Last quarter a group of Cal Poly Pomona architecture and structural engineering students with professors Axel Schimitzberger and Dr. Mikhail Gershfeld conducted a multi disciplinary studio to design prototype tsunami evacuation facilities. The purpose of the studio was to design a temporary shelter during an earthquake/tsunami event and use the structure for other purposes in other times. Students had to design structures from precast concrete and steel. Needlessly to say the work was evolved to the advance levels of structural integrity and architectural innovation. As a final jury member I was impressed not only with the designs but also the simultaneous and symbiotic relationship of the two disciplines in a creative studio environment.
Here is a quote from the studio objectives.
“We anticipate some lively discussions between members of the two disciplines, revealing the different vocabularies of the two cultures. Architecture students will have to explain what they mean by the term “materiality” and engineering students will need to explain what a SAP model is. Civil engineering students will learn about the open ended nature of design studio classes, which involve a lot of free-spirited discussion and speculation rather than lectures and quizzes. They will be challenged by the non-standard shapes architecture students propose which will require thinking beyond standard structural models and they will have to deal with restrictive architectural parameters (yes, we really want it to be that thin and no, we don’t want a structural support there). The architecture students will have to learn about the impact of structural requirements on their visions and to collaborate (ok, in order to keep it that thin, we can add another structural support) to produce a viable design. Civil engineering students will learn to make informed aesthetic judgments and architecture students will learn how their aesthetic choices affect and are affected by structural considerations.”
Hotel Aurelia program optimizes on the necessary coastal location of each structure, and allows for modular units to be composed and implemented within the free plan. The modularity of the structure allows building to be higher or lower based on the needs of the surrounding community. All the main components of the building are precast and sized to fit on trucks.
Another project Domo Nebulus, looked into reducing the footprint and allowed more refuge footage as the structure went upward during the tsunami while serving as a aeroponic farm and as an open market in other times.
One project named JA3HM2 was a neighborhood bar which doubled as a tsunami shelter which is estimated to occur every hundred years.
VWTF is a public infrastructure that utilizes contemporary technologies to treat the waste water in an environmentally responsible way while simultaneously offering community education and recreation services while providing disaster relief and refuge. It is thought to be deployed on West Coast tsunami danger zones.
At the end students I talked to expressed how they have benefited from the experience.
For architecture students, it was the challenge of meeting the strict requirements of structural realities under radical conditions and their integration into architectural design without compromising the initial goals while developing concepts.
For the engineering students, it was the unusual way of stepping out of the 'box' they are accustomed to, and seeing imaginative and creative possibilities of engineering.
Both teams expressed the fact many areas of their skills overlapped and no matter how extreme the forces of tsunamis and earthquakes can be, it was possible to design structures those had great chance of surviving and saving lives.
Gabriela Barajas Garcia
Milagro Jasmine Carpio