Parking Lot / Roof Mound constructs an exterior garden and green roof for Disjecta, a 12,000 sf former bowling alley converted into a nonprofit contemporary arts space in Portland, Oregon. Housing over 5,000 sf of working artist studios, 3,000 sf of exhibition space, a fully equipped 1,800 sf performance space, and café, the interior has been completely renovated to resemble the modernist "white box." The exterior, however, remains untouched. A dilapidated parking lot and an adjoining cinderblock building refer to the ready-made obsolescence of post-war car culture. From the outside, Disjecta is typical of its many neighboring strip mall-like structures: banal and repetitive. However, the adjoining cinderblock café is urban in its position, sitting directly along the street edge, and in-front of a light rail station, the epicenter of north Portland's Kenton neighborhood.

Parking Lot / Roof Mound is sited to take advantage of its unique urban context, converting the existing parking lot into a fabricated wilderness, an exterior garden and connected green roof. Uniting two antithetical elements of suburbia, Disjecta's parking lot and roof form a continuous mountainous terrain. Conceived as a ridge of topographic peaks, the exterior garden is a series of piled earth mounds built adjoining the café and exhibition hall. These mounds culminate in a plateau-like roof garden, which in turn, sponsors a network of sun tunnels allowing natural light into the cinderblock café below.

Plantings of indigenous flora vary according to root depth, from thick soil for trees and perennial shrubs, to thin soil for short grasses and wildflowers. The parking lot is replanted with permeable grasses and pavers, allowing storm run-off to be absorbed into the planted indigenous ecosystem.

The landscape addition exploits simple construction methods—light weight straw bale pile, water-proof shell with shallow layer of piled earth as planting substrate—in order to achieve maximum results.

Holes are tunneled into the mounds to create new exhibition and social spaces, while forming the necessary vertical circulation to serve the roof garden above. Additional surface paths allow itinerant visitors to stroll along topographic contours, taking in new vistas of the city. The southern surface of the mound integrates a new outdoor amphitheater. Conceived as a new social space, the amphitheater carves into the fabricated topography, constructing a voyeuristic landscape that removes the barrier between the social space of the city and the theatric space of the stage. With these new added cultural programs, amphitheater, café and garden, Parking Lot / Roof Mound forges a new and viable iconic landscape for Disjecta and a green beacon for the greater Portland area.

Parking Lot / Roof Mound is a radical proposal for environmental restoration in the heart of the post-sprawl American city. The project anticipates a long-term evolution of space into an ecologically productive natural habitat. The garden juxtaposes voyeuristic relationships of nature with the existing infrastructure of the city, catalyzing the mixing of new street life with nature. Specific habitats of flora and fauna cultivate, evolve and connect Portland's existing peripheral green belt to the site. At the same time, the site becomes the epicenter of an ecological restoration, a new wilderness area, where ecology physically and symbolically activates the metropolis. This new wilderness consumes sealed surfaces and hardscapes, fabricates topography and biotopes, camouflages the built with the vegetal, infrastructure with grass and earth… carpets roofs with sod, shelters threatened flora and fauna, restores woods into wilderness, networks nature. Globally, this proposal aims to reconceive the ubiquitous introversion of post-war big box structures—by intensifying a social mixing of urban life framed through nature—suggesting a technique that could potentially be widely applied to the American city post-sprawl.

© 2009 NOA: Benjamin Crotty, Andrew Heid.



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