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Lujac Desautel awarded first prize in Dry Futures Competition

Lujac Desautel (B.Arch, 2015), a recent graduate of CCA, has been awarded first prize in the pragmatic category of the Dry Futures Competition. His project, Liquifying Aquifers, was produced in a studio examining water issues in California and lead by Katherine Rinne.

The Premise of the Dry Futures competition was to study design responses to the unprecedented water crisis felt in California and much of the United States. After four consecutive years of exceptional drought, Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order earlier this year intended to limit water usage and preserve the few resources that remain. But many worry that the measures amount to too little, too late? And the stakes couldn’t be higher: not only is California the most populous state in the country, it is by far the largest agricultural producer. Built on centuries of questionable riparian practices and infrastructure, this agro-industrial behemoth not only consumes the majority of the states dwindling water reserves, but amounts to a significant chunk of the national and international economy.

According to many experts, the drought in California correlates to both unsustainable human practices and the larger product of unsustainable human activity: climate change. It is simply irresponsible to imagine that a solution will magically appear off the coasts or in the clouds or anywhere else. California is on the verge of collapse. And for millions around the world from Syria to Brazil drought is already a determining factor in everyday life, creating conflict and reorganizing social relations.

While the practice of architecture may have not traditionally taken the primary role in determining how water is used, today, we no longer have a choice. Water is not only a fundamental precondition for dwelling, but the manner in which we choose to build (or not) is pivotal to the future viability of entire regions of the world. Water may very well end up being the determining issue of the next century. Yet, increasingly, it feels that the discourse of the smart city has overtaken all considerations of the future of architecture. How will ecological crises and technological advancement cohabitate the same future?

Desautels project, Liquifying Aquifers, examines the banking of water and recharging of aquifers. The story of water in the San Fernando Valley is the by-product of the American frontier to the West and the seemingly unattainable ambitions to protect the mythicized image of lush palm trees and turquoise swimming pools. But, the illusion of water is on the cusp of extinction. The San Fernando Valley is conceptualized as an archipelago of islands characterized by the infrastructures that sever its own territories. In between these forgotten corridors are the conduits, transportation networks, and energy easements that are a crutch to the livelihood of the Valley. The largest of these corridors, the Tujunga Wash cuts the valley in half by a 13 mile artificial river that sends every drop of water to the Pacific Ocean. Its adjacencies are anything but monotonous, rich, poor, industrial, mega malls, and the endless repetition of four-way intersections.

The San Fernando Groundwater Basin sits 40 feet below the surface, continually being over withdrawn by a water hungry city without any large-scale plan to replenish this invaluable commodity. As population growth continues to rise, there will be less space and more hardscapes and a significant amount of runoff water which will go unused unless harnessed by a strategic system that works within the existing urban conditions of infrastructures, easements and parking lots. What if the Valley could have multiple drains placed around the city in contingent locations for maximum water replenishment back into the Aquifer? Like a giant bathtub with a conglomerate of drains! The symbiosis of Liquifying Aquifers through public domain and water infrastructure aims to localize aquifer replenishment and operate to community specific needs.

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Earlier Event: October 14
Later Event: October 19