Written on Water

Every year, Harbin hosts the international Ice & Snow Festival, where ice sculptors (and snow sculptors…. and ice architects?) gather to create whole cities from frozen water. The festival lasts until the temperature rises, when the constructions fall apart as they melt.

It’s fascinating to think that the architectural potential of some materials has gone unrealized, limited by the Earth’s typically-narrow temperature range. Why have architects ignored water as a building material? I remember reading an article about space exploration, potential water sources on Mars, etc.  Could the first Martin explorers build bases of ice-block? Will the first extraterrestrial buildings resemble igloos, built from ice extracted from the martian soil? Who is researching interstellar architecture?

Alternatively, what materials will become more or less viable in a globally-warmed world? Are concrete and steel still appropriate materials for a tropical globe? Or one with extreme fluctuations in temperature? What are the alternatives?

Does the Harbin ice festival imply a potential for seasonal architecture? Appropriately warm structures erected each fall and disassembled each spring in an endless cycle. Could this be a model for sustainability? Architecture changes form with the seasons, contracting in winter, expanding in summer, the shape of a building responding to the seasons?

Is the ice festival a Buddhist mantra written in water? A metaphor for cycles of life and death?

No answers here. But it certainly was “cool.”

More Photos on Flickr.

Post title: Keats/Chang.

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