mud and oil

river road
[image: Gena Wirth] If you’ll be in New Orleans next week for the ASLA convention, you can join SCAPE Studio and the Dredge Research Collaborative for a bus tour of petrochemical and sedimentary infrastructure along River Road. In addition to SCAPE and the DRC, you’ll have the opportunity to hear from local experts including Scott Eustis (coastal wetlands specialist at the Gulf Restoration Network and, among other things, Public Lab kite flyer), Michael Orr (Communications Director at the Louisiana Environmental Action Network), and Randy Petersen (a Louisiana petrochemical industry expert at Homesite Company and author of “Giants on the River”, a history of the petrochemical industry along River Road). You can sign up through the ASLA’s website, where you’ll be looking to register for FS-008.

mud and oil

river road
[image: Gena Wirth] If you’ll be in New Orleans next week for the ASLA convention, you can join SCAPE Studio and the Dredge Research Collaborative for a bus tour of petrochemical and sedimentary infrastructure along River Road. In addition to SCAPE and the DRC, you’ll have the opportunity to hear from local experts including Scott Eustis (coastal wetlands specialist at the Gulf Restoration Network and, among other things, Public Lab kite flyer), Michael Orr (Communications Director at the Louisiana Environmental Action Network), and Randy Petersen (a Louisiana petrochemical industry expert at Homesite Company and author of “Giants on the River”, a history of the petrochemical industry along River Road). You can sign up through the ASLA’s website, where you’ll be looking to register for FS-008.

dredgefest california

Print The Dredge Research Collaborative is inviting participants to apply for the workshops at our upcoming event, DredgeFest California. We are seeking faculty, practicing designers, scientists, industry professionals, policymakers, regulators, junior scholars, advanced students, and other interested parties to join us in the Bay Area, June 13-19, 2016. DSC_2607 DSC_2640
[Tours at DredgeFest Great Lakes, summer 2015.] Sediment is critical to the present and future health of California’s estuarine Bay-Delta. It is the physical infrastructure that underlies its many ecologies and economies. As the 2015 State of the Estuary report notes, “Like fresh water, sediment is a precious resource that is essential for keeping the Estuary healthy”. But the Bay-Delta currently has a shortage of this land making resource. Upriver dams have trapped sediment, while levees, bank armoring, and river straightening have cut off wetlands and floodplains while accelerating the movement of the remaining sediment, preventing it from building substrate. The
Print_LakeErie
Continue reading "dredgefest california"

dredgefest california

Print The Dredge Research Collaborative is inviting participants to apply for the workshops at our upcoming event, DredgeFest California. We are seeking faculty, practicing designers, scientists, industry professionals, policymakers, regulators, junior scholars, advanced students, and other interested parties to join us in the Bay Area, June 13-19, 2016. DSC_2607 DSC_2640
[Tours at DredgeFest Great Lakes, summer 2015.] Sediment is critical to the present and future health of California’s estuarine Bay-Delta. It is the physical infrastructure that underlies its many ecologies and economies. As the 2015 State of the Estuary report notes, “Like fresh water, sediment is a precious resource that is essential for keeping the Estuary healthy”. But the Bay-Delta currently has a shortage of this land making resource. Upriver dams have trapped sediment, while levees, bank armoring, and river straightening have cut off wetlands and floodplains while accelerating the movement of the remaining sediment, preventing it from building substrate. The
Print_LakeErie
Continue reading "dredgefest california"

dredgefest california

Print The Dredge Research Collaborative is inviting participants to apply for the workshops at our upcoming event, DredgeFest California. We are seeking faculty, practicing designers, scientists, industry professionals, policymakers, regulators, junior scholars, advanced students, and other interested parties to join us in the Bay Area, June 13-19, 2016. DSC_2607 DSC_2640
[Tours at DredgeFest Great Lakes, summer 2015.] Sediment is critical to the present and future health of California’s estuarine Bay-Delta. It is the physical infrastructure that underlies its many ecologies and economies. As the 2015 State of the Estuary report notes, “Like fresh water, sediment is a precious resource that is essential for keeping the Estuary healthy”. But the Bay-Delta currently has a shortage of this land making resource. Upriver dams have trapped sediment, while levees, bank armoring, and river straightening have cut off wetlands and floodplains while accelerating the movement of the remaining sediment, preventing it from building substrate. The
Print_LakeErie
Continue reading "dredgefest california"

