Hyperlocal Micromarkets in shutdown realities
In this self initiated research-by-design project, Shift architecture urbanism argues for micro markets that operate on a hyper local scale during corona shutdowns. They keep the food market traders and the whole supply chain behind them in business in order to provide fresh food in a safe way to the self-quarantined inhabitants of the city. Their hyper local character limits the amount of travelling through the city and their products on offer release the pressure on the supermarkets that have a hard time reducing the contamination risk.
At this moment in time, there is a strong worldwide consensus that shutdowns are our only answer to stop the corona virus from infecting us too fast to cope with. The actual form that this shutdown should have and especially its severity, has brought many dilemmas to governmental bodies that impose them. One such dilemma is how to guarantee the distribution of fresh food and groceries with a minimum of risk.
In the attempt to limit physical contact between people, the purchase of food is probably the weakest link. In the various shutdowns over the world, supermarkets have not been closed since they are part of our vital infrastructure of food distribution. Online shopping, by far the safest way to get groceries, is booming but cannot replace physical supermarkets in terms of capacity and reach. Nor can the various drive-through food solutions that pop up in many places.
While most supermarkets have stayed open all over the western world, the various lockdowns have been less consistent regarding the fresh produce markets. There are big differences between countries and regions. In the Netherlands for instance the large weekly or semi-weekly street markets have stayed open in many cities, even in the province of Brabant, the Dutch corona epicenter. In some cities they have been reduced to food only. In others, such as Rotterdam, they have been closed altogether.
Even with protective measures it seems very difficult if not impossible to rule out the risk of contamination in traditional fresh produce markets. The social distancing rules are very hard to control and many people are touching the same products. But this is also the case at the supermarkets that do stay open. Furthermore, closing down the markets will put even more pressure on the supermarkets and will further disadvantage people with lower incomes. Many households depend on the open-air market for their basic food needs. Closing the markets forces them to switch to the more expensive supermarkets, putting further financial pressure on these more vulnerable groups.
So, what to do with the fresh produce markets in the context of the shutdown? When referring to another corona problem, the one of creating new hospital facilities in an extremely short time, Lt. Gen Todd T. Semonite, commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers, said:“This is an unbelievably complicated problem,” he added, “and there is no way we are going to be able to do it with a complicated solution. We need something super simple. So, our concept here is a standard design.”
Shift’s proposal is to keep the vital function of the fresh produce markets fully intact, even strengthening it, while at the same time minimizing its potential role in spreading the virus. For this, the large markets have to continue in a different form, place and time. Its former model of concentration has to be replaced by a model of dispersion, both in space and time. This is done by breaking down the large markets into so called micro markets that are spread over the city and opening them up for a longer time. Instead of you going to the market, the market is coming to your neighborhood. These hyper-local markets are open at least 5 days a week instead of twice a week to further reduce the concentration of people.
The micro market’s standard spatial setup consists of a 16 square grid, aligned with three market stalls, each selling a different kind of fresh produce such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products or meat. The grid is taped on the pavement and fenced off with standard crush barriers. It has one entrance and 2 exits. In order to maintain social distancing each cell can only hold one person. In order to permit movement, the grid can only hold a maximum of 6 people. These rules are made clear at the entrance of the micro market, that has a waiting line taped on the pavement. The stalls will offer packages instead of separate products, to limit the time customers spend in the grid.
How to do all this fast, simple and in an organized way? To split up and disperse the market is fairly easy to do in a short period of time. Unlike the supermarket, the street market is composed of very flexible and mobile units. Most market traders are used to relocate their stalls every day. Also, the realization of the micro market is easy and fast. It only needs standard products for traffic and crowd control that each municipality has in stock. Finally, the assignment of the different stalls over specific places of the city should be coordinated by the municipalities in cooperation with the market managers of the existing markets.
Waalhaven Zuid, a derelict harbor area in the South of Rotterdam, has an outstanding location in the network of freight transport. It has connections to road (A15 highway), water (both short and deep sea) and rail infrastructure (Betuwelijn).
This project proposes to transform Waalhaven Zuid into a logistics superhub that combines a very high distribution capacity with an excellent connection to all these modes of transport.
The project takes the existing layout and road infrastructure of Waalhaven Zuid as a given. Within this framework the area will be gradually transformed into a hyper efficient logistic superhub. In order to do so, the buildings are scaled up drastically in all three dimensions.
The core business of Superhub is Value Added Logistics. Instead of just storing and trans-loading cargo, the cargo will be subject to a simple production operation such are repacking, labeling or assemblage . In this way value is added, money is earned and jobs are created.
By connecting the area directly with rail and water, Superhub triggers the use of these modes of transport as an alternative to road transport. This so called “modal shift” is necessary to reduce the dependence of the Dutch (and European) logistic sector on truck transport.
