Storage City

Abirami Manivannan

Civic Futures


Bryan Boyer


Can hoarding energy become a source of community agency?

Anticipating that the climate challenges of the world only increase with time, some neighborhoods near the waterfront will abdicate their shoreline due to accelerated sea-level rise. Having already experienced episodic flood events, these neighborhoods could take concrete steps to imagine new, more civic futures beginning with building frameworks for addressing the need for stable energy infrastructure.

Energy storage is the missing ingredient in the recipe for stable renewable electricity; as we embed these storage infrastructures into the heart of the neighborhoods, we also need to speculate ways in which the batteries and containers can transform from being alienating objects that just hoard energy to objects that foster small scale economic appropriation and create emergent cultural affordances.

Storage City shows that the logic of hoarding—the first capitalistic tactic—can be repurposed to amplify community agency for social and urban transformation.

While capitalist economies are based on ‘excess’ production and consumption, Storage City proposes a system where communities have just ‘enough’ to sustain themselves. Capitalism is a global network, and the energy systems of capitalism are large scale, regional or national, and thus subject to large scale power dynamics that risk leaving behind the marginalized or ‘small’ players like a neighborhood of immigrants, precariats, and(or) ethnic cultures. Storage City provides mechanisms of independence within the city, not by the abandonment of capitalism altogether, but by sowing the seeds of self-sufficiency to create space, mental and physical, to rethink capitalist systems of energy, economy, and culture.

These radical changes begin at a grassroots level in the form of these de-institutions that show the power of empowered community response when our city, world, and its institutions fail us.

These pockets of catalytic storage take a stand against the entities from which it has been separated while still functioning as a standalone piece of architecture. Instead of working towards a complete city that is possible only when urbanization and capitalism attain their peaks, Storage City focuses on incompleteness: a state of being where rethinking existing constructs and infrastructures of the city enables new possibilities for the city, its people, and the world.