Circular City + Living Systems Lab

May 5, 2014

Landscape of Fulfillment: Re-examining Infrastructures for E-Commerce Distribution in Los Angeles

Bennett Sapin, MArch 2014

Bennett Sapin, MArch 2014


The logistical infrastructures supporting the transport and distribution of consumer goods has created a disjuncture in the urban landscape, severing the local space of the city from the space of global product flows. Sprawling agglomerations of mega-warehouses, (such as Amazon “Fulfillment” centers) disregard the local communities that they border, and create environmental concerns due to trucking of freight across increased distances. The rapid growth of e-commerce retail has further separated consumers from the physical realities of distribtion, yet has paradoxically created a need for these facilities to be located closer to urban populations. Capitalizing on this trend, this thesis proposes a new model for a consolidated e-commerce fulfillment center, intermodal freight terminal, and retail marketplace on an industrial site near Downtown Los Angeles. By bringing the point-of-exchange back to the site of product distribution in the form of a retail marketplace, this thesis aims to “revive” a classic retail typology in a new urban context – ultimately bringing consumers into direct contact with this infrastructure. Eschewing the current horizontal warehouse typology, a vertical storage typology is proposed, allowing the interweaving of multiple programmatic elements along a new plane of public activity, and the regeneration of land formerly occupied by sprawling railyard operations. Through these design tactics a new synthesis between infrastructure, public activity, and urban space in Los Angeles emerges.

Thesis Committee

Gundula Proksch
Rick Mohler
Ann-Marie Borys