The Urban Design Program at Columbia is investigating climate resilience at multiple scales and collaborating with partners in institutions around the world and within the University from science & engineering, journalism, conflict resolution, economics and social justice. Water is constantly in motion, changing states, crossing borders, nourishing (and destroying) life. How can water and urbanism be considered together as a generative frame for urban design practice, social life, and ecological regeneration? The spring semester 2019 design studio investigated urbanization challenges in the lower Mekong with a focus on the rapidly changing city of Can Tho, Vietnam.
As a Program, we aim to marshal the observations of the world’s best scientists and the agency of design toward action and defined, replicable climate adaptation projects in the world’s most vulnerable regions. We bring synthetic design thinking to this process and a stance of activism and engagement and believe that by building physical, resilient places we engage and educate communities about the risks they face. How we live with - and design for- water will be a central, defining element of the next century relative to climate change and urbanism. Can Tho is experiencing a number of intersecting issues relative to water and habitability with rising sea levels, land subsidence, salinization, and erosion all overlaying onto global capital and NGO activity, and a foreign direct investment boom. These conditions are exacerbated by extensive dam building in the Upper Mekong in China, that traps sediment and fish migration, lowers water levels, and creates conflict with neighbors in Southeast Asia. Our goal was to map these regional water dynamics and develop a comprehensive understanding of resilient urban systems and scales and envision how resilience overlays with a specificity of context, land, water economics, religion rural-urban pattern, decision making and governance. Our approach was both social and ecological. We aimed to visualize the complexity of interrelated risks and to imagine alternative scenarios for resilient people and places prepared to anticipate a range of future shocks and stressors in seven sites in greater Can Tho.
Students explored the dynamics of climate adaptation relative to migration and climate change, alongside the generation of new social infrastructure, public space and urban design in an expanded rural-urban context. The seven projects represented in this E-book operate at multiple scales, linking territorial interdependencies, water flows, operational landscapes, and pilot sites of detailed investigation for design exploration and on-the-ground change in Vietnam.
Columbia UD Faculty: Kate Orff (studio coordinator), Thad Pawlowski, Dilip DaCunha, Geeta Mehta, Julia Watson, Linh K. Pham
Special thanks to Dr. Nguyen Hieu Trung and Hoàng Hoài Thanh of Can Tho.
“Cần Thơ gạo trắng nước trong, Ai đi tới đó lòng không muốn về.”
“Cần Thơ, white rice, clear waters, All who come wish never to leave.”
So the saying goes in the Mekong Delta, the “rice basket of Vietnam,” about Can Tho City, its metropolitan center and its famous canal system. The Mekong Delta, a 40,000 square kilometer, low-lying region in southern Vietnam where the Mekong River ends its 4,000 km journey from the Tibetan Plateau, is a young geological formation. Most of it was formed in the last four millennia, as the river fanned back and forth across the area, depositing sediment in its wake, slowly advancing the coastline into the sea. The resultant landscape, paired with the humid, tropical climate, is marvelously fertile and biologically diverse. Since the 19th century, it has become one of the most important and productive agricultural landscapes in the world, enabled by a vast system of man-made canals. 15 million Delta farmers produce more than a ton of rice per person each year—enough to feed 60 million people worldwide. It is also steeped in historical conflict, still bearing the physical and chemical scars of two centuries of colonial conquest and war-time devastation.
Today, The Delta remains one of the most threatened places in the world, not from war, but rather from climate change and urbanization. Upstream hydropower dams in the Mekong watershed inhibit the natural recharge of river sediment in the Delta, allowing the land to subside. Anthropogenic changes to seasonal weather patterns imperil agricultural fertility. Rising seas compound both of these threats by exacerbating the relative effects of land subsidence, thus making urban areas more prone to flooding, and by contaminating agricultural lands with salt.
