We live in a world today scattered with obsolete industrial structures that no longer serve the sole purpose they were initially designed for. Rigs used offshore in the oil and gas industry constitute a perfect example of these redundant facilities lingering worldwide. As the world rushes to find new purposes for these platforms, the architect asks, “how could we have avoided reaching the point of obsoleteness of these structures? How could we have designed these infrastructural systems from the very start for contingency, longevity, and resiliency?”.
Architect: Karen El Asmar
Instead of repurposing rigs after obsoleteness, the conceptual project, Alter-Rig, imagines a world in which the oil and gas industry has been designed from the very beginning for more than its mono-function and with its afterlife in mind. Since the structural lifespan of a rig greatly trespasses its economic lifespan, the project reimagines the rig, the core of this industry, as an adaptive platform that can evolve with time, re-structure, and transition to host a variety of functions as its current one becomes obsolete. Rather than the rig’s traditional typology, the new design allows for the platform’s top and bottom to be occupied. During its lifespan as an oil rig, machinery is put on top of the platform, pushing the whole structure deeper into the sea. Yet, after the depletion of oil, the heavy machinery is removed and buoyant force pushes the rig upwards, transforming its structure into a system of cables and suspended decks. This new “intermediate” architecture then serves as the framework upon which programmatic evolutions occur and new spatial configurations can be formed, turning the rig into a multi-performative resilient infrastructure that avoids redundancy and extends the platform’s life.
The new design gives the rig an ecologically and aesthetically lighter presence on our seas. At the water level, wave energy generators, connected to the columnar rods, power the rig, moving the industry into a greener future. The buoys also act as wave breakers for the harbor and fish farms and their columnar rods double as a facade that filters through air and blocks strong winds for the spaces they enclose.
Thought-provoking concepts like Alter-Rig provide an optimistic glimpse into how coupling architecture and infrastructure from the beginning could have transformed today’s undesirable obsolete spaces into successful, resilient, performative systems with greater social, spatial, economic, and ecological benefits. Such new holistic approaches to designing infrastructure is more crucial than ever today in a world where there’s a highly pressing expectation from our future systems to adapt and respond to new and unpredictable climatic, social, housing, and humanitarian crises and challenges.