Hypermedia, workshop on configuration and communication of the architectural project, is an interdepartmental research group of The Polytechnic University of Madrid, located at ETSAM.

Sustainable development strategies of the architecture of the Oasis of M'hamid, Sahara Desert. (2015)

TESIS: (Thesis)

Title: Strategies for sustainable development of the architecture of the oasis of M’hamid, Sahara desert. (2015)

  • Author(s): Angela Ruiz Plaza.
  • Director(s): Margarita de Luxan Garcia de Diego and Maria Jose Muñoz De Pablo.
  • Summary: This research is raised with the radical hypothesis of how to inhabit the desert in a sustainable way, from a pragmatic and experimental attitude based on progress. The justification is based primarily on the 2 billion people in the world living in desert settings, 80% of them, in developing countries, because 40% of the earth’s area is under threat of desertification affecting 37% of the population 12 million hectares a year lost to that cause, and finally, because the desert is seen as an environment of great attractiveness and potential. The content of the research is structured in three movements: positioning, gaze and action: From positioning is defined first of all sustainability, providing a new diagram where the architectural field is incorporated as one of the pillars and subsequently, the sustainability assessment criteria are established, providing a system of indicators where appropriate parameters are incorporated into the circumstances of the oasis. Similarly, existing action methodologies and sustainable development projects that frame the state of the art are studied and analyzed, finding the difficulty of adapting them to the conditions of the oases, so a methodology is developed itself changes the strategic dynamic, so that the impulse is posed from social action, through the hypothesis of strategies based on low-cost systems, self-build, economically assumed and feasible implementation. The specific case study lies in the extreme situation of conditions in the Oasis of M’hamid, where a process of disintegration and abandonment is evident. This is due to an accumulation of external and internal circumstances, of multiple factors: natural and anthropic affecting the oasis, taking to the extreme the climatic conditions and the scarcity of resources, natural and artificial. Factors such as climate change, drought, changes in water policies, threat of desertification, social conflicts, ecological imbalance, economic scarcity, energy crisis, architectural obsolescence, heritage built virtually destroyed, and the misunderstood new architecture. It is important to note the limited graphic documentation on the area of action which has involved extensive documentation work, both cartographic and direct observation, provided to the thesis as own-elaboration research. The analytical look at the case study allows to know the available resources and latent potentialities of the Oasis of M’hamid, which will allow to act to subvert the prevailing involutive dynamics, so that the initial drawings of contextual appropriation and critical analyses lead to diagrammed action maps consisting of an object system and the definition of cross-cutting strategies, deconstructing the past and rebuilding the future, incorporating alternative systems that are defined in 7 lines strategic action formulated from the 3 areas related to the ecosystem: ecological, socio-economic and architectural. Thus, the thesis defends architectural action as a driver of sustainable development, supported by 3 elements: – the creation of objects “techno-artesanoes”, for the use of energy resources – architectural transformations, to reformulate habitat from energy efficiency and progress – and the drive for daily actions, which redefine social relationships, creating cooperative and collaborative environments. Anti-desertification actions are proposed at the ecological level by tree incubators; alternative water management systems, such as solid rain; strategies for enhancing agricultural production; the construction of mechanisms for obtaining energy from waste, such as solar panels with PET bottles. In the socio-economic sphere, new forms of social action and economic revival are proposed. Finally, in the urban-architectural field, morphological modifications are incorporated into the existing architecture and a contemporary rereading of the land, as material that allows new geometries, obtaining sand petrified by processes microbiological, and enhancing the earth as an artistic resource. This thesis is a starting point, collecting systems, strategies and experiences, to function as a stimulus or dynamizing impulse of the future sustainable development of the oasis, opening up avenues of research and experimentation.
  • Abstract: This research puts forth the radical hypothesis of how to inhabit the desert in a sustainable way, using a pragmatic and experimental approach based on progress. The justification for this resides in the fact that there are 2,000 million people in the world living in desert environments, 80% of them in developing countries. Forty percent of the earth’s surface is under threat of desertification, affecting 37% of the world population and with 12 million hectares being lost each year. And finally, the desert is considered as an attractive environment and therefore, with great potential. The content of the research is structured in three main sections: positioning, observation and action: As a point of departure, sustainability is defined, proposing a new framework where architecture is incorporated as one of the main pillars. Then, the criteria for evaluating sustainability are established. These provide a system of indicators, which incorporated parameters based on the specific circumstances of the oasis. Methodologies and existing sustainable development projects that represent the state-of-the-art are analyzed, discussing the difficulty of adapting them to conditions of oases. A methodology that modifies strategic concepts is developed, whereby the catalyst is social action, and strategies are developed based on low-cost, self-built, and feasible implementation systems. The specific case study lies in the extreme conditions in the oasis of M’hamid, where a process of de decay and neglect is evident. This deterioration is due to an accumulation of external and internal circumstances, and of natural and anthropogenic factors that affect the oasis, leading to extreme weather conditions and a shortage of both natural and artificial resources. Include factors; climate change, drought, changes in water policies, the threat of desertification, social conflicts, ecological imbalance, economic shortage, the energy crisis, architectural obsolescence, destruction of built heritage, and misunderstood new architecture. It is important to note the extremely limited graphic information about the area has led me to produce an extensive archive of maps and drawings, many developed by direct observation, that contribute to the research. The case study analysis of the oasis of M’hamid examines the resources available and the latent potential to slow the prevailing trend towards deterioration. The initial drawings of contextual and critical analysis result in maps and diagrams of action, which are formed by a system of objects and the definition of strategies. These can be thought of as understanding or “deconstructing” the past to reconstruct the future. Alternative approaches defined in seven strategies for action are based on three fields related to the ecosystem: ecological, socioeconomic and architectural. Thus, the thesis defends architectural action to promote sustainable development, based on three elements: – The creation of “techno-artisans”, to make use of energy resources – Architectural changes, to reformulate habitat in terms of energy efficiency and progress – And the promotion of everyday actions, to redefine social relations, creating cooperative and collaborative environments. In the ecological field, I propose anti-desertification actions such as; tree incubators, alternative water management systems(such as solid rain),; strategies to empower the agricultural production, energy from low-cost systems made out from recycled materials(such as solar panels from PET bottles or wind turbine from bicycle wheels). In the socioeconomic sphere, I propose to implement new forms of social action and economic regeneration. Finally, within the urban and architectural field, I propose morphological changes to the existing architecture and a contemporary reinterpretation of the earth as a material that allows new geometries, creating petrified sand by micro processesbiological or enhancing nature as an artistic and energy resource. This thesis is a starting point. It collects systems, strategies and experiences to serve as a stimulus or dynamic momentum for future sustainable development of the oasis, opening new avenues of research and experimentation.
  • Link: http://oa.upm.es/38612/

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