L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui (‘A’A’) interviewed American designers Amy Mielke and Caitlin Taylor of Water Pore Partnership who won the LafargeHolcim Awards Gold 2014 for their Poreform project. Their approach repositions water infrastructure as a civic project: using a water absorptive surface and subterranean basin to capture rain runoff that adds over 75,000 megaliters to the water supply capacity of Las Vegas, USA. Capable of rapid saturation and slow release, the flood-control pores of this “urban skin” are inlets to a new infrastructure that reframes water as a valuable resource rather than a liability.
‘A’A’: Could you describe the project you submitted in the LafargeHolcim Awards for Sustainable Construction and what is the current status of this project?
Amy Mielke & Caitlin Taylor: Poreform is a design proposal to recast floodwater and runoff as a local resource instead of a liability. It is an urban surface – an intelligent and flexible system of pores – that absorbs and collects water like a skin for the city. Capable of rapid saturation and slow release, the pores of this urban skin are inlets to a new adaptable infrastructure at its surface.
The project is currently in the prototyping phase, and we are eagerly preparing for large-scale, in situ tests hosted by the Landscape Lab at Yale University in mid-2017.
‘A’A’: What was the impact of this Award on your professional activity as architects?
Amy Mielke & Caitlin Taylor: The prize in the LafargeHolcim Awards was an incredible vote of confidence for our design ideas. It lent our project crucial leverage and visibility, which has been invaluable as we continue to work towards implementation. It was in many ways the impetus of our continued partnership.
‘A’A’: What are you main current projects? Are you still in touch with the LafargeHolcim Foundation’s network and/or other Awards competition prize-winners? If so; in what context?
Amy Mielke & Caitlin Taylor: Today we are dreaming about the possibilities for a network of communicative water quality stations that would be sprinkled throughout New York City, alerting us if something has failed and providing peace of mind when everything is in order. The project is inspired by a recent water quality crisis in Flint, Michigan and received a New York State Council for the Arts (NYSCA) grant in 2017 sponsored by the Storefront for Art & Architecture.
We have been in regular contact with LafargeHolcim since the Awards, and they are hugely supportive of the continued development of Poreform. They have lent their expertise and insight as we navigate an unusual project delivery path, and will collaborate on the upcoming prototyping experiments.See more
Caitlin Gucker-Kanter Taylor of Water Pore Partnership, New York was presented with a Global Finalist 2015 certificate for her “Poreform” project to create water absorptive surface and subterranean basin in Las Vegas. As part of the celebration of the Global Awards Bronze prize in New York City, the certificate was handed over by Marc Angélil, member of the Global Awards jury 2015 and member of the Board of the LafargeHolcim Foundation.
Marc Angélil, Professor of Architecture & Design at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), praised the project for considering water infrastructure as an architectural undertaking and considering its social aspects in scope and design.
Caitlin Gucker-Kanter Taylor noted that thanks to the Awards competition, the project had received wide scale recognition. The project team were in earnest discussions with local authorities and were hopeful that some form of the project would be realised. Materials research to further the development of the water permeable concrete structures was being supported by LafargeHolcim US.See more
Water presents complex problems to the gambling and entertainment city of Las Vegas. Two young architects from the East Coast are tackling the challenge with a concept that’s as ingenious as it is simple.
Water presents another type of challenge to Las Vegas, one that would probably surprise most outsiders: The city is regularly inundated by floods. When it rains here, the showers are often so strong that the ground surface, predominantly paved or else bone dry earth, cannot absorb the water fast enough. The water then flows through the streets; the world-famous Strip rapidly turns into a rushing river. Rain showers can lead to disaster in Las Vegas.
Project co-author Caitlin Gucker-Kanter Taylor commented: “So it was quickly clear to us: We need detention basins in the downtown area that can rapidly absorb very large volumes of water.”
As one of the three main Holcim Awards winners for North America in 2014, “Poreform” automatically qualified as a finalist in the Global Holcim Awards 2015. All 15 finalist project teams were asked to submit an updated and more comprehensive entry that was evaluated by a global jury in March 2015.
The results of the global phase of the 4th Holcim Awards competition were announced on April 20, 2015.
The winners of the global phase of the 4th International Holcim Awards competition will be revealed on April 20, 2015. The results will be announced via the Holcim Awards website.
The USD 2 million Holcim Awards is the most significant international competition for sustainable design. The jury composed of renowned specialists from around the world and headed by Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University (USA) will evaluate 15 projects out of more than 6,000 submissions. The finalists are the winners of the Holcim Awards Gold, Silver, and Bronze Awards 2014 in each of the five competition regions of the world.
The finalist projects competing for one of the three Global Holcim Awards prizes are located in Austria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, France, Italy, Lebanon, Mexico, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, and the USA and were entered by authors from these countries as well as from Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain. They reflect a broad variety of the current interpretation of sustainable construction combined with architectural excellence and enhanced quality of life beyond technical intervention.
The submissions will be evaluated by the Global Holcim Awards 2015 jury including Marc Angélil, Senior Dean of Architecture and Urban Design at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich, Switzerland), Alejandro Aravena, Principal of Elemental (Chile), Maria Atkinson, Founding Director of the Australian Green Building Council (Australia), Meisa Batayneh Maani, Principal of maisam architects and engineers (Jordan), Yolanda Kakabadse, President of WWF International (Ecuador), Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University (USA), Matthias Schuler, Principal of Transsolar(Germany), and Rolf Soiron, Chairman of the Board of the Holcim Foundation (Switzerland).
