From “The Street” to “Consumers Gone Wild”; distributing consumption

Previously Mammoth here and F.A.D. here

F.A.D., explored logistics and infrastructure. Suggesting that levels of contemporary data collection inherent to the business of consumer logistics inevitably leads to a condition of maximum mapping, wherein control may be the ultimate result of this mapping of patterns. Meanwhile Mammoth suggested that the performance of flows and spreadsheet/logistical structures behind the physical facilit(ies) of consumption are the real locations of interface. Re-directing such forces rather than re-purposing, re-programming or re-formatting the end physical manifestation, is the final solution.

Like Mammoth I too noted the fairly strident anti-consumption/ideological message of the Deborah’s essay. More advocacy than research proposal like many of the earlier chapters.

I would like to briefly review a section which has not been discussed, and is not on the official Mammoth schedule, that is “The Street; Wilshire Boulevard Picturing Los Angeles Conduits, Corridors and the Linear City, Part 2“. Similarly to the previous essay Counting (On) Change I felt this photo-essay (especially when compared to the other photo-essays and even the research pieces) the most prescriptive, in terms of interventions or specific urban form(ulations). In the essay Lane Barden also makes clear the historical role Wilshire has played in facilitating the current linear condition of LA. In it’s role as first traffic corridor, Wilshire pulled the city (in terms of development of urban form) along it’s strip. His photos begin from the beach and head downtown, showing how Wilshire along with the city flow eventually along the LA River river on a northwest-southwest axis. While this very force has thus made (when replicated many times) LA into Corbusier’s Linear City, it could also be Barden suggests, it’s source of salvation. All that must be done is to interject an additional plane or strata of action along this same corridor. He believes Wilshire is an ideal center for a city that needs to densify and dreams of “itself in perpetual motion”. Wilshire could serve as a new linear axis for urban growth.The key is that it is an already established trajectory, thus would not require a new mode of action. In the end his proposal accepts and seeks to take advantage of existing conditions. Therefore, Barden argues Wilshire should become one long urban mass, an inhabited, horizontal and vertical trajectory.

Evidence suggest that finer grained shipping extends the goods supply chain right into the home

Richmond, Pg 216

In her chapter Consumers Gone Wild, Deborah Richmond explores the distributed networks which support consumer consumption. One point which stood out was the idea of distribution as a decentralizing affect of the networks/industries attempts to create resilience. Chiefly to reduce risk. As Deborah explains, industrial scaled DC’s (distribution centers) were added to Los Angeles distribution channels because “shippers create a buffer of goods” (redundancy). Thus distributed channels are an attempt to conquer an over-reliance on the two local ports. In fact although the volume of freight that transits through the ports (two of the busiest in the U.S.A.) is huge, only 1/3 is shipped outside the Southern California area. This led me to think about the concept of a resource-shed. Instead of a bio-region, or watershed could one map a consumption-shed. If the metric was for instance container volume(s), perhaps? This could then even be scaled to define the number of shipping containers used to create a project. A sort of LOT-EK approach but more literally interpretative…

Another question I had was regarding unitended effects of this new decentralized infrastructures. Richmond also suggests that the negative spatial and physical strains of a centralized infrastructure are one of the factors pushing the trend towards a distributed system. Yet, could the distributed network actually make it more difficult to identify or begin a project of ecological/sustainable re-making? Even from the perspective of a simple cap/trade mechanism does distribution actually make it harder to source and then build public support for remediation, mitigation or re-designing systems? Do externalities have effect, but not affect??

Finally, I was struck by her claim that DCs and other big boxes are “intermodal buildings” which of course is true in one sense. Namely, that although freight by truck may be the largest method by which freight is shipped to the DCs et al, industry does make use of multiple methods of transit. Yet, the concept can I think be extended even further. They are intermodal in the fact that such centers themselves serve as a form of transit. If as Richmond suggests such sites are a sort of architectural back to our consumption, they are also another form of transit themselves in that they are a integrated part of the fluid system of consumption. Mega-scale storage as a sort of stationary transit infrastructure, distributed, just-in-time and transient. In the end the same can be said for the goods consumed. If the supply-chain is always in transit where does it end?? Our own homes Richmond concludes. As oversized McMansions, the residential building has literally become a warehouse, with walk ins, wine, storage rooms etc.

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One thought on “From “The Street” to “Consumers Gone Wild”; distributing consumption

  1. Pingback: reading the infrastructural city, chapter ten index – mammoth // building nothing out of something

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