Buoyant Ecologies Maldives

Fall 2017, Fall 2018
Instructors: Margaret Ikeda, Evan Jones

This studio focused on the Maldives, a nation averaging only 1.5 meters above the current sea level. The Maldives consist of over 1100 islands arranged in 26 atolls famous for their pristine coral reefs and resorts. Less photographed are their more populated islands where many smaller villages subsist on fishing and tourism, both of which are in danger of devastation from erosion, warming oceans and rising seas. The studio recognized this mutual dependence of ecology and economy and speculated on an adaptive architectural prototype capable of providing the Maldivians with a way to live independently of the land and self sufficiently on the ocean. Building upon previous research work testing digitally fabricated marine substrates in ocean water, the architectural studio scales up this research to investigate the formation of a floating community built upon a symbiotic relationship between housing, tourism, and research.

Informed by established collaborators including marine biologists at Benthic Lab at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and fiberglass fabricators at Kreysler & Associates, the studio sought to synthesize ideas about making and performance at a variety of scales. The conservation of resources as it pertains to ecology, energy and materials was of central interest in a place historically dependent on imported resources. The studio was able to consult with local Maldivian residents to gain insight and understanding of their daily rituals, culture and environmental landscape.

Relevance of the work in the studio was further informed by engaging with an additional collaborator, The Hydrous, a local non-profit organization whose mission is to create “open access oceans”. Providing years of local monitoring and research into coral reef ecology in the Maldives with a network of scientists, divers, designers, filmmakers, and technologists, their documentation work provided a critical resource for understanding the local context and visualizing new forms and spaces for living on the water.

As an integrated building design studio, the students met with naval, mechanical and structural engineers at regular intervals to develop their projects into realizable propositions whose narrative included the process of assembly, adaptability and resilience. The process of the studio moved quickly and was driven by an iterative process of physical and digital modeling, integrating research and culminating in a set of comprehensive drawings rich in both technical specificity and inspired speculation.

 

Buoyant Ecologies Studio, Fall 2017: Georgia Came, Mai Yamada Duellman, Eric Fura, Sabari Gopakumar, Clare Hacko, Rachel Hammond, Justine Humble, Joaquin Tobar Martinez, Alexander Pardes, Rosa Ramos, Nicholas Scribner, Justin Smith, Samantha Villasenor, Yumeng Wang