t h a nk you
staff Faculty Advisors
to the University of Colorado Denver
Department of Landscape Architecture for continued support to help us Ann Komara and Michael Leccese
publish this volume of work. Without the ﬁnancial backing and belief in what we’re trying to accomplish, ROOT would be but a good idea among
students and still just a conversation in the back of a car. Thank you to Don Gustafson of Print Matters for working diligently with us and putting
Anthony Marshall and Patsy McEntee-Shaﬀer
up with our ﬁnagling to get a tactile product into readers’ hands. Never underestimate the power of printed material – it has such ﬁne a grain.
Thank you to Doug Ekstrand for his critical graphic eye and for helping us to push this publication to heightened boundaries and beyond.
To Ann Komara, who is our ﬁnest and most articulate proponent. She stands alone in support and belief in this product. Thank you to Michael
Leccese, our counterbalance in journalistic excellence, who pushes for the ﬁnest writing our pens can muster. To Bill Thompson, our voice from
Dustin Farmer, David Gates, Sarah Maas, Nick Persichitte and Sera Sibley
the ﬁeld of landscape. And to Ken Wright, Sally Kribs and Wright Water Associates, who both submitted an excellent, evocative article as well as a
thank you to our staﬀ. This has been the most rewarding, diﬃcult dialogue
above all, enjoy it.
chief, Patsy McEntee-Shaﬀer. She’ll see you through.
To our submitters…you have made this our ﬁnest work yet. And ﬁnally, I have had the privilege of sharing. Be proud of what we have done, and With that, I leave you in the most capable hands of next year’s editor-inPR Managers
- Bryan Ganno, editor COVER This factory, the Packard Plant, where once Packard cars were assembled and delivered across the country, sits so still. A silent ruin it is. Yet this dilapidated building, which has joined the other thousand ruins in Detroit, still holds the capability of creating
Please share, recycle or up-cycle this publication.
life again – to not be a forgotten space anymore. The iconic plant rising out of the depths of concrete and ﬂoorboards has become the new pioneer in this room, in a way symbolizing the
Copyright © 2011 ROOT. Nothing shown may be reproduced in any form
possible rebirth of our famed Motor City.
without obtaining the permission of ROOT and its contributors.
ROOM TO MOVE
Introduction Bryan Ganno and Anthony Marshall
A New Environmental Frontier? Patrick Healy
A Reﬂection on America’s Migratory History Benjamin Brehmer
The Living City Block LoDo and Regenerative Living Systems Patsy McEntee-Shaﬀer
FIRST THEY BUILT THE ROAD
DISTURBING THE URBAN
REINHABITING FORGOTTEN SPACES
Voices from the Field J. William Thompson
Health, Ecology, Activity and Legacy Lee Pouliot and Chris Hardy
Recounting the Evolution of American Agriculture Emily Lynam
One Writer Reminisces on Circumstances that Deﬁne Memories George Sibley
THE INDUSTRIAL REMNANT
DENVER URBAN TRUCK FARM
Relics of Society David Michael Gates
The Use of Street Art in Landscape Architecture Kelley Price
Mobilizing the Garden in Industrialization’s Wake Ryan Sotirakis
THE PROBLEM AND PROMISE OF PLACE
EXPLORATION OF A CONTESTED FRONTIER
Marginalized Land as Gift and Guide Adam Clack
Through the Eyes of a Contemporary Cartographer Erin Devine
Incan Embellishment Reﬂected Upon the Ground Kenneth R. Wright, PE
WRITING IN THE FIELD OF LANDSCAPE
Bryan Ganno and Anthony Marshall
F IR ST T HEY BU I LT T HE R OAD .. .
...and there, the town followed. The place, now defunct, wrests listless in the cold freeze. Drive north on Denver’s Santa Fe St., just past Mississippi, and look to the east. A graffitiencased behemoth lies beyond the chain-link fence and just beyond the ten
This diﬃculty multiplies itself through time and space, and inevitably place becomes space and gets left behind. What we do with that which falls into the ether is of ultimate importance. ROOT v3 begins to address the innovation that lies dormant, under the listless exterior. Processes – unseen and unexpected – connect, thread and explode in visual impact. Drawing out these processes, in written form, is the impetus for ROOT. We,
spans of railtrack. The building is 100 years old; it recalls our past even as it
as stewards of necessary dialogue, do this voluntarily and at a huge personal
grips the present.
commitment. Every article, essay and graphic that follows is representation; it is
We are habitual creatures. We are simultaneously bent toward a glimpse of the past while ever-straining for the future. We clamber higher and higher, farther and
voice for those that do not speak. Look to David Gates’ extraordinary black-and-whites. Find potential in
farther, yet satisfaction equates complacency, which in turn connotes negatively.
