The workshop “Urban Sponge” is devoted to rethinking empty urban spaces as potential sites for absorbing, cleaning, and redistributing water. The imbalances that have been occurring due to Climate Change, with either too much water, such as Houston in August 2017 or during the same period, not enough water, such as the on-going drought in Ethiopia set a challenge for all urban situations. The excess of paving in asphalt and concrete during the past 50 years has greatly improved vehicular access but at the same time strongly compromised the capacity of the land to absorb and store water. Coastal cities and cities below sea level will need to equip themselves for unpredictable shifts in water accumulation. Rotterdam and New York City have already begun to plan for the 40 cm to 2 meter rise of sea levels during the next two generations.
As in previous workshops students, usually organized in teams of 4, will be giving a set of general topics to research, along with a specific design problem, in this case dealing with the 10 different sites between the convent of San Niccolò and a future project known as MacroLottoZero, about 2 km to its north. The potential to rethink parking as parks, to rethink roofs as collectors, to create water-friendly programs for large empty sites, and to encourage the formation of green corridors from the significant agro-industrial hinterland to the walled center city. To help us we will learn from the biologist/artist Dr. Carlo Scoccianti, founder of the Oasis at Focognano and other zones between Florence and Prato that have been replanned as natural systems that catch excess runoff water while improving the habitat of wild animals. We will also have input from Prato’s assessor of urbanism, Valerio Barberis.
The ten student projects will be presented April 15 at noon to all who are interested. Critics include Prof. Giulio Giovinnoni of UNIFI, an expert on Florentine sprawl, and the tutors Arian Heidari Afshari, Eugenia Bolla, Stefano Lardera and the Program Director Richard Ingersoll.
Photo Credits © Eugenia Bolla