Invited Exhibition Chicago Architecture Biennial, BOLD: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago
Venue: Chicago Cultural Center
Dates: October 3, 2015 - January 3, 2016
Curators: Iker Gil, Joseph Grima, and Sarah Herda
"Even for those of us who may be focused on the cities as zones of intervention, we can't understand what is going on within them unless we look outside them, far outside them."  Neil Brenner
Logistical Ecologies is an urbanization strategy for northeastern Illinois derived from planetary logistics networks and regional ecologies with an emphasis on biodiversity, agriculture, and hydrology. The strategy colocates housing, retail, warehousing, distribution facilities, and intermodal freight facilities to leverage dynamic environmental processes, regional land uses, and transportation infrastructure.
Since the deregulation of the transportation industry in the 1980s, the use of the shipping container for transporting goods manufactured in newly industrializing Asian countries to sites of consumption in the United States has transformed swathes of North America's hinterlands into vast logistics landscapes. This back-stage network of rails, warehousing, and distribution facilities sustains the front-stage lifestyles commonly occurring within municipal city boundaries.
Logistical Ecologies develops analytical categories rooted in the fields of ecology, landscape architecture, transportation geography, and critical urban theory to uncover new methods for design and sites of intervention for their deployment. By confronting the complexities of twenty-first century urbanization head on, the strategy is both a critique of and an alternative to design's existing theoretical frameworks.
With even modest projections indicating that containerized freight throughput at United States coastal ports will more than double by 2030, the North American hinterland is poised to be radically transformed by the construction of expanded logistical infrastructures like double-stake corridors and intermodal freight facilities.  Nowhere in the United States will these effects be felt more acutely than in northeastern Illinois, where six of North America's seven Class I railroads meet. The importance of this region in national and planetary logistics networks is exemplified by the adjacent inland ports of Joliet, IL (Global IV, Union Pacific) and Elwood (Logistics Park, BNSF), constituting the third largest container port in the United States; this inland behemoth lags only behind the coastal Port of Long Beach / Port of Los Angeles and the Port of New York and New Jersey.  While nearly half of the containers passing through the region annually are destined for other domestic or international markets, the rest originates or is consumed in the region.
As we move forward into an era of unpredictable climates, increasingly frequent storm events, new biodiversity trends, and ongoing pollution from the agro-industry, these logistical transformations and the market-driven development they enable—all largely devoid of ecological and hydrological sensitivity—put our economic and ecological future at great risk.
Logistical Ecologies is an alternative strategy for urbanizing northeastern Illinois in response to these issues. It is not only aware of hydrological and ecological concerns, but uses them as the very drivers of new processes of urbanization. The strategy comprises three phases:
Phase 1: Initiate Bison Mosaic (2015-2025)
The Bison Mosaic is the primary organizing framework for the strategy, and is established over a ten-year period by converting underperforming and degraded cropland into tallgrass prairie and wetlands. The conversion, initiated by prescribed prairie burns and perpetuated by a combination of burns and bison grazing, gradually connects existing regional bison strongholds at Nachusa Grasslands and the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.
Phase 2: Integrate Logistical Activities (2025-2045)
The second phase begins ten years after the Bison Mosaic takes shape and proposes the clustering of hybrid logistical developments along heavily-used double-stack rail corridors that cross the interface between the most and least profitable agricultural land in northeastern Illinois. The typologies are combinations of residential, commercial, and agro-industrial buildings directly connected operationally, and in close physical proximity, to an intermodal freight facility and associated warehousing and distribution facilities. These programs and their architectural forms are hybridized through a series of ecological relationships. Each set of adjacencies leverages ecological and economic processes to produce new public space and new settlement typologies, helping accommodate projected pressure from increased containerized imports and population increase.
For example, rather than return to their country of origin empty, containers are filled with grains and send back to emerging markets in Asia. Adjacent cropland producing these grains is irrigated by stormwater captured by the logistical developments, and the cropland itself is replenished through long-term rotation between bison graze land—which enriches soil nutrients—and productive agricultural land. Container trains arriving at the intermodal freight facility deliver all goods to sustain residential, commercial, industrial, and agro-industrial activities of a particular cluster. This physical proximity minimizes the distance trucks have to travel to deliver container cargo between these inland ports and retailers, thereby minimizing stress on existing roads and highways.
Phase 3: Cycle Logistical Ecologies (2045-2100)
As clustered logistical developments continue to take form, now intertwined ecologically and economically with regional and planetary logistics networks, ongoing efforts to monitor crop suitability within a changing climate and prairie / cropland rotation continues.
 Neil Brenner, "Wildly Civilized: Ecological + Extreme + Planetary Urbanism...What's Next?" (moderated panel, Harvard Graduate School of Design, September 13, 2014).
 "Projected growth in the US economy and historical trends at US ports suggest that port container traffic will double by 2020 and triple by 2030... even if the growth rate falls to four percent, container traffic could still more than double by 2030." US Maritime Administration (MARAD), America's Ports and Intermodal Transportation System (January 2009, 59, http://www.glmri.org/downloads/Ports&IntermodalTransport.pdf.
 Intermodal freight facilities are coastal or inland ports where containers transfer between ship and train, train and train, or train and truck. The total number of containers moving through a port is referred to as the throughput or as twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). Most containers are at least 40 feet long, counting as two TEUs. CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Joliet/Elwood, with a capacity for 6 million TEUs, is the largest inland port in North America. The Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach have a combined annual throughput of 14.1 million TEUs. The Port of New York and New Jersey has an annual throghput of 5.5 million TEUs. The entire Chicago region's annual throughput is over 5 million TEUs. SOURCES:
Americian Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), "NAFTA Region Container Traffic Port Ranking 2012," accessed April 2014, 2012." http://aapa.files.cmsplus.com/Statistics/NAFTA%20REGION%20CONTAINER%20TRAFFIC%20PORT%20RANKING%202012.pdf Accessed April, 2014.
Inland Ports of Joliet / Elwood:
Eric Gilbert. “Joliet Arsenal Redevelopment: A Public-Private Partnership Sucess Story.” Powerpoint Presentation. June 13, 2013.
Chicago Regional Total Throughput:
American Association of Railroads (AAR). “Top 15 Markets for Intermodal Traffic Handled in the United States in 2011.” Rail Intermodal Keeps America Moving. 2.