(in-)water dwellings, 2010-2011 year brief, unit22

Water’s essential nature makes it a strategic natural resource globally. Riparian water rights have become issues of international diplomacy, in addition to domestic and regional water rights and politics. World Bank Vice President Ismail Serageldin predicted, “Many of the wars of the 20th century were about oil, but wars of the 21st century will be over water”.[i] The causes, are many and varied; they include local scarcity, limited availability and population pressures, but also human activities of mass consumption, misuse, environmental degradation and water pollution, as well as climate change. Fresh water — now more precious than ever in our history for its extensive use in agriculture, high-tech manufacturing, and energy production — is increasingly receiving attention as a resource requiring better management and sustainable use.

Due to all of this, there is an emerging water industry facing huge challenges for innovation and research. While there is no way to increase the world’s water supply, we can prevent worse circumstances by conserving water and eliminating water wastage altogether with innovative solutions. This could mean a lot of wonderful opportunities to build business leading to a whole new water global geography. Water treatment, Desalination, Agriculture (rainfall harvesting, conservation techniques, small-scale irrigation, animal husbandry), Aquifer recharging, Tourism, Transport, Dredging, Weeds control e.g. Hyacinth, Hydroelectric power for rural electrification, water extraction from wetlands, building of small dams are only some of the examples. All these opportunities could be understood as extensions of domestic and family life. Therefore Water Farms arise as a new civil typology providing both shelter and making life means.

On the other hand, from early times, people from the four corners of the globe have benefited from the therapeutic qualities of water joining cultural, religious and health habits in their house’s and neighborhood’s construction. Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Turkish, Japanese, and Nordic cultures have long partaken in domestic hot springs baths and common facilities. Due to contemporary extreme stress in professional life, the spa practice of immersing the body of the person in water to restore and maintain health is again considered to be very important to life. Nevertheless recent specialization of Medicine has pushed Home Spas to daily indulgence in luxurious houses while specializing salutary spas, which are run by medical practitioners to treat users as patients. Latest breakthrough in spa technology involves ultrasonic waves, ozone negative ions and far infrared rays into simple sometimes portable home spa equipment. These equipments provide relief not only from stress but from some common illnesses empowering again the utility of Spa Houses as health preventive agents with considerable importance for welfare state. Living in a Spa House could increase the metabolic rate, enhancing the power to burn calories quickly and promote weight control. It could normalize the blood pressure levels, lower the cholesterol levels, balance acid-alkaline levels in the body, boost immunity, improve the flow of lymph, reduce aches and pains of the muscles and joints, enhance the mood and improves the digestive system leading to a shelf-care vision of health.

As a last chosen topic between those thousands related to water, we will focus on water materiality. Monitoring technology can help architecture to get advantage on the adaptation to weather conditions using water as technical support. Eco-friendly features like the water desalination, energy accumulation, ventilation methods, water recycling, heat and energy consumption, tidal and solar energy systems are being developed through empirical procedures. In addition, lots of investigators contribute to the use of water made by biotechnology industry. Biomaterials development requires a deep understanding on molecular hydration and water forces, and how they determine the interaction between molecules, surfaces and forms. A whole range of building solutions and materials are linked to the research on water characteristics enabling to talk about Hydro Materials as a new generation of innovative architectural products.

Unit 22 will work throughout two years on water politics related to dwelling opportunities. In this first year, students will produce both design and research on these three topics: Water Farms, Spa Houses and Hydro Materials.

A trip to Thailand will be arranged providing a tour throughout the country to analyze the relationship between water and residences in economical, cultural and political terms. For that purpose we will visit different typologies throughout the country in which the closeness between house/room and water has specific significance.

Although all the students will be invited to join our Thailand trip for finding the selected case studies, each student will be asked to choose a working area out of Thailand. It must be preferably a self-well-known area, in which students have spent part of their lives or, at least, some long term holiday. This working area will provide working sites throughout the year. One of the aims of the Unit is to take advantage of the multicultural background of the students encouraging them to incorporate their beliefs, folk memories and local experience of nature and materiality into design development. Students’ works will form altogether a constellation of site specific projects around the world. Although individual reflections will be extremely local, collective product of both years would reveal the clues for an understanding of new innovative water-based geography. Countries like Canada, Chile, Norway, Colombia and Peru, with this resource in abundance, would be considered not only as water-rich countries but as equally full of design opportunities.

Experimental methodologies will be propose to the students. Periods based on the development of individual skills will be combined with other short term ones based on collaborative dynamics. The aim is to provoke what is called heuristic socialization so that the student may take advantage of the group’s capacity for creativity.

Our Unit work will take into account some hypothesis and procedures coming from Sociology of Innovation concerning scientific, technical, and cultural research. Rather than focus on a traditional opposition between basic and applied research, Sociology of Innovation emphasizes a reflexive conception of the relationships with the actors studied. Since its inception, Sociology of Innovation has focused on research dynamics in enterprise, the anthropology of laboratories, the socio-technical analysis of innovation, and scientometrics.


[i] See Jason J. Morrissette, Douglas A. Borer (2004), Where Oil and Water Do Mix: Environmental Scarcity and Future Conflict in the Middle East and North Africa. Journal article, Parameters, Vol. 34, 2004

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