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Re-evaluating a Climatic Paradigm: Naturalising the Defensive

Part 1 Project 2013
Sam Matthams
University of Plymouth, UK
Over 180 years ago, an unprecedented project began. Known as ‘The Great National Undertaking’, its ambitious plans were to create the largest freestanding structure of its time, converting what was once one of England’s most notoriously dangerous harbours, into 1,000 acres of safe and placid anchorage.

This feat, a 30-year project that stemmed the huge expansion of Plymouth, facilitating economic and cultural growth whilst simultaneously enriching the marine seascape, ultimately produced one of the highest rated diving locations in the U.K today. However this formation has now begun to lose its defensive hold over its powerful and relentless adversary. With intensifying storms and declining coastal conditions, Plymouth Breakwater is requiring ever-increasing support in order to maintain its grip over the open seas that lie beyond.

Taking hold of emerging research from within Plymouth Universities Marine Science department, the proposal aims to demonstrate the ability to naturally restore depleting coastlines through informed and well-articulated sea defences. By utilising the systematic process of the sea through the adaptive and responsive manipulation of tidal movements, a self-maintaining defence system can encourage natural replenishment. The over riding emphasis of the project is to diminish the notion of a reliance on man-made defences to halt the seas destructiveness, and instead focuses it towards an encouragement and acceptance of these processes as an asset capable of protecting coastal areas. This actively pursued ambition is facilitated by the creation of a climate research gallery.

Serving two functions, the galleries focus is to facilitate and actively record the breakwaters progress, whilst relating the full narrative of the proposition back into a publicly accessible form. Through bridging the disjointed atmospheric circumstances that separate the land based gallery and the exposed test site, the interior space articulates light, shadow, shelter and exposure, emotively conveying the climatic conditions upon the exposed breakwater. This is achieved through a responsive façade, reciprocating the materiality and character of the breakwater itself.

In whole, the climate gallery acts as a sympathetic homage towards the engineering feat, presenting a restorative re-appropriation that encourages natures advances, and diverts from its endless combat against the unrelenting.

Sam Matthams


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