Monday, December 15, 2008

image_new orleans proposal

Harvard School of Design project. "Floating on a Sinking City." See link.

(thanks, Cutul)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

image_tiber river

The Tiber River in Italy is overfilling its banks. Read more in the NYTimes article.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Turns out there is someone already working on my thesis project. In the Netherlands. These images all come from's website. Click here for an interview, and here for the firm's website. Wow. This is great.

quote from interview:
"Koen Olthuis of says that despite our civilization’s history of trying to drain and fight against wet landscapes for the past thousand years, our best move for the future would be to “let water in and even make friends with the water”."

How can I think about these issues differently? What will the integration of floating, water-friendly structures be into the existing urban fabric?
How do you deal with the incremental change of rising sea-levels? What can stay? What should be preserved? What's safe? What needs to be entirely rethought?

Thanks, Nicolette!

image_nytimes preservation predicament

With rising sea levels, urban edges are at risk. A NYTimes article goes into depth describing what this means in terms of preservation of biologically rich landscapes. Wetlands are largely at risk as they lack an ability to move inland due to the existing conditions of the built environment. As are islands. Ecologists and conservation ecologists ponder how landscapes already under preservation will survive climatic changes. Can they survive? Coral reefs have already been devastated.
Moreover, "Others worry about efforts to restore the fresh water flow of the Everglades, given that much of it will be under water as sea level rises. Some geologists say it may be advisable to abandon efforts to preserve some fragile coastal barrier islands and focus instead on allowing coastal marshes to migrate inland, as sea level rises."
This article seems to be in conversation with the introduction of Discordant Harmonies. Do we fall under the belief that "nature knows best," or do we understand and realize that the environmental history of the world has been one of continuous and incremental change? And if so, where can we position ourselves within this dialogue?

(thanks for the article, Ivan)

image_hydra house

Jennifer Siegal and her offfice, Office of Mobile Architecture, proposed the "Hydra House." In her brief, the project is described as "a mass-customized mobile modular structure that is responsive to environmental issues of global warming and water desalination and recycling."

"The structural stalks are separated into chassis (providing internal structure, power, communication, mechanical, and a self-sufficient energy collecting system), and mass-customized elements (for interior build-outs, exterior and interior skins, electronics, and communications)..."

The structures are embedded with intelligence. As described,
"1. Water: rain water with stretched bladder and desalination (97% of the planet’s water is salt water in the seas and oceans) and treated waste water. Each tube either pulls sea water upward (see bottom skin punctures drawing directly from the ocean) or distributes desalinized water downward to provide potable and washing water.
2. Power: photovoltaics, salt crystalization, and thermocouple energy conductors
3. Communication + Mechanical: global knowledge and plumbing

Pneumatic Exterior Skin: 2 layers of inflated neoprene

Liquefied Connections: suction-like tentacles attach to each independent housing unit, forming colonies and allowing for external passage.

Floating Garden: each independent housing unit has an attached self-sufficient floating garden. These Lily pads stem from Hydra House’s structural stalks, using an umbilical cord to provide fresh water and nutrients gives life and feeds the floating garden."

For more information, click here, and scroll down to the second project.

(Thanks, Joy!)

Monday, December 8, 2008

research_discordant harmonies

In the book Discordant Harmonies by Daniel Botkin, the author discusses a "new ecology for the 21st century." Its introduction in particular is quite revelatory in that it begs for a new approach to environmentalism, one different from its often negative attitude and tries to avoid the stipulations of the past, ie nature is the machine, nature is the creature, nature is divine. All of these conceptualizations often create a "nature knows best attitude." They omit the fact that in the history of the world change has been inevitable. On p.9, Botkin states, "Change now appears to be intrinsic and natural at many scales of time and space in the biosphere. Nature changes over essentially all time scales, and in at least some cases these changes are necessary for the persistance of life, be life is adopted to them." This condition suggests that change is a natural process, and perhaps making any intervention even more frightening.

I find the point Botkin makes in opening of his book particularly compelling. He begins with a photograph of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy. He describes it as, "heavy but graceful architecture, set against the motion of the coastal waters." The foundation of the church was sed to be made by driving 1,106,657 trunks of alder, oak and larch into the muddy lagoon to build a foundation. Submerging these tree trunks under water protected them from air, and therefore decay. This still serves as the foundation today. The Venetians faced the problem of stabilizing the ground. They moved to the area during the 5th and 6th centuries in order to avoid the fleeing Germanic tribes (Lombards) destroying the Roman Empire. They were forced to move to the marsh lands as they were defensible.

