The architectural proposal is introduced not as a solution, but as a framework through which to destabilise both the city’s and industry’s current negative trajectories, by proposing an extreme alternative to their separation. The project offers agency and inclusivity to a multitude of actors and stakeholders who have been displaced from the industry, creating a field condition for their negotiation, with the hypothesis that this could prove to be mutually beneficial for both a stagnating industry and a shrinking city.
It is thus a proposal for transformation - a redefinition of an urban paradigm by consolidating previously isolated events, activities and communities.
AN INDUSTRIAL EDIFICE
The site in question is the port of Ishinomaki, one of Japan’s largest fishing ports. It is here that an abundance of fish are unloaded, sorted, auctioned and then exported across the world. A seemingly infinite multiplication of this process is housed within the recently opened Ishinomaki fish market, which was built to replace the previous market destroyed by the 2011 tsunami. The market was built much bigger than before, spanning almost a kilometre along the coastline and able to process the greatest capacity of any market in the world. This industrial monolith has become a symbol of large scale reconstruction, of Japan’s constant growth and of the industry’s success.
However, it is also a symbol of defiance against the multitude of problems which the industry faces - namely the dangerously low fish stocks due to years of overfishing and a fading workforce where the majority of fisherman are over 60. It has been in decline since the 80s, yet its significance in Japanese culture has ensured its continued support from government subsidies, issued despite its economic inefficiency and environmental damage. It is considered to be one of the most unsustainable industrial practices, and predicted to be obsolete as soon as 2050.
Its intense industrialisation and pursuit of perpetual growth has caused the removal of the communities that once managed this resource sustainably, leading to a kind of depoliticising of the industry. Its processes take place in isolation with a significant lack of friction or critical accountability. These consequences manifest themselves in this building, this edifice. Built to facilitate an unattainable capacity, defined by a 40m truss that encloses industrial processes but excludes civic functions, and symbolic of the bias of reconstruction funds towards large scale industrial projects.
This industry is set against the context of Ishinomaki - a city which was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Whilst the fishing industry has been largely rebuilt, the city is struggling to reconstruct at the same rate. Preexisting trends of depopulation and migration have been intensified, with many moving elsewhere to find housing, infrastructure and community. The city is now characterised by dispersed sprawl, a lack of distinct urban nodes and temporary accommodation. On top of this, the city has been distanced, both geographically and conceptually, from the industry on which it grew. A resident told me that they never used to buy fish - they were always given leftover stock from local fisherman - but now they can only get imported fish from supermarkets; evidence of the complete separation of the city and industry. The result of these problems is that both the city and its industry are shrinking, despite their apparent resistance.
Due to their lack of engagement, the industry has lost its support functions and the communities that once managed it, and the city has been distanced from its economic provision and cultural heart.
The project therefore proposes a coalescing of industry with a multitude of civic functions, and their mutual dependency is exposed spatially. This architectural transformation takes advantage of structural and spatial redundancies in an existing industrial monolith, colonising and densifying it with non-industrial activities, thus setting the stage for productive friction between a myriad of actors.
This proposed architectural framework allows a huge variety of functions to take place within it, but suggests a range from the single dwelling for one of the many displaced fisherman, through market stalls for locals to buy fresh fish, to a series of social organisations and institutes that were once integral to the successful management of the industry but have since been displaced.