The Paducah Citizens Advisory Board, DOE Site Office, DOE Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office (PPPO) and University of Kentucky (UK) researchers routinely discussed needs to provide an interactive map or maps of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP) that could be used to support discussions about industrial site cleanup, facilities demolition, waste disposal, groundwater remediation, future use, and other issues. Historically, such a request would be answered with a series of very basic, one dimensional subject matter maps.
Discussions shifted to models to address the cited needs. Models would typically be 3-D milled surface topography with topographic maps or imagery overlays – plastic trees - maybe some physical buildings. The simple milled surface model was unlikely to serve the intended uses. The size of the PGDP and the thousands of acres impacted by historical industrial operations simply would not translate well with traditional map and model approaches.
Initial discussions with the UK-College of Design indicated that a model appropriate to support multiple uses and convey multiple
relationships on a scale of the PGDP and its environs was a very achievable challenge. Proposals to build a physical model of the
PGDP site and environs were discussed, drafted, reviewed and put in place. An initial model of the PGDP and vicinity was to be
constructed for the PGDP Citizens Advisory Board at a scale of 1:350. The design of the PGDP model was generated via interactive
Design Industry methods which became the charge of the UK-College of Design (CoD) Spring 2011 Graduate Design Studio.
By the second week of the spring 2011 semester, the Graduate Design Studio had launched The Atomic Cities Project. CoD students
collected information. First, information related to the Manhattan Project was collected,
followed by information related to the City of Paducah and PGDP’s quietly kept history as a very important player in the Cold War.
The Graduate Design Studio utilized extensive site-related information compiled by the Public End State Vision Project, http://www.Paducahvision.com,
and followed up with additional information about PGDP operations, cities with similar industry, large scale aquaponic operations,
indoor food production, the railroad industry, Federal rail system upgrade plans, the radioactive materials industry, nuclear power, n
uclear power trends, the electronics industry, robotics, cities with similar histories and environmental challenges, PGDP impacts to the
environment, the two largest TCE plumes in the DOE Complex, groundwater cleanup technologies, worker and neighbor lawsuits, and the
regulatory environmental cleanup process.
By mid-semester, the Graduate Design Studio completed organization of PGDP-related information into four common module themes amongst Atomic Cities:
Energy, Economy, Education and Environment. The four modules addressed characteristics of cities with atomic pasts, similar environmental
impacts, uncertain economic futures. A fifth module "The Problem is the Solution" proposed visionary and contemporary options for future
development of the PGDP and vicinity.
Three semesters of Graduate Design Studios aptly named "Manhattan Redux", "Paducah+", and "Making City" integrated with the Spring 2011 Atomic Cities Project. Each studio developed a model relative to conveying the information related to the PGDP, infrastructure, and impacts to the local environment.
Spring and Summer 2011 Atomic Cities – Manhattan Redux Studio – 3 Dimensional Model of PGDP and Vicinity and the underlying aquifer.
Fall 2011 Atomic Cities – Paducah + Studio – Industrial Site Model
Spring 2012 Atomic Cities – (re) Making City – International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam Exhibit,
Anne Filson AIA, Filson and Rohrbacher, UK CoD Asst. Prof.
Gary Rohrbacher AIA, Filson and Rohrbacher, UK CoD Asst. Prof.
Post-Graduate Research Assistants:
Graduate Research Assistants:
DOE-EM Flickr Page – CoD PGDP Model Exhibits
Model 1 – Manhattan Redux Studio - PGDP Aquifer and Environs
PGDP PLUME MODEL Exhibition + Scientific Tool
Model 2 – Paducah + Studio – PGDP Industrial Area
PGDP INDUSTRIAL SITE MODEL Exhibition + Scientific Tool
Model 3 – Making City Studio – PGDP and Vicinity Layer Model
8 Piece PGDP Site Layers Model Exhibition + Scientific Tool
Download a copy of
"Paducah; Atomic City" by the University of Kentucky, College of Design Stuudents, January 2011.
Atomic City Book Cover
April 16th 2011 CoD Lecture in Paducah –
First Public Presentation & Discussion about PGDP Physical Models and Atomic Cities Project.
(re) Making City, HOPEFUL FUTURES,
Lessons from the Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project began in 1939 in an earnest attempt to develop the nuclear
power and weapons that were to protect the West and its global interests. The Paducah
Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP), built at the conclusion of the Manhattan Project and the
beginning of the Cold War was the first stop for all of the raw uranium to be enriched
for the nation's energy and weapons programs. Paducah was only one of dozens of
similar sites nationwide, most top-secret, each part of this network which provided essential
processing, manufacturing and services to the Nation's nuclear program.
The Atomic Cities Research Group took on the task of proposing a hopeful future
for the PGDP. Recognizing that we are not hydro geologists, economists, or decontamination
specialists, but designers, what role can we play in proposing the plant's future?
Furthermore, what is the magnitude of the contamination below? What type of contamination
exists? Should we try to preserve the jobs at the plant, or recreate them? What
can be done to preserve the enormous structures on the site?
