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Rhizolith Island Prototypes



Rhizolith Island - A Floating Concrete Structure, is a prototype using advanced high performance concrete technology for a breakwater constructed in Cartagena, Colombia in October 2016.

The island investigates structures built with advanced concrete technology to revitalize depleting mangrove forests along vulnerable shorelines with ongoing flooding. We speculated and experimented with new high-performance concrete technology from CEMEX, using digital design and innovative fabrication techniques that hybridize the qualities of different concrete mixes in one structure. The prototype aims to use new design and technology to strengthen ecological performance and the public interface of a new typology for coastal infrastructure.

Rhizolith Island protects and revitalizes shoreline communities that suffer from flooding due to lack of mangrove forests that have depleted due to urban development. Where mangrove forests once naturally controlled sediment and shorelines from erosion, the proposal’s objectives are to repopulate those mangrove forests. The design of the elements ensures mangrove seedlings stay above water as roots grow to the seabed. Due to these sites being frequented by tourists, the city wants to provide a resilient and soft infrastructure that not only protects mangroves but also aesthetically enhances the shoreline.

The unique and innovative fabrication technique, coined ‘Pop-Up Concrete,’ was used conceptually as a way to fold a flat piece of formwork into a complex, folded geometry that makes the elements stronger and more stable. This was ONLY achievable with new concrete mixes that range from high-strength concrete to create a strong outer shell, to a lightweight floating concrete filling for buoyancy and a pervious concrete core that holds the mangrove seedlings and the medium needed for growth.

Project Credits

Students Interns:
Nusrat Mim, Matt Dinsmore

Photo Credits: CEMEX Global R&D

2016 CEMEX (CRG) Corporate Funding
Award Value: $440,000

2018 German Design Award Nomination and Winner
2017 AIA NY Chapter Merit Award, Projects Category
Top 10%, 1 of 35 awarded out of 379 submissions

Conference Proceedings
2018 AIA National Conference, June 21-23, Intersections Symposium: Design and Resilience
2018 ACSA 106th National ACSA Conference
Publications (print and online)
2017 Oculus Magazine,Vol. 79, No. 2, Summer 2017
2017 Domus Jan/Feb Issue, p. 21
2017 Architect Magazine. “Isla Rhizolith” March 13
2016 ArchDaily, October 29
2016 Designboom October 23

2017 Center for Architecture
AIANY Design Awards Exhibition, NY, NY
2016 Solo-Exhibition, RC 2016 (Reunion del Concreto), International Expo and Academic
Cartagena, Colombia

Invited Presentations
2017 Syracuse CoE Symposium
Session: C.1 Designed Material Systems
2016 “Isla Rhizolith” RC 2016 International Expo

Research Partner: CEMEX Global R&D

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