Despite the urgency of these looming threats, Can Tho City has followed a model for economic modernization and urban development that closely resembles that of other cities in Southeast Asia. In an effort to transition from an agricultural economy to one based on industrial and service sectors, it has solicited foreign investment to build new factories and peri-urban sprawl. Canals in the urban core are capped or filled to make way for wider roads, or concretized with hard-edges to protect the city against seasonal floods. In peri-urban areas, agricultural lands are paved over to make way for new towns, including resettlement areas for displaced farmers. Growing industries, such as food processing plants, are powered by coal and oil-burning powerplants.
Critics fear that in an effort to modernize its economy, Can Tho is paving the way to disaster, adding pavement, heavy infrastructure and pollution to an environment already threatened by severe flooding, poor air and water quality, and land subsidence. Economic modernization and climate determinism in Can Tho are not mutually exclusive forces; they work together to the detriment of the city. Rather than controlling nature, new dikes and seawalls, resource intensive industries and road-based development exacerbate the most dangerous risks of climate change. They require increased groundwater extraction, which further exacerbates land subsidence. The proliferation of pavement in urban and periurban areas worsens the effects of extreme rain and heat events, even as such events become more common. Urban sprawl destroys fish and waterfowl habitat by way of deforestation, and leaves farmers without necessary land and resources that they need to thrive. Growing automobile usage, as well as oil- and coal-powered industry, pollute the air and water, threatening public health. So do the myriad of petroleum products that are used to protect and package agricultural products for export.
With these challenges in mind, the Can Tho Resilience office has spent the last several years studying ways that nature-based infrastructure could be deployed to address Can Tho’s most pressing challenges, and ameliorate some of the most deleterious effects of economic transition. It has sought out opportunities to protect critical ecoservices and improve community participation in civic planning projects. Columbia’s Spring 2019 Urban Design Studio and the Resilience Accelerator—a partnership between the Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes and 100 Resilient Cities—teamed up with the Can Tho Resilience office and the Mekong-DRAGON Institute at Can Tho University to explore alternative modes for urban development guided by nature-based infrastructure and resilience principles. While visiting Can Tho, the Urban Design studio developed seven urban design principles that guided their work for the duration of the semester. Upon returning to New York, the studio re-imagined a future for urban growth that takes advantage of the Mekong Delta’s rich ecological and cultural resources by exploring novel spatial configurations and economic and institutional relationships between Can Tho City, residents, investors and other stakeholders. The student work presented here suggests that growth strategies in Can Tho can enhance the regional capacity to adapt to climate change while empowering urban and rural populations as agents of environmental stewardship.
Project Introduction Video
In recent years Can Tho city with backing of the World Bank, has dealt with flooding by channelizing canals and creating hard edge holding basins. This combined with a lost network of canals has essentially created a series of disconnected tubs, which disrupt the natural flow of water.
Flooding + Pollution
Can Tho City suffers from regular flooding, two times per day during the wet season, and the frequency is only expected to increase. The current solution to this is a 3 foot high embankment around the urban core, which will likely not be effective past 2050 is putting the city into debt.
Constructed Wetlands & Canals
In the existing system, untreated sewage flows directly into the canals. By introducing recharge parks with bio-filtration and rerouting the city sewage network we can not only clean the waste but also recharge depleted aquifers, reducing subsidence. By greening streetscape and canals edges, more of the excess water can be displaced back into the ground and overflow can be taken by low lying basins.
To deal with increasingly regular seasonal flooding, [Re]Flow proposes creating a network of spillways through existing overbuilt 6 to 8 lane roads. During the dry season the spillways act as a linear greenway, bringing life and activity to city streets. When the monsoons arrive and the tide rises, the spillways absorb water which would normally flood the surrounding streets. This will allow for water to more easily move through the city and rain water to be held and released.
At a neighborhood scale local residents and businesses become stewards of the system. These neighborhood stewards activate and maintain both Spillways and Recharge Parks throughout the city. In return they can use the public space for things such as kitchen gardens, market sites, and handicraft spaces and workshops.
