Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hundertwasser Wine

The NY Times just had an article on the Quixote Winery in Napa Valley which was one of Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s last buildings he worked on. Hundertwasser was an eccentric Austrian artist turned building designer whose felt the mechanization of building was killing modern homes. His structures try to integrate the built form and nature more closely, including all of the messiness that comes along with complex natural systems. The grid was to be scorned, as were right angles and solid swathes of color. I had never known anything about him before, but I had seen pictures of his Hundertwasser House in Vienna, and I really enjoyed the integration of the plant material into the building with vines, trees, etc. high up from the ground. His “Forest Spiral” building in Darmstadt, Germany doesn’t intrigue me as much. The scale of the green space doesn’t feel as personal as the house in Vienna. Still, I like the idea that you could walk up the height of the entire building. That ground floor to roof green access is nice.

Hundertwasser House in Vienna

The "Forest Spiral" building in Darmstadt, Germany

Chicago's Deep Tunnel

How could I live in Chicago at one point and not know that there were 109 miles of tunnels being built under it? Not just small tunnels, but big ones, 9 to 33 feet in diameter. It’s all part of the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP) also known as “The Deep Tunnel”. It is pretty deep, as much as 350 feet below the surface, excavated through limestone since the 1970’s using similar equipment to the machines that drilled the Chunnel between the UK and France. But this tunnel system does not transport people. It carries and stores sewage and storm water overflow from the area to reservoir sites until water treatment plants can catch up with the peak flow during big storms.

It’s curious to me to read different descriptions of the project. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago who runs the Deep Tunnel thinks it’s the best thing ever, and touts all the engineering awards it has won. Most of the $4 billion in funding has come from the EPA, and the project has helped improve the water quality of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River by keeping storm runoff from going directly into those bodies of water. Chicago has a mixed sewage and storm water system (like many cities) so that means sewage isn’t overflowing into the river or lake as well.

What I don’t like about the project is that it’s such an energy intensive/ engineering intensive solution. That’s such a 1950’s way of thinking to me (although I guess this did start in the 1970’s). Not only do you have to build and maintain all of the tunnels and reservoirs, but there must be some huge pumps to pull the water back up from 350 feet down and treat it. Hopefully future projects to deal with runoff in Chicago incorporate more greenroofs, bio-swales, reduced permeability of surfaces, etc. You know, Portland stuff.

Then we’ll have to think of some NEW use for the Deep Tunnel. Fresh water storage for drought? Future “L” routes? Underground linear museum? What else?