Imagined Infrastructure

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Urban Algae: Speculation and Optimization, Mining Existing Infrastructure for Lost Efficiencies

Urban Algae proposes a park on a floating pontoon between Lower Manhattan and Red Hook that would harvest CO2 emissions from the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

cityLAB, an urban think-tank at UCLA’s Department of Architecture and Urban Design, has announced the six finalists of its WPA 2.0 competition. The competition, which stands for working public architecture, invited designers of all stripes to submit proposals for rebuilding our cities’ infrastructure as a sort of throwback to the Great Depression-era WPA. Juried by Stan Allen, Cecil Balmond, Elizabeth Diller, Walter Hood, Thom Mayne, and Marilyn Jordan Taylor, the top-six picks run the gamut from heading off an impending water crisis to creating a softer, gentler version of our infrastructure. One finalist, Urban Algae: Speculation and Optimization, Mining Existing Infrastructure for Lost Efficiencies, proposes to harvest CO2 emissions through photosynthesis. Submitted by PORT Architecture + Urbanism, the solution could be rolled out nationwide on coal-fired power plants and toll booths, but the designers also outlined a scheme for creating a public park on floating pontoons between Lower Manhattan and Red Hook, which would harvest emissions from the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Read about the other finalists after the jump.

Coupling Infrastructures: Water Ecologies/Economies

Coupling Infrastructures places floating pods on California's Salton Sea that serve as platforms for recreation and salt and water production.

Coupling Infrastructure: Water Ecologies/Economics, submitted by Lateral Office/Infranet Lab, focuses on America’s impending water crisis, particularly in southwest cities. Using Salton Sea in California as a case study, the proposal imagines combining recreational activities with economic opportunities such as the production of salt and drinking water on floating “island pods” that serve as platforms.

Border Wall as Infrastructure

Border Wall as Infrastructure's Teeter-Totter Wall proposal makes a comment on U.S.-Mexico labor relations.

Border Wall as Infrastructure, submitted by Rael San Fratello Architects, investigates unplumbed potentials for the Mexico-U.S. border fence. Costing an estimated $1,325 per linear foot, the barrier structure could incorporate many more useful amenities to offset the negative consequences it has wrought, such as disruption of animal habitat and the diversion of water runoff that has flooded towns. The proposal sets forth 30 alternatives to the plain-Jane obstacle that seek to combat things like the energy crisis and death from dehydration. Some of the suggestions, however, are more artistic in nature, such as the Teeter-Totter wall, which makes a comment on U.S.-Mexico labor relations.

Global Water Refugees

1,000,000,000 Global Water Refugees suggests moving thirsty people to the disused post-industrial landscapes of the water-rich Great Lakes region.

1,000,000,000 Global Water Refugees, submitted by UrbanLab, looks into the possibilities created by the Rust Belt’s loss of population combined with its abundance of fresh water. The proposal suggests relocating water-starved populations into underused industrial sites in Milwaukee, Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago, and Cleveland.

Hydro-Genic City

Hydro-Genic City's urban beach offers a space for community building.

Hydro-Genic City 2020, submitted by Darina Zlateva and Takuma Ono, turns LA’s waterworks into energy-generating social nodes. With a lot of solar panels and a little design sense, the proposal creates urban beaches, aquatic parking lots, energy-generating water towers, and mist-infused light rail stations.

Local Code

Local Code recommends turning San Francisco's abandoned streets into public parks.

Local Code: Healing the Interstitial Landscape, submitted by UC Berkeley architecture and urban design professor Nicholas de Monchaux and a team of collaborators, sets its sights on San Francisco’s abandoned streets: those no longer maintained by the city. The proposal imagines a network of public parks on these neglected sites, of which there are more than 1,600.

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