Rainwater Harvesting in Al-Andalus
The 2008 ASLA Student Awards were announced last month. As usual, to figure out which project to post, we filtered the winners through our blog's ratty crochet of thematic threads: but all remained. They're all interesting, intelligently described and evocatively illustrated. Unfortunately, we haven't the time to make individual entries for each one. We're still going to single out one, however, and maybe a second one later, for no other reason than it is by a student at a non-North American university.
That student is Marti Mas Riera, of Universitat Politecnica De Catalunya, Barcelona, and his project is a rainwater harvesting scheme for the Arabic Fortress Hill of Baza in Andalucia.
To understand the scheme, it's best to trace an imaginary journey a single drop of rainwater would undertake in Riera's recontoured hill.
So let's say it falls into one of the new gardens on the summit.
There, it somehow doesn't get absorb by the aromatic plants or seep through the vegetated spaces between the pavers. Instead, propelled by gravity, it rolls down into one of the “geometric fissures.” Once in these trenches, it is then channeled down to one of the 4 new plazas at the bottom of the hill via a narrow access path, on the middle of which is another collection canal.
This canal is connected to an overhang of unspecified stone material, through which our intrepid little drop enters the plaza in a temporary waterfall before it gets swallowed by little holes drilled into the basalt pavers. Under these pavers, below the plaza proper, is a water storage tank.
There, it waits until something needs watering.
Riera, then, has essentially re-landscaped the hill into a gigantic Rube Goldberg machine, its complexly interconnected parts paved into the built environment as sculptural installations or infrastructural decorations. Rainfall, an obvious rarity in southern Spain and an event in itself, is further turned into a choreographed spectacle.
One can certainly imagine little kids making toy paper boats (or landscape architecture students on assignments and even us trying to recapture the halcyon days of our distant youths) and then letting them set sail from one of the canals atop the hill. Clothes soaking wet but bounding with joy, they will try to follow it on its journey, walking, running, strolling, stopping when it gets stuck to nudge it along, hurrying and slowing in syncopated rhythms, in fits of giggles and screams of delight.