In Superhub, business clusters (fashion, food, electronics, etc.) will be created to achieve synergy advantages, share services and improve the corporate appeal of the area.
The final masterplan consists of an array of purely functional buildings around a linear plaza that forms the social heart of the area. Here one finds large truck parking’s and services for the users of the Superhub: truckers and employees.
A new container terminal links Superhub’s distribution capacity directly to both short- and deep sea.
By introducing multi-storey warehouses, the distribution capacity of the site will literally be multiplied. A central system of ramps makes it possible for trucks to navigate the buildings vertically. The so called 3D-Distri buildings are framed by functions that relate to the distribution function of the complex and the specific product group it deals with. One can think of offices, shops, consulting services, outlet centers and showrooms.
Superhub Waalhaven provides a model for concentrated logistic main ports, being an alternative for the sprawl of logistic business parks all over Holland that fully depend on car and truck mobility.
The project also pleads for bringing back true harbor activity in the immediate vicinity of Rotterdam. A city struggling with an unrealistic vision of “city harbors” that envisages fantastic housing ambitions along the river it cannot make true. Rotterdam is a working city.
With Studio Sport, Shift architecture urbanism shows how, where and why sport should be mobilized to boost urban quality. The result is a plea for hybrid urban sport places that are spatially and programmatically integrated in the existing city. They release sport from its isolated position, introvert character and mono-functional programming and charge the urban landscape with meaningful new places of (inter)action.
Sport is sexy and it’s everywhere. It is connected with fashion, music, lifestyle, media, the street and the city. If sport was once the exclusive domain of clubs and associations, these days it is an indispensable part of our society and daily life.
In recent years, sport has developed from a goal in itself into an instrument. An instrument for policymakers to reach social targets, an instrument for commercial sport organizations to earn money and an instrument for municipalities to develop city marketing. Every Dutch city wants to be a sports city, or even thé sport city.
Sports and sportspeople are moving ahead too. The number of sports is growing fast, as is the so-called non-organized, spontaneous practice of sport, which takes place outside the context of the club, within the public domain of the city. This trend is expected to continue, as it corresponds to the need for flexibility of the modern urbanite.
Sport’s value for the community and the economy is getting major coverage in politics, the civil service and the media. Sport is good: good for your health, good for social cohesion, good for your image. Strikingly enough, the so called instrumentalization of sports has been overlooked by the spatial disciplines. Sport is subject of rest planning and its value for the city and its public domain is unexploited.
In the modernist city planning sports parks were allotted a place in the green zones sometimes in but more often around the city. The sports park was a way of escaping the hectic city.
In later urban urban expansion schemes many sports facilities had to make way for new residential and work areas. As a result sports parks shifted ever further outwards to end up in isolated leftover areas and ragged edges of the city, often right up against motorways or railways.
This back-seat status held by sport in spatial planning has led to the ‘islandisation’ of sports that is completely at odds with the development of sports itself and the social and economical roles it got assigned by the outside world.
High time then, that sport’s key place in society is reflected in the way it is designed and integrated in the city. The question is what sport can mean for the city and, conversely, what the city can mean for sport. Sport can benefit the city and its public domain. It provides a counterbalance to the impoverishment of public space by charging it with activity and dynamic. Sport is one of the most powerful means to get people out of their protective home environment during their leisure time. It provides frameworks for encounter and interaction, two prerequisites for a vibrant public domain. In addition, qualitative sport facilities enhance a city’s attractiveness as a place for companies and residents to settle.
Also the city has to offer quite something to sport. First of all, large groups of city dwellers would like to sport close to where they live, especially in the “problematic urban neighborhoods”, where car mobility is limited and there is a large demand for sports. Secondly, the city provides the possibility to connect sports accommodations, that generally have a low intensity of use, to other urban functions in the field of education, culture and neighborhood facilities. Smart programmatic synergies lead to a substantial intensification of sports use in space ánd time.
In a series of concrete case studies in Rotterdam, The Hague and Amsterdam, developed in collaboration with the municipal departments of spatial planning and sports, Shift has explored the Dutch city for its potential to integrate sport on a structural level. The issue on the one hand is to stitch existing, often isolated sport locations to the city and on the other to integrate new sports facilities in the city.
The case study projects have resulted a new kind of urban typology: the hybrid urban sports place. In these places, several sports are combined with each other and with other urban functions. Their hybrid character is reflected in the balance that they seek between formal and informal, top-down and bottom up, commercial and public, inside and outside, sports and other programs.
They are designed as urban landscapes with an open and flexible character, rather than closed utilitarian facilities. They function on the level of the neighbourhood, the city or the region, depending on their size, program and position in the city. Despite their speculative character, the proposals have a high level of realism and they react to concrete urgencies. Three case-study designs have led to further spatial and financial feasibility studies, commissioned by the municipalities or other stakeholders.
