Modular natural dam design protects communities from rising sea levels (VIDEO)

Rising sea levels due to climate change are a major concern to coastal and riverine communities worldwide. Efforts to shore up sand dunes and re-plant degraded mangrove forests have been found to reduce the damage done by natural disasters like tsunamis and floods.

Taking this ecologically-based approach further, Hungarian art and design collective Szövetség’39 are proposing a land-based, modular and natural dam design that builds upon this ecological fact, in order to prevent severe flooding and loss of agricultural land.

Working with scientists, divers, and other design disciplines, Szövetség’39 developed CALTROPe, a portmanteau of caltrop (a kind of water chestnut) and rope, referencing the lace-like, lattice structure of the design, which traps and collects river sediment with the aid of mangrove plants.

© Szövetség’39

Made with a mix of concrete and natural materials, CALTROPe can be easily installed by local communities with minimal intervention, forming a man-made yet natural dam against rising waters.

© Szövetség’39

Designed to biodegrade after 15 to 20 years, the structures are meant to provide reinforcement and habitat to growing mangrove plants, but will dissolve into extra sediment after they have matured, say the designers:

The modules serve as containers and incubators for the young mangrove saplings that, getting stronger with time, will become self-supporting and form a natural dam. We believe that, when the sea level will go beyond a critical point, the quantity of sediment trapped will form sufficiently high dams to save the current lands. The protected areas can also be used agriculturally or can be populated because their soil is rich in nutrients and they are solid enough.

Working as a positive catalyst to support critical areas of shoreline against natural disasters and loss of arable land through soil erosion, CALTROPe is a deliberate and intriguing integration of architecture and nature. More over at Szövetség’39.


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