market (east). Perpendicular to the longitudinal building are ramps intersecting the structure that allow for the dumping of compost.

Land farming becomes vertical farming where learning centers
begin. Growing beds rise up to become vertical farming and structure for the learning centers on the southern side of the building. Learning centers are established where lanterns were constructed in the previous structure.

Reintroducing Food

Site Context
In its proximity to Pawtucket's public transportation hub, city hall, and info center (which all lie almost directly across the Blackstone River), as well as two neighboring high schools and the potential of the Blackstone Bike Path - the Blackstone Ave site possesses a large potential for active pedestrian access. In addition to this potential, the easy accessibility by freeway 95 presents a strong vehicular approach to the site.

Initial Observations
A strange detail on the site that caught my attention was a large circular opening in a masonry wall. Built to house a large industrial fan, still in place, but boarded up long ago, a small silver of light cuts between wood planks and steel blades to let a minuscule shred of sun filter down into the industrial thread room. Studying this detail (below) allowed me to understand the structure as more than just a series of disconnected, uncommunicative rooms. Instead I begun to understand that there were moments in the structure where the building almost de-laminated from itself (below)- pushing itself up or out to present its odd planes as strange sun surfaces. To better understand these quirky moments and potential continuities between spaces, I studied the structural grain of the two buildings (below).

Viability of Vertical Farming
After group work, where a proposal focusing on the urban agricultural center's role as acentermore than a production zone was explored, I came back to individual work questioning the viability of vertical farming. While the profit of vertical farming is much much higher per foot over normal farms, the energy use by heating and lights and the massive water requirement (in an structure not precisely up to the challenges of massive weight additions) presented themselves as serious problems. So, what's wrong with the way we farm now? As identified by a earlier group study (posted earlier in this blog) the distance between production and consumption presents both a massive carbon footprint and a massive disconnect. Yet, (all) transportation is only 3rd in the list of contributors to the greenhouse gases. First is energy production and second is livestock. The curious thing is- Americans, on average, eat 7 times as much meat as the FDA recommends. Many studies have been drawing links between lifestyle diseases (heart disease, diabetes, some cancers) and countries with high meat consumption, such as America. The question then, perhaps, is the question of diet. It's the reintroduction of food into our culture. The idea that food is not merely what we eat, but what we grow, or what is grown and that we buy, what we cook, what we eat, and even what we recycle.

The program, then, of my proposal provides the means to begin this cultural shift. It exists in two cycles: education and purchasing (see below). The educational cycle is broken down in three zones: 1. making- the ability to adapt ones built environment (at its most essential level- a shop), 2. growing- facilities to lend actual experience to various types of growing (seedling nursery, dark light growing with mushrooms, hydroponics, aquaponics and seasonal growing), and 3. cooking- the ability to both cook and the knowledge what to cook (at its most essential level- a cooking space with demonstration room). The purchasing has two tracts: 1. market- answering the very pertinent question of availability (supported by a private hydroponic system), 2. cafe- offering a food option for the quite local high schoolers roaming for lunch. (All diagrammed below).

Stents (or the intervention)
Then if the program is to reflect different stages in this cultural understanding of food, the proposal is then to expose connections between the different programs. As one is purchasing food, how can they be aware of the means by which their very food is being produced? Massive green walls (green in diagram below) align themselves to the previously identified planes of light the buildings idiosyncratically provide, to cut between floors and program. Like a stent, they open the buildings along the seams of grain, breaking spaces previously conceived as one-story singularities into two-story connective tissues. Some exist externally, some step inside for non-seasonal growing and as a response the grain weakens between them and the sun, allowing edible growth. Similarly, the pedestrian edge opens to the vehicular edge, and circulation is allowed directly through the site with a weak-grain circulation path (yellow in diagram below).