Faced with these and other seemingly insurmountable questions, we began to exemplify
the audacity of the original Manhattan Project scientists. How were they able to
maintain confidence in the face of so many daunting questions? How did they mitigate
the risks involved in pursuing such speculative work - with almost unimaginable
consequence? Over time we have realized that this is the territory where designers
typically operate best. Not as specialists, but as generalists, we began putting
together the pieces of this enormous puzzle. Over time, we began to understand some
of the complex interrelationships that resulted in the site's present condition
and began to determine how they would need to change for progress to occur.
Download a pdf of this Display Board (approx. 6 MB)
Over the three semesters from the spring of 2011 through the spring of 2012, the Manhattan Redux and Paducah + studios have been
working as Atomic Cities Research Teams, which in turn are a part of University of Kentucky College of Design’s (UK CoD's) River
The Spring 2011 Manhattan Redux studio took on the tremendous challenge of developing
a 150 year scenario plan for one of the most contaminated top-secret
sites in the nation’s history, the Padauch Gaseous Diffusion Plant(PGDP). The site, which
has been the point of origin for fissile materials bound for both energy and defense
for the last 60 years, consequently has a nearly five mile long heterogeneous
plume of contaminants running beneath it. Slated for closure in the near future,
the PGDP has been the primary generator of the regional economy for over half a century,
initially providing tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. Closure will eliminate
the 2,500 employees that are left. Still, there is tremendous uncertainty
regarding the plume that lurks below. The Manhattan Redux studio refused to be disheartened
by this somewhat overwhelming scenario, and instead channeled the audacity of original
Manhattan Project scientists by proclaiming that instead of the region's demise,
the plant's problems are indeed the solution. The studio proposed an economy generated
by the serious undertaking of cleanup, and built a first-ever 1:350 scale model
of the site and plume itself. The model is intended to provoke conversation and
debate among scientists, and to communicate issues to the public, all with the hope
of stimulating progress toward resolution of aquifer and ground contaminations,
enabling regeneration of the site and region.
The Fall 2011 Paducah + studio started with the Manhattan Redux studio's conclusion
that the problem is the solution. The studio was organized into three groups, each
related to one another in multiple ways. In this way, a networked set of processes
was proposed. The Paducah + group considered Paducah's particular issues through
an analysis of nine global cities, each with toxic concentrations similar in size
or virulence to Paducah's plume.
This group considered Economic, Environmental,
Energy and Education (the four E's) as parameters essential to the health and growth
of any community, and they are proposing a methodology for the regeneration of these
towns through alignment and equilibration of the four E's. The Radical Remediation
team researched remediation methods and also proposed a demonstration. The proposed treatment facility for the site will be based on
a local knowledge of the infrastructure, dependent upon local labor,
focused on a local problem, but also generating intellectual capital and technical
innovations exportable to the world. The Radical Remediation group is proposing
remediation techniques at the nexus of biotech and robotics - interrelating freely
across humans, things, technology and nature. Rather than propose a typical plan,
or planning guidelines, the site team is proposing performance specifications for operations
at the site that might successfully generate continued stability and growth, across
Energy, Environment, Economy and Education - seen as the essential building blocks
of a healthy community. The site team's work is interrelated with the macro-economic
principles proposed by the Paducah + group, and the regenerative potentials found
in the Radical Remediation group.
The Spring 2012 semester's task was to gather all of the materials developed
in the first two semesters and coalesce them into a thoughtful, concise, provocative
and hopeful story. This story will be presented in several venues, including: the National Citizens Advisory Board meeting
in Paducah, attended by representatives
from all 200+ DOE legacy contaminated sites across the United States,
the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research Exhibition on April 27, where various State and Local officials were present, and as part
of UK CoD's River Cities Project at the International Architecture Bieannial Rotterdam (IABR) opening on April 18
- attended by over a 100,000 planners and designers from every country
in the world.
The studio's optimum outcome
would be to successfully link all of these venues with the idea that - The Problem
is the Solution.
Download a pdf of this
Display Board (approx. 3MB)
(re) Making City, NETWORKED COMMUNITIES,
Shared Pasts and Futures
During the Cold War, over 1200 communities across the U.S. were implicitly tied together
in a network of defense related industries and efforts. Initially, each location
benefitted from massive public investment, affording a high quality of life and
education to their citizens. Today, many of these communities are struggling both
environmentally and economically.
At the time, little was known about the consequences of these processes on the environment.
Today, as plants close down and environmental damage is assessed, jobs are disappearing
and cleanup estimates are skyrocketing. Many of these communities are becoming overwhelmed
by the question of how to handle this situation.
By evaluating several of these communities across the country and the world, the
Atomic Cities Research Group made the observation that Energy, Economy, Education
and Environment are inextricably related. Further, the health and wealth of any
community can be diagnosed through the success of numbers and kinds of interrelations
between and among these attributes at any time. To prove this hypothesis, the group
needed to learn how these elements act in different scenarios.
