Buoyant Ecologies: Research, Collaboration, and Resilience at the Edge
Buoyant Ecologies is a collaborative research platform that brings together architects, marine ecologists, and fabricators to address the implications of sea level rise through innovative approaches to designing and constructing resilient waterfront structures. This paper focuses on the first phase of the Buoyant Ecologies project: the development of material strategies for the construction of buoyant, sessile (or stationary) structures, using customized fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) composite substrates, commonly known as fiberglass. The project seeks to develop high-performance envelopes constructed of custom-contoured FRP panels that, through their variation in topography, are optimized to provide a range of scalar habitats for marine life (both animals and plants), thereby contributing to the biodiversity of the ecosystem at large.
As this kind of research necessitates knowledge and expertise far outside the realm of traditional architectural design, the project’s collaborative nature—and the integration of collaborative workflows into the pedagogy of an architecture studio—becomes paramount. This paper describes the project’s collaborative structure and how an integrated approach to architectural design, science, and manufacturing can facilitate a unique and productive feedback between speculation and empirical testing.
The Buoyant Ecologies project points to one model for taking on complex, wicked problems such as climate change and sea level rise, which demand a synthetic integration of academia and industry, design and research, speculation and pragmatism.