Eduardo mediero – MAGNUM ARCA

No other architectural typology is so ubiquitous to the idea of a supermarket as the Big Box. A spatial derivative of capitalism’s economic efficiencies, its presence is so broad that one could wonder if its presumed genericness is not in fact culturally specific.

Studied as the epitome of capital production, the Big Box is equally as representative of the manufacturing of commodities as it is of their consumption. From Costco to Target or Menards, the Big Box is the scenography of the contemporary provision of goods, an architecture reduced to dropped ceilings and grids of pillars that does not respond to function or form but to supply and demand.

In the Big Box the goods that populate it take full protagonism. They not only carry the entire iconographic load of the space but they devoid the built from any semantic value through an excess of stock that far from offering diversity through immeasurable choice manifest even more its embedded inequalities.

Moreover, we have not only witnessed in the last few decades that the overabundance of goods provided by automation have not liberated workers from the exploitation of productive labor, as Karl Marx envisioned, but realized that such model is no longer sustainable. The sheer scale of consumption in our contemporary society has increased the economic gap more than ever, evidencing the many disparities present today.

To confront this, the Magnum Arca studio will look into the possibilities of an inefficient architecture based on subsistence rather than performance. With online shopping increasing exponentially and the current pandemic questioning how we relate to each other, we will explore the formal liberation of the Big Box in order to find alternative expressions of civic infrastructure in a time in which social representation is at risk.

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Student Work

Ian Eichensehr

This building consists of the juxtaposition of a high-tech greenhouse growing facility enveloped by surrounding market stalls selling the greenhouse’s produce. A result of a semester long investigation of atypical associations of ready-made products and the economic processes that perpetuate big box stores, this box features a façade made of precast concrete parts liberated from their traditional construction functions to achieve new aesthetic qualities through their association to one another and lack of exterior finish. But still honoring their logistical aesthetic influence through detail subtlety and efficiency of construction.  

Then through the process of typology transfer the building drew its form and shopping experience from the ancient roman macellum which afforded a spatial void to house a modern manifestation of a hortus conclusus in a high tech greenhouse.

It is a system operating on both past and future ideologies of food production and consumption that visitors are invited to experience simultaneously. The building operates as a space of recognition for all of the meticulously designed components required to present consumers with the appearance of a frictionless lifestyle as well as a reminder of the immensity of our consumer culture as a society and the problems that creates.

Prescott Trudeau – “A Public Bank”

On October 20th, 2020 Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib introduced legislation to support the creation of locally administered public banks. Seeking to address structural racism and predatory lending in America’s financial system, the Public Banking Act supports a model of sustainable economic stewardship where communities can keep their money local by eliminating Wall Street middlemen, enhance entrepreneurship by providing low interest loans to underbanked individuals and small-businesses, and address climate change by prohibiting investment in fossil fuel industries.

The project visualizes this new civic infrastructure by combining elements from existing building typologies: social representation from the iconic red and geometric quilt squares that adorn many family barns, as well as the spatial logic and uniform envelope that define industrial warehouses. Behind the totalizing facade lies an interiority of different scales, where buildings within the building fulfill the bank’s programmatic diversity. Committed to transparency, the public bank manifests its investment portfolio through it’s warehouse, where ceiling height stacks of raw commodities act as a defense against Wall Street’s speculative stockpiling. The bank’s spatial loan program incubates small businesses through micro-retail spaces and public courtyards offer space where raw commodities become playthings and the friction between public and private interests can be mediated.   

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