[Ecologies of Excess - The Research/ Designers. Poster by: Eva Franch Gilabert]

Excess typically implies in addition to what is required, a by-product, or residue.  The continual growth model of our economic system produces a vast amount of excess.  Could excess become part of a larger productive system if it was put to work?  This meaning, is there an ecology of excess?

This notion of Ecologies of Excess was the premise of an intriguing studio taught by Eva Franch Gilabert at Rice University, that I had the pleasure of reviewing last week.  According to Franch, the ideological succession of machine for living by organism for living perpetuated the same social, political and environmental dilemmas of the previous century.  Franch envisions a new movement, Ecologies of Excess, during the 22nd century that "provide us with a guide to thinking, designing and building based on what we, human beings, produce without measure: endless amounts of energy in social [crowds], political [wars], and environmental terms [pollution].  In sum: Excess"

Set in the year 2101, the studio centered on the design of a Worlds Fair Exhibition Pavilion, deemed "Great Exhibition of the Works of Excess of All Nations".  Each studio participant was to site their project in a different country and analyze the productive aspects of excess.  The studio produced fascinating results, two projects of which are highlighted below.

[Top: The floating, tangled settlements of trash facilitate the spread of invasive species (like mussels, barnacles, invertebrates, and pelagic crabs) across the ocean. Middle: Invasive species often attach to floating plastic settlements, affecting the oceans oxygen, phytoplankton, and zooplankton production, to the detriment of native ecosystems. Bottom: The average cubic centimeter of ocean water holds about one million phytoplankton-producing-bacteria; however, if this bacteria attaches to plastic, it creates biofilm colonies on the surface of the ocean, depriving lower depths of an even distribution ocean nutrient cycling. Images Courtesy of: Igraine Perkinson]

Polymergy Waterscapes by: Igraine Perkinson

Polymergy Waterscapes looks at the garbage gyre written about by InfraNet Lab last year.  The great pacific garbage patch is comprised of floating plastics that swirl within slow winds and ocean currents.  Entitled Polymergy Waterscapes, Igraine envisions a future typology that builds upon and with this trash.  Igraine states:

Whereas traditional patterns of urbanity sought to settle away from trash, Polymergy Waterscapes creates a floating aquatic society that inverses this relationship, using garbage as a generative device for new urbanism. The pavilion adopts a labyrinthine open system of channels that brings the trash to its proximity by disrupting the clockwise currents of the gyre. These systems grow by means of compaction, reducing debris by a factor of ten.

[Siting Strategy. Top: The gyre occupies an area of slow wind currents; as a result, fishermen and sailors rarely travel through it—hence, a lack of awareness of its presence. Middle: Warm water from the south crashes into cooler water from the north, creating a spiraling current that collects the floating garbage. Bottom: Each season affects ocean water temperatures, pushing the location of the gyre about 1000 miles north and south every time. Images Courtesy of: Igraine Perkinson]

Sited at an opportune location for gathering garbage - where winds and currents are slowest - Polymergy Waterscapes not only raises awareness of this emerging continent of garbage, but also incorporates programmes that can take advantage of garbage - spas (heat generated by recycling process), research labs, and various recreational activities of play.  The accumulation or densification of the island over time slowly clears the larger mass of water.  Here, garbage is the unit of growth and the subject for occupation.

[A labyrinthine strategy of open water channels collects trash by disrupting the clockwise currents of the gyre, following a specific path typology that relates to process and program. Image Courtesy of: Igraine Perkinson]
[Accumulation Legs, View of Model. Image Courtesy of: Igraine Perkinson]
[Each program zone architecturalizes collected garbage uniquely (zone1 ex: accumulation wall, soft square, synthetic dunes, garbage whirlpool) constructing collective aspirations that result from the design process. Image Courtesy of: Igraine Perkinson]
[Sections. Top: Other water channels empty debris into the collection ponds and topography terraces of Plastic Laboratories, which can then be closed off and left to dry in order to store contents for energy or research. Bottom: Polymergy Spa is an underwater refinery that melts plastic and converts it into energy, releasing mist as a result of the process, and adding a layer of privacy for each user—the relaxation seeker. Image Courtesy of: Igraine Perkinson]

Species Indetermina by: Ashley Johnson
Species Indetermina tackles the issue of species migration in ballast water.  As globalized markets put increasing pressure on shipping, ballast water becomes a large issue.  This water is typically polluted (with the residue of the cargo) and often contains alien species, which are dumped in ports far from their origin.  These alien species often alter and eliminate parts of the local ecosystem.  Ashley Johnson takes advantage of these alien species in her project, Species Indetermina, by containing the ballast water and creating core samples of wildlife and landscape from different parts of the globe.  These contained ecosystem core samples essentially create a new zoo typology that is curated by shipping routes and alien ballast water.  Johnson sites her project in New Zealand, where she notes,  "in 2010 twenty new species of algae were discovered from samples taken in Auckland Harbour labeled species indetermina".

[Placement of a single port outside of Auckland Harbour where Ballast Water is typically dumped. Image courtesy of Ashley Johnson]
[Plan of Port at low tide. Image courtesy of Ashley Johnson]

Her containment port located outside the harbor would allow "The people of New Zealand to sail five minutes off their own coast and enter exotic new environments, on sea level with the new life, as well as up above in restaurants and observation decks." What is interesting about this scheme is that while sited in New Zealand, it could provide a prototype for dealing with ballast water at all international shipping ports across the globe.  A travelling network of contained (and contaminated) ecosystems, which introduce the public to new exotic worlds.

[Proliferation of exotic life. Image courtesy of Ashley Johnson]
[Exploded Axonometric showing public layers hovering above container. Image courtesy of Ashley Johnson]
While the projects seemed fantastical, perhaps because of their future projection of 2101, the issues they addressed were imminent and the solutions were all - in some form - viable (particularly when looking at the proposed schemes for the oil containment in the Gulf of Mexico).  By finding new solutions for excess, new "ecologies" can emerge that are fueled on our invisible waste.  We are excited to hear that Eva Franch Gilabert was recently appointed the Director of the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York and we hope to see more on the Ecologies of Excess.


[...] Ecologies of ExcessWhereas traditional patterns of urbanity sought to settle away from trash, Polymergy Waterscapes creates a floating aquatic society that inverses this relationship, using garbage as a generative device for new urbanism.(tags:architecture ) [...]

Warren Ellis » Links for 2010-05-17 added these pithy words on May 18 10 at 5:01 pm

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