Gensler (Stone Soup Group)
AIR SUPPORT: A Resilience Hub for Vulnerable Communities
Increasingly frequent extreme weather events create urban heat islands, rising utility bills, and power outages as our aging, fossil-fuel-powered infrastructure attempts to cope with the new normal. In cities, these disasters disproportionately affect under-resourced communities—often those of color. Air Support addresses longstanding, urban environmental inequities through the creation of a community oasis or resilience hub: a place of refuge to ride out the damage, displacement, and related trauma caused by severe climate events. It is also designed to provide a place of enjoyment and access to resources on more typical days—serving as a pre-emergency reservoir of resources such as food, micro-mobility hub, wellness, and educational or technological services.
Air Support consists of an off-the-shelf storage matrix intended to house basic needs (first aid supplies, water, food, bedding, etc.) and a renewable-powered community battery. This battery will provide neighborhood safety lighting and charging capabilities for WiFi, electronic devices, and last-mile vehicles during non-emergency periods. During outages and spans of extreme heat or cold, the battery powers a unit that ventilates, heats, or cools the air inside an air-inflated membrane that can be deployed as a temporary shelter. When not in use, the components are stored in a portable shipping container that doubles as an outdoor shading device. In both good times and challenging ones, Air Support’s striking shape and color will make it a community beacon.
Air Support is designed as a prototype, capable of and intended to be brought to scale. Accordingly, it is displayed here as it is being deployed in, and adapted to, four cities subject to distinct climate threats: Chicago (heat/cold); Los Angeles (earthquakes, fires, heat/drought); Houston (heat, floods/torrential rain); and Newark (storm surges, torrential rain). Community-based organizations will serve as critical partners to identifying locations and activating these hubs. In Chicago, the prototype is proposed as a collaborative endeavor, to be refined in partnership with the Englewood community on the city’s South Side. The prototype hopefully will be operated and maintained on a vacant lot belonging to Antioch Baptist Church for the benefit of the community’s most vulnerable neighbors—not just during extreme weather but to provide everyday services.