Denver’s alleys or graﬃti’s artistic expression as design. Peel back the lens
Why is it that comfort is attained through discomfort?
on human beings’ migratory ﬂux. Look to historic accounts of Incan landscape
ROOT v3 arose from the desire to echo the days bygone while wrestling with
embellishment as marvel for their Gods. In the case of Chicopee, Massachusetts,
the midst of our mad haste. The title, “Forgotten Spaces,” is intentionally crafted to
understand that discussion breeds exuberance. Allow yourself to be transported
evoke an image, a personal biography rather, of what the words conjure in thought.
by George Sibley’s poetic, personal accounts of reinhabiting that which has passed
Places are those of purpose, desire and clarity – clarity in their motives and how
but lives anew. Among a multitude of other deviations and inspirations, this is what
we interact with them. Spaces have never attained, or misplaced, their purpose;
ROOT oﬀers to you for volume three.
they have allowed a haze to creep over that exerts all eﬀort but has trouble lifting. Now reread the ﬁrst paragraph. The Gates Rubber Factory is our visualization.
Our desire is that, even just for a moment, you might remember your own personal journey and how the landscapes of those visions emanate and evolve.
It is our place that has become a space. It is to be demolished and redeveloped.
After all, memories rarely exist without a place. Land produces a profound impact,
Such is the cycle of life. Nothing remains forever, at least not in its current form.
even though, at times, we hustle on or retreat back. The one thing in constant ﬂux,
This idea of forgotten is not necessarily negative; that air is not the intention of this issue. Land proves time and again that those which lie without human action
though it may at times seem lifeless and void, land is always moving. As each new volume of ROOT ﬁnds itself released out into the literary world, a
inevitably act. But it is the purpose of our profession to greet the ground and help
simultaneous “passing of the torch” ensues. Handing oﬀ one year of collaboration
it once again fulﬁll…the rest is up to the process of life.
to a new staﬀ of upcoming students ultimately makes certain ROOT will continue
Landscape architecture is a ﬁckle adaptation of abstract thought, placed upon
to be a fresh new booklet of creative production. New perspectives, new ideas
the ground, attempting to match wits with what climate, ecology and time has in
and new direction are invited year after year to fuel this shared ﬂame as members
store. It is not easy, nor should it be. We attempt to be the stewards of the masses
leave and new ones arrive. This year is no diﬀerent. As we say farewell, we ﬁnd
and try to siphon and cultivate the desires of the whole and express that reﬂection
it only right to express our gratitude for those who have worked alongside
in what we design.
us, spending hours and days tediously merging these creative pieces into the
BELOW The Gates Rubber factory celebrates its centennial anniversary in 2011. It has been a physical landmark and inﬂuential employer throughout Denver’s history. The graﬃti’d remnant is pock-marked with broken window panes and is currently slated for demolition and commercial redevelopment. It occupies the city block to the northwest of the intersection at Broadway and Mississippi. Photo by Bryan Ganno 2011.
completed puzzle you see today. Without the dedication of these students, faculty and local professionals, ROOT would still be only a concept. As editors, we embrace an authority to select each article, to provide a thematic layout and guide the growth of ROOT’s publicity. We have found that greatest success comes not solely from our role but through an open invitation to anyone with an opinion. Keeping the dialogue transparent ensures our decisionmaking process ﬁnds harmony not only amongst ROOT’s staﬀ but also to the greater audience which ROOT seeks to inﬂuence.
AUTHOR BIO Bryan Ganno graduated from UCD’s Master of Landscape Architecture program in May 2011. He has been working as editor of ROOT since spring 2010 and is the author of this volume’s theme. ROOT has been an opportunity to combine his two educational ﬁelds (he has an undergraduate degree in journalism) and to further understand the importance of landscape architecture and the discussion of it. Bryan currently resides in Denver and works as an assistant landscape architect for the National Park Service.
