Networks and stems in the Buffalo-Niagara region
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Statement of issue/problem . Large suburban territories have become almost impossible to describe with traditional architectural means. The existing hierarchy of communities, towns, districts, open space and agricultural land, is no longer visible. Boundaries and differences tend to be blurred, and communities are spread over large areas. The landscape is fragmented into enclosed areas of unused spaces, idle industries, fenced plots, infrastructural works, suburban residential zones, warehouses, commercial parks, business parks, hospitals, etc. All these spatial systems are in fact generated by a very limited series of typological models (e.g. "Big boxes"), only individualized by brands and economic considerations (e.g. survey systems) which ensure the maximum control to the prevailing "power structures" (e.g. global operating companies) On the other hand, however, the reality of the social, economic, ecological and cultural networks is much more diverse and complicated. The actual range of these operating networks is very broad, extending from the global to the micro scale, and often intersecting or existing in parallel but independent planes. The hypothesis I would like to test is whether the organizational form of these Networks can engender new typological models, which I will call Stems. A stem would be capable of integrating many different realities (spatial systems) within it and therefore should have a bigger capacity to adapt itself to specific conditions without maximizing the control of the prevailing "power structures." Statement of significance of issue . A lot of writing and research has been done on this kind of urban conditions in different cities and regions throughout the world--for instance, Rem Koolhaas' "Project on the City." But many of them are either entirely descriptive, or they get stuck in-between large scale planning and local intervention. My proposal will respond to this dilemma by focusing on local operative systems in the chosen suburban territory, stretching from northern Buffalo (New York, USA) to the north-west of Niagara Falls (Ontario, Canada). This proposal however is also a respond to alternative planning methodologies, like the Urban Gallery by Raoul Bunschoten (Chora), in which the type is a key figure and starting point in the process of dynamically implementing innovative projects. Method of inquiry . I will start to ground my thesis by evaluating and comparing existing studies, theories and methods which have been proposed to address the issue of typology and specificity. Next, and as the starting design premises for my project I will analyze two networks related to food: The TOPS Markets chain and farms located in southern Ontario and Western New York. The difference in nature between these two different networks--TOPS could be defined as a rule and object-based organization, while farming is a networked activity dependent on specificity and events--should serve as the foundations for my design project. Bruno Latour's Actor-Network Theory will serve as the conceptual basis for this analysis. The gathered information will be used to develop a set of "parts" which should form the components of the stem. Expected outcome . The expected outcome is the design of a stem, or multiple stems, and the documentation of how it performs in a specific environment. The initial stem--based on the food networks--should be capable of redefining the relationship between buildings (object) and nature (event).