ECO-MORPH

Reimagined Urban Life with Water
August - December 2016 | ARC 48300 at Carnegie Mellon University
In collaboration with Timothy Khalifa

Critical Question:
How can systems thinking engender experimental design solutions for global problems?

View of proposed flood-responsive housing complex from the river.

Problem

Grappling with design’s role in environmental ethics, my partner and I envisioned a future settlement that works alongside two environmental challenges we face in cities today:

Urban flooding due to climate change.
Human migration into cities.

Conceptualization

Studying the two systems allowed us to consider the ground plane not as a static boundary but a membrane that can be physically manipulated to achieve responsive ecological performances. We made operative models to visualize this theoretical framework as a shifting landscape.

Operative Models (left and right): These prototypes helped to guide our design process.

Methodology

Employing systemic design thinking, we analyzed ecological processes like rainwater runoffs and sewage overflows on a post-industrial waterfront site in Strip District, Pittsburgh.

Diagram: Map overlaying sewage overflows with topographical flow patterns.
Diagram: Ecological processes of water flow downstream.

Development

At the same time, we jumped across scales to give form to the environmental feedback of various topographical operations. These matrices were instrumental in moving the project toward an employable architectural language in later phases.

Diagram: Matrices categorizing different topographical operations.

These early studies pushed us to consider a solution to flooding and pollution that was not merely preventive but actively remediating. We identified convergences of stormwater and sewage overflows on flood prone areas of the site as opportunities for architectural interventions.

Methodology

Employing systemic design thinking, we analyzed ecological processes like rainwater runoffs and sewage overflows on a post-industrial waterfront site in Strip District, Pittsburgh.

Identify convergences of sewage & storm water overflows.
Amply landform for bioswales and construct foundation for housing.
Plug in living spaces as the coil grows.
Connect individual coil towers to form a housing collective.

Synthesis

Points of convergence were chosen as sites to construct bioswales that filter polluted water to support life. We utilized the coil as an operative form for aggregation and growth as demands for housing units increase. Construction would continue to the extent that gravity permits. Eventually, these individual coil towers could connect to form clusters of future housing collective.

Diagrams (left and right): Organization of the coil modules.