Studio Brief | As part of the “Public Works for a Green New Deal” initiative at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in New York, this studio speculates on a carbon-free future for coastal Louisiana at divergent scales—architecture, infrastructure, and the “planetary scale,” which is defined as 10,000 times larger than the smallest project.
Investigation | Twelve third-year Columbia University graduate students visited coastal Louisiana and learned from the firsthand experience of Creole and Vietnamese fishing communities who live interdependently with local aquatic species. “Meeting with these communities really impacted the students and their projects,” says adjunct assistant professor Phu Hoang, noting that the residents students met with either returned after or arrived following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Field work included a day trip on a shrimp boat that exposed students to both human and nonhuman coexistence in the area.
“I took them to experience the climate crisis at a physical scale,” Hoang says. “It’s quite tangible here, as this area of the Gulf is losing the equivalent of a football field of ground an hour to rising water levels.” Other tours included oil and gas industry sites—likely to be most resistant to future regulations stemming from the Green New Deal. An expanded definition of public works saw students designing carbon-neutral housing, a research lab, a nature reserve—even the conversion of a decommissioned oil rig.
The studio eschewed the binary thinking that comes from an either/or formulation and encouraged students to design for what Hoang terms a state of “being with.” He explains that designers think mostly in terms of one or two scales up or down from the scale they work in, which for architects is typically from the scale of the body to urban design. “I asked them to design at architecture or infrastructure scale, then at the scale of these other species—a much smaller scale—and then at what I call planetary scales,” he says. Thinking about how their designs fit at a much larger scale often meant that individual projects were networked across the landscape. Positing that architecture should be seen as an extension of the environment and that indoor and outdoor are not two separate realms, Hoang required that each design comprise 50% indoor and 50% outdoor spaces.
Juror Weihan Vivian Lee found the projects’ grounding in the spatial manifestations and technologies of an imagined future particularly compelling. “There’s a certain kind of audacity about these drawings that show a confidence in what they propose,” Victor Body-Lawson said.
Student Work |
Together But Separate | Chang Pan and Lu Xu’s examination of sea-level rise in the region shows that in the future, towns protected by levees will be the only dry land for miles. Their proposal devises strategies for humans and animals to coexist in this shrinking real estate, while also integrating sustainable infrastructure for programs such as salinity and solar energy farms.
Green New Grid | This proposal by Yechi Zhang and Qiazi Chen replaces an existing coal storage site with programs for public works—including renewable energy production, brownfield bioremediation, a research laboratory, and a harbor facility—in a post-coal approach to architectural form that remains adaptable to future environmental change.
Bio-Habitat Rings | Haitong Chen and Peizhe Fang anticipate the effects of post-peak oil as well as sea-level rise in their proposal to convert decommissioned offshore, mid-seas, and high-seas oil rigs into mixed-use hubs incorporating housing, recreation, and research facilities, and the infrastructure for rapid-response remediation for oil spills.
Course: Being-With: Coexistence at a Planetary Scale
School: Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, New York
Level: Third-year advanced M.Arch. studio (professional and post-professional)
Duration: Fall 2019 semester
Instructor: Phu Hoang (adjunct assistant professor)
Students: Haitong Chen, Qiazi Chen, Peizhe Fang, Chang Pan, Lu Xu, Yechi Zhang (submitted work); Danli Wang, Dalton Baker, Jacob Gulinson, Shiyin Zeng, Assoc. AIA, Han Zhang, Yanan Cheng