OYSTER + TOWER = OYSTOWER
- Jori Erdman
- Christopher James
“I have an immoderate passion for water… especially for marshes, teeming with all that mysterious life of the creatures that haunt them. A marsh is a whole world within a world, a different world, with a life of its own, with its own permanent denizens, its passing visitors, its voices, its sounds, its own strange mystery.”
― Guy de Maupassant, The House of Madame Tellier and Other Stories
The coastal zone is one of the most bio-diverse and dynamic environments in nature. Yet, due to pollution, subsidence and sea-level rise, coastal zones are also the most threatened environments in the world. The OysTower project proposes that Biomimicry can provide sustainable and innovative strategies for building in a dynamic and changing coastal ecosystem.
OysTower employs Biomimicry in 10 specific ways for the design of a coastal research station/dwelling. First, oysters were studied because they are common to all marsh environments (defined by the mixing of salt and fresh water in the coastal zone) and are considered a keystone species due to their disproportionately large positive impact on their ecosystem. Through thinking about oysters, the design was influenced in the following ways: oyster reefs provide visionary impulse for the structural foundation; oyster shells inspire the exterior cladding of prefabricated panels; and the oyster body informs thinking about the air, energetic, and fluid system functions of the dwelling. From that starting point, the design thinking expanded outward and deepened for the remainder of the project.
The ecosystem of the marsh itself stimulated the creation of a structure that was interdependent and fully integrated among the seemingly disparate pieces and functions of the design. The flora of a marsh, including mangroves, bald cypress trees and live oaks, drove the understanding of how structure and systems could be further integrated through a spread footing; vertical core; and a flexibly curved exterior frame, respectively. More fundamentally, the photosynthesis potential of a leaf, evidenced itself through the photovoltaic panels on the exterior of the structure; and the movement of water informed the thinking of the fluid systems within the structure.
Finally, the human being as an integral part of the ecosystem is recognized as a force for positive stewardship and cultivation of the coastal environment. Part of the existing Louisiana Coastwide Reference Monitoring System, the OysTower inhabitants will be responsible for monitoring the dynamic environment of the coast and reporting on the human / nature interface along the coastal edge. The human occupation of the building further insures a localized stewardship of the oyster reefs, the food sources for the humans, and the energetic and fluid systems of the structure.
With the innovative rethinking of all aspects of a dwelling, the OysTower models ways that Biomimicry can inspire innovations with less negative impacts on our shared environment. Learning from the coastal ecosystem, OysTower presents a stronger and more resilient approach to coastal inhabitation than any previous model. The ongoing research into this prototype is evidenced on the design boards, showing the intended deployment of the OysTower along the Louisiana coast.