Apart We Are Together / Thresholds
Journal of the MIT Department of Architecture, Volume 45

Rania Ghosn + El Hadi Jazairy, 2017

California will not be homogeneously dry. Its main geographic challenge is economic and political.

With 21 spots on the list of 30 neighborhoods with the highest percentage of million dollar homes, the taxpayers in these zip codes will pay for desalted water, a cost nearly twice as expensive as the rate for imported water was. They will ramp up their infrastructure to convert salty ocean water into drinking water to quench their long-term thirst. (Don’t worry about the intensive energy needs of such infrastructure, oil is imported from new drillings in the Arctic).

What about the other California? The California Aqueduct and Owens Valley, the grand water infrastructure, fell silent, repurposed centuries later as national parks and monuments, memorials to the repercussions of ancient climate change. Across it scattered bones of dehydrated poor bodies. In the arid hinterland, a series of Dropping arcologies –named for those things that birds leave when they fly over– create live-in work of art water mini-worlds, even as nearby lakes drop dangerously low. They see promise in techniques to harvest water from the air, manipulate the ground, irrigate with brackish water, and inject the water of human waste back into the aquifer, once methane is extracted for fuel. They believe that if you build it, they will come. Some stay, most leave.

And in-between? Vast areas of California’s Central Valley have sunk fast with massive amounts of groundwater being pumped during the historic drought. To stabilize the ground, a massive Green Cross forestation project extends across the state. An ancient emblem for both painful execution and salvation, the figure separates – or connects these two Califronias. It is a crossbreed, a hybrid, a pumping heart. It is a beast that retains the moisture, a sanctuary for the climate refugees. It is also the green zone, the space that allows both words to remain separate all while bound by a figure of unity.

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