The winners of the global prizes will share prize money of USD 350,000. Previous winners of the tri-annual Global Holcim Awards include Bureau EAST (Los Angeles, USA), Centola + Associati (Salerno, Italy), Coelacanth and Associates (Tokyo, Japan), Ingenhoven und Partner Architekten (Dusseldorf, Germany), Kéré Architecture (Berlin, Germany), L’OEUF (Montreal, Canada), Public Architecture (San Francisco, USA), Proyectos Arqui5 (Caracas, Venezuela), realities:united (Berlin, Germany), Tsinghua University (Beijing, China), and Urban-Think Tank (São Paulo, Brazil).
About the Holcim Foundation and Holcim
The Swiss-based Holcim Foundation promotes and illustrates the strength of diverse strategies of achieving greater sustainability of the built environment. As part of its approach, the Foundation publishes booklets on outstanding examples of applied sustainable construction. The initiatives of the Holcim Foundation include the USD 2 million Holcim Awards – the most significant international competition for sustainable design.
Since it was established in 2003, the Foundation has been supported by Holcim in more than 70 countries worldwide and is independent of commercial interests. Holcim is one of the world’s leading suppliers of cement and aggregates (crushed stone, gravel and sand) as well as further activities such as ready-mix concrete and asphalt, including services.See more
Caitlin Gucker-Kanter Taylor from the Water Pore Partnership reframes water as a valuable resource rather than a liability. “Poreform: Water absorptive surface and subterranean basin, Las Vegas, USA” won the Holcim Awards Gold for offering a welcome answer to the general problem of water scarcity.
The winning projects of the Holcim Awards 2014 for North America are at the cutting edge of efficiency and innovation in sustainable construction. The top prize went to a water supply and flood mitigation project in Las Vegas designed by Amy Mielke and Caitlin Taylor. BIG’s urban flood-protection concept for lower Manhattan was conferred the silver Award, and a zero-carbon compostable structure recently on display at MoMA New York designed by David Benjamin received bronze.Read full media release – Holcim Awards 2014 for North America »
Poreform, a water absorptive surface and subterranean basin that captures rain runoff and adds over 75,000 megaliters (20 billion gallons) to the water supply capacity of Las Vegas won the top prize. Designers Amy Mielke and Caitlin Taylor of Water Pore Partnership (USA) reposition water infrastructure as a civic project. Capable of rapid saturation and slow release, the flood-control pores of this “urban skin” are inlets to a new infrastructure that reframes water as a valuable resource rather than a liability.
The jury commends the project’s objective to conceive infrastructure as an architectural undertaking. Instead of considering infrastructure as a mere servant to utility, it is reclaimed as a truly public matter of concern and treated as equally social in scope and design – an untapped site for making and altering space. The proposal additionally foregrounds the need to treat water as a common good by proposing a modulated ground surface for water retention to prevent urban flooding. While designed for a specific site, the project offers a welcome answer to the general problem of water scarcity – a straightforward, but nonetheless beautiful proposition for a global challenge.
The design proposal for the city of Las Vegas, USA repositions water infrastructure as a civic project. Facing a significant shortage of water in an arid region, local drainage systems are incapable of handling and collecting the water that floods the city which is positioned in a valley when it rains. Poreform, a porous concrete surface poured in place with fabric formwork, manages to absorb water, feeding rain runoffs into subterranean basins with a capacity of over 75,000 megaliters (20 billion gallons). Capable of rapid saturation and slow release, the pores of this “urban skin” are inlets to a new infrastructure that reframes water as a valuable resource rather than a liability.
Over time, water infrastructure has been hidden underground, transported behind barriers, and retained outside the city limits. Moving water into the city then requires a fragile network of energy outputs and economic inputs, which has proven difficult for growing urban environments. Contemporary cities like Las Vegas, Nevada require a new water infrastructure that is local, scalable, and carefully calibrated to the complex urban context.
The proposal redesigns towards environmental resiliency and adaptability, and seeks an active role in shaping the public realm. Las Vegas is an arid city that suffers from periods of extreme water scarcity punctuated by destructive flooding in the densest urban areas. The city continually strains against the outer limits of the available water supply, in an effort to prevent systematic shortages. Meanwhile, because Las Vegas is positioned in the center of the Las Vegas Valley hydrographic basin, the water infrastructure of the city is incapable of absorbing the 100,000 megaliters (27.1 billion US gallons) of rainwater that flood the city center every time it rains.
Poreform, an urban surface – an intelligent and flexible system of pores – is a proposal that absorbs and collects water like a skin for the city. Capable of rapid saturation and slow release, the pores of this urban skin are inlets to a new adaptable infrastructure below its surface. The client, the Water Pore Partnership (WPP), is seeking to implement Poreform as a new water infrastructure for Las Vegas, and eventually other urban environments.
For Las Vegas, Poreform is calibrated to absorb the 100,000 megaliters of rainwater, which is captured and released from a primary basin, the Downtown Tank. This principal water retention tank is the subterranean counterpart to the Poreform surface. When dry, the Downtown Tank is a temperate and temporal space for exhibitions and performances. When there is rainfall, the tank keeps downtown from flooding, and offers components of indication from above so that the public is always aware of water scarcity or excess.
We seek an architecture of carefully engineered infrastructure and a newly powerful civic realm, built within the sustainable economy of a resilient city. Poreform proposes a way of focusing the public’s attention on infrastructure that is the least visible, but most vulnerable, in today’s cities. A growing public awareness of water infrastructure can positively affect usage, conservation, and strategic growth.Download project entry poster (PDF, 3.87 MB) »See more
Poreform, a water absorptive surface and subterranean basin that captures rain runoff and adds over 75,000 megaliters …
Caitlin Gucker-Kanter Taylor from the Water Pore Partnership reframes water as a valuable resource rather than a liability. …
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