Ngaire Stuart Gongora, Assoc. AIA
To showcase to divers and non-divers alike the benefits of using rig structures as artificial reefs and the complexity and beauty within a coral reef.
The initial inspiration for this architectural proposal was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Vern and the possibility to seamlessly integrate with the marine environment we so strongly depend on, but severely under value. This limited appreciation stems from the general public's inability to accurately experience this world and understand how the ecosystems within it function.
Coral reefs are rapidly dying and have been in decline for several years now, and once they are gone all supported levels of their ecosystem will soon follow—especially communities that depend on fishing. However, there is an effort to help these ecosystems through the use of artificial reefs. Artificial reefs are man-made objects placed in the marine environment to promote coral reef growth. These structures can range from tires to barges to oil rig platforms. The Rigs-to-Reef program is one of the few groups trying to establish guidelines to re-use rigs as artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. This design proposal takes a leap from their already established efforts to bring to light how beneficial the oil platforms are for coral reef growth, but also to showcase to divers and non-divers alike the true way coral reef ecosystems function.
There is already a tremendous oil and gas industry network in place that will eventually become obsolete, and being able to use this infrastructure to benefit the marine environment it has been known to decimate is the driving force behind the proposal. Bringing to light the expansiveness of the network and the benefits of reusing these rigs as artificial reefs. The site is located off the coast of Louisiana, the area is littered with oil and gas platforms. The proposal sites eight oil rig platforms in close proximity. It topples them to signify the new functionality they will serve, to help the marine environment.
In one of the platforms, an institution that houses diving facilities, research and laboratory space, and viewing areas is established. The inside and outside of the structure have two languages, inside the platform; catwalks are suspended from the primary spine of the structure in order to be able to intersect the void within the frame. As a result, a sea of cables is created in the vertical direction and in the horizontal strong datum lines parallel to the ocean's horizon. On the outside; a series of inhabitable volumes are attached to the rig by a space frame. Creating a complex network on the outside of the frame. The programs are for the visitors, the divers and researchers.
There are many groups promoting the use of artificial reefs, this architecture proposal aims to be at the head of this movement and establish the research facilities and viewing areas to raise awareness and continue to promote the use of the oil rigs as artificial reefs.