reforging stelco introduction

REFORING STELCO

 

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Introduction

Hidden away on industrial land at the fringes of the metropolitan fabric, machines, cranes, and other moving structures take part in a dance of material flow - a kinetic spectacle. Behind closed doors or on secured sites, resources are imported, transformed, packaged, and tactfully sent to their next destination without anyone to observe these often dramatic processes.

When industries which support such spectacles collapse, we are presented with a debate to either preserve them as artifacts or cash in on their land in favor of progression. The development pressure put on struggling manufacturing industries is compounded for those situated on valuable waterfront land. This is particularly true for Hamilton’s culturally significant steel producer, a hundred-year company formerly known as Stelco (The Steel Company of Canada) which has been on the brink of collapse for years. Amidst a flooded steel market and still recovering from a ruthless corporate takeover from its American rival, US Steel, the company must adapt its strategies to stay afloat in today’s economy of information and knowledge.

Fearing the possibility of an industry crash which occurred in the 1980’s to its sister city, Pittsburgh, Hamilton has invested millions into its post-secondary educational system to help diversify its previously exclusive focus on manufacturing. Although these educational investments have lead to globally recognized faculties within Hamilton’s largest post-secondary school, McMaster University, there is a steadily growing shortage of skilled labour (trades.) Moreover, this industry gap is exacerbated by the rapidly growing population in south-western Ontario.

In Hamilton, a city founded on the steam and steel industry, almost the entire waterfront borders onto industrial land. The 3.7km2 former Stelco site takes up about one third of the city’s shoreline and, like most other heavy industrial sties, is completely inaccessible to the public. As a result, ‘Steel City’ has been effectively cut off from its own harbour and the historical fabric of the city’s foundations - the steel mill. This project intervenes on the former Stelco site through the execution of five overarching design strategies:

1. The integrated steelmaking method (steel from raw resources) is adapted to a more ecologically and economically sustainable method of production (recycled scrap steel.)

2. The public is able to safely interact with ongoing steel manufacturing operations and access the previously private waterfront land.

3. New trade and technical schools are introduced to diversify economic generators whilst retaining industry ties to the active steel mill to help offset the shortage of skilled labour in the region.

4. Suitable obsolete structures are retrofitted for new arts and cultural program catering to Hamilton’s thriving arts community and acknowledging the cultural guidelines for new development outlined by the city.

5. Past notions of the post-industrial park are reconsidered by exposing the environmental impacts of raw resource processing through selective remediation and topographical manipulation.

For over a century the quiet frictions of land use separation have prevented Hamilton residents from understanding the force which helped mould their city. In a climate of economic uncertainty, there are opportunities to reforge Stelco’s new identity and encourage exploration of its sublime landmarks and historical past.