For those of you who don’t read a lot of Sci-Fi, the term ‘sietch’ comes from Frank Herbert’s masterpiece ‘Dune’. The dune series takes place largely on a planet covered by (you guessed it) dunes; an entire planet covered by desert. The inhabitants of the planet live in scattered settlements built into rock formations and their culture is largely based around an eons-long process of capturing water from the atmosphere to terraform the planet into a lush green forest. The project above is a proposal which takes these settlements as a conceptual starting point and applies the idea to the imminent water shortage in the American Southwest. From AMNP’s description:
MATSYS has created a subterranean city – taking the idea of waterbanking one step further, creating an underground canal system that both provides water to the inhabitants and allows for necessary irrigation of the proposed garden spaces in the center of each of the sietch’s cells.
There are so many things to love about this project; the apocalyptic desperation of moving underground, the synthesis of urban space and food production, the geothermal cooling approach, the voronoi diagram of the towers and canals, etc. These are the types of though experiments that we need more of in theoretical architecture.
I’m generally annoyed at architectural proposals this divorced from the reality of what can be practically implemented; what makes this project different is that it starts from the perspective that eventually we will be forced to start thinking with a much longer time horizon that we have been, then proposes a design that could be plausible in this inevitable future. This seems more like a contingency plan for an uncomfortable future than an ill-conceived and under-informed plan for what to do now.