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White Bear Lake has historically witnessed wide fluctuations in its water levels due to its relatively small watershed. However, a dramatic drop a few years ago was directly associated with falling water levels in the aquifer below. The Prairie Du Chien-Jordan Aquifer that underlies the lake has been slowly tapped as an increase in water demand by surrounding neighborhoods has exceeded its ability to replenish. The falling water levels of the aquifer result in the falling water levels of the lake as the lake drains to replenish the aquifer, much like a porous bowl. This results in closed beaches, newly exposed islands, and private docks reaching further outward to find a navigable depth. The conditions improved over time due, it’s speculated, to watering bans and rainy weather. Still, it’s likely the lake levels will drop again in the future.

Graphical chart showing the water levels of White Bear Lake from 1924-2012.

In response NewStudio sought to research and design alternative ways of engaging with White Bear Lake's changing shorelines.

Provocation: Do the falling lake levels on White Bear Lake offer an opportunity to redefine the use of the shoreline? Below are speculative designs by Adam Jarvi, Nate Roisen, and Wale Falade.

Roving Colony | Moving Shelter: Adam Jarvi

Whether it's on floats, wheels, skids or skis, these shelters can adjust to both seasonal conditions and owners' recreational needs. Saunas, changing rooms, tea houses, artist studios, ski shelters, sleeping porches—the possible uses of this roving colony of huts are endless. 

Swimmer's Pavilion on the Emergent Island: Nate Roisen

The Ramsey County Beach at the northeast end of White Bear Lake has been closed due to low water levels since 2009. Uncertain ownership of the island creates an opportunity to extend the Ramsey County park into the lake. Proximity to the shore allows the island to be reached by strong swimmers in the summer, as well as walkers, skiers, and skaters in the winter. Shallow zone around the island creates an opportunity for a boat anchorage.

The Neighborhood Interface: Wale Falade

At the moment, it cannot be fully determined if the ordinary water level of White Bear Lake will return, remain the same, or drop further. This folly seeks to address this uncertain future with a proposal that is adaptable to the natural context. It is amphibious in nature and can be readily programmed for land or water. On land, it could act as a temporary bandstand, a gathering space, storage space, or kids’ playhouse; on water, it can house the same land programs while also being possibly used as a fishing platform, a swimmers launch pad, a mobile dock, or an ice fish house in winter. 

Also, because it is modular and protractible, it presents the possibility for community plug-in wherein neighbors can arrange the units to create temporary space on land or water, summer or winter, or form an accessible tunnel from land to water. This provides the opportunity for increased community interaction in hybrid spaces that are semi-public but private at the same time.