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M ANUFACTURED TERRITORY a laboratory landscape for geothermally grown architecture

Alexandra Holman t : +45 6022 1501 e:

The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture

Spring 2015

Architecture & Extreme Environments Supervisor: Thomas Bøjstrup


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INTRODUCTION VISION CONTEXT Resources: Surplus & Deficiency Geothermal Resources Svartsengi Powerplant Building in Iceland


PROGRAM Proposal Site & Argumentation


THEMATICS Laboratory Condition Growing Architecture Production Landscape Lateral Ecologies Identities of Site


METHODOLOGY Schedule Modes of Making APPENDIX Preliminary Research Bibliography Curriculum Vitae




lab ∙ o ∙ ra ∙ to ∙ ry Medieval Latin: labōrātōrium, workshop a : a place equipped for experimental study in a science or for testing and analysis; broadly: a place providing opportunity for experimentation, observation, or practice in a field of study b : a place like a laboratory for testing, experimentation, or practice Merriam Webster Dictionary




The project is located within the unique context of Iceland, a land of raw geological processes and a stark contrast between the operations of man and nature. Situated within the study unit: Architecture & Extreme Environments, the proposal is informed by an initial research phase and intensive fieldwork expedition during the Autumn semester of 2014. Through an immersive and iterative design process, the project is led by a methodology of making and informed by a dialogue of site specific engagement and intervention, sparking a discourse between technology, culture and context. The manufactured territory of an industrial spillzone acts as the specific context for the proposal, and as a result the project aims to traverse the dialogic interchange of landscape & architecture, art & industry.



The Icelandic landscape is facing increased pressure in a geopolitical situation where energy policies lead to infrastructural development and ecological adaptation. The opportunities to create new forms of integration between energy exploitation and enjoyment of the landscape are unique to this geologically active territory.

Luis Callejas, Research Director Plugged in Territories: Icelandic Energy Landscapes LCLA, Harvard Graduate School of Design

Svartsengi Powerplant Photo by Judd Lamphere,




Krafla Powerplanr Bjarnarflag


Kerlingarfjรถll Geysir


Nesjavellir Powerplant Hellisheidi Powerplant


SVARTSENGI Seljavallalaug



A remote island, Iceland is perched along the boundary between two divergent tectonic plates. This unique faultline condition allows the country to boast abundant access to geothermal resources. There are 5 active geothermal plants situated within the country. The particular context of the Svartsengi Powerplant and its surrounding waste pools acts as the focus for this investigation. Through study into an active geothermal plant and the physical implications of its industrial landscape, the proposal aims to explore the expanded potentials of geothermal sites, as both a plug in for new industry and as a site of increasing touristic value. The proposal aims to specifically investigate the potential use of mineral rich geothermal effluent fluid as a key resource for the production of architectures specific to this particular site. Through this contextually explicit exploration, the project will act as a generator for speculations upon a new material vernacular in Iceland. Within this design discourse, the thesis will realign themes of industry and landscape through speculative modes of production and inhabitation within this narrative terrain. Through a proposition of slow, geological cultivation for 'growing' architecture, the project curates an alternative to traditional production methods within the construction industry, While the methodology of the project reflects a dialogue between technology and design, it is important to recognise that the task is with a focus of speculative enquiry, aiming to critically assess opportunities and restraints of specific site and program. Therefore, the architecture and spatial potential will be weighted more than the optimization of production.

< Active geothermal sites in Iceland, site of investigation highlighted. 11




A treeless landscape and lunar terrain, three-quarters of Iceland is comprised of a wilderness of desert, lava fields, glaciers and active volcanoes. The dynamic ground conditions of this geologically active territory allows the country to boast abundant access to renewable energy in the form of hydroelectric and geothermal power. These distinct conditions provide the circumstance where Icelandic society may begin to sustain itself through integrated operations of agriculture, industry and recreation with the heat and electricity generated from these sustainable resources. In direct contrast to this energy surplus, Iceland is distinctly lacking in terms of local material resources. As a result of this narrow resource base, the country is heavily reliant on an import economy in all sectors, most notably within the building industry. The thesis aims to move diagonally between these two core themes of surplus and deficiency, aiming to engage with a reinvestment in the local through exploration of the expanded potential of geothermal resources. Within this document, the program will detail how the unique material condition of the waste pools of an active geothermal plant could offer a direct resource for potential architectonic development.