dredgefest california

Print The Dredge Research Collaborative is inviting participants to apply for the workshops at our upcoming event, DredgeFest California. We are seeking faculty, practicing designers, scientists, industry professionals, policymakers, regulators, junior scholars, advanced students, and other interested parties to join us in the Bay Area, June 13-19, 2016. DSC_2607 DSC_2640
[Tours at DredgeFest Great Lakes, summer 2015.] Sediment is critical to the present and future health of California’s estuarine Bay-Delta. It is the physical infrastructure that underlies its many ecologies and economies. As the 2015 State of the Estuary report notes, “Like fresh water, sediment is a precious resource that is essential for keeping the Estuary healthy”. But the Bay-Delta currently has a shortage of this land making resource. Upriver dams have trapped sediment, while levees, bank armoring, and river straightening have cut off wetlands and floodplains while accelerating the movement of the remaining sediment, preventing it from building substrate. The
Print_LakeErie
Continue reading "dredgefest california"

prosthetic landscapes in a time of acceleration

pl_ci
[Levee between two containment cells on Craney Island, summer 2013.] I’m speaking this Saturday, 28 Feb, at an interdisciplinary arts event in Amsterdam, the Sonic Acts Festival, whose theme for 2015 is “The Geologic Imagination”. My talk is in a session that starts at 10:30 am, entitled “Landscape Transformation”. The session also includes geologist and author Michael Welland (whose book, Sand, was an early influence on our work in the Dredge Research Collaborative) and film-maker/photographer Jananne Al-Ani (who will be presenting work related to the development of flight and aerial representation — also of great interest here). I’ll be talking about what I’m calling the “prosthetic littoral”:

The tools are both prosaic and bizarre. Sensate geotextiles. Miniscule tracking sensors embedded in flowing streams of silt and sand. Turbidity curtains. Slumping geotubes. Confined disposal facilities, slowly-shifting landscape machines that occupy entire islands. The polypropylene apparatus of engineered erosion control. Flotillas of suction dredgers. Concrete tetrapods, armoring countless kilometers of coastline.

With such instruments, humans are radically reshaping the pedosphere, the thin skin of active soils that covers the earth. These landscape prosthetics alternately speed up and slow down the movement of sediments, producing an anthropogenic counterpart to familiar natural cycles like the rock and water cycles: the dredge cycle. Continue reading "prosthetic landscapes in a time of acceleration"

prosthetic landscapes in a time of acceleration

pl_ci
[Levee between two containment cells on Craney Island, summer 2013.] I’m speaking this Saturday, 28 Feb, at an interdisciplinary arts event in Amsterdam, the Sonic Acts Festival, whose theme for 2015 is “The Geologic Imagination”. My talk is in a session that starts at 10:30 am, entitled “Landscape Transformation”. The session also includes geologist and author Michael Welland (whose book, Sand, was an early influence on our work in the Dredge Research Collaborative) and film-maker/photographer Jananne Al-Ani (who will be presenting work related to the development of flight and aerial representation — also of great interest here). I’ll be talking about what I’m calling the “prosthetic littoral”:

The tools are both prosaic and bizarre. Sensate geotextiles. Miniscule tracking sensors embedded in flowing streams of silt and sand. Turbidity curtains. Slumping geotubes. Confined disposal facilities, slowly-shifting landscape machines that occupy entire islands. The polypropylene apparatus of engineered erosion control. Flotillas of suction dredgers. Concrete tetrapods, armoring countless kilometers of coastline.

With such instruments, humans are radically reshaping the pedosphere, the thin skin of active soils that covers the earth. These landscape prosthetics alternately speed up and slow down the movement of sediments, producing an anthropogenic counterpart to familiar natural cycles like the rock and water cycles: the dredge cycle. Within this cyclic whirlwind of accelerated erosion and forced uplift, strange new landscapes are formed and reformed at ever faster pace. Roving the coasts of North America from New York to Virginia to Louisiana, this talk is a tour of such landscapes, the instruments that shape them, and the unexpected design opportunities that may lie within them.

