by Vince Nieto
Thirty percent of our planet is covered by landmass. With medical advances, human population has shown a steadily increase in population over time. With a steady growth and a limited landmass, we will eventually run out of room. There have been efforts to either limit or support our growth, such as social interventions similar to the One Child Law in China or proposals of building vertically, most obviously seen in cities such as New York and San Francisco.
But a new problem has arrived. In the past twenty five years, a new awareness has evolved and is threating our growth and expansion: the rise of our sea level caused by global warming. Without preemptive measures, cities that border a body of water will experience a slow decrease of land over time. Cities can then assume that it will experience negative consequences caused by the sea level increase. In the following order these potential consequences can occur; a shortage of land, the skyrocketing price of residential units, a growth increase to surrounding cities of urban sprawl, a large population of commuters and ultimately an increase of Carbon Dioxide. Carbon Dioxide is believed to be a large contributor to the start of global warming.
Take San Francisco and the Bay area for example, how can we fix such a slow but inevitable process?
We can build massive infrastructures that can hold water back. But precedents such as New Orleans show that structures have the potential of failing. We can build large scale islands similar to projects being purposed today. But these islands are too large, too expensive and cannot accommodate areas of lower income neighborhoods such as Hunters Point and Bayview in San Francisco.
The answer: a modular system driven by minimal cost, minimal impact and maximum mobility.
It was inspired by the qualities of a shipping container which can adapt to needs quite simply. Shipping containers can easily be added to, subtracted from, stacked on and placed in rows, a quality needed for a modular system. It was also inspired by the thoughtfulness of Archigrams’s Instant City. Instant city was an early idea of an easy and quick way to build a city. A band of Blimps would come into rural areas and drop in prefabricated structures to create the instant city.
The design of the module can be comparable to a Lego block set. The main component is the cradle module, serving as the base and floating foundation. The secondary components are the Plug-in Modules, each serving a different function. Depending on the needs, the users can then plug in a combination of the Plug-in Modules.
Here is an example of an existing condition in Hunters Point in San Francisco. Next to the existing photo is a scenario is played out in an event that more affordable housing is needed.
Here is another example of the benefits of a modular system. The first image is of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. With the city submerged in water, many resident were forced to seek shelter elsewhere. The rendering below is a scenario that could have been deployed to temporarily house residents.
There are many advantages to implementing a modular system. The cost can be deferred over a long period of time by building one module set at a time. It can easily be pre-manufactured and transported. Lastly a modular system has a quality that other floating architecture does not possess, adaptability. It can adapt to the needs of the user, scale of the project and the environment that it’s placed in.