Green wall sahara initiative


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Web http://www.magnuslarsson.com/architecture/dune.asp


About the project Edit

Supporting the existing Green Wall Sahara initiative -- 24 African countries coming together to plant a shelter belt of trees right across the continent, from Mauritania in the west to Djibouti in the east, in order to mitigate against the encroaching desert --, Magnus Larsson, a student at the Architectural Association in London, has proposed a 6,000km-long wall of artificially solidified sandstone architecture that would span the Sahara Desert, east to west, offering a combination of refugee housing and a "green wall" against the future spread of the desert. Larsson's project deservedly won first prize in fall 2009 at the Holcim Foundation's Awards for Sustainable Construction held in Marrakech, Morocco.

Such a solidified dunescape could be created through a particularly novel form of "sustainable construction" – that is, through a kind of infection of the earth. In other words, Larsson proposes using bacillus pasteurii, a "microorganism, readily available in marshes and wetlands, [that] solidifies loose sand into sandstone". He points out here the work of the Soil Interactions Lab at UC-Davis, which describes itself as "harnessing microbial activity to solidify problem soils." Concretely, the whole structure is made straight from the dunescape by flushing a particular bacteria through the loose sand... which causes a biological reaction whereby the sand turns into sandstone; the initial reactions are finished within 24 hours, though it would take about a week to saturate the sand enough to make the structure habitable." The project – a kind of bio-architectural test-landscape – would thus "go from a balloon-like pneumatic structure filled with bacillus pasteurii, which would then be released into the sand and allowed to solidify the same into a permacultural architecture."

In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

DUNE is a creative plan to stop desertification by greening the Sahara Desert. Larsson contrasts his method with existing vernacular techniques of anti-desertification:"Traditional anti-desertification methods include the planting of trees and cacti, the cultivation of grasses and shrubs, and the construction of sand-catching fences and walls. More ambitious projects have ventured into the development of agriculture and livestock, water conservation, soil management, forestry, sustainable energy, improved land use, wildlife protection, poverty alleviation, and so on."

What is the social value of this project? Edit

Larsson points out that the structure itself would generate a "temperature difference between the interior of the solidified dunes and the exterior dune surface." This then "makes it possible to start building a permacultural network, the nodal points of which would support water harvesting and thermal comfort zones that can be inhabited." Inside the dunes, inhabitants could take care of their plants and animals, find water and shade, help the soil remain fertile, care for the trees, and so on.

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