Purification and Recycling

"It is the property of water that it constitutes the vital humor of this arid earth.'" , , , ,r• ■

Leonardo da Vinci

Under every city there is a dark and hidden Venice, but we no longer celebrate our waterways out in the open. In its myriad cycles water is the source of all life, but when we, in industrial societies, harness it for our use in plumbing and sewage we keep it underground, in pipes as part of a system that is efficient for the user but displaces the problem to a distant site. Here it becomes either a source of pollution or demands costly and energy-intensive purification. Large sums of public money are spent to keep waste out of sight and out of mind.

In the recent past the clinical treatment of water has resulted in immense health benefits. Such practices as treating waste with pathogen-kil-ling poisons like chlorine; separate waste treatment; and distant disposal have eliminated or reduced water-borne diseases in many areas. The development of solar technologies and a sophisticated understanding of the role of organisms indicate that it is time that the use of water again be im-

Fountain and Park Irrigation Scheme jtr rci It can be allowed to resurface from underground pipes, be ex-a :o solar energy, and purified within the community. Water could be-tnr t a very visible part of the fabric of architecture, settlements, and the 'iaro-jape. Where we have done so in our work it is an integral and pleasing ■rrr- r- nent of design. Pausing for a moment to recall da Vinci's description ir » -:et. we intend to take our cue from him and go beyond present uses of » if ? - :o imagine ways, within an urban context, that we can again honor it as- ae vital humor."

How greatly it would add to an urban setting if every urban block ■%,-r- 7 .o have a fountain. It would break the heat of a midsummer's day and lis - soothing spell on the quality of the surroundings. A fountain could ur aligned so that the lowest level is deep enough for children to play in an: nave a good splash, while upper tiers on the upwind side are relatively rir— f spray. There can be a central pool for purifying fountain water con-

Fountain Garden Park taining aquatic plants, snails and goldfish floating in containers. The fountain can be powered by solar cells that drive the pump which lifts the water into the air. The brighter and hotter the sun, the higher and faster the plume. It would be still at night. In cold or temperate climates the fountain water could be heated by a solar collector, mounted and covered, next to the south-facing side of the fountain which would extend the season for the fountain into fall and allow it to begin again in late spring. It would be drained in winter. The frequency with which the water would be changed would be determined by the number of people using the fountain. Used water can be used to irrigate nearby trees and grounds.

It is possible to design a new kind of sidewalk aqueduct through which flowing water, directly exposed to air and sunlight, is purified. The interior of the aqueduct, instead of being smooth with laminar flows within, is sculpted into exquisitely shaped forms and patterns which create whirlpools, vortices, and gentle upwellings. These forms are described by Theodor Schwenk in his quietly extraordinary book Sensitive Chaos.2 His

Neighborhood Sewage Treatment Facility

: 17-uns have been applied as flow forms by scientists at Emerson College in : -.¿iand, who discovered the water purifying qualities of the forms. These :ms are so beautiful that the aqueducts are functional art forms. Water - has passed through the flow forms could be used to irrigate lawns and

- oewalk gardens and in this way fountain water could be transported to its

- d use. Such aqueducts can redirect storm and run-off water to storage la-: ■>!!>. and serve other useful and non-destructive purposes. Perhaps chil-:-en and adults would race model boats in the aqueduct and sidewalk re-ii'.ias become the rage.

As we stated in the last chapter, new solar and biotechnologies are -¿nsforming waste treatment locally and using the products economically •~.d ecologically in the community. We have been considering a sewage -eatment idea which creates structural elements that run along streets. The Solar Sewage Wall is a long, thin, greenhouse-like structure with the



Inside a Solar Sewage Wall j and ceiling translucent to sunlight. It creates a barrier that sepa-ieBrians from traffic. The north wall is a dark painted brick, block, rte mass capable of storing some of the radiant heat trapped in the r As currently conceived, the Solar Sewage Wall is continuous, parallel to a sidewalk. Inside, at the intake end, is a sewage grinder 'ne sterilization unit which kills pathogens or disease organisms. :: part of the interior is comprised of several tiers of shallow fiber-nnels or streams, sloped in steps, so that the sewage water flows forth and downward through the facility. The water enters at one e u pper channel at the intake end, then splashes down to the lower • here it flows back again to the outlet end. Finally, it is discharged, low solar water silos for subsequent reuse. Aquatic plants like •.ninths clean up the pulverized and sterilized sewage effluent. The ;:ants are cropped and fed to poultry or composted. By the time - leaves the Solar Sewage Wall it is ready for any kind of reuse, he Solar Sewage Wall would get quite hot when the sun is shining especially in summer. It is likely that at such times staff would need staggered hours, perhaps by working from 4:00 A.M. to 10:00 A.M. i the vear. The plants and many of the microorganisms thrive on -ever, and biological purification is optimized in water tempera-: approach 100°F. Over-heating can be prevented by venting and shade plants like grape vines up the outside of the south wall. :hough many European cities have turned to utilizing garbage as . source, burning it to generate electricity, and many Third World ■ reprocess animal manures, we have been slow in North America n these directions. Acceptance of the necessity to recycle waste >w in coming. Moving waste treatment onto the block in modern luies could begin to change attitudes toward waste so that sewage en for the valuable renewable resource it is. The recycling process e of supporting a whole substructure of employment fields and ronomic activities which contrast sharply with the expensive corn-crated chemical sewage plants remotely sited from contemporary i ties.

