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ONE Prize


Greg Kochanowski
Brent Jacobsen
Chris Torres
Cat Riebel
Maria Sviridova


Fire. Flood. Mudslides. These three components of L.A.'s weather cycle create a deadly combination. Fire clears vegetation from Southern California's steep canyons, leaving them vulnerable to flash floods and perilous mudslides.

For most of the 20th century, human settlement was able to sprawl up these unforgiving foothills by controlling these ecological processes. But as the infrastructure we have designed to restrain nature comes to the end of its 50-year lifespan, so too must our approach to living within this extreme environment.

The One Prize sought to explore the ways cities can use sophisticated design to "adapt to the future challenges of extreme weather." Launched in early 2013, just months after Super Storm Sandy battered the east coast, it attracted a significant number of entries
addressing sea level rise. Our west coast bias, however, persuaded us that the cataclysmic effects of fire, flood, and mudslides were just as imminent.

Our entry for this design competition used the 2009 Station Fire as a model for how to rethink our relationship with the natural world. That fire and subsequent mudslides ravaged a 252 sq. mi. region, cleared steep canyons of vegetation, and killed two firefighters.

Our submission deconstructed both the disaster and the systems that failed to contain it to envision a more resilient infrastructure for communities prone to fire and mudslides. By hacking into the natural processes of mudslides and wildfire, we were able to create a strategy that utilizes the material produced by the fire and mudslides.