Tenosique Flood Observatory (2010 Arquine Competition)
The competition sponsored by Arquine journal, was a call for an observatory to floods in Tenosique, Mexico. The competition organizers wanted a building that had a hostel for visitors/tourists, a research laboratory and community outreach center for flood and riparian education, and a refuge for citizens affected by floodwaters.
Our response was to break the building into three elements distributed at key points of the hydrologic cycle. We put the refuge in the hills, the lab/museum/community outreach at and in the river, and the hostel on the border of the wetlands. Visitors can take in all of the elements of the hydrologic cycle through our stations in this landscape defined by water. It is an eco-revelatory design.
The lab/museum and community center sat on the river in the town. Our design for this area was a set of ‘buildings’ housed in sheds with interpretive materials on their insides. The ‘buildings’ are also boats. The boats take the visitors up and down river to see key points researchers use to measure river behavior, floods and flood impacts. Additionally, these boats may be used to carry people in danger of floods to the refuge up in the hills.
The refuge in the hills is a simple structure cut into the hill at the mouth of the river. It cantilevers off of the slope. Access for supplies up to the refuge is by funicular, and people may also access the refuge by a set of stairs or ramp; the stairs reminiscent of ancient temples in the region. The roof of the refuge is accessible, allowing connection to the sky to see the clouds and storms building or moving past.
The last element of the program is the hostel, which sits at the edge of the wetland areas. The hostel complex is a device to measure the fluctuating change of the water levels, and a place to see the cleansing and recharge of the groundwater.
A limestone path links the three elements, and the tectonics of the elements draw inspiration from two important features of the immediate context - the railroad and the fish. The rail is the principal means of travel for the migrant workers in the region, they hop the train and ride it to new locations. The train goes through oursite, and we hope to provide additional refuge to these workers.
The local fish, the pejelegarto, has a flat top and rounded bottom shape. It is also the nickname of the local political leader. From the rail, we get the repeated unit piece tied together by a transverse element (beam) and the pejelegarto creates a thick section that creates structural stability.
Gabriel Diaz Montemayor, Adriana Ramos Hinojos, Robert Cannavino, Ken McCown, Nathan Dickman, Ambrose Luk design team members.