Survival Architecture and the Art of Resilience

Section Three: VISIONARY

Survival architecture is not just about designing for today. It includes the capacity to think or plan for tomorrow with imagination and wisdom. In many instances, such designs expand the state of the art. In others, they are more fanciful — fanciful ideas aimed to inspire others.

huge balloon made from plastic bags

Becoming Aerosolar

Tomas Saraceno, 2014, used plastic bags, tape, dimensions variable, © 2014, courtesy of Tomas Saraceno

Saraceno’s art focuses on alternative models for environmental sustainability while considering the concept of the “Anthropocene,” a term that describes the current geological era of the Earth, where humans are the planet’s biggest biological, geological, and atmospheric influence.

The flying museum and solar sculpture made by the “Museo Aero Solar” group — an open-source international community initiated by Saraceno in 2007— is an airborne sculptural form made entirely from reused plastic bags. The artwork is a cumulus-like shape that comes into being through the collision and collusion of plastics and air, the willful energy of a community, and an ecology of practices characterized by acts of association, connection, and care. Together, they explore new ways of defining space and the potential for habitats.

Zoom into the image to view an illustrated guide to constructing the solar sculpture, and watch this short video to see the sculpture in flight.

temporary dwelling with crickets

Cricket Shelter: Modular Edible Insect Farm

Mitchell Joachim and Terreform ONE, 2016, CNC milled plywood, plastic containers, © 2016, courtesy of Mitchell Joachim and Terreform ONE

The continuous impact of climate change, armed conflicts, urbanization, and economic upheavals present an urgent need to deliver solutions for both food and shelter. Cricket Shelter is a dual-purpose home and modular insect farm bounded into one structure. It is intended to address food scarcity, as more people need access to cheap and reliable sources of protein; harvesting insects for food typically takes 300 times less water than conventional livestock for the same amount of protein. The United Nations has mandated insect-sourced protein as a major component to addressing global food needs. More than two billion people already eat insects every day, suggesting that it is time to reintroduce them into the diets of a growing and hungry world.

Explore the amazing details of the Cricket Shelter in this short video and presentation by Terreform ONE. Also check out this article in which Architect Magazine selects the project as its 2016 R&D award winner.

temporary shelter

HygroSkin, A Meteorsensitive Pavilion

Achim Menges, 2013, plywood, dimensions variable, © 2013, courtesy of Achim Menges

Menges builds on more than six years of design research, investigating the biomimetic principles offered by the spruce cone, an object found in nature that responds to humidity by expanding and contracting.

From lessons learned, Menges applies this biomimetic functionality to the use of wood as a climate-responsive, natural material. The humidity responsiveness of the wood veneer in the absorption and desorption of moisture causes the wood to warp and dry, open and close, thereby releasing the heat build-up naturally. It demonstrates how focusing on the material behavior rather than the geometric shape expands architecture into new possibilities more aligned with how nature works.

Watch the HygroSkin in action in this short video.

floating emergency shelters

Duckweed Survival House

Davison Design, Designer Zhou Ying and Niu Yuntao, 2015, inkjet print of drawings, 17 x 22 inches, © 2015, courtesy of Davison Design

Rising sea levels have inspired these Chinese designers to create a floating emergency shelter that could save lives during floods and tsunamis. The design is meant to remain upright regardless of the surface on which it is sitting. It can quickly inflate, thanks to a built-in high-pressure carbon dioxide gas chamber. Fresh air enters via a vent on the roof of the structure. An underwater stem, containing the gas tank at its base, offers a stabilizing function and also a filtration function. A reverse-osmosis film near the base of the stem converts sea water to fresh drinking water, which is accessed through an inlet in the floor.

Floating architectural city shaped like lilypad

Lilypad: A Floating Ecopolis for Climate Refugees

Vincent Callebaut, 2008, archival inkjet print, 21 x 29 inches, © 2008, courtesy of Vincent Callebaut Architectures, Paris

This floating amphibian city, half aquatic and half terrestrial, is a solution for refugees displaced by rising waters. Inspired by the highly ribbed leaf of the Amazon Lilypad, it is a concept for a self-sufficient, zero-emissions floating city of up to 50,000 people. Each Lilypad is intended to float in the ocean, riding the currents from the Equator to the Arctic, or wherever the Gulf Stream takes it.

green architecture resembling cairns

Asian Cairns, Sustainable Megalith for Rural Urbanity, Shenzhen, China

Vincent Callebaut, 2013, archival inkjet print, 23 x 33 inches, © 2013, courtesy of Vincent Callebaut Architectures, Paris

At the end of 2011, the number of Chinese living in cities for the first time exceeded those living in rural areas. City-dwellers now represent just over half of China’s population. Analysts predict that by 2030 the urban population could rise to 75% — a rural exodus of millions more people. Amid this massive shift, the future cities must be rethought as sustainable, dense, resilient, and carbon-free, producing their own energy along with a secure and sustainable quality of living for everyone.

green architecture city skyline in Paris

Paris Smart City 2050

Vincent Callebaut, 2015, archival inkjet print, 20 x 27 inches, © 2015, courtesy of Vincent Callebaut Architectures, Paris

Following the landmark 2015 Paris climate change agreement aimed at reducing 75% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the Callebaut’s Paris Smart City project examines the integration of high-rise buildings with eight towers that produce more energy than they use. The goal is to bring nature back into the heart of the city and integrate renewable, recyclable, and other environmentally responsible systems.