Building on Water: Intensive Site Trip Advances Urban Design

20 Oct

The design team travelled to the project site this month for an extended work trip aimed at guiding the urban design development phase.   The extensive land surveying shed great light on the existing site conditions.  With the help of GPS units, canoes, local farmers and other volunteers from the Umuoba Anam community, the team was able to traverse the full extent of the first phase site (Ebenebe), identifying inland waterways and gaining a better understanding of traditional socio-economic and settlement patterns.

The Ebenebe river edge

Of particular importance was understanding and recording the extent of the peak seasonal flooding on the site.  Because the Anam communities are in the Niger/Anambra river basin, most of their land is heavily impacted by the seasonal tropical rain.  So why build a new city in a flood zone?  How can such a significant greenfield development be feasible, let alone ecologically responsible?   It is the most important urban design challenge; balancing environmental protection with an urgent need to improve human quality of life.  The fact is the land is all the Anam people have, the hand they’ve been dealt.  It is both a source of life and struggle.  The flood cycle effectively cuts off communities from public services, economic activities and each other.  At the same time, it is a necessary ecological process that enriches the land and enables the Anam farmers to produce over 70% of the regional food demand.   As their present living conditions worsen, the Anam people have a right to self-actualization and preservation.  Proposed urban design strategies for the new Anam City will balance the regional hydrological cycle with domestic water solutions for a sustainable settlement.  Furthermore, the rurban/agropolitan model cultivates prosperity where it’s needed the most, the rural periphery, and mitigates the destructive forces of mass urban migration.

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