Reid Hetzel, a recent graduate student of the two-year M.Arch program was recognized with the Design Excellence Award for his thesis “Giga Shed Urbanism - Reimagining the Tesla Gigafactory as Civic Space”.
Buffalo was one of America’s most prominent manufacturing cities until its decline after the mid–20th century. Its industrial architecture, both revolutionary and globally iconic, served as precedents for modernism. A few pivotal government interventions in Buffalo heavily boosted its economic development and its manufacturing capabilities. These public subsidies generated various forms of urbanism over time. The most recent subsidy, announced in 2012, was Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative, which allocated $1.5 billion dollars to the metropolitan area for bolstering economic growth. A central component to the fund was re-industrialization, with $750M dedicated towards the construction of a 1.2 million square-foot solar panel manufacturing facility in South Buffalo. This monolithic, state-owned structure was later leased to Tesla in 2016, becoming a part of a global chain of Gigafactory’s operated by the corporation.
This thesis reimagines the Gigafactory as a new kind of civic space by problematizing the current paradigm of economic subsidies. It explores the various ways that this facility can be reconfigured to serve as a district-scale power generator, foster a more diverse economy, and enhance the ongoing ecological remediation efforts in the area. Research methods consist of an in-depth mapping of the site, general history of the city’s economic development, and government interventions, along with a comparative analysis of Tesla plants, solar panel factories, and industrial facilities that could serve as a precedent for the Buffalo case.
“The next step in the process is to finalize the thesis document. Since my research is very graphical, I hope to eventually provide UB’s Abbott Hall Library with a physical copy of my work. One of my favorite parts of the thesis process was sharing moments of excitement and enthusiasm with my committee over the past two semesters,” says Reid.
Reid Hetzel (MArch '21)
"Giga Shed Urbanism - Reimagining the Tesla Gigafactory as Civic Space"
Erkin Ozay (chair)