The event is much bigger than just our participation, as it also includes a range of talks from speakers like Liam Young, Smudge Studio, and Benjamin Bratton, music, art installations, and much more. If you’re not in Amsterdam, there is a livestream for the conference.

prosthetic landscapes in a time of acceleration

pl_ci
[Levee between two containment cells on Craney Island, summer 2013.] I’m speaking this Saturday, 28 Feb, at an interdisciplinary arts event in Amsterdam, the Sonic Acts Festival, whose theme for 2015 is “The Geologic Imagination”. My talk is in a session that starts at 10:30 am, entitled “Landscape Transformation”. The session also includes geologist and author Michael Welland (whose book, Sand, was an early influence on our work in the Dredge Research Collaborative) and film-maker/photographer Jananne Al-Ani (who will be presenting work related to the development of flight and aerial representation — also of great interest here). I’ll be talking about what I’m calling the “prosthetic littoral”:

The tools are both prosaic and bizarre. Sensate geotextiles. Miniscule tracking sensors embedded in flowing streams of silt and sand. Turbidity curtains. Slumping geotubes. Confined disposal facilities, slowly-shifting landscape machines that occupy entire islands. The polypropylene apparatus of engineered erosion Continue reading "prosthetic landscapes in a time of acceleration"

prosthetic landscapes in a time of acceleration

pl_ci
[Levee between two containment cells on Craney Island, summer 2013.] I’m speaking this Saturday, 28 Feb, at an interdisciplinary arts event in Amsterdam, the Sonic Acts Festival, whose theme for 2015 is “The Geologic Imagination”. My talk is in a session that starts at 10:30 am, entitled “Landscape Transformation”. The session also includes geologist and author Michael Welland (whose book, Sand, was an early influence on our work in the Dredge Research Collaborative) and film-maker/photographer Jananne Al-Ani (who will be presenting work related to the development of flight and aerial representation — also of great interest here). I’ll be talking about what I’m calling the “prosthetic littoral”:

The tools are both prosaic and bizarre. Sensate geotextiles. Miniscule tracking sensors embedded in flowing streams of silt and sand. Turbidity curtains. Slumping geotubes. Confined disposal facilities, slowly-shifting landscape machines that occupy entire islands. The polypropylene apparatus of engineered erosion Continue reading "prosthetic landscapes in a time of acceleration"

Excavations, Shockwaves, and Limits

At the end of September, I spoke at an event organized by The Architectural League and co-sponsored by The Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design, “The Five Thousand Pound Life: Land”. The Architectural League has recently posted video from the event, so you can now watch the many presentations and discussions; I particularly recommend Jesse LeCavalier’s dissection of UPS’s advertising slogan “Logistics makes the world”, Eric Sanderson and Ted Steinberg on New York City’s natural history and development (Steinberg’s image of the “1914 plan to redeem 50 square miles in New York harbor” is amazing), Albert Pope’s discussion of urban morphologies (which concludes by “reimagin[ing] the Fifth Ward in Houston as a dense, carbon neutral neighborhood”), and Charles Waldheim’s meditation on the disciplinary history of landscape architecture (of particular interest to readers of my previous post on “landscape science”). My own presentation is embedded below. You can also watch the panel discussion that followed with LeCavalier, Alex Klatskin, and moderator Coral Davenport. Urban Omnibus has a longer recap of the full event. This presentation drew on work that I’ve been doing both with the Dredge Research Collaborative (Stephen Becker, Brian Davis, Tim Maly, Brett Milligan, and Gena Wirth), particularly DredgeFest NYC, and Casey Lance Brown (P-REX), in particular a talk that Brian, Brett, and I worked on for last summer’s EDRA45 conference, entitled “The Engineering Shockwave of the Panama Canal Expansion”. (If you pay close attention to the credits on the slides, you’ll see that some of the drawings shown in the presentation belong to several of those collaborators.)

on landscape science

Places Journal (newly independent of Design Observer) recently published an argument by Brian Davis and Thomas Oles that landscape architecture should be renamed landscape science:
“Slowly — fitfully — landscape architecture is remaking itself. Its adherents are venturing from the confines of garden, park, and plaza into strange and difficult territory, where they face challenges of a greater order. How will our cities adapt to rising seas? How do we respond to the mass extinction of our fellow species? How can we build places that are more just? Such questions mock the very notion of disciplinary boundaries… Say it again: landscape architecture. The words roll off the tongue as if their union were inevitable. But this is an arranged marriage… We need a term that updates Olmsted’s strategy of professionalization for the modern age. A term that is both broader and more specific, a term that can help simultaneously expand and focus the field. And for that there is only one real candidate. We therefore propose that landscape architecture become landscape science.”

