Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Drylands Design

What are drylands? One of several kinds of ecosystems as defined by the United Nations University program, as is outlined here on its site:

Many of these dryland areas face severe land degradation, in which marginal areas are turned into wastelands and natural ecosystems are altered through destruction of surface vegetation, poor management of water resources, inappropriate land use practices, overuse of fertilizers and biocides, and disposal of domestic and industrial wastes. This, in the face of climate change, is endangering most of the land and its resources for ourselved and for future generations.This requires a comprehensive and strategic approach to regeneration of natural processes in order to preserve the earth that provides for us.

Many strategies have been developed that can apply to this problem. There are various ways of recycling water, conserving it, recharging aquifers, clearing out the toxic wastes and fertilizers that are polluting our water supplies. An open ideas design competition has been staged for a drylands approach to local ecosystems that's a call for solutions in an area located in California. The International Drylands Design Competition, was hosted by the California Architectural Foundation, AIA California Council, and Arid Lands Institute at Woodbury University. It's officially this years' William Turnbull Competition in honor of his ideas for sustaining and improving the California landscape.

One of the best examples of this kind of overall planning in the competition received a Merit Award: Geeti Silwal, AICP, San Francisco Resource Infinity Loop: Watershed Urbanism in San Francisco, called "The Resource Infinity Loop" that contains a scalability toolkit for implementing its strategies. (pdf download here)

The A+D Museum, established and supported by the architecture and building industry in Los Angeles, is exhibiting the competition this month:

DRYLANDS DESIGN features work by architects, landscape architects, engineers, and urban designers responding to the challenges of water scarcity in the face of climate change. With a focus on the US West, the exhibition will presents a portfolio of adaptive strategies large and small, rural and urban, high tech and low-carbon. Since no single solution will meet the complex needs of the US West, the exhibition will explore a range of approaches for how buildings and parks, houses and streets, industry and agriculture, cities and neighborhoods might be adapted to face a drought-prone future. DRYLANDS DESIGN recognizes water scarcity as an issue of global concern, and challenges the industrialized world to take a leadership position with water-conserving, low-carbon design innovation for its own backyard.

This competition is an important step in recognizing the urgency of developing comprehensive solutions to urban problems that regenerate natural systems.