3. The Design Thesis
Macclesfield Silviculture – RE:FABLAB
RE:FABLAB It is a human centered, co-operative managed re-fabrication laboratory focusing on the sustainable use of timber-based technologies to create; a ‘learn/grow’ – ‘develop/design’ – ‘participate/produce’ facility. Using Silvicultural principles. The RE:FABLAB will utilize the surrounding landscape, historic links, networks and systems to not only rebuild Macclesfield’s existing post-industrial urban fabric and create a resilient, a low carbon town, but an environmentally aware, participatory, socially-responsible community fit for a post-peak oil future.
Over the next 50 years the population of the planet will rise to 9.3 billion by 2050 and with peak oil approaching, an impending energy supply crisis. The resultant is a growing trend towards city living. Climate change will lead to unpredictable more extreme weather events and with the rising cost of living, small ex-industrial communities such as Macclesfield will be in danger of abandonment. The largest burden on these towns is their existing building stock; inefficient and ageing, expensive to maintain, heat and inhabit. By 2050, 85% of the existing building stock in the UK will still be standing, consuming the same energy and releasing the same emissions.
The cost of renovating this stock will rise due to imports becoming cost-prohibitive as the global economy goes into decline. This unpredictable future will draw investment and population away from small towns towards the growing metropolises. It is a problem that is only now beginning to be addressed by the architectural profession. Building in resilience to the existing urban fabric is essential if we are to retain a historically rich and varied landscape with thriving communities outside of the mega-cities of the future.
Can we rely on the economic pressures of rising fuel costs alone to drive the adaptation of these historic landscapes to climate change and energy use reduction, or will this simply further delay adaptation? Will it result in the governmental subsidy of energy being demanded in order to stabilize the countries semi-rural populations and avoid the mass migration of people to cities, leaving barren landscapes once littered with communities.
A concept of top down application will drive this change, and guarantee stability of communities and economies outside of the vision of the individual, before a tipping point is reached. It is a complex problem with many facets of causality and variance, from global economies to socio-economic preferences, to which a single quick fix is elusive.
Previous attempts at the regeneration of urban landscapes has involved the creation of a single key catalyst intervention, one on which the hopes and dreams of communities, developers and architects are pinned. As it is a single entity, it can only achieve only within its limitations and after being unveiled to praise and fanfare, fades to become another failed economic burden on the very community is was designed to aid.
To find a solution to this typical regeneration model, I studied Macclesfields past, with an eye to resilience. Its past is filled with cottage industries relying on locally sourced labour and materials in sustainable volumes connected by historical networks within the surrounding landscape. Using this concept from Macclesfields own past, my thesis aims to test if locally abundant supplies of timber can be used to build in resilience to the landscape for the future.
The research of timber production brought to light the concept of ‘Siviculture’, well know in the arboriculture sectors but not outside. It details the methods of sustainable and productive harvest of timber whilst taking into account diversity of species, environment, climate change, eco-systems and other factors. It also highlighted the importance of Mycorrhizal networks, which themselves support Silviculture, whilst creating resilience in organisms by sharing resources between the many,
Taking these concept and applying them; the well-rounded sustainable regeneration model and interconnected networks which create resilience, as a whole principle under the banner of Macclesfield Silviculture, is a fitting way to confront the towns current and future dilemma. The principles of Silviculture have operated as a tool kit throughout the design process, with its methods of staged regeneration setting out the road map for how the town can begin to rebuild and flourish as a emergent, low energy & sustainable society, whilst maintaining resilience to social and economic shifts and the as yet unknown extent of future climatic variance.