By reconnecting Can Tho to its deltaic roots, we can not only reflow hydrological cycles and waste, but also reflow people’s daily lives, reimagining a lost connection to the water and surrounding landscape. [Re]flow can be a model for growth not only for Can Tho but for increasingly urbanized deltaic landscapes around the world.
Project Introduction Video
Conserve, Adapt, & Grow - Design Language
In Life Aquatic, conservation goes beyond its present paradigm of preserving historic landmarks by identifying wetlands, dikes, canals, aquaculture, docks, floating structures, stilt houses, and heritage sites as cultural assets to conserve, adapt, and replicate in the landscape. These vernacular elements can be combined and collectively adapted into hybrid systems that are both productive and resilient growth strategies throughout Can Tho.
Conservation as Design and Growth Strategy
Expanding the definition of conservation begins with a re-exploration of the physical elements, followed by assessment, identification, and expansion of new built elements which expand the physical conservation grounds of the city. Can Tho’s conservation landscapes are then adapted to let water in and expand water-based developments to create new areas that simultaneously grow while conserving the physical elements connected with water, deployed throughout specific site conditions in An Thoi, Binh Thuy, and Con Son.
Life Aquatic adapts the existing green spaces and stilt houses to form an absorptive softscape along the An Thoi waterfront. Reintroduced canals throughout Binh Thuy and An Thoi extend the areas that water can flow into the city, while connecting green spaces within an integrated water holding system. Cutting and filling land will allow new developments to grow on high ground along these canals, while stretching dikes to accommodate improved circulation routes throughout the Con Son Islet. A series of groynes along the waterfront edges gradually gather sediment, to build land foundations for new mangrove forests and to provide access points for water ferries. New floating lodges integrated with floating aquaculture and agro-tourism learning centers throughout the Con Son Islet will generate additional revenue while also supporting the local aquaculture and agriculture livelihoods and landscape, and enhancing water-based transit connections.
The conservation and design of Binh Thuy is shown through two transects: Binh Thuy River (connects Binh Thuy and An Thoi) and Hau River (connects Con Son Islet and Binh Thuy)
Reviving Canals and Reconstructing the Edge: Binh Thuy River Transect
The Binh Thuy River connects Binh Thuy with An Thoi, the city center of Can Tho. In lieu of the proposed World Bank embankment in An Thoi, a gradient of softened edges will retain flood water, cleanse greywater, preserve connectivity and accessibility between water and public space, and produce urban aquaculture, agriculture and washing platforms. New and revitalized canals extend inland into Binh Thuy, creating more opportunities for housing developments on higher ground to coexist with pockets of urban agriculture.
Multipurpose Aquaculture with Tourism and New Development: Hau River Transect
The Hau River connects multiple economies between the Con Son Islet with Bin Thuy. As a tourist attraction, the floating aquaculture farms and agriculture on the Con Son Islet can be conserved through the strategic adaptation of dikes and addition of learning centers and floating lodges to accommodate visitors. Cut and fill for new fish ponds and high ground development in Binh Thuy extends this productive aquaculture and agriculture network and creates a new community for cultural livelihoods to coexist with urban growth.
FDI has been a driving force for development in the country of Vietnam, especially in the Mekong Delta. While agriculture contributes to more than a third of the GDP, FDI is concentrated in the Processing and Manufacturing sector for which the local residents are not trained. Allowing for a major shift from an agriculture to a service-based economy. This has entailed an age-old situation of International as well as rural-urban migration. Can Tho has proposed a new masterplan to accommodate these nonresidents, where the city has embraced a development strategy of ERASURE and REPLACE.
The proposed development model is a methodology where the old and new can coexist, allowing for a “BUILD AS YOU GROW,” rather than a “BUILD AND THEY WILL COME” strategy. The Urban Frame addresses the growth of Cai Rang East, Vietnam by challenging an existing masterplan that is destructive to the existing landscape and carries a “tabula rasa” approach, through creating an alternative scenario to a Vietnamese urban model that embraces water edge conditions, focuses on a preservative rhetoric, and expands on the agricultural assets of the landscape. The Urban Frame focuses on populating residences by delineated canal bodies, while maintaining a productive lanscape inwards of the frames, in addition to narrating an economically viable and stimulating network that is created throughout the replication of the frames.
