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Server by Alastair Parvin

November 27, 2009

Some days ago we published the first of a serie of projects from the the President’s Medals for Students Projects organized by theRoyal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The winning entries will be published on December 2, so in the meanwhile, we continue publishing some of the students projects that are participating. This time the project is called SERVER and it was presented by Alastair Parvin from The University of Sheffield Sheffield UK.

We have talked before about food problems in cities and the different solutions that can be developed, such as vertical farming or urban farming. This time Parvin’s proposal has more similities to MVRDV’s Pig City than with skyfarming and the project speculates upon whether we can redefine what is actually meant by the term ‘local’.

Oil and Food crisis : The case for a large scale agricultural experiment in the way we feed cities.

The project takes a section of the M1 motorway in the Midlands and investigates its redesign as a self-sufficient farming system; a belt of knowledge-intensive agriculture, producing no waste and consuming minimal external resources. Based on existing processes, prices and capacities, it begins with the production of biodiesel from algae, and the residual biomass which is used as a cattle feedstock. These become the generators for a more complex choreography of mutually-supportive programmes.

Satellite view of the Server belt and surrounding farmland.

Although to most of us they are invisible, we are all dependent on a few highly-complex, energy-intensive systems which ensure the continuous supply of food to cities. The increasing concentration of those systems and the first effects of global peak oil production will mean we can no longer afford to take them for granted.

The result constitutes a challenge to some of the narrow political dichotomies which currently dominate green politics, and hints at a profound shift in the way that we, as citizens and consumers, relate to the rural landscapes, communities and infrastructures upon which we depend.

Algae farming: Replacing the food vs fuel dichotomy with a doubling-up of productive land.

The field structure is adapted to accommodate other server programmes, bringing in rent to mitigate the capital cost to the farmers.

Taxonomy of Species: Classification of man-made types according to processing functions.

Watford Gap Service Area: Our capacity to farm mobility rather than mine it implies a new freedom to redefine what we mean by ‘local’.

In the tutor statements [Dr Renata Tyszczuk and Mr Satwinder Samra], we can read:

“The project proposes a radically different approach to sustainability issues from that usually offered by contemporary design culture. It suggests farming as a ‘world-view’ and architecture as the business of farming resources. Server architecture is usually ‘the architecture of stuff before it arrives’. In this project SERVER is acutely aware of the interdependencies of the UK built environment. It therefore engages with the wisdom of farmers and the skills of agricultural workers allowing a particularly resilient point of departure from which to explore our relationship with resources, technology, economics and the processes and people that nourish our cities. Alastair’s proposal investigates the entire UK in terms of a possible Industrial Evolution.”

By shifting our relationship with food and energy, Server generates – and absorbs – cultural choices which have hitherto been seen as mutually exclusive.

More interesting student’s projects here.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2009 7:33 pm

    Me recuerda a la estetica del ganador del concurso de la revista 2G.


  1. The President’s Medals Student Awards WINNERS [Part 1] « arkinet

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