Cyclic Metamorphosis

Project Description

Dams built in the 20th century utilized grand neoclassical façades to monumentalize the ingenuity of man. This proposal for a dam shifts the emphasis from the wall to the dam's moving parts and the spaces they envelope. Two key moving elements, the lock and gantry, are reinterpreted in their means of motion and form, as a set of rotating conic volumes. One complete revolution of the lock causes the water level within it to gradually fill and conversely drain, allowing boats to reach both river levels through the course of a 360 degree turn. The effect of both large moving objects on the exterior is a temporally transforming facade. On the interior, an oculus in the turbine hall, and linear aperture on the lock, allow both spaces to perform as inconstant observatories, charting their own engineered cyclic motion and the natural cyclic motion of the earth in relation to the sun. Both forms embedded in the dam wall are the result of subtractive operations made on two perfect conic volumes, causing these forms to be read as their primitive geometric source and as a more complex set of derivative surfaces that avoid a simple scalar reading.

Sited along the Housatonic River, this dam is proposed as a replacement for two existing non-navigable dams. Consolidating these dams into a new dam with a lock will make the lower portion of the river navigable to the Atlantic. The new dam will also connect two currently isolated state parks that meet the river on either bank, and will merge their existing system of trails. One could equate its sublime qualities to those of a cathedral, presenting the question, how can architects engage infrastructure's potential as a new kind of monumental public space?