Liam Young, 20 04 09

The role of landscape is evolving. Developing from a historical position based in conservation and preservation the ‘nature’ of ‘nature’ can now be seen as both generative and dynamic, offering the potential for new ways of engaging with the environment. The distinctions between technology and biology or the natural and artificial are dissolving to the point where they have now become outmoded terms.

Developing from Tomorrows Thoughts Today’s urban proposal ‘City Zoo’, ‘make me a mountain!’ is a standalone infrastructural landscape project.  Whether deployed in a backyard, on a football pitch or a fragile wetland the building mutates from its context to create a habitable ecosystem that (e)merges into and out of its site. More a wilderness than an architecture, ‘make me a mountain!’ operates as a synthetic organism, reinforcing the metabolic and symbiotic conditions found in the surrounding landscape.

In its first iteration the project is tested as a Bathouse, Visitor Centre and Research Station for a London Wetlands site. Like a scuttled ship molded fiberglass shells containing observation, education and research spaces perform as an artificial reef. Glistening from within the rough and lively rock of the artificial mountain is this intertwined set of sinuous and smooth public spaces. This is a dark, discovered, augmented wilderness embedded with technology for remote virtual bat viewing and arranged for intimate but unobtrusive onsite observation.

These fiberglass interiors are first wrapped in a cage of steel piping which acts as both concrete reinforcement and as conduits channeling water from the lagoon around the public and Bat spaces. The water is heated and pumped using solar power to regulate the internal temperatures of the bat caves. Some pipes also leach water into the surrounding building material feeding the plant species growing in, over and around the Bathouse.

Made from a growing medium of peat moss and spray concrete the material that forms the bulk of the Bathouse is sprayed over these volumes of public occupation and steel reinforcement. The material, a variation on the “Hypertufa’ commonly used by home gardeners, is lightweight and highly porous. It binds the other elements together, the whole structure performing with the same properties as reinforced concrete.

The material permits airflow to root structures and supports the growth of plant and insect life providing a key food source for the bats. The material functions as an organic water reservoir which over time, like an artificial reef, develops its own micro ecology on the building’s surface. Plants and insects become living architectural ornament and a food source for numerous species. At the end of its useful life the composite peatmoss and concrete mix can be broken down and used as a soil conditioner to generate new landscapes.

The Bathouse project was originally designed with Andrew d’Occhio and James Pierre DuPlessis.

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