Water directly and indirectly affects every function, process and product that supports life as we know it. With so much inherent importance and bigness associated with water, history has proven the difficulty we have had in approaching water as a delicate and finite resource. Nizar El Daher, a PhD AECM Candidate at Carnegie Mellon University, makes reference to the Everglades Restoration Project to describe the extent at which human development has impacted water systems. Increased demand for freshwater and a dumping ground for sewage along the Miami coast has put a tremendous amount of pressure on the Everglade ecosystem which serves as a reservoir for consumption and buffering system for flooding and erosion. Continued abuse of this ecosystem has resulted in decreased water volume that is charged with nutrients and contaminants, topsoil erosion, more frequent flooding, stratification and loss of aquatic life.
The issue has grown so large that in 1999, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sponsored the Central and South Florida Comprehensive review study chronicling, “the history of the Everglades and the changes that have occurred due to agriculture and urban development as well as what will likely happen in the future if no action is taken,” and the Comprehensive Restoration Plan consisting “of an almost $8 billion strategy to restore the natural functionality of the Everglades system.” This is groundbreaking as a holistic restoration initiative in comparison to the conventional approach of addressing specific species separately.
With that in mind, our understanding of and interaction with water systems in the urban context becomes crucial. Dana Cupkova, an assistant Professor at CMU and Design Principal of Epiphyte Lab presents a compelling example of an urban design intervention that employs a design process with built-in iterative feedback called Green Negligee.
Using the socio-economic context of the urban area of Petržalka, Slovakia as a test bed, we developed a specific approach to environmental analysis as both a first mode of inquiry and as input for a design method for building adaptive parametric models linked to specific series of data sets, which provide an innovative analytical model for more efficient form finding and performative testing.
Her approach uses technology as a means of adaptation positing that if an issue is interrogated intelligently, it will respond to us in kind. The environmental issues that we are facing today are the result of an oversimplification of the problem. This project highlights the importance of determining: to what depth and breadth can designers define what the problem is? As the scope gets larger technology may become fundamental to creating more comprehensive solutions.