Unsurpassed in its biodiversity of medicinal plants, unique insect and animal species, the Amazonian rainforest is one of those terrestrial "final frontiers" that warrant both further exploration and protection. Given the dense terrain, current issues of deforestation, plus the alarming concerns for the indigenous peoples living there, scientific research in the rainforest must necessarily be undertaken with great care.
Human-sized webs for explorationDesigners have stepped up to the challenge of providing concrete ideas of what the framework for this careful exploration might look like. Previously, we've seen spiralling "science towers" and treetop walkways that aim for a lighter impact, while still allowing for close observation of the rainforest ecosystem. In a similar vein, Architectural Association graduate Yi Yvonne Weng's thesis proposes a network of non-intrusive, self-sustaining and web-like structures that would help scientists study the rainforest without a damaging footprint.
Biomimicking the structural principles of the spider's web and titled The 6th Layer: Explorative Canopy Trail, the project would use a tough, tensile material that would be stretched over large areas to provide an elevated homebase of operations for scientists, and perhaps even eco-tourists. Weng explains that
Programmatically, the project is centred on scientific exploration and harvesting medicinal plants, which provides an alternative use of the forest without destroying it. [..] The positive occupation of the territory it enables could provide a level of surveillance that helps to protect both the endangered environment and the indigenous population.
For research below the canopy, Weng's proposal also includes an interesting series of pendulous structures that would hang from the web-like network above -- with the capability of touching down -- which would allow for unimpeded collection of specimens and for the free movement of birds and insects through its meshed membranes.
These drawings show how these structures might be mobilized, constructed and disassemble with aircraft that hover above the canopy, setting down steel footings at the heart of each web.
Temporary and ephemeral in spirit and execution, a structural system such as this could potentially foster a different and more harmonious relationship between humans and the rainforest. More over at ArchDaily, Foster + Partners and the AA.