The Flood Observatory

by veryagudo

Arquine magazine sponsored an ideas competition challenging entrants to design a flood observatory located on a flood plain of the Usumacinta River, near the town of Tenosique in south-eastern Mexico. The program also called for a museum and community center, a shelter and refuge, and a hostel.

For their entry, Taller Veinticuatro presented two structures. Hosting most of the program is a triangular tower measuring 48m tall. The second is a water basin in the form of a conical ziggurat, which is inverted and driven deep into ground, its upturned base measuring 40m in diameter. Alluding to the limestone geology of this part of Mexico, the designers refer to it as an artificial cenote.

This artificial cenote is, simply put, a rain gauge, with full capacity designed for a major storm event. It’s also a rainwater harvester, which provides water to the tower.

While it’s meant to observe terrestrial phenomena, the designers suggest that it could be used as an astronomical observatory.

Macheted out of the jungle by archaeologists, these structures appear like ruins from a crypto-civilization, taking measurements of the terrain. However fruitless the endeavor is, they’re constantly mapping that blurred boundary between solid ground and wet earth. A lost Jantar Mantar instrument, they stand in rigid opposition to all that softness, suppleness and ambiguity, getting inundated, stained and corroded. Soon enough, they become not just a flood observatory but a flood archive, the history coated on surfaces and accumulated in cracks, patinas which you can catalog and read.

I personally find this project to be incredibly well balanced between the technical aspect of dealing with water and floods, addressing the brief, but also focusing on the narrative created by this yearly cycle, woven over time. I believe there lies the beauty in architecture.