Much like volume two, this year’s issue provides a sense of continuity through a “big picture” mentality, building upon the previous year’s theme. Volume one, “Unexpected Landscapes,” brings out the notions of deﬁning what we term as ‘landscape,’ re-evaluating its presence and discussing the role landscape plays in our lives. “Resourceful Obstacles,” volume two, spins right oﬀ volume one in addressing how these landscapes bring both constraint and potential, how we as designers observe space through these parameters. And, this year’s
Anthony Marshall arrived at UCD from the Midwest, bringing with him a BS in Natural Resources from the University of Nebraska Lincoln. Attentive to land response, he focused designs on water – how this resource can be a catalyst and how land manipulation changes its presence. With an MLA as of May 2011, Anthony is currently bringing his expertise back to the tall grass prairie, engaging in watershed management and biodynamic agriculture.
volume, “Forgotten Spaces,” brings us to a point of discovery, transition and understanding, attempting to answer such questions of: How has space been able to escape the minds of those who walk beside it, who brieﬂy overlook it from a car window or who even ﬂy over it? What can these spaces become? Who decides the fate of these places fading in memory? Finally, a special thank you to those who stuck it out with us.... comrades without whom hair would be lost. Do good things.
p# | INTRODUCTION
J. William Thompson
Voices From the Field
WR IT ING IN T HE F IE L D O F L ANDS CAPE
Forgotten Spaces. The theme of this issue of ROOT, reminds me that many of this country’s most extraordinary parks and plazas began as places degraded and despised, if not forgotten. My favorite recent example is the waterfront on the West Side of Manhattan.
of Landscape Architecture magazine (LAM), I set as a goal to have 75 percent of each issue written by landscape architects. Most months I met that goal, but it was always an uphill slog. I found out that most private and public practitioners simply can’t pen a coherent page. Academics, who should be better writers, aren’t. They’ve been corrupted by the academic expectation of pompous obscurantism. There are exceptions – landscape architects who write clearly and cogently – but they are by far in the minority. Another indicator of the sad state of writing in the profession can be found by looking at who’s writing the current outpouring of books about the built landscape. While at LAM I saw many new titles crossing my desk every month. But who wrote these books? Mostly, they were architects, geographers and generic garden
Until fairly recently, almost the entire waterfront was a wasteland of rotting
writers. Only a tiny percentage of these or any other books are written by landscape
piers and warehouses rightly shunned by most New Yorkers. Today, it has been
architects – and that’s not good for the profession. Landscape architects know
redeveloped into an interconnected series of beautiful and enormously popular
best what our profession has accomplished. Writing has the potential of reaching a
waterfront parks. This is but one example of design that turns forgotten spaces
far larger audience than landscape architectural graphics. Through writing, we can
into memorable places; many other wonderful examples persist across the country.
tell a larger public what landscape architects do and what we’ve achieved over our
What is too often forgotten, however, is that landscape architects were key
relatively brief history. Those few landscape architects who embraced writing as
to the rebirth of many such places. Despite our historic legacy of designing great
part of their practice – Halprin, Laurie Olin, Frederick Law Olmsted and a small cadre
places, this profession too often travels incognito – and that’s a shame. Through
of others – saw their careers blossom as a result. I salute ROOT as following their
our ability to conceive and execute built landscapes, we have the potential to
precedent in writing about what this profession does.
contribute to a more vibrant, regenerative environment worldwide, yet our profession remains underappreciated and too often forgettable by potential clients and the general public. As the late Lawrence Halprin once told me, “When I do something good, people call me an architect.” How can landscape architects tell the public at large of our capabilities and achievements? Here’s my personal mantra: Write more – and write better – about what we do. Currently, however, I must say that most landscape architects are doing a deplorable job of writing about landscape architecture or anything else. That’s why ROOT is important – it bucks the trend toward nonwriting among landscape architects.
ROOT v2 |
How do I know that the profession is deﬁcient at writing? When I was editor
AUTHOR BIO J. William “Bill” Thompson is the former editor-in-chief of Landscape Architecture. The coauthor of Sustainable Landscape Construction (Island Press) and author of The Rebirth of New York City’s Bryant Park (Spacemaker Press), he received the Bradford Williams Award for continuing journalistic excellence. He lives with his wife in the historic core of Washington, DC.
