Tristan da Cunha

RIBA Competition

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Ficha tcnica

Javier Terrados and Fernando Suárez were selected as one of the 5 shortlisted teams for the Tristan da Cunha Competition organized by RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) to proceed to the final phase.

Tristan da Cunha is the remotest inhabited island in the world. Situated within the South Atlantic Ocean, it is only accessible by sea, on approximately 60 days per year. The travel to meet the 270 people that form the permanent community of the island takes 7 to 10 days sailing from the nearest piece of land.

These exceptional circumstances make a competition about urban refurbishment an opportunity to propose combined strategies based on self-sufficiency as a way of life for a whole community. They have been created in order to make the island a world-renowned example of balance and sustainability.

All the strategies we propose try to encourage the participation of the inhabitants of Tristan da Cunha. It is only by means of cooperation and the involvement of those affected that the goal of a sustainable future can truly be achieved.

This participation is expected at several levels and stages of the process. Firstly, Tristan da Cuhna’s inhabitants can take part in the diagnosis and the data gathering relating to their properties and public spaces. This can be implemented through the use of user-friendly computer applications. Furthermore, some of them can take part in training programs to become experts in the different issues that the sustainable future of the island will require. Then by means of the easy-to-handle refurbishing and building technologies we propose, a large part of the population can take part in the real construction of this future.

The amount of material that has to be supplied to the island for retrofitting the existing properties and building new facilities has to be carefully measured due to the limited number of available ships. It is clear that materials can be accommodated more readily than personnel, but these materials have to be very limited and lightweight. That is why our choice of a highly efficient and very lightweight type of construction seems to be an obvious one. The number and characteristics of the necessary components has to be very carefully studied also in terms of their ecological footprint in a cradle-to-cradle tracking of every element that arrives to the island.

Efficiency also has to be considered in the very process of packaging and transportation. In addition to being lightweight, the possibility of a 2D packing of most of the components has been considered, giving priority to “flat packs” instead of 3D components, reserved only for compact bathrooms, kitchens and technical units in new prefab houses.

Another way of taking advantage of communal participation will be in the task of collaborating in the production of a wide variety of food (by means of individual greenhouses) and the participation in water management (by means of individual rooftop rainwater harvesting).

This way, every strategy is really a network of actions that contributes to a communal feeling:

-          A community of refurbished, efficient homes.

We have developed what we call “The Tristan Envelope”, a specific set of elements for user-friendly, bricolage-type construction of progressive renovations that is to be shared by all Tristanians.

-          Progressive renewal. Prefab eco-efficient houses.

If there is need for new homes, we have also developed what we call “The Tristan Prototype”, a system of user-friendly prefab construction based on a combination of 2D and 3D elements that require almost no specialized workforce.

-          A microgrid of complementary renewable energies.

All properties are part of a grid that combines photovoltaic, wind turbine and fuel generators whose performance can be checked at all times by everyone.

-          A community of greenhouses for food variety.

Both renovated and new homes can incorporate domestic greenhouses that apart from improving the houses’ energy efficiency, will also encourage individual cultivation.

-          A neighbourhood of shared water resources.

The awareness and care of water management can be encouraged by the individual harvesting of rainwater for irrigation, livestock and domestic use.

-          A network of shared outdoor communal spaces.

Tristan da Cunha can achieve the spatial structure of a “city”, with a recognizable layout that combines and interconnects an inviting main square and several secondary meeting places.

Sostenibilidad extrema