Name: Vulcan Pit

Location: Irwindale, California

Team: Jodi Batay-Csorba, Andrew Batay-Csorba.

Project Area: 106,580 sqft

Project Year: 2005-2009

Client: Independent Research

Project Status: Speculative


Situated below the San Gabriel Mountains, in a crater like plain just 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, the city of Irwindale’s boundary zigzags around 17 open-face gravel pits. The 9.5 square mile moonscape has for the last 100 years produced more than a billion tons of rock, sand and gravel that have built 70% of the states roads since the early 1900s. Of Irwindales’s 17 gravel pits, 7 are active quarries and the others are lifeless landfills, have been reclaimed or sit dormant; the deepest pit reaching 275 feet. Irwindale’s landscape is filled with control basins including the Santa Fe Dam, which when combined with the gravel mines, comprise of ninety-eight percent of the city’s land use.

Research has shown that these mines will cease production between 2030 and 2040, leaving the city with both an end to its economically sustaining activity and a phenomenological landscape condition of millions of square feet of abandoned holes. The result being the largest area of undeveloped land in all of Los Angeles, with acres of empty pits just waiting for new uses. The current development model has been contingent on filling the pits with recycled and landfill material to bring it up to a manageable datum. The strategy is used to easily deal with Irwindale’s seasonal fluctuation in water retention and flow of water through the pits as well as the developer driven business datum. Our proposal offers an alternative typology that explores and utilizes the inherent duality of the sites ecology and geometry, while preserving its natural hydrology.

This site was chosen for its tenuous position adjacent to the San Gabriel River. The Vulcan Azusa Largo pit was the only pit not excavated to its full extents, leaving a 700’ required flood plain buffer between it and the San Gabriel river. This adjacent area allowed us to develop a topside, bottomside strategy. The building roof surface acts as a continuation of the landscape plane and from within the reading is one of an autonomous object.

On a building scale, the project explores thickening as a process; as a means of collapsing systems into a more performative sandwich condition. The resultant network curates a range of functions and atmospheric effects and an intrinsic logic to the movement throughout the building.

1. Mobilized Structure_from subservient appliance to single collapsed system. The structure moves fluidly between long span precast concrete lattice conditions and poured in place concrete panels that produce gradient patterns of perforated to solid; narrating the structural stresses of the building.

Lattice treatments:

a. Precast concrete scoops around perimeter conditions for product display, air and light

b. Poured in place concrete pans on the topside condition for product display

c. Embossed panel system on the bottomside condition for inverted product display, air and light

2. Display Infrastructure_from provisional ornament to spatial and circulatory initiator. The interior volumes become highly responsive matrices of circulation, flows and speeds as a result of the wrapper condition. The essential massing diagram is that of a core-periphery relationship that relates high-volume/ serial browsing against the perimeter skin condition and extruded roof lattice and lower-volume/intensive browsing toward the interior pixilated field condition.

Display types:

a. Pixilated grass beds carpet the roof

b. Floor displays positioned below roof scoops allow product viewing internally and externally

c. Linear rows positioned within a biasing of one direction of roof lattice

d. Wall scoops [pillows] around perimeter allow product viewing internally and externally

e. Core wrappers on vertical elements

f. Ribboned tiers extend the stepped landscape for product display into interior platforms 

Using Format