In addition to the case study projects, the website sportspace.eu was developped. SPORTSPACE is an online platform about urban sports spaces. The website collects reference projects of sports and movement spaces that are successfully embedded within the city and connects these with spatial design tools. It functions as a source of inspiration and a frame of reference for everybody who’s interested in the potential of sports for the city and vice versa.
The full body of work of Studio Sport was exhibited in the New Institute (former Nai) in Rotterdam. The exhibition was openend during a conference in which specialists from the domain of sports and space were triggered to participate in a constructive dialogue.
Twice a week, the Binnenrotte accommodates a large market. The rest of the week, it forms a huge strip of emptiness at the heart of the city centre. On these days, Rotterdam’s largest square hopelessly craves for activity.
This project capitalizes on the Binnenrotte’s unused potential. It transforms the square, on days when there is no market, into thé metropolitan sports place for all Rotterdammers: a place for jogging and skating, football, tennis and hockey; a place for sports clinics, tournaments and gym classes of the surrounding schools; a place for informal activities, play and cultural manifestations.
In order to guarantee the multiple use of the square, a specific sport toolbox has been developed. Its tools enable the continuous metamorphoses from a market square into a multifunctional sports square and vice versa, all week long, year-round.
An 800-metre urban athletics track encircles the square. It functions as a shared space for pedestrians, joggers, bikers and skaters.
Two multi-sport fields out of concrete are enclosed by a pergola structure with motorized curtains that automatically descend on sport days and retract on market days.
Two moving platforms – continuing a Rotterdam tradition that includes the nearby vertical-lift railway bridge De Hef – accommodate sports activities that require a surface other than concrete.
One consists of an artificial grass platform with variable positions: set at ground level on sports days; lifted to form a covered market space on market days. The other structure features a covered artificial ice rink, with a roof that descends to ground level to become a wooden deck on market days. Finally, a sun-oriented stand accommodates a clubhouse underneath, with space for locker rooms, showers and the offices of both the square’s sports and market manager.
The Binnenrotte Sports Square lives up to ‘Rotterdam’s Sports City’ ambition and injects the city centre with the much-needed activities other than consumption.
The open city stands or falls on the way it manages the organisation of diversity. Our heterogeneous society demands a planning regime that shapes the exchange between and the overlap of different worlds. The public domain, in particular that of the square, is typically the place where contact between different sections of the population is stimulated and forms of new collectivity take shape.
In order to redevelop the square into a social space that ties in with the reality of the open society and that of the network city, we must introduce new types of buildings and squares. These types must be at once open and specific: open to different groups of users and uses while at the same time specific enough to produce the necessary differentiation and identification.
The Western Garden Cities, are being transformed with little regard for the original qualities of the modern city. The open structure of the initial General Extension Plan is replaced by a defensive form of urban planning that sources its ingredients from the pre-war city. Parks are fenced off, flats are replaced by perimeter blocks and open squares are redeveloped into indoor shopping areas.
The result – a patchwork of gentrified enclaves – may be filling the indeterminate open space of the original city, but is incapable of accommodating new forms of collectivity.
The brief for the August Allebé Square offers the opportunity to formulate an alternative strategy for the ‘problematic legacy’ of the modern city that failed to respond to demographic developments. This must be a strategy that sees the open city and its diverse population not as a problem, but as a chance to forge new types of collectivity and urbanism.
The design proposes a new spatial and programmatic composition that opens up radically on the levels of both neighbourhood and network city.
The potential of the square’s strategic position between the regional axes (A10, metro and train) and the major thoroughfare (Postjesweg) is capitalized on by spanning the square in between these different axes and introducing programs that are relevant on both regional and local levels.
In order to program and differentiate the larger space of the square, while at the same time safeguarding its openness, a new type is introduced: the so-called ‘pleingebouw’ (square building). An amalgam of building and public space, the square building is capable of adding programmed mass as well as charged emptiness to the square as a whole.
In dialogue with the existing buildings and/or embedded within the infrastructural network, a sequence of square buildings will enrich the open space with a number of urban archetypes (the podium, the colonnade, the canopy, the plan oblique and the frame).
The result is a square-within-a-square-situation, which can simultaneously accommodate different groups and activities without disrupting the continuity of the open space.
The explicit programming of the masses (public transport, commerce, culture, community and sport) and their specific design imply the use of adjacent public space without fixing it. There will still be room for improvisation, spontaneity and the appropriation of the squares by different groups.
The August Allebé Square in its entirety is more than the sum of its individual parts: the co-existence of different groups and their activities transforms the square into an urban “coulisse landscape” where one is constantly reminded of the presence of parallel worlds, of ‘the other’.
Indoor Farming is the future of urban farming. It allows for vertical farms that grow all crops, in any place, at any time. This project researches and illustrates why, where and how high tech indoor farms should be integrated with the urban landscape. They render the old, centralized way of doing horticulture obsolete and promise a high capacity local food production that biological farming is unable to deliver.
