ORGANIZATION NAME: Common Studio
SUMMARY: Our strategy for implementation begins from the bottom up, engaging directly with local residents, industries, and businesses to promote and maintain the vitality of the cities where they live and work. BFI can provide the initial injection of funding to enable the development of a self sustaining, publicly funded model of operation in the future. Commonstudio is currently in the schematic phase of designing a functional prototype for the (C)urban Ecology infrastructure.
The research and development phase will entail consultation with various design, scientific, ecological and civil engineering disciplines, and rigorous testing to realize a final design solution that meets all of the performative criteria that the project requires.
The demonstration phase will include the production and installation of several full scale prototypes in major U.S. cities, in conjunction with public events such as national Park(ing) Day, with the aim of garnering local support and public awareness of the larger project goals. Street level canvassing efforts, as well as an interactive online forum for community input will also be developed in this stage to further demonstrate the viability and versatility of the project.
With this necessary support in place, we will then reach out to municipal authorities who can sponsor publically funded city specific implementation plans which will include further input from public design charettes. In time, the goal is that the (C)urban Infrastructure will simply become the norm, integrated within the plans and budgets of all future street improvements, built using locally derived, contextually sensitive materials that stimulate local economies, and creating new jobs by giving rise to entirely new forms of public sanitation and maintenance.
PROBLEM SPACE: "The increasing contamination of the earth’s water has emerged as one of the greatest planetary challenges of the 21st century. Rethinking the ways cities deal with urban drainage is a significant part of this challenge. Water running off of impervious areas, such as roads and parking lots, picks up contaminants from many sources along the way. This runoff water then carries these deadly substances (such as pesticides, oil, metal deposits, and common street garbage) directly into lakes, rivers, and oceans, often without any filtration whatsoever.
This is a design flaw whose response is long overdue. Despite an extensive and fascinating history of adapting to the functional and health-related concerns of cities, the familiar infrastructures of the urban street have remained largely unchallenged and unchanged since the industrial revolution. Our response begins with a simple conjecture: rather than merely diverting and transporting wastewater, could the typical street gutter could become the lungs of the city?
Our response is (C)urban Ecology-- a simple, rugged, modular, micro-remediation system that can be surgically inserted into our streets and can operate with minimal maintenance. Conceived as a network of channels and voids, and employing Buckminster Fuller’s central notion of “doing more with less”, (C)urban Ecology relies on simple strategies of sectional variety and the benefits of monolithic construction to achieve many levels of passive performance. A series of form integrated infiltration channels takes in water from the street and sidewalk for treatment within its many bio-remediation zones. Filled with gravel or silt, these zones operate like miniature wetlands, filtering contaminates from water before allowing it to permeate soil below. Larger scale debris is captured and held by the collection chamber, to be periodically removed and recycled. In time, the system is spontaneously colonized opportunistic plants, giving rise to lush pockets of street level vegetation while offering renewed amenity and visual articulation to the otherwise barren concrete streetscape.
Inserted strategically within the existing streets of major cities worldwide, (C)urban Ecology can become the hopeful beacon of a beautiful, sustainable and more vibrant future, creating new economic opportunities, greener cities, and healthier ecosystems at the same time.
SOLUTION: "(C)urban Ecology is a modular micro-remediation infrastructure that integrates seamlessly within our existing streets, supplanting the mundane utilitarian curb-and-gutter system to offer new levels of amenity. A versatile and performative design provides opportunities for water permeation and street vegetation, while sequestering small scale debris before it reaches the urban watershed. Identifying the typical urban street as both the source of the problem as well as the site of the solution, (C)urban Ecology targets the issues of polluted urban drainage at the most feasible scale of intervention, and achieves maximum positive impact on the built and natural environment with minimal material and energy inputs. Because it can be deployed and aggregated at various intensities, (C)urban Ecology can be effective from the scale of a single unit installed near a storm drain, to an array of 100 units that fringe the sidewalks of an entire city block.