ater can be used far more creatively than we do at present. In what Venice Project, we have proposed to take one of every five city ■cks (or one in ten), rip up the streets, and replace them with artifi-or canals that would become block-long pools for swimming and ."ith shallow areas for children on one side of the swimming and anal. Along another side there would be a covered channel similar

Lake-in-the-City Scheme to the Solar Sewage Wall. Canal water will be pumped into one end of the wider central channel. As it flows toward the opposite end before re-entering the canal it will be heated and purified with the same kinds of plants and microorganisms used in the Solar Sewage Wall. Such a scheme could offer city dwellers three-season bathing and swimming. The climate of a city implementing such a scheme would be improved and both day-time overheating and night-time cooling would be lessened. In the winter, canals would be drained down to an inch or two, to make neighborhood figure skating and hockey rinks. Shops, small markets, restaurants, health food stores and sidewalk cafes could line the sun-warmed canals creating the kind of mix of commerce and recreation that Jane Jacobs advocated in The Limits of the City for vital and safe neighborhoods. The popularity of the fountains, pool, and skating rink at Rockefeller Center in New York and

a ■

Purification and Heating for Lake-in-the-City Scheme

•■nr- rr.unicipal rinks around the country both in downtown shopping ■cai - Zeckendorf Plaza in Denver, Hilltop Shopping Mall in Richmond, Ciii: -nia! indicates that like movie theaters, skating rinks are places where pr ; - : mgregate and should be combined with merchant development.

3k Soil

Neighborhood gardens, air purifying hedgerows, urban orchards, far«-,-c.~.ers. container gardening, parks, and tree nurseries, as well as the pEr:-; ¿".ton. recycling, and imaginative use of water are all integral to rede-s««» '»:< r.s communities. The growth of any kind of vegetation is dependent '■h - -class soils. A soil building program is at the core of much urban res-s*rii • r. Apart from the city of Milwaukee which manufactures its sewage «iiv- into a sterilized fertilizer, Milorganite™, there are few other places

Drum Composter where serious attempts are being made to utilize organic wastes. Yet in urban areas a soil building program is fundamental to urban restoration if it is to be viable. Were cities to begin a program of composting organic wastes the soil could be used for container and private gardening, neighborhood gardens, urban orchards, bioshelters, parks and tree nurseries, all of which are integral to redeveloping communities and all of which are dependent on first-class soils. Current methods of managing organic wastes on a town and city level in this country are heedlessly negligent. Mixed with other garbage, organic materials are shipped off at great expense to rot in unsightly landfills. The same materials could be separated at source and composted on a community or block or city level. All that is required are organic materials, a little moisture and some bacterial innoculants. Composting on a block scale would be ideal. It could be done in large, slowly rotating drum composters. Drum composting is hygienic and eliminates rats, mice,

-.icoons, skunks, flies, and most garbage odors from compost in the mak-.ne. The composter itself looks neat and streamlined, yet once inoculated

• :ch the right microorganisms, it is easy to operate. The drums are in sec-: ns and can be filled daily so that composting can be done in batches. The : m poster can be designed to absorb solar energy with a heat-absorbing-

* r.ter "blanket" and to be cooled with a reflective cover in summer.

The compost thus produced can be sieved, bagged, and marketed. ? .ential markets include local greening, gardening, and urban reforesta-;::> r. programs as well as a growing number of organic gardeners. Through : - xessing and composting garbage, sanitation removal costs would be r ^rh reduced-especially when other recyclable dry materials, like bottles, i -e handled at the same source. There may come a time when compost and production in cities becomes an important business. Neighborhoods % .:id find it to their advantage to establish composting, soil making, and s'v: sewage treatment areas and to lease these activities to neighborhood-m. ned corporations or private companies.

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