Honorable Mention
2013 Skyscraper Competition

Nam Il Joe, Laura E. Lo, Mark T. Nicol
United States

By extending the ethos of reuse to the aqueous environment, In Charybdis reconsiders the plastic detritus in the world’s oceans as building material. Harnessing the complex, dynamic system of forces of the oceans and its intensive gradients, this project coalesces plastic particulates into a self-limiting, dynamically formed, yet chemically inert, super-tall building structure that plunges deep into the ocean’s depths.

Utilizing advanced material technologies, it provides scaffolding for deep-sea research vessels. These vessels navigate through the water column, over time converging and dispersing within the structure, forming and disbanding spontaneous research communities as they venture to the depths and slowly return to air. By utilizing an existing material condition to build a research facility in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, this project leverages cleanup and rehabilitation for the advancement science, creating a novel venue for the study of the last and great, earthly frontier—the deep ocean.

The project’s specific site within the ocean gyres is both emblematic and anomalous. Situated within a fractal gyre of motion and framed by three subsurface mountains, the site is a vortex within a vortex, its conflicting currents both sculpting our structure and harnessed by it for dynamic stabilization. Gradients of salinity, temperature, pressure, fluctuations in surface wind speed and direction, ocean currents, and magnetic anomalies are all a part of the complex system of forces that drives material down into the ocean’s depth, and shapes this research facility over the years.

The intensive properties of pressure, temperature and light have a material impact on the quality and nature of the space of this underwater structure. The gradient of light slides towards total darkness between 0 and 700 meters, creating unique sensational atmospheres. The Ekman Spiral twists the aqueous environment between 0 and 100 meters, creating a denser and more habitable scaffold near the surface. These, the force of pressure, the effect of declining temperature, and the increasing salinity, all contribute to yield vastly divergent research environments in this inverted ‘skyscraper’. The project reaches 350 meters into the ocean’s depth with this vertical research facility. It is shaped by the robust variability of water, an ecology registered in material structure, form, and program, a balancing act between gravity and buoyancy.

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