Svartsengi Power plant, Photo by Judd Lamphere, 14



Iceland is the world's leading geothermal energy producer per capita.1 99% of electricity in the country is produced from renewable power, the core sources of which are hydroelectric (70%) and geothermal (30%). In combination, these renewable sources produce over 80% excess energy necessary to power the 300 000 local inhabitants. A vast percentage of this surplus is contentiously being sold to power heavy industries, most notably for the smelting of internationally sourced aluminium. Today the industry produces 870 000 tons of aluminium annually, almost all of which is then sold on to buyers abroad. As a result of the profitability of the metal industry, interest in geothermal energy resources is rapidly expanding. Similarly, as each new borehole offers a significant rise in energy production, it is clear that the energy resource market is one that can only exponentially increase. Today the benefits of geothermal energy use are enormous, however it is clear that the full potential of the resource has not been reached. Is there a way to coalesce the abundance within this sector with the severely lacking arena of material resources for building in Iceland? Insight to the particular Svartsengi Plant detailed in the coming sector of the program offers insight into potential future use.


All statistics in this chapter sourced from Icelandic National Energy Agency (NEA) & Statistics Iceland (SI) 15

Mineral accretion in the runoff ponds of Svartsengi Powerplant 16



The total power generation capacity of the Svartsengi Power plant is 75 Mega Watts (MW) and 150 MW in thermal energy, heating 25% of Reykjavik. Established in 1976, the plant uses 13 active boreholes to draw out 240째C thermal brine from 2km deep within the geothermal reservoir. This critically hot fluid passes through steam separators, which extract water and minerals before circulation within the turbines in thermal energy exchange for manufacture of heat and electricity production. However, this high production capacity does not come without impact. Each day the plant discharges 475 Litres per second of boiling mineral rich geothermal seawater onto the surrounding lava field. Within this particular context, the oversaturated liquid contains a high concentration of dissolved silica, which separates as it cools, causing the silicate layers to polymerize and precipitate on the ground surface. The build up of silicate layers over time has created a smooth, impermeable porcelain-like surface, now famously known as the Blue Lagoon. It is this unique material phenomena that acts as the driver for the architectural proposition. How can the natural deposition of this material be explored in a controlled way, and could this investigation begin to offer some insights into a new vernacular for building in Iceland? * Refer to the appendix for an in depth analysis of its material composition.


Photos by Numi Thorvarsson

TIMELINE OF TYPICAL METHODS & MATERIALS FOR BUILDING 17th Century : Turf Houses 18th Century : Stone Buildings - urbanisation 19th Century : Imported Prefab Timber construction 20th Century to Present : Concrete construction



Building in Iceland

Limited Material Resources for an Increasing Demand In a global context, the built environment is responsible for: 40% of global energy consumption 30% of greenhouse gas emissions 3 billion tons of raw materials used annually 20% global water usage 1 In Iceland, the construction industry is expanding exponentially due to rapid urbanisation within the increasing sprawl of Reykjavik. Since 2002, the capital region has experienced a historic growth rate, expanding in geographical size by 25%. Today, 80% of the country's 300 000 population live within the greater confines of Reykjavik.2 Within this quickly expanding market, demands for materials are high. However, due to a distinctly narrow resource base, Iceland is heavily dependent on an import economy in all sectors, most notably within the construction industry. With the exception of cement and stone aggregate, all core materials for building are imported from international markets. In a territory isolated by several hundred kilometres of ocean, every decision requiring the transport of internationally sourced materials involves an extraneous addition of expense and compounded CO2 emissions. The global impact of the Icelandic construction industry should not be accepted without critical enquiry. There is a need to re evaluate the use of imported materials in the construction industry and explore the currently overlooked potentials of the local. 1 2

Statistics according to International Energy Agency (IEA) Statistics Iceland, Statistics on Constructions 1994 - 2010 19

the site sits atop a 1000 year old lava field



Tidal zones, Mussel farm 22


PROPOSAL A laboratory landscape for geothermally grown architecture, the program proposes a time based study for the development of an experimental production facility located amidst the waste outflow channels separating the Svartsengi Powerplant from the Blue Lagoon. Engaging with the conflicting identities existing on site, which oscillate between 'environmental disaster' and â&#x20AC;&#x153;wonder of the worldâ&#x20AC;? (National Geographic), the proposal aims to negotiate between the discordant relationship between industry and landscape, production and recreation. A test bed for material and programmatic experimentation, the program will speculate upon a new series of codings and logic for the design and manufacture of building components within this hyper specific context, alongside new modes of inhabitation within this narrative terrain. Through integration within the landscape, the program aims to expand the production timeline as part of the spatial narrative of place making. Challenging traditional ideals of the industrial sequence, the program suggests a proposal more similar to the slow gestation time of a forest plantation, pearl farming or mussel growth. Through a proposition of intervention, the thesis' aim is to explore, polemicise and develop architectural ideas and potentials that engage with the thematics of 'growing' architecture, encouraging re-evaluated use of resources, modes of manufacture and reflection upon potential means of interaction within this manufactured territory.