Project Introduction Video
The Expansion of Can Tho
Cai Rang East is a new town where money is being directed to, and real estate development is exponentially increasing, we are positioning ourselves as trying to acknowledge this phenomenon, but we are trying to shift the priorities and shift the spatial practice of this new development to continue to include productive landscapes and connection to the port, to ensure that hydrology is not decorative but is still core to the fabric to resist flooding in Can Tho.
Incremental Development and Canal Oriented Planning
We propose to address the current and future challenges of urban development through identifying the existing productive landscape, strategically extending the water canals without intruding agricultural parcels, identifying and preserving the existing dwelling units, creating local economic confluence points throughout the city with minimal road infrastructure and framing the existing assets by strategically placing the new developments.This water and landscape led strategy can be implemented incrementally as a build as you grow strategy rather than a build and they will come. By keeping and extending the existing canals through the boundaries of agricultural parcels, at low grounds where drainage infrastructures can be improved, we’re proposing to create a network of water based transportation.
The New Urban
Our development methodology focuses on laying out a mix of building typologies that frame the edges of the existing productive landscape, embrace hydrological corridors, and support a comprehensive pedestrian network.
Strategies such as minimizing the road network, emphasizing canal based transit and a pedestrian network are critical to The Urban Frame model of living, in addition to retaining agricultural fields, and adding a local processing centers, we boost the local economy by connecting these individual parcels to the city wide boat network.
Activate the Water
We imagine a community that embraces a delicate architectural pallet that reflects the existing housing typologies, and focuses on urban agriculture and density resulting in a diverse socioeconomic living model.
A streetscape that embraces public spaces, resilient parks, a narrow street network, all while maintaining street activities that are important to the people of Can Tho including urban potting in preparation for the lunar year and other festivities. By proposing a new district port, we connect the local market in cai rang east to numerous city wide local markets and the cai cui port.
How can we build from the land patterns that are there and focus density in such a way that these canal networks can be rehabilitated?
Regional Frame for Cai Rang East
As the agriculture fields and traditional housing typologies of Can Tho are disappearing today, the proposal for the westernized tabula rasa developments strategies have become critical threats to local residents, agriculture fields, and the canal network, in which the locals heavily depend on.
We’re positioning ourselves in this process of bulldozing and changing by asking “What if the new economic urban development if Cai Rang is led by water and landscape?”
Project Introduction Video
The resettlement area “ Peri-Urban” zone of Can Tho current situation
The Peri-Urban zone is located outside the dense urban core. An Khanh ward is one of the resettlement area which is the project focused on. Displaced residents from infrastructure and development projects, who were largely farmers lost their productive land, are typically allocated land, which is transferred by lease. Although the city provided the farmers within the land parcels and the utility services in the resettlement areas, residents are financially responsible to build their houses (with two or more stories). Residents who cannot afford the construction cost often opt to sell their land leases to more affluent individuals or developers and move to agriculture areas farther from the city center. This displacement process had direct impact on the livelihood, the public health, the ecosystem and the community bonds. Along a canal within An Khanh ward, the City of Can THo has made some preliminary designs for a neighborhood park and has asked for guidance in considering how ‘green infrastructure’ can play a role in the development of this park.
Xray of the current issues
The An Khanh Ward was built recently, with many houses today rushing through construction. Most of the houses are single-family, two to four stories, on narrow lots (3 meters), but some houses are up to six stories, with large garages on the ground floors. The zoning only requires two meters (?) of setback from one building to another and the spaces in between tend not to be a cared for. The streets are very wide for a residential neighborhood and there is no commercial activity evident at all, unlike most other residential neighborhoods in Can THo. In the recent years most of the streets are flooded during the rainy season due to Increasing the impervious surfaces impacted in increasing the urban runoff.