T HE I NDU ST RI A L REM NANT Relics of Society David Michael Gates
Wither. Crack. Repeat. Process persists though we (humans, that be) commonly, moreover than not, leave a place without its former glories or once-intended use. Fade. Forget. Dismiss. Time wrestles loose a space from thought. Emphasis loses its grip, however purpose underlies, or rather lies dormant. Places may become spaces – lose that thing that undeniably deﬁnes them – but sociological importance cannot be ignored. This collection intends to illustrate the man-altered landscape and the eﬀects of industrial society – a landscape/social documentary photography with man as the focus, but out of the picture.
AUTHOR BIO David Michael Gates came to UCD’s landscape architecture program with a degree in geography from Kansas State University. His studies emphasized natural resources and geomorphology as well as cultural and regional geographies. His inspiration for landscape architecture lies at the center of these realms – where human, science and art collide. David believes that much can be learned through the lens of a camera – new experiences arise from the manipulation of focal length, aperture and shutter. Through photography and landscape architecture he desires to show us the world from new perspectives.
R O O Tv 3 | 6
7 | DISCOVER
R O O Tv 3 | 8
9 | DISCOVER
R O O Tv 3 | 1 0
I I I
T H E PR OB L E M A N D PR O M IS E OF PLACE
Marginalized Land as Gift and Guide Adam Clack
PREVIOUS Exhibit 1: Detail, Trace. Kourtnie Harris. Vague Terrain Studio 2009. Cataloging the liminal ﬁeld of making/un-making gathers the aesthetic dimension of emergence for design applications. Proportions of legibility and disappearance aﬀect intrigue, enabling a lens that celebrates the reﬂexive performances of culture and nature. BELOW Exhibit 2: Meg Posey, Plot/Frame/Colonize. Radical Gardening Studio, 2008. Depictions of proposed changes to land rarely acknowledge the mechanisms of implementation and their spectacle. Dishonesty about the building process represses client understanding of the realities of working with nature, often leading to designs that fail to anticipate change, quickly becoming dysfunctional.
“The ‘open’ city can become the laboratory for an intensified experience that offers new opportunities for urbanity, as long as we do not keep insisting on standardizing it at all costs. The idea here is not to favour the temporary or the natural systematically over the permanent and the planned, but indeed to aim for an active amalgam of heterogeneous components that b r o a d e n t h e t e r m s o f t h e e x p e r i e n c e .” – Luc Levesque, 2002
Once beyond the torn fence our senses cycle up. We’re of the place now.
in once the lease was up. Sad news for capitalists but if you ask that crow he’ll caw that it was vacant before
The term “forgotten places” implies that all spaces
the fall. And in the long run, what if? What if we had
could, or should, be memorable. That’s clearly not
seen that way the wash pit ﬁlled up with willow – in this
the point of this issue; it’s to remind the design and
autumn light a yellow lure, bright on broken land? We
planning community of the problem, and promise, of
might have curved that line of road to go right by and
place. Spatial coherence is vital to healthy individuals
drawn water in a trench over to where a willow could
and communities. We construct meaning from the
keep a pretty bird. We might
Weed colonies juxtapose bare ground in a curious
have made a place to dwell
pattern. Something made this. Some coarse instrument
despite ourselves, right in
punched its knucklemarks here, and its wheels wore in
the middle of nowhere – out
lines – our eyes follow. We walk the ﬂat plinth past odd
of nearly nothing.
heaps, softened by stiﬀ plants and low sun. A half-mile
relation to the land is innate. It matters where we are.
Periods of dormancy are nearly assured; eventually, all urbanized sites will change use, appearance and function, promising intermediate periods where designers forfeit their legacies and everyone forgets.
Ubiquitous and ordinary, the margins of human
phenomena we encounter, relating our personal
oﬀ, trucks riding over minor grades saw into the silence.
territory compel a blend of dread and fascination. While
narratives to the world unfolding. But there’s risk
A question we don’t ask tracks us in the brush just past
‘natural’ landscapes enjoy tacit acceptance, naturalizing
in deﬁning what comprises valued ground, and in
the ditch: do we belong here?
landscapes unsettle. The term broken ground seems
promoting myths of immediacy and permanence where
We’ve risked trespass to witness a human place now
ﬁtting; any chore leaves ruts, and whatever can, makes
land is concerned. By repositioning ourselves to the
abandoned to whatever may come. Signs and fences
home there. Busted up and broken, because no one sets
unintended consequences of its consumption, we
weakly assert a fallacy of ownership; this ground is now
out to make a vacant lot. We view the pieces with regret.