SITE DESCRIPTION Located amidst ragged charcoal lava fields, covered in pillowy moss and buried in snow, the site is a geothermal floodplain, where steaming rivulets of wastewater pool in ponds or spread over creamy shallow fields. Views of the active geothermal plant lie to the East, where aluminium towers expel plumes of steam, shrouding the factory in mystery and intrigue. The luxury tourist spa of the Blue Lagoon is located to the West, hidden behind mound of lava stone. 47 km from Reykjavik and 23km from Keflavik airport, the site is accessible by car or tourist coach. No public transport is available.

ARGUMENTATION The super saturation of silica within the deep ground fluid is uniquely found within the Reykjanes Peninsula in the South of Iceland. The area surrounding the Svartsengi Powerplant has already been severely tampered with, marred by what would traditionally be titled an 'environmental disaster'. Today however, the area is listed as one of the â&#x20AC;&#x153;25 Wonders of the Worldâ&#x20AC;? (National Geographic). It is this intriguing identity paradox that leads the program to be specifically located in the threshold between the active plant and the lagoon. Similarly, as a result of this active human intervention, the illusion of the 'natural' is dissolved, and the site becomes open for architectural intervention and can act as a creative test bed for design experimentation.


BLUE LAGOON TOURIST SPA 6 000 000 L capacity Renewed in 2 day cycle Cooled to 37-39˚C 40% silicate


EFFLUENT “NO MAN'S A transition for a program

< < < flow



threshold open o f f iltration

500 L / second or 45 000 000 L /day 240˚C

fluid cycled down to 80˚C 80% silicate






LABORATORY CONDITION A performative brief, the program will be considered in temporal terms, aiming for the development of an active and dynamic architecture. The proposal will oscillate in a looping dialogue between design for the evolving production landscape, alongside the unfolding architecture grown from this process. The thesis will operate within a iterative discourse between production and construction, cultivation and harvest. This can be understood as the evolving spatiality and process for grown building components (potentially in the form of column or wall elements) will not only define how the landscape is moulded in the narrative of production, but will similarly compose the living architectonics of the buildings on site. This mutative cycle of reflection and reiteration will similarly act as a core method of working throughout the proposal.








0 Research & Design

Growth & Manufacture

On site testing & implementation

Large scale TIME SPAN : SCOPE production growth rings reflect development of the program & expansion of the production spaces over time




Production Narrative & Spatial Development


The proposed program will begin its spatial exploration as a cultivated seed, modest and with delicate roots. The first curated markings on the land, the initial spatial requirements are subtle infrastructures necessary for research into the particularities of site and potentials for growth process.


As the research phase gains traction and begins to effloresce, the proposed secondary spatial requirements include the curation of spaces needed to accommodate the growth process itself. Core Programming includes: - Research Facilities: Laboratory Space - Design Facilities: Studio Space - Manufacture Facilities : Growth Pools Production workshops - Associated services and circulation nestled in the landscape


Tertiary spaces include the 'test bed' architectures built as a result of the growth process itself. Spaces hung between the strictly private/public or utilitarian/recreational, it is envisaged that these spaces are immersive, haptic environments that investigate material and spatial qualities of these new architectures, and act as a driver for further transformation and reiteration.




PRODUCTION LANDSCAPE Closer to a slowly shifting active landscape as opposed to an industrial factory setting, the program operates within a framework of geological growth time. Similarly, the coding of the production narrative can be understood in its parallels to industries which draw their resources from natural processes, such as that of a forest plantation. POTENTIAL NARRATIVE OF PRODUCTION: PHASE

01: - - - -

Analysis Preparation of Ground condition Test + Research: Water analysis Material testing - GESTATION PERIOD -


02: - - -



Design Development + Testing Observation + Recording of growth Method, material & form refined First “crop” - GESTATION PERIOD -

03: - - -

PHASE 04: -

Harvest & Processing Elements removed from growth tank Moved to workshop for further processing Shaping and finishing Design Implementation Elements utilised within the growing architecture on site.




