In the late twentieth century oil refineries have influenced the architectural imagery producing some of the most iconic building to date. The Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Lloyds building in the City of London introduced exposed pipes and ducts in the very centre of Europe’s biggest metropolis. Those highly popular buildings defined the High Tech style, a refined glorification of technology.
But what made this buildings so appealing to the general public is the sheer quality of their detailing. Sleek, polished and expressive, it transcends the pure function. As critic Reyner Banham noted, “any single detail would be virtually inconceivable in normal engineering practice”. This is why oil and gas facilities, from upstream to downstream, while sharing with them a common language, are far from the quality of such milestones of contemporary architecture. Their built form does not express the quality of the technology that lies under their skin, failing to convey a fundamental message to potential buyers.
But, although crucial, good detailing in itself is not enough.
In a fashion not akin to the typical desert natural or man made settlements, from oasis to caravanserai, midstream gas stations have not an apparent ordering principle. Deprived of a defined shape and without even a controlling envelope, they are arrays of loosely connected buildings, casually scattered over the site, their components roughly detailed, their landscaping thoughtless.
If we want to move forward, we have to go back to the space defining principle of the oasis and the caravanserai, or look into the science fiction future of the extraterrestrial stations.
Grounded on those precedents, the midstream station of the future will be defined by a compact shape arranged along the lines of a radial plan.
It will grow organically from its surroundings…