Stretching across more than 160 miles of Victoria’s central coast, Port Phillip harbors a diverse marine ecosystem. In recent years, though, the Australian bay has experienced widespread development that’s damaged the vegetation protecting the land, leading to mass erosion and habitat destruction. At this rate, some of the current shoreline is predicted to be entirely underwater by 2100.
As a remedy, designer Alex Goad and the team at the Melbourne-based Reef Design Lab have created a series of conical modules that break waves and re-establish healthy ecosystems for aquatic life. Titled Erosion Mitigation Units and installed near the city of Greater Geelong, the two-meter-wide structures are made of concrete and recycled oyster shells layered into molds. Once removed and submerged in the water, the undulating, organic shapes offer small caves, tunnels, and hiding spaces for shellfish, octopus, sponges, coral, and other creatures. Overhangs provide resting spots for stingrays and globefish, and one-centimeter-wide ridges on the surface are designed to attract tube worms, mussels, and oysters. “After six months of being submerged, the modules have already been colonised by several shellfish species, sponges, and cold water corals and are visited by stingrays and local snorkelers,” Goad shares.
Both a buoy to conservation efforts and an alluring addition to the waters, the units serve several purposes, Goad says, explaining further:
Not only does creating more complex geometry lead to better wave attenuation and habitat for marine life, but creating a softer sculptural aesthetic for these types of structures is essentially like underwater gardening. Just like how we design our landscapes and public parks, I think the same sort of effort and respect should be paid when building in the marine environment. I wanted the installation to be enjoyed in a similar way to a public park, but instead of walking, you can swim through the undulating forms, each with its own ecosystem developing. Over time, the installation will be completely overgrown, and the sculptural forms won’t be noticeable, but I think that is part of the magic of the project.
Dezeen recently longlisted the Erosion Migration Units for the sustainability category of its annual design awards, and the lab’s MARS project, comprised of modular structures to restore coral reefs, will be on view at National Gallery Victoria in the coming weeks. The team is also working on several new designs at the moment and collaborating on the U.S. government’s Reefense project. Find more from Reef Design Lab on its site and Instagram.
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