ADVANCED STUDIO: Buoyant Ecologies

Core Faculty: Adam Marcus, Margaret Ikeda, Evan Jones

Date: Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016

This studio continues the work of the Buoyant Ecologies research project, which explores the design of ecologically-optimized envelopes for waterfront structures that promote habitats for diverse marine species. The research initiative began as a collaboration with Autodesk Workshop at Pier 9Benthic Lab at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, and Kreysler & Associates. A primary focus of the project is to develop customized fiber-reinforced polymer substrates that vary to provide marine habitats for a range of species, thereby enhancing the surrounding ecology. For more information on the broader research project, see this link

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As cities across the globe attempt to adapt to the uncertain and uneasy implications of climate change, there is little doubt that rising ocean levels will have a tremendous impact on the configuration of coastal cities worldwide. The Buoyant Ecologies research project begins with the premise that cities must accept the eventuality of rising water levels and actively develop new alternatives to conventional waterfront development. The research operates at the nexus of marine ecology and advanced digital fabrication techniques to seek new material approaches to man-made waterfront infrastructure. The focus of the project is developing compelling material strategies for contouring the underside of sessile (or stationary) vessels, such that the upside-down surface topography is optimized to enhance the biodiversity of the surrounding ecology. 

The project began with a fall 2014 Integrated Studio taught by Adam Marcus, Margaret Ikeda, and Evan Jones at CCA's Architecture Division. Students designed floating expansions of Autodesk's state-of-the-art Pier 9 Workshop, and through their work explored ways for the underside of the vessel to engage with the Bay ecology in a beneficial and productive way. The studio's work was exhibited at the Autodesk Gallery in spring 2015. Follow-up studios in 2015 and 2016 extended this research to Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, located within the Port of Oakland, where students developed proposals for an ecological research and educational center. 

The studio's work has included series of full-scale prototypes (fabricated by project partner Kreysler & Associates) of fiber-reinforced polymer substrates that are designed to provide a range of scalar habitats for marine life. These prototypes are currently submersed in Monterey Bay and the Oakland/Alameda Estuary, and they are being monitored by project partner Benthic Lab to further understand the impact of surface variation on upside-down aquatic ecosystems. Marcus, Ikeda, and Jones are currently in the design phase for a larger-scale floating prototype to deployed in the Port of Oakland. 

The Buoyant Ecologies research initiative has taken a highly collaborative approach. Primary research partners include the Architecture Division at California College of the Arts, CCA’s Digital Craft Lab, Autodesk’s Creative Programs Team and Workshop at Pier 9Benthic Lab at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, and Kreysler & Associates