Residential Design

Vol 4, 2017

A business-to-business magazine focused on the collaborative process and talented work of residential architects and custom homebuilders.

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Page 29 of 79

AIA CRA In the Wake BY SHAWNA MEYER, AIA, AND CHRISTOPHER MEYER, AIA From the Editor: In light of the cancellation of the AIA Custom Residential Architects Network (AIA CRAN) annual symposium due to the aftereffects of Hurricane Irma, the leadership asked two of its panelists to present their thoughts on climate change and residential architecture in this essay. "Rising Waters," a panel discussion proposed to forefront dialogue on what it means to construct, live, and sustain com- munities within littoral regions, was planned for the September's AIA CRAN Symposium in Miami. Edge communities inhabiting territories within fluctuating water bodies was scheduled as the focus of the discussion, posing the central question: How do residential architects, working at the scale of a single intervention, begin to own a conscious understanding of their projects within the greater context of the surrounding environment? As the conference backdrop, Miami's dense urban coastline emphasized the reality of these hard-lined, urban/natural or land/water edges. However, Hurricane Irma–apropos to the cause– brought local- ized flooding and power outages, ultimately forcing the cancellation of the symposium. The fall of 2017 has witnessed the arrival of a seemingly continuous series of significant storm events in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma made landfall in August, hurricanes Jose and Maria in September, and Hurricane Nate in October, marking an intense period of storms and establishing new levels of storm severities and effects for many territories. As with past storms, recent events will be categorized by their impact on humans and quantified through the number of human lives lost and economic destruction. The insatiable need to comprehend storm events under these finite anthropocentric categories–human lives and economic dollars–neglects focus on an environmental dialogue between affected communities and the territories they inhabit. As architects, engineers, planners, and governments mobilize to rebuild and re-envision these commu- nities, we must diverge from the improvised and reactionary approach to reconstruction. Displacing reactionary methods with an ecological and environmentally integrated approach would transform the discourse around residential architecture. What augmented role can ecology play in the future dialogue and construct of the evolving littoral-edge community? How can humans continue to build and inhabit the wet zones in a symbiotic partnership of ecology and community, instead of a domineering role of control and disruption? Contemporary planning regulations and protective infrastruc- tures established by government entities such as the early Military Topographical Engineering Commission, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency set in motion cycles of reactive planning rooted in contrived methods of control. These practices, coupled with existing community and residential typologies, evolved from the collision of forces intent on preserving a static existence within a continuously evolving, fluid environment. Architectural responses to wet environments often include transformations of existing structures (raised and stilted homes), appendages or armatures extending pre-floodplain structures, and new constructions adapted to a policy-driven floodplain datum. Littoral communities and their associated structures suffer from reactionary policy, insurance frameworks, financial interests, and disparity in social classes generating an architectural mash-up void of intent. Scrutinizing current approaches, designers and planners need to displace unary human-centric agendas with a diverse set of interests—including environmental trajectories, building science, and inhabitation. The question facing the profession of architecture in the near future is two-fold: Can architects produce buildings responsive to the surrounding environmental conditions without falling victim to the appliqué of baseline policies that serve an agenda of protection rather than coexistence? Left: The original low- lying structure for this Cocodrie, La., house subject to repeated flood events, has been expanded to extend above the floodplain. The result is a series of linkages and armatures connecting various volumes, with no clear expression of program, form, or function—an architectural mash-up. Below left: The vacant, stilted framework remains as a reminder of the intense environmental forces in the Mississippi Delta. Photos: Courtesy Shawna and Christopher Meyer 30 RESIDENTIALDESIGNMAGAZINE.COM VOL. 4, 2017

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