ARCH4041/5051/6041: Options Studio

Resilience Reinforced: advanced precast systems for regional water infrastructure challenges


Course Introduction:

"As soon as the river is prevented from flowing further in its course straight ahead, the river gains in depth. The river hollows out the ground at the point where its course changes. No moving body, not even water, loses its entire kinetic energy when it hits something. After the impact the movement looks for a path by which it can continue.”

From the Codex Leicester, Leonardo Da Vinci.

The Leicester Codex is one of the most important manuscripts Leonardo Da Vinci produced in the early 16C. Through the collection of his scientific writing and meticulous sketches, he speculates on various natural phenomena, primarily through the observation of one of the most fundamental substances, water and its interaction with the earth. Leonardo then proposes practical applications “for maintaining riverbanks, setting piles in river bottoms, constructing and maintaining dams and properly joining canals and rivers.”

Preserving the waterways by controlling riverbank erosion was a significant engineering issue of Leonardo’s time. He was fascinated with the role of technology in harnessing the mystery and the power of water.

What was relevant for Leonardo five centuries ago takes an incredible sense of urgency now, as 40% of the US population living in the coastal cities confronts sea level rise due to climate change.

The studio aims to explore the potential for advanced precast concrete systems to address this critical issue of our time.

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We occupy the Mississippi Delta, the complex ecological system formed by the soil deposits interacting with the river and the gulf. In this soft, fluid ground, finding stability is a constant challenge. Concrete offers the opportunity for a symbiotic relationship between this landscape and the built environment. Although precast systems are prevalent, the recent technological advancement is not readily integrated nor exploited in this type of application, both from the performance and aesthetic perspective. It presents opportunities to explore advanced design and fabrication processes, particularly in the area of water flow and erosion control as we contemplate on a productive occupation of water edge in the urban context. The Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan will be our vehicle and guide for the design investigation and the context for future implementation. The architectural and infrastructural solutions developed through the studio are nationally relevant, as the water‐related issues are no longer unique only to our region.

This research-based studio is made possible by the generous support of the PCI Foundation. We anticipate multiple collaborative research opportunities with our industry partners to explore advanced fabrication techniques at or near full-scale. Field trips and plant visits are critical educational components of the studio during and beyond the fall semester, including funded travel to the PCI Convention in the spring.

Partial view of Sheet 15B (back), fol. 22R. Codex Leicester, Leonardo Da Vinci

Asahi Town, Hokkaido 1988, Japan  Photo: Toshio Shibata