WAY BEYOND BIGNESS
...OR TOWARDS A WATERSHED ARCHITECTURE
“[Bigness] implies a web of umbilical cords to other disciplines whose performance is as critical as the architect’s: like mountain climbers tied together by life saving ropes, the makers of Bigness are a team…Beyond signature, Bigness surrenders to technologies; to engineers, contractors, manufacturers; to politics; to others. It promises architecture a kind of post-heroic status — a realignment with neutrality.”
-Rem Koolhaas, "Bigness or the Problem of the Large," in S,M.L, XL, 1995
Water is our thread, guiding our qualities of shared lives...
Life and society depend upon water. We often fail to appreciate that the molecular connection is so essential. Recent human-altered catastrophes in the USA alone such as Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf Coast BP Oil Spill, Superstorm Sandy, the California Drought,and the Mississippi floods, place front-and-center that our technological supremacy over water can have unintended—oftentimes disastrous—effects. We are Repetitively Reactive, rather than Positively Proactive.The status quo is unacceptable – economically,environmentally, and socially irresponsible.
Water ultimately flows where water wants to flow...
Water may be the most politicized commodity on earth. But ironically water is apolitical. Take the New Orleans region as an example. New Orleans has become ground zero for all things human-made-water disasters — hurricanes, oil spills, flooding rivers, sinking lands, disappearing wetlands, rising seas and yes, even droughts. However, it is important that New Orleans is not alone. Water is a continental issue and of course water is a global issue. Water—if not already so—will become the global crisis.
What happens downstream starts far upstream...
In the face of uncertain issues of climate change, extreme weather, sea-level rise and population fluctuations (exploding/depleting), significant attention is brought to the comparative studies of deltas and their urbanized developments, “Delta Urbanisms” — arguably the economic life-blood of most nations’ economies. However, it is crucial to take a bigger step back and understand deltas and their urbanisms, not just within themselves, but also within their larger distribution contexts—watersheds (or more technically – river basins).
Water is the source, our mutual resource...
But since I am an optimist architect, I truly believe that deltas, their urbanisms, and their much larger scale distributive river basin scale contexts must be the models for 21st and 22nd century hydro-regions. But this optimism is not foolhardy idealism. Actually, it is rather pragmatic. In other words, hydro-regions, such as New Orleans and river urbanisms up and down the Mississippi River Basin such as Minneapolis/St. Paul, St. Louis and Memphis, must get their fundamentals straight. These fundamentals first begin with a return to basics. A foundational understanding that water is the primary component of the actual ground that is occupied.
Know why water is where you are; where water comes from; where water goes...
As architects, it is our responsibility to appreciate, understand, address, and draft possibilities of how the management of water ultimately impacts—and potentially prioritizes—our design decisions. These global fundamentals must reinstate an understanding of the complicated built environments we and all other species share—ones we cannot continue to dominate with hard-line and static interventions, but rather ones we should begin to design with adaptive and dynamic negotiations. To get to this notion of adaptation, architects must become better aware of architecture’s multi-scaled relationships, both spatially and temporally. This is not just for architecture’s sake, but also more importantly for architecture’s multi scaled integration within landscapes, urbanisms; and, ultimately the larger distribution contexts of watersheds that all architecture, landscape architecture and urbanisms inhabit. And by multi-scale, this means in both space and time, physically and dynamically. The architecture may not manifest in a building per se. In other words, the inevitable—and hopefully smarter—next step in the cause and effect networking of human manipulated environments.
[WA] proposes a 4-part integrative, design-based METHODOLOGY:
DOCUMENT + MOBILIZE [D+M]
COMPARE + ANALYZE [C+A]
SPECULATE + SYNTHESIZE [S+S]
ENGAGE + CATALYZE [E+C]