MacKenzie Wasson

MArch I

Building Biras: Hurricane Adaptive Adven-tourism in the British Virgin Islands

Advised by P. Scott Cohen

This thesis seeks to answer the critical question: Can we use dynamic architecture as a means of hurricane adaptation and in the process create outrageous new realms of the resort guest experience? The impetus for this study arrived in September 2017 in the form of Hurricane Irma, at the time the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic, which tore through the British Virgin Islands. With winds in excess of 200 miles per hour, the majority of buildings sustained irreparable damage. Maria and Dorian followed Irma, crippling communities and economies for years to come. We have arrived at a time when catastrophic hurricanes are the new norm.

The knee-jerk reaction to widespread damage in the region has been to rebuild stronger structures with more steel and more concrete. I find this solution largely untenable. Not only is it exorbitantly expensive, but it often bypasses the opportunities associated with tropical living. This thesis explores another option for a British Virgin Islands resort—building lighter, not stronger—uprooting architecture so that guests may move and adapt buildings to explore the environment, not seek shelter from it. In the process of movement, the resort guest becomes an active participant, reigniting in them a sense of adventure, allowing them to author their own experience.

Employing architecture as a vehicle (sometimes literally) for experience, the guest is compelled to embrace a newfound freedom, to assume (if only for a week) a new life, lured in by the magic of the islands and its lore.

MacKenzie Wasson, MArch I. Architectural model of a wooden peaked-roof structure with granite staircase and water enclosure, 
surrounded by train tracks. A second wooden peaked-roof structure sits on wheels upon the tracks.
MacKenzie Wasson, MArch I.
A mobile hut nested at the Salt Pond.
MacKenzie Wasson, MArch I. 
A hut migrates towards the bunker.
MacKenzie Wasson, MArch I. 
Offsite manufactured cabins arrayed on top of a bunker.
MacKenzie Wasson, MArch I. 
Hut prototypes.
MacKenzie Wasson, MArch I. 
Biras Creek site plan.