Many cities are defined by and built upon the success of a single industry. When a defining local industry is lost, there can be complex issues that arise related to place identity. Such is the case in Hamilton, Ontario, where the collapse of the steel industry on the former Stelco site, after over 100 years of productivity, brings into question the identity of “Steeltown” after steel.
With the end of steel production comes the opportunity to rethink how we address culturally charged brownfield sites. This project rejects typical approaches to treating similar sites, and instead seeks to commence a deconstruction of the site and a localization of material flows. Through intelligent design interventions and a rethinking of how an active industrial site can function, this project sets in motion processes that are grounded in the realities of the site while setting up the framework for an ecologically driven industrial evolution.
Many cities are defined by and built upon the success of a single industry; from fishing villages on the east coast, to pulp and paper mill towns in the west, to manufacturing cities in Ontario, the places we live are often products of industrial success stories. However, as economies change and jobs move, cities and citizens can fall victim to these economic upturns and downturns.
When a defining local industry fails, there can be complex issues that arise related to population decline, job loss and the loss of place identity. Such is the case in Hamilton, Ontario, where the collapse of the steel industry on the former Stelco site, after over 100 years of productivity, brings into question the identity of “Steeltown” after steel.
The 865-acre site on Hamilton Harbour is a byproduct of a century of global consumption, localized production and decentralized material flows. The site is richly layered with local history and cultural identification, as the steel industry has played an integral role in shaping the city that exists today.
Approaches to addressing similar brownfield sites around the world typically fall into two categories: that of romanticizing and memorializing the past, or that of capping and forgetting the history of the site in a form of “amnesia”, as Elizabeth Meyer describes similar practices in Large Parks.
With the end of steel production on the Stelco site comes the opportunity to rethink how we address culturally charged brownfield sites. This project seeks to commence a deconstruction of the site and a localization of material flows, establishing processes that are grounded in the realities of the site while setting up the framework for an ecologically driven industrial evolution.
The main goals of this project are to:
In order to achieve these goals, comprehensive research was conducted into the processes involved in producing steel. This study took the form of a material flow analysis that traced production from resource extraction, through importing and processing, to production and export. The largest discovery that was made through tracing these material flows was that aside from steel, the processes that took place on the site resulted in a massive amount of solid, liquid and gaseous waste products. These waste streams were typically linear and did not incorporate any feedback or cyclical loops, resulting in slag, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and coal tar being disposed of in the landscape that produced them.
The core proposal of this project is to achieve the goals listed above by fundamentally changing the way materials move through the site; changing the site from a place of raw resource consumption, with waste as an end product, to a place where waste is the raw resource that is consumed and the support and production of natural systems and public spaces is the product.
Through the analysis that was conducted, five waste streams were identified for reengineering and processing:
Each of these waste streams were evaluated and a method of reuse or remediation is proposed. It is these methods and their related impacts on the landscape that were used to drive the overall design of the site and the phased approach to implementation.
It is imagined that over time, as this plan is developed, the site will flourish as a new source of employment and recreation in the City of Hamilton. Once the waste streams of the past steel processes have been exhausted, the site is proposed to begin importing waste from other sites around the city and across the Great Lakes. As these new material flows come into play, their needs will continue to shape the site and evolve its design.
Ultimately, this project results in three specifically designed spaces for people and a comprehensive master plan for the site. This plan is envisioned to not only resolve onsite issues, but also to act as an incubator and catalyst for the creation of a broader open space and trail network across the waterfront. The lifespan of this design is infinite, as it is only limited by the imagination of those who use the space and is constantly fueled by changing and evolving material flows in the setting of a new industrial - park.