** Project vision**
The project vision is to reconnect the site and the residents to their biosphere (land, water, and the air). The main methodology is creating a sustainable, healthy and productive liner landscape across the site. The objectives of the final intervention is improving the public health mentally and physically, enhancing sustainable agriculture practices and providing ecological corridors that will integrated with multipurpose civic infrastructure for a future resilient Can Tho.
Phase 1: Re- establishing the Relationship with the Ecosystem (Ecological Canal Park)
The linearity of the corridor in the three project phases will maintain a sense of openness to nature, encourage human traffic flow, minimize urban runoff, stay close to nature and green spaces and enhance the biodiversity by naturalized the canals. The social - ecological corridor will be integrated with hybrid social places along the corridor for having different community activities. At the same time, using the strategy of the micro topography will work as a holding system for the rainwater during the rainy seasons. Enabling theses socio ecological spaces to function as an significant component of the green corridor and to provide shared flexible spaces for the community where work,play, and social activities can occur.
Phase 2: Reconnect Nature Through The Urban fabric ( Green Street Network)
Stretching out the park to the urban fabric to extend the greenery network and enhance the sustainability and resilience in the entire site.
Phase 3: Restore The Livelihood (New Housing Typology based on Co-Op Farm)
The new housing typology will optimize the ecological function of a housing block through different methods. The design of the house will help to exposure to the sunlight and enable natural ventilation. The roof of the house will harvest the rainwater for storage and use for irrigation. Integrated apple orchards between the houses will restore the livelihood of the residents, create a sense of community activity where families go and pick food and eat together and connect the housing fabric with the larger green network.
Enhancing the resilient thinking in the built environment is one of the most important approaches towards disaster risk reduction. Integrated social ecological corridor in the planning strategy to create a productive adaptive landscape that is create healthy environment for people to live in, provide them the livelihood and protect the ecosystem to flourish and maximize it services. These components will work together to better function the resettlement area, provide educational and job opportunities and allow people to enjoy the nature.
Project Introduction Video
Land Construct and Regional Economics
Rivers and canals deposit sediment on their banks creating natural levees. Our site, Phong Dien, lies in the upper alluvial plain where the fertile soil and the topographical construct of land makes it ideal for growing fruit.
But, it’s not fair to dismiss the other co-benefits agriculture offers. We need to start recognizing the ecologically, and socially resilient aspects of agriculture. Despite limited short-term economic value in the current moment, agriculture has long-lasting social, ecological and economic benefits.
Agriculture workers build deep social networks that sustain culture and help communities grow and adapt to change. Traditional practices in rice farming and aquaculture also effectively manage flood waters by using fields as holding basins. A naturally draining field also can help to recharge the aquifer and contribute to countering the gradual subsidence of the delta. Sustainable agriculture can also store carbon, purify water, regulate climate and provide essential habitat for birds, fish, insects and other wildlife. Finally, agriculture in or near cities has long term economic and social benefits because it can ensure food security in a globalized economy that will be facing greater disruptions with climate change.
Road Based Urbanization
Construction of new roads and road based urbanization poses an urgent challenge to farmers in the periphery of Can Tho. Roads like “Nguyễn Văn Cừ” are being extended outwards from Can Tho City to peripheral agricultural areas such as Phong Dien. This leads to the displacement of hundreds of farmers to remote parts of the district, and in many cases the loss of their livelihoods.
This diagram explains possible stakeholders who would need to come together to re-think the future of Can Tho’s peripheral farmland.
The formation of cell-based farmer cooperatives is imperative as it would strengthen the argument against the construction of roads and the subsequent urbanization that follows. A cohesive organization would help to collectively push for an alternative canal-based growth pattern and coordinate better with Can Tho city officials.
Stages of New Urbanization
The intervention would start by creating service nodes at the confluence of rivers and canals. These would provide services for existing farmers, and act as an incentive for urban growth along canals. By reinforcing the idea of returning to canals, we incentivize the densification of urbanization along the canals to a limited extent, in a linear fashion. This would also help in the preservation of agriculture fields. What currently looks like patchy urban areas, becomes a full-fledged linear development zone that leverages the cell-like patterned landscape.
