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8
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DRAWING-BOARD
FERNANDO LUIZ LARA* DESCRIBES HOW URBAN FLOODING
CAN BE TACKLED AT THE ARCHITECTURAL SCALE.
As the world becomes more urbanised, with much of this expansion flooding to argue that beyond matters of governance and
happening in the tropics where rainfall is predicted to get more infrastructure, individual buildings should do much more to engage
intense as the planet gets warmer, urban flooding is an enormous water in a responsible way.
challenge. Latin America, for instance, has the equivalent of one One need only to look at an average building in most of the tropics
hurricane Katrina every year. The number of deaths from urban nowadays and the inability to deal with rain becomes remarkable.
flooding in the rainy area that goes from southern Mexico to northern Water infiltration is the rule in low-income houses. Additional pressures
Argentina hits thousands and the number of damaged buildings is in are created by densification and the increased paving of open spaces,
the scale of hundreds of thousands. resulting in an impermeable terrain. But the problem is not bound by
Nevertheless, large cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and income and class stratification. Upscale apartment buildings are no less
Buenos Aires have been struggling to keep their water supplies in pace incompetent when it comes to water proofing and soil permeability.
with growing demand and drying watersheds. Meanwhile, global If we can agree that any problem has the seeds of its own solution,
warming has been fueling two trends: stronger storms and longer we can hope that responsible architecture can move towards water
periods of draught, making water deadly in both ways, when it falls and conservancy and soil permeability, with the potential to have a
when it does not. tremendous impact on the deadly and costly path of water. Our main
While the usual approach to the problem has been at the scale of purpose at Studio Toró is to engage with architects and the public,
urban and public policy, architecture has made an important arguing that both need to be much more serious about water.
contribution. At Studio Toró (based in Brazil and the US) we use urban An average lot of 12 x 30 metres in a region under 60 inches
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