The Food Assembly | MArch Thesis

The Food Assembly: Architecture of Sustenance for the New Industrial City

Advisors Mark Goulthorpe, Caitlin Mueller, Mariana Ibanez


Looking at Detroit is looking into the future. As the quintessential post-industrial shrinking city, it faces a myriad of problems, which include: a declining tax base, urban blight, inaccessible transportation, a waning workforce, lower educational attainment, and food insecurity. Through this conglomeration of factors, the city will inevitably witness the rise of a new-agrarian society. These new agrarians will come from all ages and trades, and shift from a dependency on manufacturing, to an organized production of food, harnessing the conditions of place into a new productivity and a way of life that revolves around production itself.

This thesis proposes an architecture for the new-agrarians, to challenge today’s culture of production for production’s sake, and responds to the outlook of human obsolescence and poverty brought upon by “progress”. An alternate future, in which the basis for sustenance is redefined. The new-agrarians will need to feel productive and be creative. They will need an engaging public space. And they will need intellectual stimulus, even in the most automated and mechanized of environments. The entry point for this thesis was to interrogate contemporary spaces of production and our relationship with these spaces, technologies, and products. We become our spaces of production, idle and disenfranchised. Unless we can re-claim them, along with their vitality.

Born from the remains of the GM assembly plant, my proposal, The Detroit-Hamtramck Food Assembly, seeks to embody those precise needs. In the Assembly, agriculture is open-ly sourced, by a hybrid system of manual and automated labor that enables the creation of an urban enclave of production, allowed for by surplus space, surplus technology, surplus infrastructure, and surplus labor. This food bastion is simultaneously park, garden and workplace, a food Gigafactory, to feed their city and free their city, and hopefully, in this process, become a new driver for culture.