Gradually, Fiercely: Amazon and the Urbanism of Fulfillment

by David Zielnicki (MLA ’17) — Recipient of Gerald M. McCue Nomination

Amazon operates at the scale of the planet: it is a commercial force engaging city and countryside to shape 21st-century systems of consumption. Amazon’s physical manifestation—its “fulfillment network”—mirrors its expansive business structure. Autonomously mechanized fields grow in the countryside while cities are further wired for fulfillment. This increasingly abstracted and sprawling support infrastructure is contrasted with the intensely personal and discrete experience of digital shopping.

Here, the paradox is collapsed through the hybridization of e-commerce logistics with ecological logics. Consumerism and ecology find common ground with the norms of dissolution, dispersal, spread, and openness.

Louisville, Kentucky, with its access to 75 percent of the US population in a 2-hour-or-less delivery chain, becomes the testing ground for the Urbanism of Fulfillment. The city embraces the complete pervasion of digitally-enabled transactions to subvert traditional forms of consumer-based urbanism and manifest contemporary ecological ideals.