The current organization of the world’s food production and distribution is under pressure. New economies and increasing urbanization ask for more, better, safer and more secure production capacity, while growing land and water shortages, climatologic problems and plagues lead to an increase of food crisis. Today’s centralized food production, with crops being grown where the climate conditions and land values are favorable and/or knowhow is available, is no longer sustainable. It results in long and complicated supply chains, poor food quality and enormous food losses of up to fifty percent.
In the last decade, new urban farming initiatives that promote biological and local food for the city seem to pop up everywhere. However their market share is still very small. It is very much the question if these sympathetic initiatives, as long as they are based on (semi-)traditional farming technology, are capable of generating a structural change in our global food system. They are relatively inefficient, require literally lots of space, produce a rather limited variety of products and rely on unreliable climate factors and sources.
With the new technology of indoor farming, developed by Plantlab and other pioneers, new opportunities for efficient local food produce for the city arise. Instead of relying on existing climate conditions like traditional agriculture and greenhouse farming, Plantlab introduces a very compact crops production method with 100% control over the growing process, independent of climate, place and time.
The method of Plantlab is based on indoor crops cultivation in climate rooms, so called ‘Plant Production Units (PPU’s). These PPU’s are equipped with fully automated installations, including LED lighting systems, creating the ideal growing circumstances for the specific crops inside. This method makes it possible to grow practically all types of fruits and vegetables on any location. Not only does it increase the quality of the food, it also consumes far less space and water than any other form of crop farming. Because it is no longer depending on natural sunlight it is possible to stack the different production units, and create vertical farms. At the moment, Plantlab’s system is commercially viable for specific high quality crop products such as spices and medicine. The prognosis is that in the near future, when the LED technology is improving in terms of energy use and price, many more applications are ready for the market.
How should the new indoor farming technology land in our urban environment? Indoor farming can manifest itself in and around the city on four scale levels: S, M, L and XL. Each level is characterized by a specific application of the indoor farming technology and relates in different ways to its context.
S and M farms function on the level of the building. Restaurants, hospitals, offices and even households can start their own production unit for private or local use. Also supermarkets are able to produce part of their vegetables in the house. These small scale initiatives play an import role in generating awareness and social acceptance of high tech indoor farming.
In order to achieve a real paradigm shift in global food production, indoor farming has to be realized on L and XL scale levels. On this scale, the system can benefit from existing automation technologies that are currently used in greenhouses. This allows for an unprecedented production variety, capacity and efficiency in the urban environment. The autarchic city in terms of crops production will eventually combine all scale levels: from the micro scale of the household to the macro scale of the indoor green port.
Large and extra large indoor farms can be realized in the urban landscape in a variety of ways. Their modular and stackable character allows for site specific farms that are integrated in the context. The denser the context, the higher the indoor farm will become. In the compact city, the indoor farm will take a vertical layout with dozens of cultivation layers on top of each other. Their compact footprint will accommodate food retail units that form the interface with the city and its consumers.
The possibility to stack indoor crops production allows for vertical farming towers right in the middle of our cities, the place where a lot of end consumers live and work, but space is scarce. Despite of their small footprint, these vertical farms can generate large, varied and year-round volumes of fresh fruits, vegetables and spices.
In the periphery of the city, the indoor farm will acquire a mono-functional and industrial character. Outside of the city, large scale indoor farming green ports will arise that provide food on a regional scale. These large complexes can manifest themselves as integrated landscape elements, connected to the existing infrastructure. In all cases, indoor farming has to be combined with sustainable energy farming and/or the use of urban waste energy.
The rational layout of the Dutch polder lends itself for large scale indoor farms designed as geometric elements integrated in the mondrianesque landscape. They charge the polder with new agricultural production value and enable the surrounding old fashioned farmland to grow bulk crops, have milk cows or transform into recreation areas and energy farms that supply sustainable wind energy to the indoor farm. The new XXL polder farms will become green ports that produce high quality crops for the region.
Large scale indoor farming on the level of the region can be integrated in noise barriers along the highway. These new highway farms are directly connected to the Dutch highway infrastructure from where the regional distribution will take place. Highway farm A4 becomes a linear green port that provides food for Randstad West. Its internal logistics, in particular the vertical circulation of the crops, shows itself clearly to the car traveler by means of a glass façade that separates the crops elevator/lift machinery from the outside.
The current food wholesale in Spaanse Polder, Rotterdam, functions as an important food hub for business to business distribution. It is being supplied, via Roterdam harbor, by crops that have travelled from all over the globe. Indoor Wholesale Farm positions the production of practically all crops, right there where the food is being distributed. It reduces the food miles to the regional scale only.
Densely populated desert cities can locally produce their own food supplies with large scale indoor farms, powered by solar farms.