Urban Swales

Urban Swales

Ahmad Kahn

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Predicated on an uncertain future in which “buildings” and “cities” can no longer be designed for ‘us’ alone, but rather, must seek to foster new forms of “architectural” and “urban” space situated somewhere between human and nonhuman use, the Geofutures program’s design research privileges neither. Instead, students are encouraged to explore the seemingly paradoxical condition of simultaneous proximity of and separation between the two. As such, experiential, conceptual, and performative aspects of architecture, that is to say, the aesthetic, cognitive, as well as instrumental capacities of a “building” or “city”, are generally characterized by qualities of ambiguity, uncertainty, and the uncanny; qualities endemic to the human experience in a time of environmental crisis and existential threat.

For instance, Urban Swales proposes a series of medium-scale urban excavations throughout the City of Los Angeles, micro-reservoirs that, in addition to collecting periodic storm water runoff for remediation, storage, and redistribution to local communities, provides a new typology of shaded “urban caverns” for human as well as nonhuman forms of occupation. As such, Urban Swales not only functions as a distributed form of water management infrastructure, the general ambition of which is intended to relieve the city’s excessive dependence on imported water, but a new form of public space and wildlife refuge as well.

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