Reconciling Infrastructural Artefacts
























































Reconciling Infrastructural Artefacts

Roberto Boettger


Is it possible that redundant operative form is able to define future infrastructure? The testing grounds are the mutually exclusive operational fields of Smithfield Meat Market (1868) and Farringdon Crossrail Station (2017). The latter is projected to pass 27 meters below the market building. As the operations of the meat-packing shrink because of demand, its obsolete infrastructural elements are revealed through a process of dismantling, cutting and underpinning. The strategy is to puncture the horizontality of the Market with the verticality of the Crossrail, and to negotiate material and operational aspects into new form by reutilizing what is able to gather and transmit. The reconciliation in question is part Meat Market, part Crossrail, and it immediately calls into question known conventions of both operative forms.


How does the physical model help in exploring this new horizontal vertical connection between the two distinct functions?

This question perhaps addresses the difference between ‘illustrative’ and ‘working’ models. The former is usually done when the project is already finished and it serves to illustrate a consolidated design. The latter, on the other hand, is an integral part of the design process and it lends a level of abstraction that allows for opportunities. By modeling fragments of the existing and rearranging them in different ways I was able to explore new formal possibilities and programatic relationships.

To what extent does the materiality of the model relate to your proposal? 

The making of the model became as important as the finished objects themselves. What is interesting about casting is that it forces you to think about the negative of the spaces in order to fabricate the mold into which the plaster will be poured. The mold pieces were derived from tracing original Victorian drawings from the London Metropolitan Archive, then making a 3D model with software, and finnaly cutting out the pieces into polystyrene by CNC Milling machines.


You explore your project three dimensionally; do you trust that only through this means are you are able to explore the connection your project proposes?

Both artefacts have very specific spatial configurations that are defined by functionality. My first task was to segregate these operations by individual spatial organizations (i.e. docking, distribution, butchering, wholesale, platforms, circulation shafts, ticket hall). Once you bring this information together on site, you start to see overlays and overlaps between these different mechanisms. As a resut, if you cut a slice out from a given area, you get intricate three-dimentional compositions that offer unique, piranesi-like spaces of how the proposed reconciliation may take form.

What lead to the choice of materiality of this new hybrid space? Why and how did you purposefully move away from the actual design of the cross rail stations? (

The Crossrail proposes 42 kilometers of tunnel digging under London which will bring in 100,000 daily visitors into the inner city. If you look at the renders of these spaces – which, for the time being, existing only in the state of planning applications or construction sites – you notice that they are very linear, generic spaces. The great thing about the generic is that it allows for the exception to take place. At the particular site of Farringdon Station, in the meantime, you have the adjacent Victorian infrastructure of a diminishing Smithfield Meat Market, originally very ingenuously designed with layers of mechanisms that would catter for the meat-packing. I wanted to question the nature of these two operative forms within the urban by reutilising what is able to gather and transmit.

We live in a period were the consumption of meat is under great scrutiny and were people are moving further and further away from the consumption of the matter, what are the moral implications of your proposal?

The reason Smithfield Meat Market’s future is uncertain is because people are now buying their meat straight from supermarkets, skipping the market altogether. At the same time, you have a brand new field of operations arriving: the Crossrail. While one is concerned with the circulation of carcasses, the other is about the circulation of passengers. The project plays on with this ambiguity between what is Meat Market and what is Crossrail. This leads, at times, to one operation spilling onto the other or the clashing of different time-frames of occupancy. Very familiar, everyday spaces suddenly become estranged.




Roberto Boettger is an architect based in Rio de Janeiro and London, having trained at the Architectural Association. He has worked in The Netherlands at OMA and collaborates with magazines The Architectural Review, Domus and AU


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