University of Houston-Master of Architecture Advisor Prof. Wendy W. Fok
BRIDGING THE GAP
Educational Nature Preserve Center
The relationship between man, architecture and nature is very complex and crucial for the balance of ecology. “For unnumbered centuries of human history the wilderness has given way and the priority of industry has become dogma. “1 According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report, around 30 to 70 percent of original biomes across earth’s different ecosystems will be lost by the year of 2050. Biodiversity also forms the core of life’s support by providing ecosystem services such as air, water and waste regulation (Johnson, 2002). “Our remnants of wilderness will yield bigger values to the nation’s character and health than they will to its pocketbook, and to destroy them will be to admit that the latter are the only values that interest us.”2 As a result, these facts raise a couple of questions… Why it is that conservation is so rarely practiced by those who must extract a living from the land? “Are we as yet sufficiently enlightened to realize that we must now challenge that dogma, or do without our wilderness?” Do the architects and scientists in general response to the environment and reflect it in the right way through their projects to the public?
However, “Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land. By land is meant all of the things on, over, or in the earth. Harmony with land is like harmony with a friend; That is to say, you cannot conserve the waters and waste the ranges; you cannot build the forest and mine the farm. The land is one organism. Its parts, like our own parts, compete with each other and co-operate with each other.” 3
Emerging ideas in design starts with recognizing the nature harmony and create a linkage with it to gain an advantage to both nature and human life. Therefore, architecture becomes a vital link between man and nature because nature has its physical as well as conceptual presence in the architectural environment. In this thesis investigation, the design hopes to demonstrate regenerative principles by creating some solutions to blend between natural and human environment through architecture.
From this point, by looking to Texas state, specifically Houston area I noticed good amount of nature distributed around the area that have held different kinds of rare species. As a result, after deep search for the area I found an existing Refuge in the lower area of the Trinity River of Texas is going through several issues; like many tracts found on the refuge are closed to the public due to lack of access, roads, facilities, and because of limited conservation aspect. Consequently, a rich beautiful nature is mostly abandon which it can be a treasure to the whole state of Texas. It could be used as an education destination, observation, adventure, also in providing unpolluted fresh water to the major cities especially the city of Houston.
However, relating architecture to nature in educational way could be a design challenge, but from another perspective could be the right solution to have the ultimate from it. Therefore, as a proposal (Educational Nature Preserve center) is going to be a space, with an ecological program of Biomimicry study which is based on outdoor environmental education, in order to create physical linkage between the two worlds. In addition, it provides hands on education for visitors who can socialize in term of the biodiversity aspect, a research facility to preserve living plants collection and bird’s habitats, also to monitor the conditions of a magical territory.
Additionally, the center becomes a living organic. According to the site properties and the value of the wetland that the site is rich with, the center will become part of a Living system that explores several methods that influence natural resource management on the micro-scale in order to collectively impact sustainability on the macro-scale. “The evolution of treatment wetlands has generated a number of different forms of the technology. The use of existing natural wetlands was studied extensively in the 1970s but currently there are only a few examples of this type operating in special situations”4
“In some cases the constructed wetlands provide all treatment functions on the waste stream while in other cases the wetlands are part of a larger system and provide only specific functions, such as denitrification. An example of the latter type is the living machine concept developed by John Todd”5
On the building level, the center explores architecture as a medium that Occupants analyze and understand the systems established in the artificial wetlands and apply that understanding to a natural wetland. In other words, “the Living Machine system” will used to adapt and enhance the ecological processes in a tidal wetland, nature’s most productive ecosystem. So, the water system mimics the natural water cycle at the wetland which indirectly leads to the growth of the artificial wetland that cleanses the river and restores biodiversity. Therefore, the center is not only economically and ecologically sustainable, it’s also socially sustainable that turns a preserve to a distention to explore nature diversity and becomes as a model to understand biomimcry!
In summation, , considering how nature can employed to provide such benefits to an architectural development, is also important to consider how such developments might impact on natural ecosystem, that’s why a balance had to be achieved between natural environments for use by people and natural environment. As a result, the thesis attempts to provide an alternative perspective in bridging physical and mental interaction with the biodiversity.
1. Leopold, Aldo: A Plea for Wilderness Hunting Grounds, Outdoor Life, November 1925. Reproduced in Aldo Leopold’s Southwest, edited by David E. Brown & Neil B. Carmony, University of New Mexico Press, 1990, pg. 160-161.
2. Leopold, Aldo: A Plea for Wilderness Hunting Grounds, Outdoor Life, November 1925. Reproduced in Aldo Leopold’s Southwest, edited by David E. Brown & Neil B. Carmony, University of New Mexico Press, 1990, pg. 160-161.
3. Leopold, Aldo: Round River, Oxford University Press, New York, 1993, pp. 145-146.
4. (Knight 1992, Breaux and Day 1994)
5. (Todd and Josephson 1996)