The 2016 Venice Biennale has highlighted that dealing with natural disasters may become one of the main preoccupations of architecture in the future. But nature has its destructive ways, and volcanic eruptions are among the most extreme case in point. On the Island of Fogo (Cape Verde), the Natural Park Venue designed by OTO – and elected Best Building of the Year 2015 by Archdaily readers – was destroyed by molten lava flow only one year after its opening in 2013. The building, which combined a cultural center and administrative activities, helped to activate the economy in the island’s most remote area. Following the disaster, Adrian Kasperski, a student at Krakow University, devoted his master’s thesis to the redevelopment of this area, by proposing the expansion of the existing roads and hiking trails and designing facilities to improve alternative tourism offerings.
Kasperski first noticed that the northern part of the island lacked road access. Extending the existing road to the north would contribute to the island's economic development and help reduce the traffic in the south. The project also suggests improved access to the caldera via hiking trails. Whereas OTO’s project lay in the caldera next to a village, Kasperski decided to relocate activities on the edge of the volcano to protect it from eruptions. In his proposal, the cultural center and former village are placed north of the caldera, and an extra hotel and winery are proposed on the south part of the road.
The cultural center is perhaps the most interesting part of the project. As with the former OTO design, the facility was developed by taking advantage of the local topography. Placed at the border of two very different landscapes, "the building seems invisible from a distance," explains Kasperski, "only when one approaches closer, a slight cut in the caldera starts to emerge." Just as in Dominique Perrault’s Ewha Womans University, the building features a public plaza, staircases and seating area at its center. The glass facades along the plaza bring natural light into the building that lies mostly underground. Moreover, the elongated plaza frames a view of the volcano, which is complemented by the use of slotted roofs.
For his winery and hotel, Kasperski also placed local topography at the core of his design. This time, the structure was not entirely underground. The building features a low rise structure – which is, as OTO already proved, very suitable to the existing landscape. The form raises slightly above the ground to form a horizontal block on one side, and the shape follows the slope of the rocky Caldera on the other.
On the northern side of the volcano, the village aims to relocate the people that lived in the caldera before the eruption. The village is placed in the island’s most remote area to preserve a sense of community. The project includes public facilities – a school, a market and a church, as well as a network of alleys, irrigation canals and theme pavilions. Kasperski uses topography lines to define the streets, and serial housing accordingly raises along the hillside.
The emphasis on the ground and analysis of topography lines follow a recurrent theme in contemporary architecture, as initiated by parametricist architect Zaha Hadid. With his cultural center, Kasperski illustrates what historian Andrea Ruby calls "inflated ground." "Instead of depositing the program as an object on the ground," Ruby explains, "it is injected like a liquid," and "raises the surface of the ground to the ceiling, in the process creating an artificial topography."
But, one might wonder whether the necessary materials and construction techniques would be available on the island. For their Natural Park Venue, OTO used black masonry block made of cement and ashes of the volcano. Ashes also covered the roofs, thus blending the building with its surrounding. Indeed, in such a poor region it seems obvious that using available resources is a necessity. Instead, Kasperski doesn’t specify any use of local materials. The cultural center with its artificial topography, and the winery and hotel with its unconventional form would both rely on high-technology techniques. The village’s public infrastructure and housing seem similarly far from the island’s economic reality. Proposals to strengthen the island's economy and recover from natural disaster are welcome; however, while Kasperski offers an interesting narrative that can make us dream his vision, and any similar ideas for Fogo Island, will likely remain hypothetical for the time being.
 Ilka & Andreas Ruby, Groundscapes: The rediscovery of the ground in contemporary architecture (Barcelona: Gustavo Gili, 2006), pp. 22-24.