Exploring how architecture can improve water management and engage communities in New Orleans, recent master’s architecture graduate Riley Lacalli developed a project that proposes a new infrastructure system and presented his work at a national conference this spring.
The CriticalMASS Graduate Research Symposium at the University of North Carolina Charlotte in April brought together 14 students for presentations to panels of experts from across the country. Lacalli, who graduated from the Tulane School of Architecture’s M.Arch I program in May, said the experience at CriticalMASS was both informative and inspiring with students’ topics ranging from virtual libraries to smog-diffusing glass, Lacalli said.
“The diverse representation of projects reinforced the idea that architecture can be used to positively influence a variety of problems,” he said.
Lacalli’s thesis project “Pumps Politikos” addresses urban infrastructural systems and the problems many cities, coastal cities in particular, are facing as the threat of climate change rises. Among his design solutions, he proposes a series of canopies, elevated above streets and around pumping stations, as green spaces for not only rainwater collection but also civic engagement. The goal is to create a better water management system that utilizes every drop of water as an asset and, by making these sites accessible, reconnect communities to infrastructure allowing them to play a role in the monitoring and management of the system.
“To combat issues such as rising sea levels, land loss, and an increased occurrence of natural disasters, urban environments and the machines that keep them afloat must be redesigned in a multi-scalar, multi-systemic manner,” said Lacalli. “My interest in architecture lies in its ability to contribute to many different disciplines and across many different scales. I would love to get involved with an architecture firm that is taking on projects at a larger city or neighborhood scale, specifically projects that work with the existing fabric and attempt to provide holistic and dynamic responses to potential problems.”