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Presbyterian Missions International

Typology: Theological Seminary, Community Center, Private/Student Housing

Size: 1 000 000 sqft

Location: Pitsburgh, PA

Date: Fall 2008

Instructor: Lisa Tilder

As the global economy continues to evolve the US drifts further from its status as an industrial superpower. This change in conjunction with the current economic downturn has devastated the US manufacturing, production, and building industries leaving many industry workers unemployed.

Asymmetrical global trade patterns coupled with a general long term trend of rising fuel prices results in an exponentially increasing surplus of shipping containers in American port cities. With considerably higher US labor costs, in comparison to a number of manufacturing based Asian countries it, becomes cheaper to manufacture containers overseas for single-use shipping than it is to ship empty or dead containers back to overseas manufacturers.

The Pittsburgh Theological Seminary becomes rebranded and restructured into the Presbyterian Missions International (IPM). The new corporation focuses on the repurposing of widely available and cheaply acquired shipping containers as rugged and portable missions. The IPM provides jobs to the displaced workers of the manufacturing, production, and building industries. The repurposed container missions are then shipped both domestically and internationally to spread the Presbyterian Gospel.

While the International Presbyterian missions provide humanitarian and religious aid to a number of countries while spreading Presbyterianism they also prove themselves as an invaluable teaching aid to the theological students who are able to gain a world perspective on their religious studies. The mission efforts greatly expand the former Pittsburgh Theological Seminary's mission work for which they were immensely proud of. The missions also provide a cultural asset to the community at large.

The city of Pittsburgh, which had been on a steady decline as both an industrial and port city, begins to return to its roots as a main shipping hub while helping to rebalance the asymmetrical import/export ratio of the US and the City of Pittsburgh. In contrast to the cities heritage as the Steel City that had since become part of the mid-western rust belt the city has emerged as a Presbyterian distribution center large enough in scale and influence to rival Vatican City.

The PMI works globally to generate a mesh network of outreach missions that also provide a valuable virtual teaching asset to the seminary. A similar sort of network is made at a local level to a number of existing presbyterian churches in the Pittsburgh area. The PMI partners with these churches and gives them physical chapels which are distributed throughout the housing levels of PMI building. This give the inhabitants small community areas while providing the local churches an opportunity to expand their church beyond its physical bounds. In shaping the housing levels the sponsored chapels are oriented towards their associated church. This gesturing not only provides a physical manifestation of the network but also creates a number of sectional relationships between the levels.
After thorough analysis of candidate countries 17 were chosen to become the PMI's opportunity export countries. The criteria for deciding on countries included as opportunity export partners is as follows. A heavily traveled international port with acceptable range to allow for the easy delivery of mission units. A primarily non-christian population that would make up the target audience. A government without religious sanctions that would not present opposition to the deployment of mission units. A poverty rate of at least 50% that would benefit from mission provided social services.
The lower levels of the PMI are publicly accessible and offer the community a library, classrooms, art studios, a gallery, mission outreach information office, recreation center, day care, and the PMI's primary worship hall. Also on the ground floor is the PMI's construction area where they convert shipping containers into missions for global distribution. The remaining levels of the PMI are the housing for the students and members of the community.
Virtual Chapel Field: As the PMI's international mission base grows a decentralized global field begins to emerge. Pittsburgh serves not as a central point in this global network but also as a distribution hub. A regular grid of 120 virtual chapel nodes embedded into the landscape becomes activated by the global missions. The field remains continuously active as a result of the time differences between the PMI and their global mission network.
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