The Flood Tower Network: A Warning System for St. Lawrence Riparians

Pedestrians on the floating bridge watch as others climb the Flood Tower out on the river. 

As a progressive architecture and design company, Linebox Studio is always looking to push the boundaries and become thought leaders in our field. We’re on the lookout for amazingly talented people who are pushing boundaries in their own way. One such person is our very own Rachel Rodd. 

Rachel started with Linebox as an Architecture Co-op student in 2016 after her undergrad and has honed her talents in design through her time with us and also her time in Carleton’s Master of Architecture program. This past spring, she just submitted and successfully defended her thesis which deals with communities’ understanding of local waterways. We’re glad to have such forward thinking people within the Linebox family. 

The Flood Tower Network: A Warning System For St. Lawrence Riparians – Rachel Rodd 

As one ascends the Flood Tower, users can observe the velocity float rise with the surging floodwater levels.

ABSTRACT

This thesis engages the timely topic of flooding and its relationship to architecture and the built environment. It questions whether our dependence on the extensive river infrastructure of dams and spillways and leading edge communication technologies are sufficient means of community protection against flooding in an era of climate change and unpredictable floodplain development. Can architecture serve communities to promote a greater understanding of local rivers and raise an awareness for flooding while revealing the invisible — and often underestimated — forces of water around us?

Today, there is a prevalent time-lag between water movement and data available to online users that has created a costly gap in emergency preparedness for littoral communities. This architectural proposition aims to make what is invisible (the speed and power of the river) visible for the local inhabitants so there is more time to prepare, and potentially retreat in the event of a flood. Motivated by the flooding of 2017, this design borrows technologies from historical water warning systems that were distinctly “mechanical” in nature along with parts from decommissioned town water towers (established water markers) and recomposes them into landmarks positioned to be seen from long distances. 

Plan view of a Flood Tower on the littoral edge of the Ottawa River.

A network of Flood Towers are proposed along the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers. Subverting the legacy of prevailing water control infrastructure, these Towers stand as physical reminders of inundated villages of the past and serve as warnings to lost villages of the future. New energy generation turbines are incorporated into the base of these river towers to capture energy in liquid salt batteries at an urban scale, which can be used in crisis situations associated with flooding. This closed-loop, off-grid energy solution is aimed at heightening our awareness of the river and its shifting territory. 

Section cut through a Flood Tower highlighting key components of the architecture such as the river turbines, pedestrian viewing platforms, the flow meter tube and the flood gauge needles.

Resilience in architecture is not only about strong materials, it is also about enabling society to be resilient. This project demonstrates the relationship between climate change, energy, buildings, community and knowledge and takes the position that these things should not be tackled independently, but rather as an interconnected system of moving parts that must be legible, real and accessible for a changing world.