Prototype: Reef CaCO3
Through this project, we uncover a dialogue about the potential for a seascape architecture that forms a symbiotic relationship with the sea by creating a self-sufficient, self-forming coral reef ecosystem. The basis of the Prototype: Reef CaCO3 is the compound Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3), which accounts for 10% of the world’s crust as limestone, and is freely found in oceans. It is the fundamental component of shells, molluscs and coral growth, where organisms absorb CaCO3 from the seawater. It is this process of CaCO3 accretion that forms the inspiration for Prototype: Reef CaCO3. Combining research by architects, marine biologists and our own experiments, we were able to imitate the process of calcium accretion by running a low voltage electrical current through a steel mesh submerged in sea water.
For this project, we developed a framework based on a single prefabricated element resembling a coral ‘spicule’: a four-pronged element found as the building block for a number of sea sponges and corals. We were then able to digitally deform the structure according to the tides within a specific location (Bradleys head in Sydney Harbour). By inputting the tidal flows into a parametric design scenario, it enabled us to replicate tidal passages through the structure, by which renewable energy can be generated through the incorporation of turbines. The electricity generated may not only supply the current needed for calcium growth, but allows the potential for larger scale electricity production for the Greater Sydney area.
The growth of calcium on the structure enables coral to thrive, some reports indicating the success of coral on these structures to have 3 to 5 times the success of natural coral reefs. The ensuing coral reef environment will become a haven for marine organisms, creating a marine safari that will enable divers, snorkelers and swimmers to enjoy the vibrant marine habitat. The marine safari is located over an existing shipwreck- the SS Curajong (Sunken in 1910), which is already used as a popular diving spot in Sydney Harbour. The self-forming nature of the reef means that within just a couple of years, the built structure will become completely integrated with natural marine life.
Although initially envisioned for Sydney, these structures have the potential to be built around the globe, helping to counteract ocean acidification and the diminishing number of coral habitats worldwide.