christian unverzagt – Bisbee Basecamp

This base camp is located on the outskirts of Old Bisbee, a mining town founded in 1880 in southeast Arizona with a population of approximately 5000 people. Located a mere 10 miles from the U.S. border with Mexico, the landscape is scarred by a century of mining and cast with rusted industrial artifacts and inexpensive building materials, much of the town shaped by the logic of resource extraction. As mining fell away, the quirky town attracted artists and ‘counter-culture’ types before shifting towards a tourism economy. While these shifts took decades, the process of decarbonization cannot wait that long. The studio will use a Live+Learn+Build model in the vein of past public works programs of the past century, such as the Work Projects Administration (WPA) or Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

While one of many similar basecamps throughout the country, the Bisbee Base Camp will be used to investigate the means of restoration and adaptation of architecture and landscape in the American Southwest as the shift to decarbonization by means of full electrification by renewable energy sources is accelerated. Workers will come and live in Bisbee as they spend several years adapting the power grid throughout Bisbee to make use of an entirely electrified system. While the base camp needs may only be temporary, how might the Bisbee Base Camp be designed to explore architecture in this context, at this time?

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Student Work

Brandon Meinders – “Re-Inhabited”

Re-Inhabited explores the potential for sustainable design through the implementation of time as a design element, and an acknowledgement of the full life span of the structure. By accepting the passing of time and the deterioration that accompanies it, this project not only fulfills its role as a training camp for the electrification of the grid, but also sets up future opportunities such as a destination of artistic expression, and eventually a habitat for animal sanctuary. The frame and cladding method of construction used to build the overhang and residential spaces allow for softer materials to degrade while the more durable frame remains, creating opportunities of re-invented space making. This system becomes the literal and formal framework for future inhabitation in which the flexibility of this system can adapt to unknown and unpredictable future conditions. Furthermore, the embedded nature of Re-Inhabited in the ground makes it an active participant in a changing landscape, eroding and degrading in unison with its surroundings, serving to acknowledge the inherent connection humans have to the Earth we occupy. This idea is further emphasized by the framing effect of the residential units as one descends the stairs, forcing a visual acknowledgement of inseparable effects of human activity and our impact on the environment.

Rachel Skof – “Mediation/Meditation”

Mediation/Meditation consists of two buildings that attempt to remediate certain climatic risks present in Bisbee. The buildings also allow visitors of the site to contemplate the relationship between the natural landscape and the human interventions that now must occur to preserve it. 

The first intervention is an underground battery facility acting as backup energy storage for Bisbee’s five-thousand residents. The heat generated by the batteries is re-purposed into a smoke-purification system as it rises up and through the watchtower that sits above. Visitors of the site are privy to the watchtower as both a marker in the desert landscape and a spectacle of the remediating infrastructural machine. 

The second intervention is a building that houses a cross laminated timber factory that provides a rapid deployment of cheap and sustainable building materials to rebuild buildings destroyed in Southeast Arizona’s wildfire prone areas. On the building’s southeast facade is a wind levee that produces and propels hot air upwards in an attempt to stop the southeast prevailing winds from pushing wildfires into the site, protecting both the factory and the battery storage that sits uphill.

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