Haley O’Brien, a dual master’s candidate in architecture and construction management in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and School of Engineering and Applied Science, has a plan for the former Magic Chef facility, located at the northeastern corner of The Hill.
Architecture is about solving problems. Here are two:
* American produce is shipped an average of 1,500 miles before reaching its point of sale. For tomatoes, that figure is 1,569.
* In St. Louis, the old Magic Chef factory sits empty and unused. Yet the 13-building complex occupies 500,000 square feet of prime location at the northeastern edge of The Hill, a historic Italian-American enclave that boasts more than 40 restaurants and some of the finest eating in the Midwest.
For Haley O’Brien, a graduate architecture student in WUSTL’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, the solution was obvious. With all that red sauce, why not grow tomatoes down the street, instead of across the country?
Last spring, as part of a studio led by senior lecturer Don Koster, O’Brien developed a detailed proposal to transform the Magic Chef complex into a giant hydroponic farm. Over the summer, she presented her ideas to the current property owners, who arranged a meeting with community stakeholders and potential investors.
We sat down with O’Brien, who is pursuing a dual master’s in construction management through WUSTL’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, to discuss hydroponics, redevelopment and the sensitivities of designing in the city’s most distinctive neighborhood.