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Smart Park

Part 2 Project 2002
David De Sousa
Marion Clayfield
Oxford Brookes University Oxford | UK
The Smart Park is a drive-through, covered hydrogen-refuelling park along the Westway that anticipates a better transport policy 20 years into the future. Inside the park, motorists can enjoy scenic landscapes and a tropical climate whilst filling up their hydrogen-powered cars. The park thereby subverts the current status of the road as something that is destroying the environment, and turns it into something positive. It provides a working eco-system for the car and the road, converging the organic and the mechanical in order to create an environmentally friendly strategy.

Visually, a giant wind tunnel cuts through the western approaches to London into the heart of the city. Encased inside are four distinct landscapes, and it is in these that the whole cycle of hydrogen production occurs. Duckweed is grown, mulched down to produce methane gas, with the latter then being separated chemically to form hydrogen. The duckweed is heated to accelerate the mulching process, producing excess heat in the chambers that permeates up through the building and creates a micro-climate suitable for tropical plants. The surface of the wind tunnel is used to contain the flows of heat, providing a thermal barrier that ripples and moves in response to the flow of traffic inside. At night the lights from the cars illuminate the tunnel, forming a vivid visual display for motorists inside the park and for pedestrians below.

Planting inside the Smart Park is both static and mobile. In the mobile areas, the plants are grown inside clear 'smart' pods that are made out of resin in steel frames. These pods house the plans through the whole of their life-cycle, and move the plants around the building in search of light and water. Hydroponic techniques are used to speed up the growth process. The building is naturally irrigated, with rainwater being collected from the roof surface into gutters, which in turn feed pools that act as reservoirs for the building.

The Westway no longer seems such a barren or hostile place, and travellers can enjoy vistas offering such delights as fruit plantations, duckweed pools, fields of orchids and tropical forests. The atmosphere inside the Smart Park continuously changes across the seasons, and ranges from hazy heat on the lower floors to cooler mists that linger in the trees on the top levels. Hanging from the roof like vines in a rainforest, the hydrogen fuel pumps are ever ready for use by the passing motorists. A natural cycle of fuel consumption is created, and an elevated section of motorway is made into an oasis within the city.

David De Sousa
Marion Clayfield

Marion and David took on the daunting challenge of devising a new ecological strategy for capitalist cities that could accommodate the need for extensive and fast-moving transport networks. Given that our personal mobility continues to increase at a pace, how can cities possibly prosper? To tackle this thorny issue, they looked at one of the most visible and controversial examples of urban motorway ‘despoliation’ in Britain, the Westway flyover in London, and set about imagining ways to turn it into a positive marker for the future.

Their project is consciously visionary, and is hence set in a few decades time when more sensible ecological strategies are in operation. It is an era in which petrol engines have been supplanted by hydrogen-powered vehicles. The vast hulk of the Westway flyover is still there, being far too expensive to tear down. Instead, it has been transformed into a giant ‘green power station’; think of it as the Eden Centre meets motorway engineering.

Reminiscent of Buckminster Fuller’s proposed dome over Manhattan, here a giant rippling skin gathers wind power and fuels the growing of duckweed and other plants inside the huge elongated structure. What is created is a massive linear landscape that not only pleases the eye, but also acts as a silent factory that safely manufactures hydrogen for fuel. Mechanised plant trays mix with welly-wearing gardeners to create a hybrid between a public park and a refuelling station for cars that stop off for hydrogen refills. The research and detail that have gone into the design are exemplary, asll itemised in the accompanying technical report. If you want to imagine yourself inside the project, look at Marion and David’s amazing digital animation. It shows the scheme blowing in the wind and being raked by car headlights at night, enjoying the city in all its manifestations.

• Page Hits: 2160         • Entry Date: 02 July 2002         • Last Update: 02 July 2002