What typology could sound more promising for design than a fulfillment center? Yet architecturally and spatially this typology couldn’t be more banal. These environments are located at the nexus of regional transportation nodes, often in isolation and always in anonymity. Their interiors are organized at their core for swarms of robots shuffling shelving to pickers and packers on their perimeter. They are a bottom line economic and technologically tour de force that leaves cultural opportunity on the table unexploited.
In the spirit of Cedric Price’s “Think Belt,” Think Grid” and “Generator” the studio will introduce quality of life and cultural innovation into the infrastructure of goods distribution and in some cases production. Fulfillment will include education, research and recreation by combining the activities of a Google or Amazon Campus with the distribution hubs. The synergy between production, distribution, storage, knowledge and innovation will give each student a chance to develop a new special typology that intermingles people and machines; space and infrastructure.
The studio will investigate interior mobility in conjunction with urban mobility. This should lead to novel approaches for circulation in buildings using limited autonomy learning from the innovations in trucking and goods distribution.
The studio will study several state-of-the-art locations regarding technology and infrastructure as well as other facilities these companies operate to distribute knowledge and cultural content including: UPS hub with its 3D printing factory and Underwriters Laboratory on demand certification facility; Amazon fulfillment center with Robo-Stow arm and Kiva Robots; Apple Distribution and Operations Center; Facebook Data Center; Facebook Campus; Apple Headquarters; GE First Build and the YouTube Studio. Some of these places will be visited in person.
The semester will give the opportunity for individual students to architecturally consider transportation infrastructure, robotics and urbanism with a relatively new building type that is quietly multiplying on the outskirts of cities and the creative and cultural imagination of architects. We will work on how the architectural imagination can make these centers more fulfilling.