Rewild the River
Rewild the Land
Curve Crease Folding
Looking at the soil quality and land-use as parameters of flooding, this project uses rewilding to retain water in the mountains and alleviate fluvial flooding along the length of the Taff. This interest was driven by studying the relationships between the predictable and unpredictable in nature and how we can immerse ourselves and connect to the wilderness and fluidity of natural systems, rejecting our overbearing control of the natural world.
Most of Cardiff will be undergoing severe annual flood events in the coming decades. Flooding costs the UK economy £1.1 billion a year and a further 1 in 6 properties in the UK is now at risk of flooding, these will only worsen with climate change. Rather than simply accepting our fate in the city, we follow the river upstream. We propose to take the first step in a longer process; intervene at the river source in the mountains, which are currently a sheep-infested ecological design, where little grows and little, other than sheep, live.
MArch II Design Thesis
Kate Darby & Gianni Botsford
Computation & Innovation Award Winner
The physical proposal seeks to connect people to the rewilded landscape and overcome ecological boredom by contrasting experiences of shelter and safety with that of excitement and danger.
REWILD THE RIVER
REWILD THE people
Rather than simply accepting our fate in the city, we follow the river upstream. Zooming out, we look at the whole system from precipitaion and water accumulation to permeability and soil types.
We start at a macro scale, looking at the source of the water coming into the Bay through the rivers Taff and Ely; precipitation. The total year of rainfall for 2019 has been mapped, and as you can see the heaviest of this rain falls in the mountains.
Flooding of Urban Areas
Land-cover and use Map
Geology of the Land
Flooding along the Rivers Taf and Ely
Permeability of the Bedrock Soil
To visualise the dynamism of water, I simulated the effect of dropping particles, using the rainfall data to see where water accumulates and how it moves. The path of water over terrain is mapped in grasshopper to help us understand what land the water travels across and therefore what land affects the river.
Water Paths and Density (gh)
Water Particle Simulation (Houdini)
The way the water interacts with the land is determined by the permeability of the soil. Low permeability means that rather than being absorbed by the soil, the water sits on flat land causing flooding and runs down slopes much faster. Permeability is not only determined by the underlying geology of the area, but also the land-use.
The topography varies strongly but can be grouped into 6 gradient groups that, based on scientific papers, have different impacts on the rainfall affected by land-use.
The final rewilding plan is based on these gradient groups, where gradients of more than 40% are covered in grass/moorland/bogland, gradients between 15 & 40% are covered in native woodland and gradients less than 15% can go either way. Conifer plantations are restored to native forest, natural peat-lands are restored to bogland, and natural heather is encouraged to grow taller and wilder where it exists currently.
The site high-ways are the most popular and accessible routes, so less land is compacted by humans or sheep. All of the sheep in the area can fit into 1.41km², so as a non-native species, they are relegated to pens on farmland. Farmers are educated about the natural history and biodiveristy of land, shifting the relationship with the land to one of nurture and incentivise them by shifting from sheep farming to rewilding and sustainable farming practices. There will be huge change across the landscape over decades, as water retention of the land increases, therefore we look for a site at the intersection of all 4 natural habitats, with views over the landscape.
Choosing a site for the main intervention, we want to be able to see as much of the rewilding project as possible and create a visual connection back to Cardiff. From the site we can see Pontsticill Reservoir, back to Cardiff, Bristol Channel, Beacons Reservoir and the Brecon Beacons Mountain Range. However, once the landscape is rewilded and trees and scrub start to take over the barren landscape, the view will be obscured, especially to Cardiff. We want to maximise and accentuate these views.
Walking out horizontally from the site until we see Cardiff, gives us the footprint of the structure. We can see across most of the rewilding site from this line, including into both valleys and water systems. On a clear day, there are views across south wales and the estuary to England. This emphasises the idea of a whole system rather than any individual section of land or river, and the way the river connects and affects two drastically different landscapes.
The physical proposal seeks to connect people to the rewilded landscape and overcome ecological boredom by contrasting experiences of shelter and safety with that of excitement and danger. People are ecologically bored in domesticated lives and this project creates an outlet to connect to our wild emotions and instincts; to rewild ourselves.
To be able to reconnect and rewild with nature, the architectural proposal is an outdoor experience; allowing you to experience the elements and sense nature all around you. With views over all 4 habitats, every time you visit the landscape will change and become more rewilded, allowing people to see the bigger picture and long-term development and benefits of rewilding.
Two types of juxtaposing spaces; timber pods resting on glulam stilts, and between them a thin metal mesh walkway over a hundred metres from the ground. The structure would be the second tallest in Wales, and the second tallest timber structure in the world, creating a monument to celebrate the wild world.
Despite the scale of the project, it has a minimal impact on the landscape below, only touching the ground when it meets the ridge in the middle. Instead of taking space away from nature for human enjoyment, we create a new space allowing us to observe the rewilded landscape without interfering with natural processes and systems. Noise pollution, rubbish and human waste are all things that shouldn’t be in a natural landscape, by selecting reducing the number of paths, placing amenities along them and creating a space for people to observe and feel wild, we protect the natural landscape from human interference.
The structure by allows you to observe and immerse yourself in nature and have the same instinctive fear you’d have around predators, simply by being out in the wind, rain and sun suspended hundreds of metres above the ground. To truly connect and be part of the rewilded landscape, you need to rewild your-self first, awakening your palaeolithic instinct and feel alive.