This is ridiculously interesting and important. I agree that there is a shift in both the scope and methodology of landscape research and practice underway. (That might actually be the central concern of this blog.) Consequently, I think it is valuable to attempt to recognize that shift by naming and defining it. (The need for this shift is probably evident to any landscape architect of this emerging sensibility who has tried to explain their work to friends, colleagues, and family members who are not familiar with current trends in the discipline.) In the spirit of contributing to the effort to concretize that shift, then, I’ve named below three primary concerns that I have with the selection of landscape science as worked out by Davis and Oles. Two of this concerns deal with the selection of the term science, while the third (the middle one, by order presented) questions what the relationship between landscape architecture and landscape science is in their proposal, and what it should be.
1 One of the most problematic components of the way that science is treated is its claim to objectivity; to be value-neutral. (We know from the philosophy of science that this is not entirely accurate; but it is perceived to be accurate.) Whereas one of the strengths of landscape architecture relative to other disciplines that make landscapes (logistics, engineering) is precisely that it has practices for making explicit, interrogating, and evaluating values.
1.
I am wary of elevating science in this fashion. This is often a rhetorical move that serves to marginalize other ways of knowing. This is potentially particularly problematic because science often equals “Western science”, and is consequently accompanied by the marginalization of non-Western ways of knowing. (See: scientism, positivism1.) I know that Davis and Oles have anticipated this objection: “Now we have opened a world of problems, not least that the word science brings its own conflicting associations… This has crowded out the original, more exciting definition.” I’m not sure, though, that the likely effect of this (re)formulation of landscape science is to restore this earlier formulation of science, generally. It seems far more likely to me that the collective weight of the perception of “scientific inquiry as the cold pursuit of quantifiable phenomena and material effects” will define how landscape science is perceived than the opposite. (And, indeed, to some degree the argument hinges on this: that landscape will gain some of the prestige that is accorded to sciences, precisely because they are perceived in this fashion.) It seems problematic that the argument hinges on shifting the understanding of a concept back to 19th century terms; how often does this happen? Moreover, how often does it happen when the lever is the self-conception of a relatively small discipline like landscape architecture? 2.
Quoting Davis and Oles:
“Perhaps practitioners of a certain temperament will hold fast to the title of landscape architect, and that specific tradition might be understood as one important pillar in an expanding field of landscape science. People who study landscape science might be known as landscape architects, but also landscape geographers, landscape engineers, and landscape anthropologists (just as they have already started to claim titles such as landscape ecologist, landscape archaeologist, and landscape urbanist), or they might call themselves, more generally, landscape scientists.”
There’s something rhetorically problematic happening here. Should landscape ecology be seen as a subset of landscape architecture? I think not, though the fields are clearly related, both historically, methodologically, and topically; and I doubt that Davis and Oles think so, either. But if not, is the argument here perhaps really for a new umbrella that includes landscape architecture, but isn’t a renaming of it?
2 It seems worthwhile here to also say: I am strongly in favor of Alan Jacobs’ argument for (among other things) “self-consciously distinctive missions” and “pockets of resistance”, which seems potentially applicable to an effort the answer these questions. (Unfortunately, I think that an effort to claim science might radically undermine an effort to be such a pocket of resistance, because of the concerns I outlined in my first point.)
And if so: is that umbrella really a discipline? Or is a mode of operation? A shifting set of tactical alliances between fields that share interests, methodologies, and terrain? Something closer to transdisciplinarity than to a new discipline? If so, are we left in the same place that we started: needing a way to describe the operations (scope, methodology) of the set of researchers and practitioners that Davis and Oles mention (and others who have similar approaches)? Are we saying effectively that these people — as opposed to, say, the practitioners of landscape architecture who are primarily garden designers, or the plaza-makers who are outside architects — are the only ones who are landscape scientists? If so, why not generate another splinter discipline like landscape urbanism: between multiple disciplines, adopted by some practitioners, but not attempting to rename the whole discipline of landscape architecture? Isn’t this a more modest and practicable goal?2