Silica accretion, 2 weeks Geothermal Sculpture, Blue Lagoon, Iceland Ilana Halperin 39

mussel lines


Bio Rock calcium carbonate growth around steel reinforcing bars Used for artificially grown reefs using low voltage current 41


Unveiling the landscape Punta Pite, Chile Teresa Moller



Throughout the development of the proposal, the delineation between industry and landscape will in certain moments become more or less distinct, and at times perhaps indistinguishable. This dissolution of rigid programmatic and tectonic binaries aims to offer an opportunity for the development of an architecture that operates between moments of the strictly recreational or the fervently utilitarian. To continue the forest plantation analogy, as the manufactured landscape for the growing architectures operates within a timeline of slow gestation, a temporal refuge condition is created. Within this state, the proposal can begin to offer a parallel habitat for an extended range of ecologies and human interactions. Potential lateral interactions with the site and program will be defined through the intervention of a circulation infrastructure, allowing a passive architecture to become active in its delineation of a sequential narrative within the proposal. Through a tactile interaction and stimulation of the bodily senses - perhaps through visual framing, point of view, relational distance and material interaction - the project aims to immerse the visitor within the landscape and cycle of production and developing a relational scale between the mechanic and human processes within the proposal.


shrouded in mist or falling water, tactic of camouflage/mystery



IDENTITIES OF SITE Navigation within existing identities of site acts as a core parameter for the proposal, defining opportunities and restraints. The active geothermal plant is eager to extend its role in production. The project envisages an open and shared working relationship with the instigation of the new program. However, the Blue Lagoon offers an unsympathetic neighbour. Iceland's most popular tourist destination with 170,000 annual visitors, the lagoon appears determined to maintain the illusion that the effluent brine that supplies the luxury pool is naturally occurring and untouched by industry. Similarly trading on the use of silica but for the purposes of cosmetics, the Blue Lagoon is resistant regarding the intervention of a new industrial program. As a result, the project must devise potential tactics in its architecture to re frame these relationships, and potentially form new alliances. The program will operate as a intervention of 'filtration' between these two distinct identities, potential tactics could include: - Subtle intervention built low to the horizon, working within the existing landscape. These low level markings might hold limited visual impact from ground level but could offer large aerial implications. - Use of decoy or camouflage, as the production architecture echoes the identity of the program it surrounds or perhaps is hidden behind a shroud of mist or falling water similar to the mystery of the existing plant. See images following >

. 45

top: Cloudscapes, Tetsuo Kondo bottom left: Ice Pavilion, Olafur Eliasson bottom right: New York City Waterfalls, Olafur Eliasson


top: Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson bottom left: San Francisco Bay Salt Ponds, Bottom right: Nazca Lines, Peru



Crit 1 1 01: RESEARCH // Research Site Analysis Programmatic Analysis 3d Modelling 02: SKETCH DESIGN // Sketch Design Concept Studies Test Models : Material Studies Test Models : Form Studies 03: DESIGN DEVELOPMENT // GA Planning + Section Zoomed in Proposition 04: COMMUNICATION // Site Model - Existing Site Model - 01 Proposal Site Model - 02 Proposal Proposal Plans + Section Proposal Model 1:50 / 1:20 Proposal Model 1:1 / 1:5 Visualisations Presentation



3 4

Crit 2 5




Crit 3 9

10 11

12 13


MODES OF WORKING A speculative proposition, the project will engage with a process of 'making' and experimentation throughout. The project will work within a developing hierarchy of multiple scales, allowing the overarching proposal to be informed through a dialogue between larger scales of place making narrative juxtaposed with the macro scale of material development of grown components. Due to the scope of the proposition, the whole program will be drawn at schematic level as a means to explore narrative and judge impact on site and context. However, the core focus will centre around zoomed in key moments developed in detail. Drawing and model making will act as key methods of representation throughout the project. Potential deliverables include: 1:1000

Time based study of the development of the proposal, in the form of overlaid drawings or collection of site models


Proposal drawings for specific architectures

1:50 / 1:20

Test Bed' studies in the form of model or drawing, these will aim to explore key moments or spaces curated as a result of the production narrative.

