Strategies Against Desertification

Colleagues of ours, Aziza Chaouni and Liat Margolis, recently mounted a fantastic exhibition here at the Daniels Faulty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. The exhibition is titled Out of Water: Innovative Technologies in Arid Climates. It is a survey of technologies and proposals addressing water scarcity.

Several projects within the exhibition are worth a more in-depth than I can do justice to here. Thankfully, rumor has it that there will be a publication forthcoming on the technologies and projects as well. More on that later. In the meantime, we will leave you with one technology and two projects as an introduction to Out of Water.


The Dixon Machine
Absorptive soil ensures against the devastation wrought by the twin desertification hazards of drought and deluge. The Dixon Land Imprinting machine restores the microroughness and macroporosity of compacted and barren soil to accelerate infiltration and revegetation processes. It is most effective in areas with low rainfall, degraded-, brushy-, rocky-, sandy-, and clayey soils, overgrazed ranges and abandoned agricultural land. The roller drops seeds onto the soil surface and imbeds them in the imprint surfaces. The imprinter forms interconnected water shedding and absorbing v-pockets, which function as rain fed micro-irrigation system. Down-slope furrows feed rainwater into cross-slope furrows where it collects and infiltrates. Revegetation is rapid because the imprints hold rainwater in place and captures seed, water and windblown plant litter, which works as mulch to suppress evaporation.

Sietch Waterbank - MATSYS + Nenad Katic
Sietch Nevada projects waterbanking as the fundamental factor in future urban infrastructure.
Sietch Nevada is an urban prototype that makes the storage, use, and collection of water essential to the form and performance of urban life. Inverting the stereotypical Southwest urban patterns of dispersed programs open to the sky, the Sietch is a dense, underground community. A network of storage canals is covered with undulating residential and commercial structures.

Those connect the city with vast aquifers deep underground and provide transportation as well as agricultural irrigation. The caverns, cellular in form constitute a new neighborhood typology that mediates between the subterranean urban network and the surface level activities of water harvesting, energy generation, urban agriculture and aquaculture. Sietch is also a bunker-like fortress preparing for the inevitable wars over water in the region.

Infrastructural Armature - Fletcher Studio
Los Angeles is a managed fantasy defined and sustained by its aging infrastructural legacy: freeways, channelized water networks, and power grids. These networks have grown horizontally, as vast sprawling enclaves are served by an incessant frenzy of individualized transportation and habitation. The forces of resource scarcity, global warming, and sea level rise will serve to radically alter future development. Los Angeles must assert its resiliency by radically altering its infrastructural investment. The city’s growth must re-organize, abandon its impervious terrains, and density along its matrices of transportation and hydrology. These networks of conveyance are incrementally inoculated with a metabolic landscape of wastewater reclamation, which in turn become catalysts for new forms of land uses. As sea levels rise, tidal energy is harnessed to operate desalination, as well as the distribution of reclaimed water.

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