3 Moreover: to return to my first contention, I think it is precisely the quality of landscape architecture as making that positions the discipline as a useful alternative and/or augment (depending on the specifics of place and situation) to more positivistic ways of constructing landscapes, including engineering and logistics. I find myself continually returning to Dan Hill’s formulation about the value of design in Dark Matter and Trojan Horses: “the idea that policy and governance can be convincing through mere presentation of fact supported by clear analysis is also being directly challenged. In-depth analytical approaches can no longer stretch across these interconnected and bound-less problems, where synthesis is perhaps more relevant than analysis. ‘The problem is that transparent, unmediated, undisputable facts have recently become rarer and rarer. To provide complete undisputable proof has become a rather messy, pesky, risky business. Design produces proof, yet as ‘cultural invention’ it is also comfortable with ambiguity, subjectivity, and the qualitative as much as the quantitative. Design is also oriented towards a course of action — it researches and produces systems that can learn from failure, but always with intent. In strategic design, synthesis suggests resolving into a course of action, whereas analysis suggests a presentation of data. Analysis tells you how things are, at least in theory, whereas synthesis suggests how things could be.” “[design’s] core value… is addressing genuinely meaningful, genuinely knotty problems by convincingly articulating and delivering alternative ways of being”. This also raises the point that “design” is perhaps being unhelpfully marginalized. 4 I think Davis and Oles acknowledge this, or at least are attempting to acknowledge it (I don’t think they explicitly say they are, so I may be misinterpreting), with the description of “what might its practitioners be called”? But the argument initially hinged on looking at the examples of radical practitioners, and whatever landscape architecture might be or might not be, certainly one of its strengths is that it is a practice. Renaming it in a way that requires a separate new term for the practice of it seems… inadequate. Which leads back to my second contention, about the proposed relationship between landscape architecture and landscape science. 5 This also refers to a point that geologist Brian Romans made in reply to Brian Davis on twitter: that geomorphology might be the most fundamental of all landscape sciences.
It seems there are three possibilities inherent in a formulation of a landscape science: first, that landscape architecture becomes landscape science; second, that landscape architecture (as a whole) becomes a component of a new, broader discipline known as landscape science; third, that some components of landscape architecture (and other disciplines!) enter into a new set of alliances and develop a new set of practices-between-disciplines that might collectively be referred to as landscape science. It seems to me that the first is what Davis and Oles claim to be arguing for (“we therefore propose that landscape architecture become landscape science”), but the last is what they are describing. (Not that I find that problematic! I actually find the last of these options most promising and most exciting.) 3.
My final objection concerns the centrality of making to landscape architecture. Recall the definition of science that Davis and Oles claim:
“a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws; knowledge gained by systematic study.”
Science, even defined in this earlier way that does not make exclusive reference to the natural sciences or to the scientific method as a mode of knowledge production, is nonetheless an enterprise focused on knowing. By contrast, landscape architecture is, at least in my opinion, not only a profession of making, but also a discipline whose core depends on making. While making and knowing should not be perceived as being purely exclusive (in fact, I would argue that making can be a way of knowing — this is central to the notion of design as research), their overlap is far from entire. “Landscape science”, even defined as normative, does not seem much like making. And the practitioners that landscape science would claim (Orff, Cowles, Bargmann, to use Davis and Oles three examples) are clearly makers. In the middle of their argument, Davis and Oles recommend that:
“…we should establish our own integrated science, with its own specific methods, concepts, and techniques. We can adapt tools from the many fields that already work with landscape as a primary object of inquiry, including archaeology, ecology, environmental studies, history, planning, psychology and sociology.”
But which of those methods does landscape architecture contribute to landscape science? It seems to me that one of the most obvious answers is: landscape architecture, unlike archaeology, ecology, environmental studies, history, psychology and sociology (I leave out planning, whose operations are more ambiguous and variable), makes, builds, fights matter battles. If making is so essential to landscape architecture that it might be the discipline’s primary contribution to landscape science, then is it inadequate to choose a new name that does not acknowledge this3? I’m not sure that Davis and Oles further definition of landscape science as a normative science (“[according to Peirce], normative science ‘distinguishes what ought to be from what ought not to be’”) answers this objection. There’s a significant gap between ought and make4. (Do we really think that a maintenance worker is a landscape scientist? This seems to stretch the term terribly far.) Of course, we have a term for someone who applies science to make: a technician. Landscape technics is an interesting alternative, not far removed from Patrick Geddes and Benton MacKaye’s geotechnics5. Perhaps the greatest disadvantage of technics is that the word is out of fashion, in much the same sense that science is in fashion. 4.
Having detailed these three concerns, it would be right of me to also list the things that I appreciate, because there is a great deal that I appreciate in Davis and Oles’ argument. I don’t know that it is necessary for me to go on in such detail about them, though, so I will simply say: that the array of benefits listed under section III is extremely desirable; that I agree that there is a great deal to be gained by not “privileging… architectural terms and concepts over those of soil science, anthropology, and civil engineering”; and that I agree that there should be an increased focus on experimentation and testing within landscape architecture (I’ve been arguing that for years). I hope this discussion continues.

