The to-face city: Los Angeles as a symbol of Western excess and urban sprawl in the Climate Crisis and a response through means of Agricultural Sustainable Practices, an Architectural Approach

Burkimsher, Kady Lynn
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Food security in the Climate Crisis is a pressing issue and the base point for my research. The patterns in consumerism, agricultural practice and distribution processes have been marked as key points of focus. I have chosen Los Angeles, USA, after quite some consideration and research, to host the representative site for my project. This “To-Face City” shows up in imagery around the world as a luxurious wonderland of film stars, palm trees and sunshine. Of opulence, influence and opportunity. Unfortunately, this is not the full picture. Behind the scenes this city is home to a massive population at risk that is subsequently putting the rest of the world at risk. Los Angeles reveals extreme wasteful consumerism at the hands of a capitalist western mindset where money draws the puppet’s strings. It is also a city that is showing disastrous effects of global warming. Droughts and wildfires have become increasingly frequent and devastating. Major earthquakes can be expected in this region and the imminent threat of ‘The Big One’ is looming over Los Angeles. Added to the pressure of maintaining such a large urban settlement, in these conditions, is feeding the population when the surrounding land is mountainous, desertous or rapidly decreasing in ability for agricultural use - and, the subsequent distribution of goods from elsewhere is contributing to the problem. A response to the issues of this city are, in fact, a required intervention for the greater well-being of the globe. It is the most developed and wasteful civilisations that require the harshest and most swift responses to combat the climate crisis in the timeliest manner so that the less affluent nations are not left in irreparable ruins worsening the divide. In my research I look for solutions via technology in agriculture, materiality and planning that could dramatically reduce the impact of the food industry on the environment. This is done by re-introducing agriculture to the city through urban farming methods thus shortening distribution processes and reconnecting consumers to responsibility around food production. This is done through an architectural intervention that re-uses a commercial concrete parking structure to house a new and productive programme. This is done through a carefully considered process of sustainable practice that meets architecture to form a consumer pattern-altering experience as well as a fresh produce resource. The intention is that this project is a starting point for a methodological approach that can later be repeated globally within the widely used concrete parking structure typology. In conclusion, I have identified a site in a region that has been greatly affected by, and largely contributes to, the climate crisis to show a detailed contextual example of how sustainable decisions in an architectural intervention, of an urban agricultural nature, can encourage a shift in consumer patterns around food and its impact on the climate.
This research report submitted in partial fulfilment for the degree,of Master of Architecture (Professional) to the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, SouthAfrica, 2021.