These nodes would first become community hubs for adjacent farmers’ cooperatives. They would eventually grow and harbor functions like manufacturing units, offices, piers, educational centers and community spaces to cater to the growing density of people.
Agricultural Cell Based Interventions
We propose the formation of cell-based farmer co-ops, to better the collective management of farms and the produce that would be transported to collection points at the service nodes mentioned above. By the introduction of multi-cropping and VAC systems (integrated agriculture, aquaculture and animal husbandry), we create a more economically, ecologically resilient agricultural system. This would be followed by the introduction of wetlands at the core of the larger cells, connected by linear wetlands. These linear wetlands would be created by taking up to 10% of adjacent plots so that all the farmer co-op cells are responsible for its maintenance.
Section through the Intervention
To better understand the relationship of these interventions with the topography, we cut a section from Can Tho River to the innermost cell. The cells are formed by primary, secondary and tertiary canals. Within each cell – the center forms the lowest basin, which we convert to rice fields that act as water holding systems. The region along the canal forms the higher basin, which becomes the development zone. The highest density of urbanization is close to the primary canal, and it decreases as you go closer to the tertiary ones. The in-between zones continue to be orchards. A similar topographical pattern can be seen on the larger scale, where the ground is higher close to the primary canals, and lowest close to tertiary ones. In this case, the lower basin forms wetlands that add to the water holding system.
Together, these interventions help to manage the water during floods and droughts.
Low-Tech Strategies Employed throughout the Agrarian Landscape
Service Node Intervention
Road based urbanization along the “Nguyễn Văn Cừ” road stops at this junction, and creates an opportunity to transition from road to water based transportation, and urbanization. The buildings and linear wetlands both follow the existing agriculture plot lines. (Linear wetland/agriculture intervention, formulate a pattern based on agricultural plots.) The edges get transformed into a combination of wetlands and mangroves systems to create a natural buffer to prevent the construction of concrete dikes.
Bamboo Architectural Typologies of New Development
The bamboo grown along the linear wetlands is harvested, transferred to a mill at service nodes, and eventually used as a building material for the new buildings. Bamboo is used as the primary material as it is environmentally friendly and a flood-tolerant construction material.
The new urban areas being built today may well be under water for much of the year by the middle of this century. There is an urgent need for new patterns of development. Those patterns that have best chance at successful adoption will be built on learning from the past and protecting what has worked over time.
We propose a new kind of city, where we invite urban growth within the agricultural landscape in a controlled manner. By blurring the lines between what is thought to be rural and urban, we form a city that protects the existing landscape which will become instrumental in adapting to climate change. This pilot concept is one attempt to show what such a future could be while also simultaneously considering the ecological, social, and economic consequences of development.
The Mekong Delta is in crisis. As of today, there are 364 Hydropower Dams and 30 Coal Plants, existing and planned along the Mekong River and its tributaries. Vietnam’s energy landscape today is mostly supplied by hydropower and coal relying heavily on foreign investment and imports.
These energy infrastructures, planned at regional scales to supply the growth of industrial and urban centers, have significant environmental and social impacts at local resolutions – especially in the city of Can Tho where the upstream consequences of hydropower dams have a direct impact on the lives, livelihoods, and culture of communities dependent on the health of the Mekong River and its tributaries.
Project Introduction Video
Impacts of Centralized Energy Infrastructure
Can Tho’s Binh Thuy District, is an area being primed for development as a gateway for the proposed Ho Chi Minh - Can Tho Expressway based on the City’s 2030 Masterplan. The proposal expands industrial development along the Hau River - South of the O Mon Coal Power Plant, and creates a commercial center in former agri-residential areas.
Energy Exchange Sheds: A New Pattern of Development
Our project is a critique of fossil fuel-based energy infrastructure which follow grid like patterns of development. Centralized models of privatized extraction, production, and distribution spread across the landscape – overwriting existing urban, cultural, and ecological fabrics. But what if we can break this system into its components and develop a new pattern of inclusive urban rural development from the nexus of energy, waste, and water?