on landscape science

Places Journal (newly independent of Design Observer) recently published an argument by Brian Davis and Thomas Oles that landscape architecture should be renamed landscape science:
“Slowly — fitfully — landscape architecture is remaking itself. Its adherents are venturing from the confines of garden, park, and plaza into strange and difficult territory, where they face challenges of a greater order. How will our cities adapt to rising seas? How do we respond to the mass extinction of our fellow species? How can we build places that are more just? Such questions mock the very notion of disciplinary boundaries… Say it again: landscape architecture. The words roll off the tongue as if their union were inevitable. But this is an arranged marriage… We need a term that updates Olmsted’s strategy of professionalization for the modern age. A term that is both broader and more specific, a term that can help Continue reading "on landscape science"

the dredge underground

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
[The DredgeFest Louisiana tour enters the Morganza Spillway; I am pretty sure that Tim took these pictures.] In the recent August issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine, Jennifer Reut wrote a generous profile of the Dredge Research Collaborative and DredgeFest:
It seems almost inevitable, after two successful DredgeFests and several massive coastal floods, that this group of people would have gravitated to this subject at this moment in time. The practice of dredging the coastal waters and rivers in the United States has reached a critical moment. Anxieties about sea-level rise and vulnerable coastlines as well as those from the pressures of a globalized economy on U.S. shipping and transportation sectors can be tied back to dredging. It’s a kind of covert force with impacts that hopscotch across national, geographic, and cultural borders. Five years in, the DRC can now talk with great agility about dredging in a variety of local and global contexts—particularly about the ways in which the practice of dredging rivers and coasts has consequences that can seemingly be solved only by more dredging. This is what the DRC has termed “the dredge cycle”, and discovering how it works in different places is a large part of why DredgeFest exists.

Reut’s article, “The Dredge Underground”, is now available in full for download at Landscape Architecture‘s website. [Two DredgeFests so far; two more are in differing stages of planning, with DredgeFest Great Lakes up next in Minnesota in August 2015. You can subscribe to a newsletter here that will keep you updated on planning for DredgeFest Great Lakes.]

the five thousand pound life: land

arch5kl_panama canal
[Hauling earth during the expansion of the Panama Canal; AP Photo] A quick and rather late notice, of particular relevance to readers in NYC: I’ll be on a panel this Friday, September 26, for The Five Thousand Pound Life’s “Land” symposium, which is co-sponsored by the Architectural League of New York and the Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design.
["Land"] addresses the need to consider settlement patterns and  competing land uses in new ways given the reality of climate change. The value assigned to various forms of land use, and various attitudes  towards land as a resource, must be understood in terms of ecological services and impacts, rather than narrowly-defined economic imperatives. In sessions on “Nature and the City,” “Spatial Logistics,” and “Density,” speakers will consider American approaches to development, attitudes toward nature, and whether the current dominant narrative of the environmental superiority of concentrated high density development might be challenged by a counter-narrative of lower density land-use that takes advantage of distributed energy production and localized treatment of waste.

