Smout Allen

Nick Salthouse Y5

Hydrological Hinterlands: The Liquidity of Glacial Recession. We are officially in a glacial recession. 

As Switzerland approaches ‘peak water’ abstracted from its glacial reserves, the project considers the relative social construct of water scarcity in the wake of a denuclearised 2050 Energy Strategy. Hydroelectric generation is expected to replace this nuclear loss in the coming decades (nearly 40% of the energy mix) with inevitable repercussions downstream. 

Federal subsidies and existing planning frameworks allow municipally initiated infrastructural development to be leveraged at the state’s expense. Since many struggling Alpine towns depend on seasonal meltwater, a series of key infrastructural interventions offer resilience to protect these towns and enable further reconstruction of themselves by serving as 1:1 fabrication templates. The harnessing of geographic hydrological forces to drive local industry facilitates and perpetuates medieval methodologies of lay construction alongside generational Swiss techniques using only the materials available amongst the Alpine massifs. The resultant landscape of architectural jigs and civic prosthetics reconfigure the towns allowing rituals of harvest to come to the fore, thus catalysing these towns’ regeneration from within. 

Receding glaciers alter the watershed thus distorting future catchments and ownership of water rights between Cantons. These newly established buffer towns enable localised agri-economies to prevail in self-sufficiency whilst facilitating an emerging tertiary economy of water trade through picohydro networks in more extreme future scenarios of competition for the resource. The scheme’s scalability has the potential to not only salvage these historic hinterlands, but simultaneously curate a future hydrological tourism industry bringing further investment to these Alpine communities. 

In turn, due to Switzerland’s geographical convenience, this national-scale hydrological battery will come to offer the necessary capacitance to the continental grid with the potential to destabilise the renewable energy crisis

Terra Incognita 2019