As the industry grows, so too do design possibilities. It seems as though every year, the world’s tallest skyscraper gets taller, bridges get longer and sustainable design offers some of the world’s most innovative design and building technologies. These innovative technologies, for the most part, have been a result of a disruption to natural climate cycles, or climate change, creating new goals, which encourage a reconnection to the organic.
In doing so, man-made organics, or built natural environments have been created to act as link between people and their environments.
One such area of construction that is increasingly developing is the construction of man-made islands. While the idea has been in practice for quite some time, it has been given a platform upon which to sit with the development of Dubai’s Palm and the World Islands. Surrounded by controversy, the projects have stereotyped construction of this nature as grandiose, lavish and excessive, due to the underlying design philosophy of the biggest and the best.
This is, however, not always the case.
In a project that has as much social responsibility as design chops, HASSELL has undertaken the huge task of creating a group of man-built islands in Dongqian Lake, Ningbo, China.
The works, which are still under construction, will span a total area of 164,000 sqm and cost just over $19 million, in the construction of one main island and three smaller surrounding floating islands. The main island will feature a small boutique accommodation complex, with further villas, aquatic centre and recreation club, in addition to caretaker accommodation.
HASSELL Principal of Landscape in China, Andrew Wilkinson explains that the idea to create such a large architectural feat has nothing to do with vanity and everything to do with social, economic and environmental sustainability, citing that the idea to cater to a growing demand by these creative means is not a new idea.
“The idea of creating a space from the ground up is taken to a whole new level with a man-made island,” says Wilkinson, “Land reclamation is actually nothing very new and has historically been used in response to economic demand (e.g. the creation of a new port area/an airport hub etc.) and to an extent this is similar. There is a demand for tourism facilities around the lake, and the islands provide additional space for these to occur”.
After years of tourist mismanagement, a strong connection to the lake was lost, leading to one of the key project goals “Engage H20” a promotion of positive ways in which both tourists and locals can engage with the body of water. It is for that reason that the overall design ideology rests on three core relationships:
1) The reliance on water for survival and basic needs
2) The importance of maintaining quality of water to thrive
3) The need to rebalance the current use of water for future sustainable needs
“This plan recognises the importance of water to human life as well as for the local people, for who the lake is the basis of their economy” Wilkinson says.
After the initial wow factor sinks in, it is impossible to ignore possible environmental implications of creating a landmass. These include possible pollution to the water system, disturbance to the underwater ecosystems and, most notably, dredging.
Man-made islands are created through a dredging process, whereby soil is compacted together to create the land mass, which will be undertaken for the major island only.
Due to HASSELL’s high sustainable foundation, it does seem surprising that they would come on board with a project that has negative environmental impacts. However, due to the sensitivity of the process, firm regulations were formed under an investigation of the dredging. A number of measures were taken, which included a reduction of negative effects on the environment including the use of a 600C cutter dredger, which minimises these impacts.
The island itself will be a dedicated sustainable space. The smaller islands will implement water filtration and fish and mussel breeding to improve the sea life, water quality and social involvement. Wilkinson explains that the main island will incorporate a small farm, by which the hotel complex will be able to supply seasonal, hand grown produce, both creating employment opportunities, social interaction and a lack of reliance on outside produce.
While reports of sinking have plagued the Dubai islands, the designer assures that while an initial concern for clients, the lightweight buildings to be constructed and geographical position (in a lake, rather than the open ocean) safeguard the Chinese islands.
With so many positive holistic sustainability notions attached to this project, it is a prime example that artificial is no longer synonymous with unsustainable.
“The floating islands allowed us to explore a design approach that not only focused on the physical outcomes, but also provided a meaningful outcome that would strengthen the historic relationship between the existing village residents and the lake”.