There are some great participants including Rebecca Solnit, Charles Waldheim, Eric Sanderson, Jesse LeCavalier, and more. I’ll be a part of “Spatial Logistics”, talking about the expansion of the Panama Canal, dredging (Mud Dump Site!), and the limits of logistics. The symposium will be in the afternoon (2:00-6:30 pm) in the Great Hall of the Cooper Union (7 East 7th Street). Tickets are free for students and members of the Architectural League; non-members will need to pay $20. Click here for more details.

suburban futures

At Next City, Amanda Kolson Hurley reports on two examples of contemporary suburban growth, Montgomery County in Maryland and the York region of Ontario, and ties those two examples into broader questions regarding the future viability of suburbanism:
Dead malls. Zombie subdivisions. Metastasizing sprawl. Not a horror movie, but the suburbs circa 2014, or at least the media version of them. We’ve all seen the “suburban wasteland” photos from the Great Recession, the parched streets out West, foreclosure signs swinging in their yards. We’ve read about The End of the Suburbs. No wonder the young and the affluent have flocked back to cities: Suburbia’s demise seems imminent, and assured. Except that it’s not. More than half of Americans live in suburbs, and about 75 percent of postwar construction has happened in the suburbs. That is a lot of people, and a lot of built environment, for urbanists to just wish away. One hundred and fifty million or so suburbanites have to live somewhere, and preferably not too far from their places of work, which are mostly in the ’burbs, too: More than three-quarters of jobs in U.S. metropolitan areas are located outside the urban core, and 43 percent are at least 10 miles away. (City living doesn’t look like such an environmental slam-dunk when you consider the number of jobs that require a long commute from downtown.) In Canada, two-thirds of the population lives in suburbs, according to a new study, and five times as many people are settling on the edges of major cities as they are in their cores.

Read the full article at Next City.

pilot projects

In an article for the recently-launched ARPA Journal, Kate Orff describes a pair of SCAPE pilot projects in New York Harbor, both testing the viability of ecological design concepts for specific harbor-dwelling species along the edge of Brooklyn’s industrial waterfront. scape_pp_1
[The blue mussel pilot project; image by SCAPE via ARPA Journal.] The first, located near the outlet of the Gowanus Canal, adapts “fuzzy rope”, a simple material already utilized in aquaculture, to form a set of thirteen panels that retrofit a working pier as blue mussel habitat and, crucially, provide an opportunity to study the effectiveness of various retrofit possibilities in mussel recruitment. scape_pp_2
[The Eel Grass pilot project; image by SCAPE via ARPA Journal.] The second, sited slightly further south along the Brooklyn waterfront, builds on a collapsed concrete pier which has “accidentally created intertidal habitat” and an eal grass pilot plot to propose a “deconstructed salt marsh”, which would both incorporate additional pilot plots for a range of typical salt marsh species and serve as a “learning landscape” for the local community. One of the exciting things about both of these projects is the emphasis on testing, monitoring, and obtaining reliable feedback. In an essay adapted from the introductory chapter of their recent edited collection Projective Ecologies, Nina-Marie Lister and Chris Reed discuss the potential convergence of strains of ecological thought they identify in three divergent domains, natural sciences, the humanities, and design:
…few designers have yet ventured beyond the metaphors and mechanics supplied by these ecological models to design effectively for adaptation to change, or to incorporate learned feedback into the designs, or to work in transdisciplinary modes of practice that open new apertures for the exploration of new systems, synergies and wholly collaborative work. This is the project ahead: leading the sciences, humanities, and design culture toward a more rigorous, robust and relevant engagement across the domains of ecology and design.

For that effort to be successful, more pilot projects will be needed. [Previously on mammoth: experimental landscape architecture.]

landmarks

odell_landmarks_2 odell_landmarks_3 [Two images from artist Jenny Odell’s series Landmarks, which traces “inadvertent monuments” produced by remote infrastructural operations, such as the Athabasca Oil Sands (top) and a network of “unknown detonation sites” (above) at the Nevada Test Site. The images can be seen in larger and much larger versions on Odell’s website.]

landmarks

odell_landmarks_2 odell_landmarks_3 [Two images from artist Jenny Odell's series Landmarks, which traces "inadvertent monuments" produced by remote infrastructural operations, such as the Athabasca Oil Sands (top) and a network of "unknown detonation sites" (above) at the Nevada Test Site. The images can be seen in larger and much larger versions on Odell's website.]