accept the lessons of our legacy.
open territory. All the life pushed back just gathered
We ache for place. We follow our hearts and senses
Rendering signiﬁcance from the environment
on the edges of the pads and parking lots and pressed
to signiﬁcance, or else we make it where we are. Our
through the manipulation of space and phenomenon
R O O Tv 3 | 1 2
is the crux of landscape architecture. But place becomes abstract, and ultimately, unmemorable when
BELOW Exhibit 3: Reading The Unintentional Garden. Reading the unintentional eﬀects of anthropogenic processes helps designers: – guide future planning of these activities, encouraging post-disturbance conditions that are culturally and ecologically beneﬁcial – observe the intrinsic reaction of land processes to anthropogenic disturbance, intentional or not, to inform post-implementation tactics – boost biodiversity to regenerate ‘erased’ dimensions, improving potential for cathartic witnessing – ascertain the magnitude of response needed to provoke speciﬁc ground reactions and to signify place through architectural conceits – identify sources of energy to induce change including the potential energy stored in land forms, biotic responses to disturbance, gravity and the poetic resonance of ruined human constructions
divorced from the local systems that interact with our constructions. When designers use ‘sense of place’ to
execute client fantasies about perpetual control
Radical Gardening – A Polemic For
evoke sensitivity or authority they imply a capability
through denial or erasure.
to communicate through phenomena, whose dynamic
As investment intensity ebbs and ﬂows, successional
Testing this mode, the Radical Gardening School is
qualities literally construct place from our senses. To
forces will exert more or less inﬂuence in response.
advancing a polemic of humanistic stewardship devised
fulﬁll this promise, land’s spontaneous expressions
Periods of dormancy are nearly assured; eventually, all
to reestablish the profession’s pragmatic and process-
cannot be muted. To truly understand ourselves as a
urbanized sites will change use, appearance and function,
conscious traditions. Co-developed by the author and
collective organism we need to dwell and celebrate in
promising intermediate periods where designers forfeit
Anthony Mazzeo, Senior Instructor at UC Denver, Radical
the threshold of disturbance and recovery.
their legacies and everyone forgets. What if we chose to
Gardening arose from concerns that popular thinking
embrace this awkward period of unburdened potential?
about ecological design often unconsciously reinforced
Embracing broken grounds as reference landscapes
an abstraction of ground associated with consumerist
when society lacks the time or will, it enlists designers
can encourage the development of inventive methods of
agendas. Revitalizing the human connection with land
to translate its desires into terms the land must accept.
inhabiting environment, gathering and sorting information,
through phenomenal appeal seemed crucial to reforming
Many tacitly assume the impossible task of producing
and synthesizing pragmatic and poetic insights by applying
land use practices, and a natural task for landscape
instantly memorable environments that will persist for
acquired knowledge of a site’s materials and processes. This
architects. Radical Gardening studios are generating
an unknown duration, possibly forever. We can predict the
approach could prove valuable wherever limited budgets
valuable case studies in the conception of inventive
outcomes of this approach by reading the marginalized
and stewardship objectives require techniques of reuse,
place-making using what’s at hand. Concerns about site
grounds of sites and cities. Wherever the mechanisms
appropriation or adaptation. Local conditions provide the
history, program and narrative priority are subordinated
of control are relaxed, a sense of neglect shortly follows.
rationale; we decide what aspects to amplify and suppress.
to a single bias: to determine what can be done.
Humans are adept at emplacing their experience, ﬁnding or making space into discrete territory. But
Eﬀorts to endow land with signiﬁcance rarely succeed without integration into the systems active onsite. Te r m i n o l o g y o f F o r g o t t e n P l a c e s The consumptive practices of globalizing and de-localizing networks encourage the perception of placelessness. If the urban ground is under continuous competitive pressure then the ‘problem’ of place and its inconsistency (i.e. vacancy) is an unrealistic expectation of stasis. Place becomes an increasingly less inﬂuential and deﬁnable aspect of human experience the more our development ignores and obliterates local diﬀerence. Land planners and designers are complicit when we 13 | DISCOVER
LEFT Exhibit 4 Jess Alexander, detail, Divulging DIA. Wasteland Studio, 2006. Intentionally negated biodiversity within airport perimeters, due to air safety concerns, provides hidden motivation for physical expression – here in the guise of an edge drawn against a seeded milkweed patch. The plant’s rogue insistence provokes maintenance workers to perpetually manage its spread, unwittingly creating ornamental intrigue to passers-by. BELOW Exhibit 5 Jesse Van Horne, Brushpiles. Radical Gardening Studio, 2008. Collecting and combining materials present on remnant sites into legible arrays, monuments and other striking architectures to signify space as place. Radical Gardening encourages provision of mutual territory. The location, size, distribution and composition of these brushpiles meet habitat speciﬁcations such that improved biodiversity, in the guise of predator-prey spectacle, might encourage human curiosity, repeated visitation and ultimately, ritual use.