1:1 / 1:5 Material and form studies regarding the development of individual components and methods for 'growth'. These studies could offer an experimental and conceptual means of making alongside more formalised means. Refer to appendix for preliminary research and experiments. 49











chemical composition of the blue lagoon




geothermal SEAWATER AT 240ºC,

contains high concentrations of

(S O (OH) ) i

4–2x n


SILICIC ACID which cools to form


Si O2 amorphous silica precipitate ~90ºC // pH ~7 neutral // <600 ppm SiO2



silica SINTER

Chemistry & Composition

Geothermal effluent fluid of the Reykjanes Peninsula contains a high concentration of minerals and seawater. These fluids occur as underground geological layers are pushed to the surface by the pressurised water cycle of the geothermal plant. The core component of this runoff fluid is Silicon Dioxide. Extracted at 240 ˚ C , silicon originally occurs in the form of silicic acid [SiOx(OH)4–2x]n, which cools and precipitates as a three-dimensional network of coagulated primary silica (SiO2) particles which fuse together to form a solid.. The core conditions for silica sinter are: -

High Silica Content SiO2 : 300 - 700 ppm

- High Salinity Na: >8000 ppm & Cl: >14000 ppm - High Temperature > 50 ˚ C - Neutral pH +/- 7 Silica is one of the most complex and abundant families of materials, as it exists in several variants of minerals, while also being produced synthetically. Silica is most often found in nature as sandstone, silica sand or quartz. Within the building industry, Silica is commonly in the production of silicate glasses and ceramics.





Existing uses in the building industry

HIGH PERFORMANCE CONCRETE - The benefir of utilising microsilica particles within cement for concrete includes: increased strength through improved bonding greatly reduced permeability minimised concrete expansion 20 - 100 x electrical resistivity increase Increased abrasion resistance Superior chemical resistance to chlorides, acids, nitrates and sulfates SILICATE GLASSES The most familiar, and historically oldest type of glassis made from silica, the primary constituent of sand. Soda-lime glass is composed of approximately 75% silicon dioxide (SiO2), sodium oxide (Na2O) from sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), calcium oxide, also called lime (CaO), CERAMICS Silica is one of the three main ingredients of clays and glaze materials, along with alumina and ceramic fluxes. It is a glassformer and is the principal ingredient in ceramic glazes




1:1 DEVICE STUDIES Initial research was conducted through design and implementation of a ‘device’, deployed and tested during a 17 day field trip to Iceland. The device acts as a survey tool to log the contextually specific materiality of site and to map the conditions necessary for mineral deposition within geothermal areas. This is recorded initially through the collections of solid and liquid samples. In parallel, the device acts as an experiment to test the specific growth minerals onto designed tessellating ‘tile’ modules constructed of differing material properties, which are immersed within hot springs for a given amount of time. These are tested in two ways:


Natural rate of deposition:

The tiles are immersed individually into the geothermal spring, with only a buoy as signifier. The tiles tested are composed of a plywood frame, with materials such as textile netting, brass mesh, aluminium mesh and copper sheeting suspended between.

2: Accretion, or, electrically aided rate of deposition: A buoyant steel frame is constructed to house a metal mesh tile to act as cathode, alongside a non corrosive metal rod, acting as anode. The buoy is connected to a lightweight and movable extendable arm, which leads current via a non corrosive heat resistant cable from a power source located on land. 3 variants of this construction were built. In the first, the cathode and anode are connected to a 9V battery in an insulated housing. This results in a short burst of power, and cannot maintain current over entire period. In the second, the construction is attached to a 9V solar panel, which allows for variable flow of current dependent on diurnal cycles. Potential for noticeable ‘growth rings’. The third, is attached directly to an self constructed savonius wind turbine, geared to a motor up to 3 - 9V. Similar to the previous, this power source is dependent variable wind flow. 59


EQUIPMENT Water Sample Test Material Equipment


: CPH Seawater, tested at Room Temperature : Copper Wire (+) & Ferrous Metal Mesh (-) : 9 V Battery, copper insulated wire + alligator clips,








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EDUCATION 2015 - 2013

Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture Copenhagen, Denmark Master of Architecture

2011 - 2009

The University of Sydney School of Architecture Sydney, Australia Bachelor of Design in Architecture

2008 - 2003

Sydney Girls High School Sydney, Australia Secondary Education

WORK June 2013 Jan 2012

Durbach Block Jaggers Sydney, Australia / Architect Assistant Full time employment



Manufactured Territory ● Thesis Program  

KADK Afgang 2015 - Masters Thesis Program, The Royal Danish Academy, School of Architecture

Manufactured Territory ● Thesis Program  

KADK Afgang 2015 - Masters Thesis Program, The Royal Danish Academy, School of Architecture