The following designs from China, the United States, and France were awarded first ($4,000), second ($2,000), and third ($1,000) prizes respectively by LA+ INTERRUPTION’s eminent interdisciplinary jury. All awarded entries receive feature publication in LA+ Journal’s forthcoming LA+ INTERRUPTION issue (Spring 2023).
Location of Interruption: New York City, USA
XIANGYU LIU, CHENGXI
ZHA + CHENGYUAN XU (CHINA)
In the complex environment of Manhattan, the air stream carries a variety of impure gasses: byproducts from industry, building air conditioning and heating systems, and vehicle exhausts. In order to successfully reach the goal of 80% carbon emission reduction in Manhattan by 2050, the idea for the Manhattan Curtain was born.
Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage technology (CCUS) captures and purifies the CO2 emissions and subsequently puts it into a new process that allows the CO2 to be recycled rather than sequestered. The Manhattan Curtain is an architectural practice based on CCUS technology at an urban scale. The project starts with 630 carbon dioxide-filter membranes. Amine compounds are attached to filters to absorb carbon dioxide and chemically convert it into carbide. The carbide is then transported to the CCUS towers on either side of the Curtain. After multiple filtering and decomposition processes, it is ultimately transformed into industrial products such as baking soda and biodegradable plastics, aiming for efficient and clean green applications of carbon-based energy.
The filters hang from trusses suspended between the CCUS towers, forming a giant curtain on W 59th St – physically interrupting the gray skyscrapers and the green Central Park. As well as capturing and processing the vast carbon emissions from Midtown and Downtown, the towers also enrich city life by allowing citizens to enter the interior to learn about purifying the air, and to stand at a new high point with a great view of Manhattan. Aesthetically, the filter Curtain has a colorful, stained window-like effect. The Manhattan Curtain is a monument to the barbarically grown city with the highest density of high-rise buildings in human history, interrupting the status quo and symbolizing the city’s move to a sustainable future.
Location of Interruption: Pittsburgh, USA
JAKE BOSWELL (USA)
A dam is a literal interruption. According to the National Inventory of Dams, there are over 90,000 dams in the US. Less than 2% of these generate hydroelectric power. Many of the other 98% do essential work, yet their potential as an energy source is unrealized. This project shows one way to harness the energy embodied in these dams.
River Prosthesis 1 takes the Emsworth Dam on the Ohio River near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as a test case. Emsworth is a 25’ lift-gate dam that allows navigation to Pittsburgh and up the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. The project deploys three pre-existing technologies: a hydraulic ram pump, a water tower, and a water turbine to create a prosthetic infrastructure, converting the existing dam into a hydro-power plant and a pumped-hydro storage battery. In so doing, it creates a second, more speculative interruption.
Contemporary discussions of renewable energy assume that ample chemical battery storage can balance wind and solar output variability. That assumption is crazy. Already we cannot mine lithium-carbonate quickly enough to keep up with the demand for electric car batteries. How will we produce enough to power our homes and cities (let alone quickly)? Currently, 95% of the world’s energy storage comes from pumped hydro. These facilities use excess energy at times of low demand to pump water to elevated reservoirs. Water is released through a turbine when demand is high to balance shortfalls in production. Traditionally, pumped hydro has been land consumptive, but it is also cheap, safe, and reliable. Increased rainfall projected for the Upper Midwest, East, and Southeast makes pumped hydro facilities even more feasible.
As global temperatures rise, cities are increasingly susceptible to extreme heat events. During such events, energy demand skyrockets. As demand outstrips production, we will see rolling blackouts. River Prosthesis can help balance out normal variability while also powering a reliable, redundantly distributed, zero-carbon micro-grid, ensuring that critical infrastructures like cooling centers and hospitals can continue to function.
THOMAS ROCHE + ANNE KLEPAL (FRANCE)
Location of Interruption: Paris, France
In western neoliberal societies today, we witness a crisis of representative democracy associated with the “post-politics” condition: a general depoliticization of society, a decrease of counter-powers, and disappearance of actual political debate, concomitant to increasing violence against protest movements. Democracy is often considered as the operative system ordering society, in which we vote for our representatives making laws and governing our territories. But democracy is also the process through which people become able to govern themselves. For this empowerment to happen, people need to express different opinions, confront their ideas, acknowledge how different they are, form communities, and understand that they have to work together and include minorities in decision-making processes. As Jacques Rancière stated, “there is politics precisely when one reveals as false the evidence that the community exists already and everyone is already included.”
In this context, cities bear the marks of this crisis in democracy: facades are oversaturated with advertising, buildings appear as symbols of companies’ power, and public places are ruled by security restrictions and surveillance. The city of Paris is still strongly influenced by its Haussmann heritage, with city streets and public places designed as a framework for shutting down any revolution. In addition, a 1981 French law made posting fliers illegal on the facades of public institutions and other public places, with a tolerance for fliers posted on scaffoldings.
There is no politics without spatial anchoring, thus spaces of public expression and debate need to be embodied and recognizable. This proposal builds upon practices of demonstration such as signs, slogans, and fliers – it deflects the existing facades by building an outdoor room made of scaffolding-inspired structures as a support for allowing opinions to be expressed, communities to emerge, and democracy to form. As a political reinterpretation of Cedric Price’s Fun Palace, the interruption replaces activities with ones helping the construction of a strong public sphere, and a living democracy.