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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AIA CRA The introduction of these ideas by designers and policy- makers will serve to shift expectations of clients, dwellers, and developers—offering a clear and coherent lens to engage environ- ment through construction. Reserving reflections on antiquated policies of control and the practice of protective infrastructures for a separate dialogue, we can focus on the charge of the residential architect and the ability to develop a new set of living expectations. As architects, we must draw upon our understanding of envi- ronmental impacts and embrace the responsibility to lead clients, developers, and community leaders in an ecological discussion. Residential architecture and urban planning strategies may include explanations of wet zones that would allow extensions of hydrological systems as well as planned methods of retreat. Clients must face the importance of the commitment to construct a dwelling within a littoral territory, and its potential to affect surrounding environment and ecological networks. Wet Zones and Extensions of Hydrological Systems The linking element among all littoral communities is the existence of a fluctuating edge. It's commonly perceived by inhabitants as the line or moment of separation between one distinct environment from the other—wet and dry, static and fluid. Perhaps naively, communities inhabit littoral zones and establish neighborhoods in regions precariously close to that edge. The miscalculation is in the perception that the edge is perma- nent, controllable, and unchanging. Whether the edge is defined as a manmade levee wall or berm, a natural ocean shoreline, a constructed seawall, or delta landforms, it should be understood as fluid and subject to the relentless pressure to change. The edge has no fixed shape and cannot be engaged as a hard line dividing one environment from another—it is a zone of give and take that yields to the strongest pressure. For architects and planners to acknowledge this behavior, design proposals should express certain flexibility. Landscapes configure themselves seamlessly between wet zones and dry zones. Natural elements such as depressions, swales, and channels are examples of ecological buffers serving to accommodate fluc- tuating water zones. These buffers can respond to the fluctuating effects of water on land without the kinds of disruptions to built structures that litter manmade materials into the environment. Similarly, public open spaces, placed strategically within the urban fabric, can create transitional zones or batteries to dissi- pate encroaching waters until the surrounding environment can reabsorb them. The assemblage of buildings into neighborhoods and urban centers can cultivate a much-needed cohesion between structures and the environmental character of place; these subtle nuances have a guiding voice in design. Planned Retreat At the severe end of the spectrum, the act of retreat acknowledges environmental pressures as guiding principles for inhabitation, or lack thereof. In such dense urban instances as New Orleans, Miami, and Manhattan, the thought of these communities resettling or retreating to higher ground is perceived as an impossibility. Highly populated urban centers spawn endless typologies of supporting infrastructure available to seamlessly integrate protective systems and environmental control struc- tures, perpetuating habits of human command over nature. Cultural agendas and embedded knowledge of place rooted in centuries of habit render large-scale change non-negotiable, however seemingly inevitable. For Mississippi Delta communities such as Isle de Jean Charles, La., retreat may be the only option. Rising sea levels, erosion, increased storm severity, and storm surges have begun to push residents out in search of drier ground. Isle inhabitants take with them an innate knowledge bound to the intimacy of place through their experience of the dramatic transformation of the delta. The knowledge gleaned in facing the unrelenting forces of nature will offer a powerful resource in understanding the future its former residents will be forced to call home. The role of the residential architect has the capacity to create great change in human habits through the buildings people live and work in. The innovative aspirations presented in the Case Study Project from 1945–1966 are recognized as a collective and conscious effort to interpolate change in the practice of American architecture with dwellings "designed to redefine the modern home" (Elizabeth Smith, The Complete CSH Program). A similar movement is needed within the contemporary discipline to address urban planning, the materiality of buildings, and the construction techniques within littoral communities. The reshoring of urban planning strategies submerged by encroaching waters and the replication and reconstruction of buildings toppled by environmental forces represents an unwillingness to acknowl- edge the shortcomings in our efforts. About the Authors: Shawna Meyer, AIA, is currently Senior Associate at KVA in Boston, and co-author of Pamphlet Architecture 36. Christopher Meyer, AIA, is founding principal of aPC and co-author of Pamphlet Architecture 36. PA 36, to be published in spring 2018, references the dialogue that exists between two distinct yet infinitely connected environments: land and sea, or terra firma and aqua firma. Architecture should be responsible for any possible outcome; through these means, the pamphlet projects a strategic set of methods for subsisting in affected zones, grounded in the specificities of culture, context, and condition. 32 RESIDENTIALDESIGNMAGAZINE.COM VOL. 4, 2017

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