Author : Eric Arm

University : Woodbury School of Architecture

Status : BArch, 2013

Advisors : Ewan Branda, Eric Olsen

Title : The Genius Loci of Global Flows | Interfaces are the new places within the spaces of global commodity flows

This proposal for a logistics center and public market for Terminal Island’s commercial fishing fleet investigates the status of place within the global network of commodity flows.  It condenses the global network into a single building that serves as a point of connection between local industry, global distribution, and public consumption.  It examines the concept of the architectural interface as a space for recording and communicating internal and external processes and phenomena through formal and material devices such as blocking, framing, reflecting, projecting, and layering.  It inserts a public program that is half functional and half didactic into the purely functional spaces of fish processing, freezing and distributing to engage the occupant in a three-dimensional performance.  The project thus creates a cultural monument that finds a new genius loci and space of meaning within the Supermodern world of flows.

Somewhere in the shadows of Global Capitalism’s logistics machines, a fishing community struggles to maintain its precious piece of waterfront. Boats and trucks converge on a narrow wharf to transfer the rewards of a long day at sea. The vessels retreat to nearby docks to prepare for the next voyage while the trucks flea the island disappearing into parts unknown. In warehouses around Southern California, the fish landed at Terminal Island are cleaned, frozen, stored and packed. 90% are returned to The Port and exported to China for additional processing. Some eventually return again as imported goods.

Somewhere amongst the machines, three transparent tubes hang above a narrow street.   Boats line the wharf systematically unloading their precious cargo via pumps and hoists.  An angled beam penetrates a tall perforated screen quietly welcoming visitors into an overtly attenuated volume.

An immediate confrontation with container trucks mitigated by delicate sheets of floor to ceiling glass is quickly resolved with an off-axis turn that reveals a sliver of sky at the end of a long inclined corridor. Pallets of boxes stacked to a distant ceiling in a dimly lit room are revealed through narrow slot windows that puncture a thick wall running parallel to the corridor.  Only the robotic movements of automated storage lifts break the tranquility of this space.

The corridor begins to widen as the glass veers away from the perforated screen, a structural frame emerging on the other side.  Ship masts and rigging appear through the gradually expanding frame at the end of the tunnel as condensation from the vapor released by blast freezers accumulates on the glazing.  Conveyors stretch across the industrial floor below, fragments peeling-off and turning skyward to enter the thickened wall that now clings to the other side of the glass.

Bins of fresh fish form a matrix and serve as a continuously updated display of the day’s catch.  Refrigerated vans penetrate the perforated screen loading fish for local restaurants and markets from the wholesale auction visible through the running band of glass in the floor below. The corridor splays into aisles divided by stalls for the public to traverse. A transparent display screen with rapidly changing numbers correlates the prices and quantity of fish entering the building through input tubes and hoppers on the other side of the glass. A chef delicately slices tuna caught hours earlier and serves it to the crowd gathered at a narrow counter.

Reflective planes layered in parallel stand upright above the street capturing and condensing the surroundings. The bridge, the end of the breakwater, the cargo ships, the cranes and the containers all become visible. The fishermen dock their boats, repair their nets, and recharge.

Somewhere amongst the machines.  Here.