Breton Smith

Breton Smith

Covington, LA, US



Project: ViewPORT Responsive System
Location: Morgan City, Louisiana
Client: Historic Downtown District
Program: Installation
Large scale flood control infrastructure has created a static relationship between the Atchafalaya River, an ecosystem that constantly shifts, flows, and reroutes, and urban cities bordering the river. Morgan City, Louisiana is the Atchafalaya River’s last intersection with a city before it disperses into Gulf of Mexico. Despite its unique geographic connection with the Atchafalaya, the city relies on floodwalls and levees to ensure the springtime runoff stays within the basin and doesn’t overflow into populated areas. The floodwall is a 17 foot high impenetrable barrier with few gates and wraps
along the entire western boundary. Surrounded by its barrier, Morgan City’s waterfront continues to
be an isolated and untapped resource.

“ViewPORT” engages with the first step in this restorative process: change people’s perception of their floodwall. The current infrastructure was constructed and designed for a singular purpose: protection. Its sheer volume and permanence imparts its residents with a sense of security but also confinement. Using the apertures to puncture viewports to the river will allow people to engage with the wall as an interface to reconnect with their forgotten landscape. The irises respond by opening and closing depending on the position of people and their relationship with the activities occurring on other side, opening when a positional relationship is sensed. By layering multiple functionality into the flood wall while maintaining its original protective purpose, the dynamism of the aperture’s opening and closing deconstructs the preconceived notion of the wall as an oppressive, unchangeable object. Transforming a resistive piece of infrastructure into a permeable interface gives residents an opportunity to perceive the waterfront as an area to be engaged with and starts to create visions of opportunities for the Historic Downtown District.

The project required an incorporation of the Arduino prototyping microcontroller, the Grasshopper parametric plug-in for Rhino 3D, and the Firefly extension for Grasshopper. The combination of these three programs defines the cutting edge exploration of how sensors can manipulate the form of architecture in a real time environment. The final production requirements included a funtioning electronic scale model, a presentation demonstrating the concept, and a publication of the studio projects.

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Status: School Project
Location: Morgan City, LA