a work co-op opportunity in the twin cities

Former Ford Assembly Plant Site, St. Paul, MN
Sept 2016 (2-Day Competition)
Professional Competition Design
Team Members: Sangbum Son, Tuan Trieu


"The machine lands, it produces, it assembles, and it takes off."

This project examines the industrial complex as an experimental role of architecture and urban design within the context of American industry urban edge.

  • Functions as new types of urbanized space by offering new layers of living and manufacturer environment.
  • Mega-loop is organized with essential elements such as residential units and its supportive public facilities.
  • Social engagements are highlighted by a mixture of public and private space.


The over-arching approach to this competition combines three components: Renewable Energy, Mixed-Use Development and a Worker Cooperative to create an ecologically based, resilient live-work solution for an inter-generational audience, one that is – “inextricably tied to our past and future selves”.

The Midwest has a long successful history with cooperative structures including producer, consumer and housing cooperatives. Minnesota has been a leader in electrical, farming and dairy co-ops since the 1930’s and today is considered a national model in senior housing cooperatives. Worker cooperatives are re-emerging as a significant new economic growth engine that also creates social and economic justice in communities impacted by dramatic shifts in our post-industrialized economies.



Ford Motor Company is in the process of cleaning up this brownfield former auto assembly plant site as part of their preparation to sell the land to a single master developer in 2017/2018. The Ford Site is the location of a former Ford Motor Company assembly plant in the Highland Park neighborhood of Saint Paul, MN. Ford refers to the property as “TCAP” - the Twin Cities Assembly Plant. The Ford plant operated from 1925 to 2011, starting with assembly of Model T’s and ending with production of the Ford Ranger. At its peak, the plant employed over 1,800 people.

The current area of the Ford site includes up to three properties:

  • The 122-acre main assembly plant parcel owned by Ford, located south of Ford Parkway and east of Mississippi River Boulevard.
  • The 22-acre river parcel owned by Ford, located along the Mississippi River and up to the bluff edge of Mississippi River Boulevard. The property contains a steam plant and waste water treatment plant that served the main assembly plant, and a former dump site.
  • The 13-acre railyard owned by Canadian Pacific Railway, a wedge shaped parcel located on the south border of Ford’s main parcel. The railyard and the rail spur to it served the Ford site for most of its operating years.

Directly adjacent to the site on the Mississippi River is a hydro-electric dam that was originally built to power the Ford Assembly Plant. The main redevelopment site is currently considered to be Ford’s 122-acre parcel, with inclusion of the 13-acre Canadian Pacific Railway parcel to the south.

This competition looks to explore and update specific aspects of the Ford Site as originally master planned by the ARISE Community (http://arisecommunity.com/ford-site/). The competition explores the concept of Family Wage / Green Job development on the site through Live / Work, Co- Work, Livable Office + Manufacturing as part of a Mixed-Use Production Facility nested into a much larger Mixed-Use Development.



Develop a small scale intervention on a site of one to two acres. Mixed-Use Production Facility(s) owned and operated by a Worker Cooperative. The Worker Cooperative could be patterned on the Mondagron model: http://www.mondragoncorporation.com/eng/. Competitors can select and combine from the program below to develop your scope for your small interventions – all based around the live/work cooperative setting. Specific Facility(s) might include:

  • A flexible manufacturing facility powered by PV, bio-digester + solar thermal energy.
  • Livable Research Center / Clean Tech / Education Facility
  • Live-Work Space
  • Co-Work Space
  • Daycare with outdoor recreation
  • Small retail/community support
  • Education/community center

Likely candidates for the manufacturing facility are PV manufacturers and Urban Agriculture Food processers (possibly both). The facility(s) should be planned to be at least 2 to 3 stories in height.



The debate between "the only one" and "the only another one" generates exceptional ideas on how to shape this project in the context of the suburban within the Twin Cities.

Working cooperatives should then be designed with iconographic monumentality to both memorize what was here in the past and salute to what will be here in the future. Architectural language should distinguish itself from the consistent neighborhoods. Because we are not designing another factory, we are designing the only another one. The dominating but self-duplicative nature speaks for the self. 

Hence, such cooperative becomes so in-cohesive, to such point that the place it exists does not matter, neither to the working class, nor to the local. As a matter of fact, it can almost exist anywhere that is in need of a suburban revitalization.



The project consists two distinguished phases and a long transitional span in between.

Phase one started with a comprehensive remediation on ground level while densifying the block with housing within the loop. In this process, a natural method of using planting to bio-filter contaminated soil is introduced to the site, underlying the loop with a substantial layer of vegetation. The loop residency located on an above ground level, accompanied with support amenities, smaller production, and researches facilities. As an idea of a loop, this ring ties the high density planned housing community from a much larger scale together by a continuous band of common spaces and shared facilities.

Phase two resulted from a clean site with the loop now become a central hub for high tech manufacture and collaboration. The loop transformed to a sources of research, production, and economy boost to the region. Inheriting micro infrastructure from previous phase, phase two consisted of complex transportation and building system that allow seamless connectivity throughout the sequence of research and manufacture. The new work space is designed around the essence of worker cooperative model and contemporary working environment. Not only does the loop allow the flow of work-play-research, but also engages workers from multi levels to a bonding loop of social network.