Energy exchange sheds are sites where localized energy is produced and distributed at a neighborhood scale. The infrastructure of these energy exchange sheds incorporate water treatment and storage, waste management, and energy production systems designed based on traditional knowledge and natural systems.
Our strategy is to develop energy exchange sheds around existing sites of social exchange - what we call anchor institutions. It begins with the formation of energy cooperatives (called “Nang Luong” Cooperatives) joined by local residents and families, farmer cooperatives, local industries, local government, and private developers that act together to build, operate, and maintain new energy infrastructure.
We envision that these energy exchange sheds would multiply, serving smaller areas, but expanding across the landscape to form networks of public spaces that foster a stronger relationship with existing water systems (rivers, tributaries, canals).
The boundaries of energy exchange sheds are determined by the reach of anchor institutions. As opposed to a centralized approach, this model fosters an incremental transition to self-sufficiency by easing the burden on centralized systems while improving existing social infrastructure - promoting systems of cooperation, public exchange, and political empowerment.
Thru this model, water treatment and storage, waste management, and energy production systems integrate to support a given population density that develop gradually to match the needs of its shed building social and ecological capital.
Energy exchange sheds utilize the potential of waste and agricultural byproducts within a given area, supplementing the remaining demand with solar power. Balancing the demand for energy and the supply of biomass entails creating productive landscapes which the Nang Luong Cooperative would undertake. Residents and farmer cooperatives sell waste and agriculture byproducts of rice, soya bean, coconuts, and sugar cane; finding new ways to make more productive landscapes and balance their energy usage.
Developers and industries who wish to create new land-uses within the energy shed would be incentivized to invest in waste-to-energy, water treatment and supply, and phytoremediation infrastructure - working with anchor institutions to upgrade existing social infrastructure.
Cultural Energy Exchange Sheds
Anchor institutions (whether private or public) often provide local employment, essential public services, and often already have support networks that can be better engaged in changing the surrounding urban fabric. We identified four types of anchor institutions that would work well as Energy exchange sheds: Educational, Cultural, Healthcare, and Recreational.
Vietnamese Pagoda’s are sites of ritual processes related to culture, history, and spiritual transformation. In Vietnam, the pagoda is not only a place of worship for the Buddha, but also legends, heroes, and ancestors. Present in many neighborhoods and often situated near canals or waterbodies – people gather inside the pagoda to meditate on the past, present, and future, wishing good health and fortune on family, friends, and community; outside the pagoda, plazas host traditional village festivals; and markets (which emerge from rivers) cater to pagoda-goers.
Living machines are water treatment and supply systems integrated in recreational areas and public spaces. They begin at existing rivers and tributaries, connecting these to new surface water wetlands and pools which act as basic filtering. Once treated, water is then stored in water tanks as water supply for both domestic and agricultural use. All organic waste collected in this process can also be used as biomass fuel.
Planted Stabilization Mats, Air-Flow Buffers and Floating Wetlands are three approaches of Phytoremediation Technology which are aimed at the absorption of dioxin in the soil, air, and waterbodies of the neighborhood.
New Energy Industries
New energy industries utilize waste to energy and solar technologies. Components of waste to energy consist of solid waste treatment, biomass processing, and biogas energy.
Used plants from living machines, as well as by products from community and domestic phyto-technology programs are harvested and sent to our biomass energy plant to process contamination and generate energy.
In a landscape where entire communities, traditional livelihoods, and local industries are being displaced, we re-think the nexus of energy, water, and waste infrastructure to propose a new pattern of development centered on building traditional knowledge and natural systems. Working with existing land-uses and cultural fabric; we see energy exchange as a powerful design strategy to create new patterns of vernacular development in a transitional landscape.
