Symbiotic Baseline
Symbiotic Cities Competition, 2014

Project Team:
El Hadi Jazairy
Cheng Xing, Jia Weng, Ya Suo, Jia Fang

The grid is the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, who projected on the territory an egalitarian structure able to rationalize the organization of urban settlements. Today, Michigan’s grid baseline stretches between the state’s two most populous urban corridors, linked by the interstate highways 94 and 96. These two linear settlements developed out of significant Indian trails connecting Lake Michigan to Lake Eerie. Our project proposes to re-survey the baseline continuously from East to West and build a connecting road from Lake Michigan to Lake Eerie. The new baseline will constitute a new conduit insuring the flows of people, energy, waste, food and goods for the most densely populated territory of Michigan. The new structure will also rationalize the relationship between cities and their surrounding landscapes by limiting the footprint of urbanization on the environment. The project proposes to look at the issue of urban symbiosis at the territorial scale, taking into consideration the city and also its hinterland as significant elements.

In our research we have classified the territory in six distinct layers: built, water bodies, nature, agriculture, infrastructure and negative space. We have then proposed a re-organization of the relationship between these elements along our symbiotic baseline structure. Our project envisions productive overlaps between urban clusters, natural reserves, farmlands, water reservoirs and infrastructural nodes. Our project is a syncretic system defined by the bay of lake Michigan to the West, Bay of lake Eerie to the East, I-96 to the North and I-94 to the South. This territory provides a reciprocal, dynamic and complementary symbiotic system to a syncretic ensemble including State-scale biophysical environments and high-density urban centers. It is composed of four categories: dense urban cores with research incubators in Detroit; new agriculture production and transformation centers in Lansing and Jackson; alternative energy production fields in Battle Creek; and multifunctional recreation resorts near the coast of Lake Michigan. Inside each zone, the design components making up this symbiotic built-up environment will not only offer desirable living, intellectual and economic resources for future development, but will also restores damaged ecological services and original processes of natural ecosystems.

The systemic nature of the project operates in the following way: 1) Waste is either recycled, or fully treated and discharged without pollution; 2) Clean energy sources replace fossil fuel resources; 3) Agricultural and suburbanized land are consolidated and made compact to leave suitable lands for restoring pristine forests and natural waterways; 4) Ecological infrastructure is rationalized by enhancing eco-services. We set the Symbiotic Baseline as the core of our territory, with the ambition of reinforcing the ecological and economic networks of the whole territory. Along the new Symbiotic Baseline several pilot structures such as a geothermal spring resort, an urban agriculture center, a biofuel production complex, and a reforestation station constitute the new landmarks of a symbiotic territory.