Zeh-Zophora: A Clinic for Humans and Non-Humans
Francesca Capicchioni and Melinda Barbagallo @ Factory of Hyper Ecologies [Professor: Amaia Sánchez Velasco @ University of Technology Sydney]
Reh-zophora is a healing transformation of coastline and estuary landscapes and a medical research institute. It is designed to purify the quality of water (specifically algae blooms) around some of the most polluted waterways along the Great Barrier Reef.
Reh-zophora is an onshore, hybridized healing facility and interpretational center. It focuses on human and environmental health by extracting excess algae for medicinal research and other practical purposes. Its strategic location in landscapes affected by excessive concentration of algae is taken as an opportunity to produce food and medicine while balancing the detrimental effects of eutrophication in the Great Barrier Reef. The multi-scalar effect of Reh-Zophora turns the project into a local, national and international hub. It opens an urgent conversation in relation to conservation and production in which humans and non-humans
What would you say was your most important tool when developing the project?
For us, it was the people and the brief. The passion and engagement between class peers, our professor Amaia and invited guests (internal and external to architecture) for workshops and peer reviews, allowed us to embrace a deep understanding into an expansion of the brief in ways we never would have predicted or thought capable of. Likewise, the brief itself to use architecture as a tool for test new conservation strategies, was very fundamental to our values that we had previously considered but had never known or had the opportunity to put into practice, until now.
When working towards a digital archive- how did the very identity of this inform the type of data and how was this recorded and transcribed?
Given that information on the Great Barrier Reef is so data heavy, initial challenges lied in deciphering what was relevant. Nominated key research fields; the Reef as Geographical, Production, Reproduction, and Virtual, were divided around the studio to accomodate for a broad overview. Whether it was artificial reefs, geographical zoning, or industry trades, everybody became an expert in a particular field, enabling a rigorous debate within the studio. Ways of recording this data was optional, however, most students preferred mapping and graphical linework to illustrate interesting facts of their focused topics, with a goal to be documented at a global, urban, building and human scale. This method revealed gaps in information initially unavailable, and tested our critical thinking to find conjoining relationships to draw new maps and new solutions.
How important was the drawing as medium through which to discuss the project as a team and with your tutor? Would you have wanted to explore other mediums?
In architecture school, we have always been taught that a drawing to communicate our ideas is key. Therefore, in many ways, often tried to rush to get to a drawing state when we simply were not at that stage, wasting time on meaningless lines and often, founding our way back at the start. Our professor was flexible with our method of communication and often pushed for variations in delivery. For us, successful outcomes were resolved through long and expansive discussions over many immediate sketches. From microscopic scenarios and understanding the smallest of critters, to urban planning diagramatic flows of nature, people, currency, sketches allowed us to rapidly test more ideas without being too committed to a single design. This back and forward transition from small to large scale solutions eventually led us to the Building scale.
How did you approach the 6 A1 panels, what were the biggest challenges when confronting a format this big and with strict requirements?
We greeted the size format and constraints with open arms. For us, a predetermined presentation layout allowed us to concentrate on the more imperative factors of the project itself. The panel quantity limitation aided the process of precision, forcing us to consolidate and communicate only the very necessary moments of the project such as using images that would consolidated multiple targeted characteristics. Additionally, we used cotton paper to reveal the imbued historical ecologies driving the concept of the project. The biggest challenge was finding the right arrangement to fit a long section on an A1 portrait page, but ultimately, I don’t think that ever really makes or breaks the substance of aproject.
What is your take on the relevance of a Manifesto in contemporary culture?
Throughout the Masters program, a manifesto has always been a key driver to a successful project. It was not too dissimilar in this project however the complexities held within our Manifesto could only be described with words representation of a manifesto through illustrations was not entirely successful given the complex layering of research, collaboration of ideas and experimentation, the our manifesto only held true through the use of words. We believe that for contemporary culture to continue its evolution, a mere image would be revisioning past experiences. For Reh-zophora whose spatial principles evolve temporally, even a video would not articulate the resonance of detail attributed to the intention behind the experience of this prototypical landscape.
When selecting the wordsthrough which to articulate and present your work, what relationship do these holds to the drawings?
Representation and communication of the project challenged us throughout the project. We were combining disciplines that usually do not communicate and having to determine the right words to articulate scientific and technical exchanges, whilst applying historic ecologies and environmental bio-symbiosis between architecture and its surrounds. Excitingly, this sometimes means creating new words to fit the mould, for example, the project’s title, Reh-zophora,is an amalgamation of the words ‘rehabilitation’ and the scientific term for mangrove, Rhizophoraceae. We tested multiple forms of communication techniques to ensure these antithesis values of the practical applications could be revealed within the constructs of the imaginary.
What is the future of architecture as a multidisciplinary practice? How important were discussions with professionals from other backgrounds for the development of the project?
For architecture to be progressive, how architects go about liasing with other disciplines will also need to be progressive. We are now living in the fastest growing information exchange rates than ever before. In order to undergo a thoughtful and well considered project, accumulating the inherit expansion of knowledge can only be achieved with an integration of diverse skill sets. The cross pollinating of knowledge and ideas allows for more resilient projects and for the architecture, as collaborators of these fields, to be communicative externally and therefore remainrelevant.
Throughout this project, collaboration of mixed disciplinary experts was fundamental. We had a biologist, scientist, writer, social artists, urban planner, policy maker, and many academics mentor and challenge our thinking along the way. This set of diverse thinking hats gave us provocative constraints that helped produce a more holistic end result, without which imaginaries like Zeh-zophora wouldn’t exist.
Could you talk about the experience of participating in the ‘Sustaining the seas’ multi-disciplinary forum?
The Sustaining the Seas conference was a great opportunity to see how the architectural languages we were using would translate across disciplines. We were excited to see how it would be received beyond the architectural community and encouraged feedback responses. Unlike many of the other presentations at the conference, which were based around real events, practices and interventions, our projects were still very much in the initial undertakings of new imaginaries. This provided space for a separation of ideas across age, culture and discipline that i believe was wellreceived.
How and to what extent has this studioand its methodology influenced how you will operate as an architect?
To us, this studio delivered optimism for architecture’s place in the world. The brief of this studio showed us the potential for architecture to be linked to more than standardised interactive disciplines so that it too can become relevant in the global exchange of conversation in environmental challenges. The methodology for illustrative research and iterative multi-disciplinary thinking was extremely influential in navigating new constructive imaginaries. The studio allowed us to engage responsibly and become greater participants in thescientificexchangebetweenthearchitecturalprofessionandtheproductsandspaceswedesign,to envision technically innovative solutions for a more sustainablefuture.