Author : Michael Ho

University : Architectural Association School of Architecture

Status : BArch, 2015

Advisors : Mark Campbell & Stewart Dodd

Title : Manchester | Valero

This project explores the clash that arises from the expansion of the industrial into the non-industrial and speculates about the hybridization of these two typologies and the architecture that arises from it. The project is not a solution, but rather a critique to the relentless expansion of petro-chemical industry along the Houston Ship Channel in Texas, USA. The focus will be directed towards the condition of the so called “fence-line communities”. These communities are adjacent to an industrial plant and are affected by the noise, odor, chemical emissions and traffic it generates. In this case it is the community of Manchester, TX, which is directly located next to Valero Energy Corporation. In most cases, residents who live in proximity to oil refineries, are paid a lump sum to leave their properties or accept the levels of pollution. It is just one of many actions that undermines the enormous power that the Petro-Chemical industry possesses in Texas and the USA. Very often when a refinery leaks it is cheaper to abandon it and build a new component. Therefore, the design process is based on the expansion of the refineries. On behalf of Valero Energy Corporation those abandoned structures get infilled with new programs and functions and are dedicated to the township of Manchester. Through this compromise of creating new public facilities, Valero Energy Corporation is able to expand into the fence-line township of Manchester. With time, more and more houses start to disappear, while the town gets saturated with oil refineries. Once the community has been completely taken over by Valero Energy Corporation, the company will hit the next fence-line community and the whole process repeats itself.


S//A : What’s the most important aspect of this project that we should be aware of?
Michael Ho_ This Thesis is a critique and not necessarily a solution. It explores the typology of industrial architecture and how it could be redefined, when it merges with the non-industrial surrounding architecture. The project developed into a speculative exploration that tries to undermine the power of the petro-chemical industry in the USA.

S//A : What other fields outside of architecture interest you?
MH_ I am very drawn to field of art and photography, which has always been very closely related to architecture. Very often I use them as a platform to trigger concepts and visualizations for my projects. This project for example was heavily influenced by the German conceptual artists and Photographers Bernd und Hiller Becher.

S//A : Most important thing you learned in architecture school?
MH_ To be critical with yourself,
That in architecture it is crucial to have a dialogue with others, but more importantly with yourself – to always question your own concepts and designs in order to surpass your own expectations and boundaries.

S//A : Describe your dream project
MH_ A project that sets no constrains to my imagination.