Work title: Urban Wetland (0000901776)
The current pattern of human settling and building constitutes the main force responsible for the current environmental crisis. Changing this pattern requires a tremendous effort in both the political and social areas of life, as well as new practices and models of habitation and building. The need for a new, sustainable way of building renders the expertise of architects and planners as obsolete. Furthermore, focus on sustainability is often misplaced on new constructions instead of addressing the highly damaging existing built environment.
Using Guattari’s concept of ecosophy, this project aims at starting the process of urban repair by transforming Atlanta’s “Gulch” into an inhabitable wetland. Located in the heart of downtown, the “Gulch” stands today as a vast, desolate area, covered with surface parking, railtracks and host to an ever-increasing homeless population. Its surface - the city’s original ground level - became an “underground” along with the contruction of downtown viaducts and the decline of the railroad industry. The current “plans” envisioned for this area by city officials depict an intermodal transit hub, sprinkled with slogans of “sustainability” and “mixed use”.
The project unfolding below proposes the creation of a wetland covering the Gulch in its entirety. The wetland’s main purpose is to rethink the use and management of one of Atlanta’s most scarce resources: water. Far from being simply a new landscape, the wetland is intended to become an urban “water facility”, where plants, birds, fish, and humans will learn to cohabitate. At a primary level, the new facility consists of a series of viaduct parasitic constructions aimed at collecting waste and runoff water and purify it through processes naturally occuring in any wetland. Given their efficiancy in providing clean water, these new constructions will become in time sought-after shelters and will offer multiple nesting opportunities. The filtered water will be used for irrigation purposes in the areas adjacent to the Gulch or will return to the “nests” via processing spaces built in the heart of the marsh. The mountain-like constructions will support a series of recycling related activities and as the population soars will provide oppotunities for becoming socially active spaces. The size of the Gulch wetland can provide clean recycled water to a population of 12,000.
The construction of the wetland is as important as its function. Here, new ways of building become linked to novel social practices and a redefinition of the relationship between humans and environment. The “isolation” of the wetland in the heart of the city encourages the formation of new communities as alternate societies capable to address environmental issues in specific ways. More than anything else, the artificial wetland is conceived as a laboratory aimed at becoming an off-grid, self-sustaining unit. In this process of appropriation and negotiation of newly acquired boundaries, a new urban vernacular, based on addition and subtraction and integration of new technology, may arise. The ultimate goal is to use this “facility” to grow architecture.