All That Is Solid

Swamp Thing

source: All That Is Solid

Due to global warming water levels are predicted to rise 16 inches by 2050 and 55 inches by 2100, an unprecedented natural phenomenon that threatens the livelihood of every waterfront city worldwide. Despite increasing awareness and desire to solve these problems, we must accept that a first generation of disasters will and may already have crashed down upon us. We have been witness to tidal waves in the South China Seas and levee failure in New Orleans. Our proposal, Swamp Thing, accepts Disaster as founding principles, where only through initial shock and transformation will policies and political will conjure the creative forces of human action and design.

Instead of proposing a panacea for rising tides, conjuring images of post-war mega structural projects, this proposal seeks a soft peristructural system, where sensitivity to existing maritime and land-based systems works around and along with existing infrastructure. We envision a time-released cellular floating network of islands that will grow over decades so that the ‘Swamp Thing’ project can leech into our consciousness and watershed ecologies. The peri-structure is defined as a passive infrastructure that enhances the emergence of natural systems along the edges where many ecologies sit on the verge of collapse. This system is simultaneously universal as maritime deployment and site-specific, intervening only in the proper urban and bionomic conditions.

For this investigation, floating donut shaped islands and buoys will be released into the San Francisco Bay. Units will be programmed and designed in a myriad of ways. Along urban coasts, floating farms and fish hatchery islands ca serve consumers and shorten the chain of food distribution. Elsewhere, the gradual accumulation of marsh islands will piggy-back off of existing dredging channels so that infill is put to good use and increases biodiversity while subduding storm surges. This multi-programmed network will work as passive levees or flood tanks to store, capture, and reuse water. The islands will also be equipped with sustainable and passive technologies that include hydro-electric power and self-irrigation. Rather than shoring up coastal cities against rising tides, this responsive system will restore the watershed so that the net result is a hybrid peri-structure that protects against storm surges, erratic weather patterns, and urban mismanagement.

The ultimate goal of this hybrid system is to reduce hard infrastructure and its dependence on the mechanized control of water levels. Our belief is that emergent micro-ecologies embedded in natural systems provide far more diverse and responsive systems than any artificial mega-structure could ever possibly rationalize. Swamp thing will maximize the wetland biotope so that is capacity to absorb and release flood waters will effectively dampen the destructive impacts on the shore line. The integration of natural habitat, both land based through the introduction of flood zones and marine based through the proliferation of islands, creates a thickened and diffuse urban edge that dramatically changes the coastal landscape. Over time as the water’s edge becomes repurposed and pixilated the traditional notions of property value and coastal archi-type will be radically altered. The future promises a fundamentally altered vision of the city so that a heterogeneous mixture of built and natural environs will produce a new sensation of the picturesque.

Swamp Thing, like the original sci-fi comic book character, is an aberrant effect of man and nature’s interaction, a transformative bifurcation of the megalopolis at waters’ edge fusing into a never before seen organism. The original SWAMP THING begins as a cautionary tale where scientific ambition results in a transformative disaster. Unreflective and unhinged human research is taken over by natural reactive forces. As Alex Olsen, the scientist, becomes consumed by swamp forces, he can no longer return home or reclaim his sweetheart and is forced to return to the swamp. In various incarnations, SWAMP THING’s identity is constantly reworked in many ways by subsequent authors. In some versions he retains his human identity yet is disfigured by the swamp’s recombinant material. In others, SWAMP THING is just that, an animated swamp force thinking itself to be Alex. Whatever the final version may be, we will have arrived at a Man-Thing scenario, where human development and survival is contingent upon its ability to reconcile itself to natural forces. We must design and engineer complexity into our urbanism so that we may coexist in the multiplication of our ecologies.

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