UC Berkeley (Nick)



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    WPA 2.0

    Nick Sowers
    Dec 15, '09 4:08 AM EST

    While I was out inspecting bunkers and imagining how they might be integrated into some kind of territorial infrastructure for the Atlantic coast/North Sea this past fall, two teams working under Berkeley professors were busy putting together their phase II proposals for the WPA 2.0 competition sponsored by UCLA's cityLAB. Ron Rael/Virginia San Fratello and Nicholas de Monchaux (Ron and Nicholas are my advisors for thesis) along with their teams composed largely of Berkeley students, were selected along with four other teams out of 300 entries nationwide. They just got back from Washington D.C. a few weeks ago, and though neither team ended up coming out on top, I think it's great that some ideas and conceptual practices from Berkeley got national attention. Here's just a few quick snippets from the projects:

    Rael San Fratello Architects: Border Wall as Infrastructure

    Bi-National Library in Nogales, Arizona by Rael San Fratello Architects

    From the project website:

    By some measures, the U.S. Secure Fence Act of 2006 funded the single largest and most expensive building project in the United States of the 21st Century. It finances 700 miles of fortification dividing the U.S. from Mexico at the average cost of $4 million dollars per mile. ... This project suggests that the wall, at such prices, should and could be thought of not only as security, but also as productive infrastructure–as the very backbone of a borderland economy. Indeed, coupling the wall with viable infrastructure—and this proposal focuses on water, renewable energy, and urban social infrastructure—is a pathway to security and safety in border communities and the nation beyond them.

    Read more here.

    image A 20 million gallons/day wastewater treatment facility on the border between Mexicali, Mexico and Calexico, California by Rael San Fratello Architects

    Rael San Fratello's project is a good precedent for what I'm looking at, military bases also being US borders. Some questions linger for me. What does it mean to infuse these military-security infrastructures with the services of an architect? The task is how to be more projective in imagining what they could be, and not to get bogged down with so much criticality - or worse - to let that sort of project become a satire on a politically-loaded frontier.

    Nicholas de Monchaux: Local Code:Real Estates

    WPA2 : Local Code / Real Estates from Nicholas de Monchaux on Vimeo.

    Local Code : Real Estates uses geospatial analysis to identify thousands of publicly owned abandoned sites in major US cities, imagining this distributed, vacant landscape as a new urban system. Using parametric design, a landscape proposal for each site is tailored to local conditions, optimizing thermal and hydrological performance to enhance the whole city’s ecology—and relieving burdens on existing infrastructure. Local Code’s quantifiable effects on energy usage and stormwater remediation eradicate the need for more expensive, yet invisible, sewer and electrical upgrades. In addition, the project uses citizen participation to conceive a new, more public infrastructure as well —a robust network of urban greenways with tangible benefits to the health and safety of every citizen.

    Nicholas was my first studio professor at Berkeley and this is the culmination of 2 1/2 years of his work, at the beginning of which I was fortunate to take part in. While mapping and 'landscape urbanism' might sound like old news to some, I think actually making this work - as in, getting cities to really look at their underused lots and develop them as a networked infrastructure - is a novel idea. Nicholas is developing the scripting tools/work paths and making them accessible via Grasshopper.

    With two advisors who've got infrastructure on their minds, it should be no surprise that my thesis is headed that way...

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