Hannah Miller

Hannah Miller

Los Angeles, CA, US




de-stigmatizing the concept of ‘junk’

The Neglected. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, automobiles are the number one recycled product in America. Approximately 13 million vehicles are recycled every year, with 2.5 million entering California salvage yards annually. (EPA, 2016) The ‘junkyard,’ an under-developed category within recent architectural culture, serves as a monument to the inherent human desire of consumption. The eye catching signage endorsing a myriad of auto plazas along the vast network freeways consequently results in a surplus of unwanted and totaled vehicles that require relocating. The acres of gleaming metal and affordable classic parts offered by junkyards are often unrecognized for their true potential of profit and instead mistaken as mass quantities of useless junk. 

Redefining the Undesirable. The problem within the junkyard lies behind the stigma surrounding the under-recognized concept of ‘salvaging.’ The auto salvage yard presents an opportunity for cheap, factory made auto parts sprawled out across acres of land, but the only customers are those with the technical knowledge, mechanical skills and financial need. The majority of the population writes off these hidden goldmines as literal ‘junkyards,’ simply because they do not understand the great potential in auto part salvaging. 

“Rather than remove the image of debris from the city... locate it as a central aspect of the experience of modern urbanization.” (David Gissen, “Debris,” Subnature.)

The mechanical aspect of the dehumanized salvage yard will be transformed into an industrialized shopping center, creating a new relationship between the junk landforms and the consumer. This reinvention of the ‘junkyard’ will solidify the need for the recognition of debris in the modern city as a “type of human-produced context – an  anti-nature,” (Gissen) while simultaneously providing a solution to the problem of the overproduction of vehicles in a consumer based society.

automobile obsession 

From Whole to Parts. The automobile is an easily recognizable icon. The smooth exterior shell transitions effortlessly from one movement to another, essentially unifying each individual component into a monocoque structure. Reveals in said structure create a subtle connection to the interior mechanical components, for either functional or aesthetic purposes. The idea behind a uniform shell bifurcating to highlight specific moments from interior to exterior dictates the language and movements of the exterior facade. Through the careful cataloging of the automobile in its entirety into its components of debris, (Stan Alen, “Field Conditions.”)  the vehicle as an object in design serves as the logic shaping the unique shell of the anti-junkyard. 

Creating an Icon. In order to transform the stigmatized ‘junkyard’ into an essential component of modern society, the efficient and recognizable typology of the parking garage formed the narrative for both the storage of vehicles and movement of the customer. While vertically maximizing the storage and display potential, this alternative ‘car park tower’ will present a recognizable icon for the car oriented society in order to cater to the average consumer. The hybridization of above ground, below ground, and stacked parking typologies allows for the physical separation and visual connection between the private wrecking yard and the public vehicle display and auto shop. The manipulation and layering of spaces utilizing both floor plates and facade allows for the transformation of the once monotonous parking garage into a familiar but energized atmosphere conductive to both the storage and processing of salvaged vehicles and incorporation of the customers needs.

The narrative of the ‘junkyard’ lies within the circulation of both the scrapped vehicles and the people in search of parts. The movement of the salvaged cars from the hands of original owner, through the wrecking / dismantling yard, to the location of display is either physically or visually intertwined with the wandering customer. The ramped circulation cascades effortlessly around the vertical core and above the wrecking yard, thus creating an easily walkable showcase of decommissioned vehicles.

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Status: School Project
Location: Vernon, CA, US