Fluid Strata: The Butterfly Effect/

Dafni Filippa

United Kingdom

Project Details


London / United Kingdom


Concept Design

Year (Design/Construction):

2021 / -

Area (Net/Gross):

- / 20.000 m2

Operational Carbon emissions (B6) kgCO2e/m2/y:


Embodied Carbon emissions (A1-A3) kgCO2e/m2:

  • Tidal and storm flood mitigation.
  • Responsive performance of the landscape agents.
  • Emerging materiality (use of experimental Polymer based hydro-membranes as core elements of the Strata)
  • Sponge-like operation.
  • Flood defensive planting strategy using local marshland vegetation species.
  • Tidal Park, offering green space above ground in central Westminster.
  • Protection of the subterranean infrastructure from flooding.

Project description as provided by the author:

“The project was inspired by the urgent need for resilient landscape systems which can be introduced into the urban environment to mitigate unpredicted tidal and storm surges. The city of London is directly linked to the North Sea, which is known for high intertidal currents carrying large bodies of water towards the Thames’s Estuary and right into the gates of the “Thames Barrier”. As our planet is experiencing extensive weather instabilities and an accelerating sea-level rise, the project proposes a speculative approach to how urban flooding can be mitigated by activating the Deep Ground’s ever-changing ecosystem dynamics.”

At 9:47 am (GMT) on January 16th of the year 2100, hydrological overflows, accumulated due to global sea level rise, overwhelm London’s primary flood defence system, the Thames Barrier. As a result, Greater London faces a series of catastrophic events directly linked to saltwater intrusion and urban flooding in most central regions. To ensure the city’s survival, the project deploys the existence of London’s Hidden Subterranean Rivers as core agents of a responsive flood defence organism. 

The generated landscape fluctuates in reverse into the city, responding to the adjacent water pressure changes, salinity levels, and formations as it gradually swells to increase its mass, depth, and elasticity. This fabric of a new self-organised system establishes a cross-scalar behaviour with London’s Strata and the human scale. Through a series of membranous tissues, valves and deep channelling systems, the hydrological overflows meander between the strata’s layers before they fuse to be exhausted into the Deep Ground. 

The proposed landscape exists in a reciprocal relationship with the human and non-human territories changing its shape according to water’s kinetic. Similarly to a butterfly effect, a small change “above” insinuates a series of performances “under.” The introduced tectonic is based on an experimental state of hybrid materiality focusing on responsive behaviour above and below ground. The emerging material attributes fuse the borders of the human and non-human territories creating awareness to its visitors of the Deeper Ground’s performance and hidden processes. According to the tidal Thames, the landscape operates in phases, submerging parts of its main body to lift others which work as the main circulation for vegetation and the human experience. 

Performing in each tidal cycle, the landscape swells, submerges and channels the incoming water flow to protect the district of Westminster and the existing underground infrastructure. Over the years, and under substantial sea-level rise, the hidden river Tyburn which operates as the main organ of the overall landscape, gradually resurfaces in reverse into the city to accommodate the needed hydrological capacity.

Want to stay up to date?

Sign up to our mailing list to receive regular updates on the most exciting news, research, case studies, and events related to sustainable design.