Project Introduction Video
The lower Mekong region of Vietnam is vulnerable to economic disruptions due to flooding. According to World Bank Report in 2014, Can Tho city of lower Mekong floods on an average of twice a day during the wet season. This figure is expected to increase greatly as the inundation of main roads is projected to rise to a staggering 270 days per year by 2030, leading to severe losses for land-based markets. The floating markets, on the other hand, continue to function during floods and have evolved various ways to adapt to fluctuations in water levels. What can be learned from floating markets and their adaptable social and economic models, to re-imagine a resilient future for Can Tho and the entire Mekong Delta?
The project proposes reimagining the edges of the floating market in Can Tho as territories of transition between land and water where the two synthesize to create an adaptable settlement for an amphibious community. These transition zones will be anchored around important riverine confluences and social institutions of the city that will be connected to waterways. Through the creation of inlets, social services will become more accessible to the floating communities.
As an amphibious community both socially and economically resilient to flooding and the cascading impacts of climate change, the floating market communities will hold the key to the resilient future of the city. The implementation of this amphibious and dynamic edge adaptation will begin by empowering a marginalized population that possesses the invaluable traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of ‘living with water’.
Floating Economies in the Mekong Delta
For centuries, floating markets have served as the local condensers of social and commercial activity in the Mekong Delta region. In the past, the Mekong Delta had dozens of floating markets supporting daily life. Presently, there are only 11 functioning floating markets in the region. These functioning markets face the constant threat of losing their local significance and being reduced to tourist attractions due to the preference for a land-based lifestyle.
The Cai Rang Floating Market of Can Tho
The Cai Rang floating market of Can Tho faces similar threats and has decreased from 550 boats in 2005 to 300 in 2017(source: Hindustan Times,2017). Lack of access to educational institutions, healthcare, and sanitation facilities forces the sellers to move to land in search of a more comfortable lifestyle.
Bringing ‘Value’ Back to the River
The design strategy aims to counter these threats by reimagining the river and its edges as areas for concentration of social, commercial and cultural activity making it the major spine of the city. To achieve this, we make strategic connections from the river to the important institutions of the city making them accessible by water and the anchors for densification. Establishing a water-based energy production system will promote a sustainable alternative to land-based non-renewable sources. Reimagining these edges as socio-ecological places for exchange that adapt and shift with rising water levels will help make the city environmentally resilient and create places for the floating market to replicate enabling a shared and inclusive economy.
*From Anchor to Floating
To implement these strategies, we looked at the existing material systems at play in the market that range from elements that are fixed such as timber piles to elements that are floating such as boats and floating houses. These systems are supported by the use of local resources and the indigenous boat making industry.
Creating an Amphibious System
The design is the generation of a system that is essentially incremental and self-built. For the pilot implementation of this system, we looked at the site adjacent to the floating market where the building of an embankment has disrupted the relationship between land and water. The gradual transition of this site in phases aims to re-establish this relationship and create an inlet to the educational institution inland. The site will eventually evolve to a node in the robust water transportation network and will act as an anchor for this mobile infrastructure.
100 Resiient Cities, Can Tho Resilience Office, Can Tho University, The DRAGON-Mekong Institute, ISET International
Kate Orff, Dilip Da Cunha, Thad Pawlowski, Julia Watson, Linh Pham, Geeta Mehta
Ashley Louie, Angela Crisostomo, Shivani Agarwal, Junyu Cao, Hsin Yi Chao, Aniket Dikshit, Devaki Handa, Mariam Hattab, Sharvi Jain, Zeyi Jiang, Tanaya Kadam, Berke Kalemoglu, Jianqi Li, Shuyuan Li, Greg LeMaire, Alaa Marrawi, David Mauricio, Amanpreet Singh, Gabriel Vergara, Peiqing Wang, Dian Yu, Bohong Zhang, Wenjun Zhang
Can Tho Resilience Office
Dr. Nguyen Hieu Trung, Ms. Le Dinh Van Khanh , Ms. Quach Thanh Truc, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Liem, Mr. Le Cong Thanh, Ms. La So Sen, Ms. Hoang Hoai Thanh, Ms. Duy Minh Châu
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Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes
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