Concept diagram- disconnected spaces with planes of light connected with vertical green walls and circulation path

Unfolded elevations cut through center of site running north south

Unfolded elevations diagrammed
Site plan with winter solstice shadows cast

Sectional perspective through circulation path

Street-Side Aquaponics

My site is Blackstone avenue in Pawtucket which has two structures, one immense Brick building pretty regular in its shape and another wood framed building which is a oddly planned building.
It is situated between river and a high school, and also in between industrial area and commercial area. A bike path has been proposed along the riverside.
I started by studying the site and one thing i was intrigued by was how much roof access there was. and how moss was growing on some of them so i did a detail of this moment. So roof access was always one of the strategies that i wanted to keep throughout the project.

My site differs from the other two in that the two buildings are divided by a sloping passageway that only had one entrance and exit. So an idea was presented to open up the other end of the passage to create access the school as well as open up a passage through the wood framed building to create access and visibility to the river.
With these moves made, now the next thing to do was finding a way to make this new street that had been created visually pleasing. Designing the facades of the building as well as how the street level was programed was extremely important.

Facade & Street Studies

Since there were two buildings I decided that my program would be based on two factors, education and production. So the wood framed building became a very open layout in which you were visually connected to all the parts of the aquaponics systems so that you are able to fully grasp how it works. On the left side of the drawing you can see how the water travels fr the fish pools up to the growing beds and then filters down the system through the dirt which cleans the water and then back down to the pond. On the right side of the drawing you can see how the water goes from the fish tank to the plants and the to he cleaning water tank.

Roof Growing as Well as Interior Passage Layout

Turn the grain, shove it out the window

The Providence Fruit and Produce Warehouse building had very odd proportions: 900+ft long, 90ft deep and three stories, 2 above grade and one below. A bay structure approx 15' wide in the long axis and 20' in the short is extended along the entire length of the building. The proposal put forth focuses on the 15' wide bay by the 60' deep (depth of building). Developing the single bay allows a modular system to gang bays together to create lager or smaller production areas to invite different scales of production within the larger building. While the north facade is preserved and used as a public entrance the south facade is stripped down to the essential structure and glazed. The 2nd floor plate and roof are punched through as well to allow for more light into the building. Growing trays are packed into the interior space on the 1st and 2nd floors. These trays are built on a sliding system which allows for access to the beds. In summer the south facade is opened and the trays on the 1st floor are pushed though the facade to access maximum light. The grade on the south facade is brought down to cellar level and outdoor grow beds are accessed from that level. A rain collection and aquaponics / hydroponics system are housed in the cellar level as well as planing and work space. The north edge of the 1st and 2nd floor are earmarked for public needs, i.e. selling of produce, education, kitchens, etc.

public integrity with verticality

91 Hartford is a large, rectangular, brick building with 34 bays.
It is situated between freeway & river, and also in between industrial area and commercial area with bike path that runs between these areas.
I started by making a model of this building in an abstract way, which depicts the repetition of small elements. I was intrigued by how this large building is made up with small repetitions of column grid, bays, and windows. I saw each window as an aperture for the light.

As I began to think real about this building that holds vertical farm program, I rotated the abstract model in side. I found the perforated plate as a continuous vertical structure where it could be used as growing medium. The plants grow vertically and are oriented to catch and harness the light while clinging to the columns and beams in the building. I am trying to use the existing columns, beams, wall as the armature for the plant growing.
Each floor has different growing system. There are fish tanks on the first floor that are used to pump up the water to the aquaponic systems on the second floor. There are hanging bucket growing beds on the second floor, and vine trees are growing on the 4th floor. Floor plates are carved out as much as they can to allow deeper light to come through. Thereore, different density of growing beds (fewer beds on the top denser beds on the bottom) creates openess vertically to pull light from the top and let the light hit the growing surfaces and bounce.

As well as bringing light into the building, I wanted to bring public to engage the building with plants, sturucutre, and light. (continuous public thread woven into the building) The public walks along the arcade on the south side, where the new skin is created with vines growing, and enters the building to go up to the upper floors, where there are public class rooms. While the arcade is covered with vines, the row of windows in the class rooms are used as a learning method for window farming. I am trying to create moments where pieces of the building are exposed at something new or transforms with greenery.