Anderson Anderson Architecture

Alluvial Sponge Comb

The Alluvial Sponge Comb is the waterfront landscape element of ourdesign proposal for New Orleans, mediating between the natural ebband flow forces of water and the inhabitation of the site. The centraldesign criteria for our building and landscape design focuses onadapting the human construction to harmonize with the cyclical flowsand extremes of the natural site, absorbing and beneficially harnessingnature’s impact rather than resisting it. We feel that it is veryimportant for the American Pavilion in Venice to not dwell on thedisaster as an unfortunate freak occurrence of nature, but instead tofocus on the opportunity to engage in design for alleviating aworldwide infrastructure concern, by proposing new modes ofwaterfront development that accommodate and celebrate naturalextremes, avoiding human and ecological destruction with multi-functional systems that contribute to the quality of life each day ratherthan investing in single-purpose bulwarks that serve once in a lifetimeyet stand as ungainly, inflexible and expensive barriers always inplace. New Orleans and Venice are both remarkable works of unnaturalenvironmental construction that have developed intriguingly similarcultures of black humor artifice and cyclical festival that experientiallymediates the difficult, dangerous, and uncertain environments thatboth sustain and threaten them. For the courtyard of the Americanpavilion at the Venice Biennale, we will install a sample portion of thealluvial sponge comb as outlined in the following pages, proposing aconstructed waterfront landscape that can be rich, accommodatingand absorptive, and affirming of the hopeful logic of life in the natureand culture of unique waterfront cities like New Orleans and Venice.In its proposed implementation at the edge of the Mississippi river, theAlluvial Sponge Comb performs several functions, including flood anderosion control, the slowing of water flow along the river bank in orderto capture silt to aid in the build-up of the shoreline, and thesustenance of land and water life—human, plant and animal—byaffording both habitat and unencumbered passage through the latentbarrier system. In times of unusually high water levels, portions of thecomb are designed to swell as they absorb the rising water, becominga temporary levee to protect the land and buildings beyond it. Whenthe flood waters subside, the swelling in the comb also diminishes and

returns the structure to its original fingered form, allowing a highdegree of porosity in the landscape. The ideas for this structure arebased on considerable research and past prototyping of relatedsystems. There are large industrial firms engaged in related productmanufacture. Chemical companies such as BASF, DuPont, and Dow allproduce superabsorbent products that swell to absorb water and thenslowly respirate vapor back into the environment as they dry andreturn to their original composition. 95% of the superabsorbent marketis for new throw-away diaper products. However, all of these firms arealso engaged in construction products and environmental controlproducts, and all are positioning themselves as leaders in innovativetechnology that can be in harmony with the environment. It is likelythat there will be one or more companies that would be interested insponsoring this project with expertise, materials and financial support,and we have prepared background research and strategies forapproaching them. The stand-alone siting of the comb in the courtyardwill allow a significantly market-related image for these companies thatmay help generate their enthusiasm for supporting the pavilion overall.

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