Architecture in a Northern Flood Plain
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The thesis is an exploration of strategies that could be utilised in creating sustainable urbanism, one in which the inhabitants retain a relationship with the environmental and geographic conditions of their place. Promoting awareness of the natural context of urban activities is necessary in an increasingly complex world that is more able to disregard the natural systems that we depend on. Sustainability is seen as crucial in terms of the economic viability of cities as well as the sustainability of the environment in which dense urban centres are situated. In the case of a city located on a flood plain, the viability of the physical and social condition of the urban centre as well as its impact on that of the surrounding region comes to the forefront each time there is a flood. The city of Winnipeg on the Red River flood plain in the central lowlands of the eastern prairie of Canada is chosen as the site for this exploration where the difficulties of freezing temperatures make the problem of building on a flood plain a greater challenge. Several methods are explored in this urban design, demonstrating that urban sustainability and environmental sustainability are not exclusive of one another. The technique of densifying and unifying elements of the urban fabric, including parks and landscaping, residential inhabitation, as well as industrial and commercial activities, can be effective for both environmental and urban sustainability. Techniques explore the incorporation of vertically integrated multi-use buildings, the movement of public areas above street level, and construction on engineered hills, stilts or with the use of floatation devices, resulting in a site specific response to urban inhabitation. The trend toward a generic non-location specific urban lifestyle is superceded in this proposal for a mode of urban dwelling reconnected with surrounding context, marked by experience of seasonal and cyclical conditions of environment inscribed by an awareness of place.