The Retreating Village
Is your seaside town in danger of succumbing to the waves, soon to be underwater in the next decade, if not next year?
Is your quaint vacation beach cottage getting swept away by migrating sand dunes?
Has the government finally realized that funneling billions of dollars to build sea defenses is truly a waste and that the good money of good tax payers everywhere can be better spent somewhere else?
Are you going to become a climate change refugee?
If so, and yet you still want to preserve both your house and seaside community, Mark Smout and Laura Allen, or Smout Allen bibliographically, have the solution. Specifically, there is their proposal for a retreating village, as described in their utterly marvelous contribution to the Pamphlet Architecture series, titled Augmented Landscape.
“The coastal village of Happisburgh in North Norfolk is falling into the sea,” the authors tell us. It's a victim of rising sea levels, climate change and government inaction.
While other villages would simply pack everything up and leave, never to return, the duo imagines a condition between flight and colonization, between temporary settlement and permanent retreat, all the while inhabiting a perpetually shifting edge.
“Our proposal for a retreating village of small houses and streets is deployed in the disintegrating territory between the sea and the land. The village reacts to predicted rates of retreat, as much as five meters per year, by sliding and shifting to safer land. To achieve this the scheme employs a mechanical landscape of winches, pulleys, rails, and counterweights, mimicking techniques for hauling boats from the waves. It also adopts [from a millennia's worth of garden and landscape design?] an architectural language of impermanence, of permeable screens, loose-fit structures, and cheap materials that complement and contribute to the nature of the restless landscape.”
In this migrant village, houses are “mounted on steel and concrete skits that allow each house to be dragged” using “pulleys that are anchored in the landscape and attached to the frame.”
Additionally, each one will be accompanied in their slow, nomadic journey with “three-dimensionally woven geotextile bags” that not only reinforce the surrounding soil but will also be used as “allotments for prize-winning vegetables” or “a personal space for sunbathing.”
Immediately one wonders what it would be like to live in a village with a “twitchy attitude,” one that's constantly repositioning and reconfiguring, literally exposed to topography, geography and climate without the stability traditionally afforded by the home.
No solid ground but the unceasing performance of slow disaster. Though you'll still have your house and the sublime view of the sea.
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