Project: The Culture Now Project: High speed / small town
Location: Merced, CA
Designers: Dylan Barlow, Wayne Ko, Sepa Sama
Year: 2011
Program: University of California, Los Angeles
Faculty Advisors: Thom Mayne, Karen Lohrmann

Project Description: Connecting isolated opportunities to create integrative solutions: How high speed rail and a state university will change the culture of California.

Located in California’s agricultural heartland, the city of Merced is experiencing rapid transformation from rural town to urban campus. With the establishment of the newest University of California campus in 2005 and a proposed station for the state’s high-speed rail line, a city once recognized only for agricultural production has been expanding quickly into the 21st century.

With the proposed high speed rail system, Merced’s access to the economic and cultural hubs of the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles becomes possible. The high speed rail provides the conduit for expanding the reach of students attending a university founded on research and innovation. The rail station and university act as catalysts for High Speed Small Town’s proposed small town growth.

Rejecting existing plans that separate the city and university by a $400 million highway, High Speed Small Town aligns diverse interests into a hybrid urban system that encourages shared infrastructures and symbiotic expansion of education and culture.

This approach for Merced’s future growth engages three central components: the city, the rail station, and the university. By extending agricultural crops from the existing city’s edge and centralizing the university’s infrastructure, we create an integrated model for landscape preservation, city expansion and university outreach.

Merced has the potential to expand the dialogue for how a hinterland city can utilize existing assets and shared infrastructure to represent the twenty-first century high-speed university. What happens when extreme growth meets successful agriculture? How do you deal with the future now? How does a city prepare? High Speed Small Town seeks to explore and answer these questions.

Project Background: This project is one of eight proposals presented under the 2010-2011 UCLA MArch II Suprastudio. From August 2010 to June 2011, Thom Mayne, Design Director of Morphosis, Karen Lohrmann, and a group of advisors have been leading fourteen post graduate architecture and urban design graduate students in an inquiry about the dynamics of culture now. The project is going forward next year to include thirteen other universities with the hope of creating an extensive discussion about contemporary culture and the nature of American cities. Additional work and information is available for download on the suprastudio website.

Image Captions:
Image 1: City Analysis: Observing the Geography, city image, cultural climate, and local leadership a strange network of possibilities is formed.
Image 2: California re-organized: With the advent of hi-speed rail travel, the city of Merced, CA will be an hour away from Los Angeles, and San Francisco. This infrastructural addition will dramatically change California’s cultural landscape.
Image 3: Move the UC into the city: Both the University and the city are growing. We propose a symbiotic expansion of both and suggest the UC align with the city. If the city is integrated with the University then precious farm land may be preserved and the city will have opportunities to intensify.
Image 4: Proposed timeline: Growth pattern are re-thought over the course of 50 years. Out model shows the university moving into the city.
Image 5: Save some money: The city is proposing to build two majors roads to connect the university and the city. These new roads will be expensive and they will also cause the city to consume farmland. This could be avoided by mobbing the University into the city.
Image 6: Merced 2050: A hybrid model of dense city and agriculture is very appropriate and positions Merced as a culturally unique place in California.