The team ran exhaustive comparisons of nine Atomic Cities involving almost 100 different criteria. Seven of the
sites are in the United States, but Shannon, Quebec, Canada and Seascale, England
were also considered very closely. By understanding how various cities handle cleanup,
employment, stress and health issues, education, public participation and other
factors, the Atomic Cities Research Group is starting to understand how deeply interconnected
Energy, Economy, Education and Environment really are. The Atomic Cities Research
Group believes that "Atomic" communities can learn from one another.
It is from this analysis that the team draws its greatest optimism. When clean Energy,
thriving Economy, Educated populace and a healthy Environment are poised in precise
dynamic equilibrium, the Atomic Cities Research Group believes that growth will
Download a pdf of this
Display Board (approx. 2MB)
(re) Making City, NETWORKED IMAGING,
Becoming Plant, Becoming Machine
One of the first things that the Atomic Cities Research Group was asked to do was
to provide a 1:350 physical model of ground concentrations present under the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP). We
were amazed to find that scientists typically understand the ground concentrations
primarily as sets of numbers and points. As designers we would first seek to define
the slowly moving shape, formed by underground features, dynamic attributes, and
the chemical make-up of the substances themselves.
Because of this, we began to take our imaging role very seriously. After our first
pass at the 'plume model', we began to think of
other ways to simply communicate the issues at hand.
As part of a comprehensive 'Radical Remediation' proposal, the Atomic Cities Research
Group developed a 'plume' dashboard to be used by both scientists and citizens (Figure 1).
The proposed dashboard would show every plume presently recorded, each with location
and kinds of contaminants, with or without surrounding geographic information. Residents
of any community, with contaminants or without, could log in to follow remediation
efforts, plume movements, and successful cleanup strategies.
Information on this dashboard would be gathered by swarms of networked passive,
sensing, 3d printed remediating devices or 'robots.' For these robots, rather than
the typical sources, we took inspiration from sugar maple 'propellers', floating
sticks and acorns - because nature has already designed these things to distribute
themselves(Figure 2). Composed of variable rate degradation waxes, starches and other materials,
these robots would be designed to decompose in a way that delivers remediating chemicals
where they need to be over extended periods of time.
In addition to the dashboard and the robots, the Atomic Cities Research Group also
proposed a series of hybrid species of plants that could be put into service to
help remediate. Did you know that Poplar trees have natural properties that can
help to degrade artificial chemical spills? The only problem is that these trees typically
have shallow root systems that would not reach the depth of the contaminants in
Paducah. The Group proposes grafting the Poplar tree with a plant that has a deep
root system in order to create a new species for the job.
Download a pdf of this
Display Board (approx. 12MB)
'Radical Remediation' Networked "Real-Time" Dashboard Proposal
Comprehensive 'Radical Remediation' Proposal
(re) Making City, THE PROBLEM IS THE SOLUTION
Paradoxically, one of the more difficult considerations this team faced was what
to do with the four massive buildings at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP), which at the time of construction,
were among the largest on the planet.
One would think that a team of architecture students would know precisely what should
be done with the buildings, but our hesitation was two-fold. First, there is the
issue of whether their historical use has left them too contaminated to even consider
for future uses, and next, if we were to push for their reuse, there would be the
necessity for whatever we were proposing to be as extraordinary as the structures
are themselves. In short, what we propose would need to live up to this challenge.
It did not take long to make the decision to keep the buildings in our proposal.
Polemically, they need to stay. If we are to claim the audacity of the original
Manhattan Project scientists then we needed to believe that anything is possible.
When it came time to propose what might occupy the buildings and the site, rather
than proposing something spectacular of similar scale - like an amusement park -
we instead chose to focus on something much more audacious. We wanted to find a
way in which the site could fulfill the original brief: to continue operation as
an economic generator for the city of Paducah and for the region at large for the
Taking the lessons we've learned regarding the necessary networking and constructive
interconnections of Energy, Economy, Education and Environment (the four E’s), we sought to propose
a dynamically equilibrated future scenario for the site that would hopefully lead
to future growth. Ultimately, the proposal for the site also became a description
of the interrelationships proposed between the four "E's" in our healthy communities
To successfully clean up the plume, we need a commitment to research and education
that would provide the knowledge base to make it happen. The outcome of that research
would generate an industry of remediation technologies at the nexus of biotechnology
and robotics that would occur on the site. To attract and power this industry, we
would need access to safe, clean energy that we propose would be the focus of yet
another research and education facility, also on utilize the (at some estimates)
two-century supply of nuclear site. This effort would work to find the cleanest,
safest way to energy already present. We propose (with borrowed courage from our
Manhattan Project inspiration) that this happen at the PGDP.
Ultimately, the intellectual capital generated through the successful research,
development and remediation industry generated at PGDP can become an exportable
commodity. We imagine this to transform the region into the attractor that it could
be - perhaps even resurrecting Paducah's rail past - and becoming the nexus of an
American maglev rail line.
Paducah is in an advantageous position to serve as a model of industry growth and
environmental remediation in the next century. In this way, the Atomic Cities Research
Group believes that the problem could ultimately be the solution.
Download a pdf of this
Display Board (approx. 20MB)