Botkin relates our position today to those of the Venetians one thousand years ago. He states, "While impelled by necessity, the first Venetians did not go to those marshes so long ago empty-handed, without the benefit of civilization. They brought with them three things: ideas, techniques, and a perspective of the world--how nature works, how people might change nature, and how the world in the future might be different from the world they had known in the past. Today, we are in a position in relation to the environmnet of our entire planet similar to that of the ancient settlers of Venice in relation to the marshes of the Adriatic. We see problems shifting before us whose solutions are unclear." What are the ideas, techniques, and perspective of the world today that we can use to address urbanism? To address rising sea-levels?

image_amphawa, thailand

These images come from a floating market in Amphawa, Thailand. For more information, go to this blog. Another example includes Damnoen Saduak. These floating markets are an extension of existing markets and are popular for tourists. They use the network of Thai's waterways as a manner by which to trade and sell good and food.

images_boston project

Volume: Unsolicited architecture. 2007. Issue 4.
Project #6: Flooding the Mail.
pre-emptive design for Boston's future.
Damian Chan.

(thanks, Ivan!)

images_beirut project

Volume: Unsolicited architecture. 2007. Issue 4.
Project #5: Offshore Urbanism.
voluntarily unbuilding infrastructure.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

image_history of the city

These images came from Benevolo's The History of the City. The first image shows the growth of London from 1830 to 1960. Notice that it is originally concentrated around the Thames, and as it grows it spins out from that node (probably a correlation to highways). The second image is a photograph of Quai du Rosaire, Bruges. This photograph highlights the condition of living on water. The third image shows the outer ports of Bruges, Sluyes, and Damme. This image shows fortified density along the river for trade, depicted with the boats.
The most revelatory image is the fourth image, a map predicting population density by Doxiades forecast for the end of the 21st century. Notice that the population concentrates on the coasts. What happens when the coasts get increasingly encroached by rising sea levels?

research_the human mosaic

During this process of researching precedents of water and architecture, and flooding conditions, I began to ponder an obvious question. Why are so many cities founded on water? I looked to a geography book, The Human Mosaic by Jordan, for the answers. In the book, Jordan states:

"The tendency to live on or near the seacoast exists, for a variety of reasons. The continents of Eurasia, Australia and South America resemble hollow shells, with the majority of the population clustered around the rim of each continent. In Australia, half the total population lives in just five port cities, and most of the remainder is spread out over nearby coasts. This preference for living by the sea stems partly from the trade and fishing opportunities the sea offers. At the same time, continental interiors tend to be regions of climatic extremes. For example, Australians speak of the "dead heart" of their continent, an interior land of excessive dryness and heat. People also seek places where fresh water is available. In desert regions, population clusters reflect the locations of scattered oases and occasional rivers, such as the Nile, that rise from outside the desert."

Talking to Robert Lemon, a graduate student at UC Berkeley currently in the landscape program who studied geography for his previous degree, he explicitly stated that there are four basic reasons:
1. Natural resource (drinking)
2. Protection (Rivers fortification)
3. Production (Rivers: Mills to power generation)
4. Trade (Rivers and Bays as transit points)

The diagrams above are also found from the book The Human Mosaic. They show different water cities that are either serve defensive or trade-route purposes.

On page 331 of the book, it states:
"Imagine the 2 million years that humankind has spent on the Earth as a 24-hour day. In this framework, settlements of more than a hundred people came about only in the last half-hour. Towns and cities emerged only a few minutes ago, and large-scale urbanization began less than 60 seconds ago. Yet it is during these "minutes" that we see the rise of civilization."
In this description, cities seem young, suggesting to me that the conventions with which we urbanize can be reconsidered.

How can I take the knowledge of why cities settle where they do and deploy it for change? How many of those four factors are still relevant? They all still seem valid. Can I use them as way to generate a new solution? It may just be valuable to be aware of these conditions.

(thanks, Robert!)

image_nyc underwater ad


Olifar Eliasson's waterfall project in Manhattan. Here are links to two New York Times articles, one talking about introducing the project to NYC, the other discussing Eliasson's concept. He uses scaffolding at the scale of its urban surroundings--and the waterfall because he believes Americans do not value their relationship to the sea as Europeans. Throughout history, he said, New Yorkers “have always taken water for granted.” He added: “Now people can engage in something as epic as a waterfall, see the wind and feel its gravity. You realize that the East River is not just static.”

(thanks, Maris!)

Monday, December 1, 2008

image_venice is flooding today

Article in the New York Times describes the worst flooding Venice has seen in 20 years, over 61 inches deep. The water raised to quickly to install the walkway system used during flooding. There is also a news clip you can watch on to hear more information.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

images_tenochtitlan and chinampas

Tenochtitlan is an Aztec City built on a lake, an island city. Its agriculture was based on chinampas, "narrow, rectangular beds or platforms, which are constructed by alternating layers of lake mud and thick mats of decaying vegetation (cespedes) o ver shallow lake bottoms, or in marshy zones" (Calnek 105). For more information about Tenochtitlan, click here, or for chinampas click here.

image_loftboat book

images_floating home book

These cartoonish images begin to show some of the necessary systems and infrastructure for floating homes and living on the water.