Architecture Project Of The Week: FireLand

Fireland - University of California

Following on from our Architecture Project Of The Week, we take a look at a proposed design by University Of California Los Angeles students Byeong Uk (Daniel) Lee, Hanxue Wu, and Tianyang Xu. Their final year project Fireland is one of two parallel studios and addresses the question of fire-risk reduction and fire-resilience in California across a range of perspectives. Learn how the unique geography and climate of Northern California has created problems between the wildland urban interface and how unique planning strategies can both help the local economy and keep residents safe from fires.

Fires & Agriculture - CaliforniaWildfires are a major problem in California. In recent years, due to both human and natural factors, there has been a major increase in the frequency and severity of wildfires throughout the state. For example, in Sonoma County alone, there has been a major increase in development over the past few decades with housing communities further pushing themselves into wildland. When wildfires spread throughout the counties, the residents are faced with growing risk of raging fires consuming their properties. This has forced many developers and planners to completely rethink the urban design and city planning in areas like Sonoma County to reduce the risk of property loss due to wildfires, especially when much more money goes towards fire suppression as opposed to fire prevention.

Fireland Lai ChoiStudents at UCLA may have found a possible solution on how to prevent the damage of wildfires through urban design. They have looked at how to utilize agriculture, and in particular the wine industry, as a type of firebreak between the growing wildland urban interface. Vineyards are excellent firebreaks due to their vast irrigation system and location between urbanized areas and wilderness. They also produce a lot of revenue for California, with Northern California accounting for over 95% of US production and contributing over $57 billion dollars to the state annually. Though vineyards are also susceptible to extensive damage due to wildfires, they can act as an effective barrier to raging fires that threaten houses, shops, and residential areas.

Fireland Xu Lee WuThe idea is to protect a specific region of California that continues to be susceptible to wildfires by using vineyards and fire preventions design into urban development. At the same time, the students wanted to expand the wine region of the area which would act as an attraction and generate considerable revenue for the area. The result is FireLand: a private and public sector alliance where vineyards and other fire preparedness networks would aid in protecting susceptible urban property from wildfires. Specifically, FireLand covers a specific site that is located between wildland and a Sonoma community.

Fireland Architecture Lai ChoiThe first step would be to lease public land to private winery owners which essentially means the vineyards would expand and become an effective firebreak. Public pathways would criss-cross through the vineyards, attracting tourists and also acting as evacuation routes incase of fire. Likewise, a vast expanse of water management and irrigation would both help the vineyards and further supress wildfires that spread on site. Additionally, large private and public building complexes would pepper throughout the vineyards. These complexes would include wine making and production, alongside other tourism activities and public information on the effects of wildfires in the region. Each building complex would also house seasonal workers, along with temporary shelters and firefighting stations.

FireLand addressed the question of fire-risk reduction and fire-resilience in California across a range of perspectives.” In the manifesto put forward by the students of the University Of California, the idea was to create “an immersive agricultural landscape for residents and tourist to enjoy” while at the same time being at “reduced fire suppression costs for state agencies“.

Be sure to visit the UCLA website for more information about this project. If you would like to learn more about our previous architecture project of the week, then read our article on the proposed concept of Area 10: The Last Nuclear Bomb Memorial.

Images & Videos: Courtesy of Yejin Choi, Yenchun Lai, Byeong Uk (Daniel) Lee, Hanxue Wu, and Tianyang Xu.