Radical Gardening projects elicit subtle or hidden
instructors’ insistence that the impulse to rehabilitate
ground’s dynamic response. Commonly, manipulations of
the ground be enriched with provisions for human
topography and reuse of site materials provide means of
dwelling compelled propositions that found common
altering systems such as hydrology and infrastructures to
ground for nature and culture to co-evolve.
promote inhabitation, toward an intensiﬁed locus at the
RADICAL GARDENING The term Radical Gardening is merely shorthand for a design methodology that embraces the long view and the ‘long hand’. An attitude that land restoration and ecological stewardship, to be
deconstruct and interrogate the wasteland concept. The
relationships between the constructed landscape and the
The 2008 Radical Gardening Studio engaged latency,
human-wild threshold. Because the polemic encourages
microclimate, and other dynamics of the “accidental
creative manipulation of long-term processes, the outcomes
garden” by scrutinizing a scrap of the former Stapleton
are starting points and the propositions speculative.
Airport complex. The place is a dump, a complex of piles
Drawings are an exploratory analog terrain helping measure
where land landed when the tarmacs demanded ﬂat
ground’s latent and extant potential for poetic expression.
ground. We devoted many weeks to sectional analysis and
While Radical Gardening tenets have broad
reconﬁguration of the exotic topography, brushing past
truly eﬀective, must also be endowed with cues to encourage
relevance, they speciﬁcally acknowledge the realities of
vegetation dynamics, zoning law, and urban hydrology
human curiosity, pleasure and ultimately, dwelling.
working with disrupted sites in the Intermountain West.
on our way to fostering spectacle through a bricolage of
Monumentality of contextual scale requires gestures
extant site performances.
Garden refers to a locus of unfolding interrelationship between tender and tended. Gardening signiﬁes the necessity of
of bold coherence, and the diﬃcult climate demands deference to long-term establishment processes.
working with emergence and the wild impulse, including
Radical means the scale and complexity of site belies traditional concepts of garden space and the audacious expectations that techniques from the gardening realm could manipulate broken ground into place – signified milieus that lure human and wild into mutual influence.
R O O Tv 3 | 1 4
Steel Mill site in Pueblo, Colorado – over 33 million square feet of severely disrupted and novel ecologies,
long-term engagement and inﬂuence to guide desired outcomes,
spontaneous vegetation and other regimes of disturbance.
The 2009 Vague Terrain Studio addressed the
Radical Gardening Studio Synopses The 2006 Wasteland Studio sought local resolution
accumulated over the last century – audaciously seeking understanding of the environmental and
of the idea of by-product landscapes – marginalized
cultural dynamics that resonate on that property and its
lands that large-scale consumptive networks create
adjacencies. In the guise of an initial visioning exercise
through their operations. Vacancies, voids, brownﬁelds
for rehabilitating the site’s public image, we conceived of
and even suburbs provided a lens through which to
the apolitical ground as a zone of resolution; a mediating
PREPARED MILKWEED GARDEN NECTAR KNOT GARDEN Stepped garden terraces constructed from recycled concrete acquired on mill site.
LEFT Exhibit 6 Amanda Jeter, Swarm Gardens. Vague Terrain Studio 2009. With guidance by Radical Gardeners, adaptive reuse of industrialized lands could enrich communities and improve environmental quality without major infusions of energy or capital. BELOW Exhibit 7 Nick Soper, detail, Wrapping. Radical Gardening Studio, 2008. Subtle relationships between cultural devices and natural response; easements, rightsof-way and their physical manifestations compel environmental responses much the way ‘intentional’ gestures use line, shape and pattern to evince memorability.
section 3_swarm and nectar knot gardens on successional ground
terrain on which the historic tension between Mill and community might
Adam Clack, MLA (UC Denver ’01) began working with disturbed
ﬁnd resolution through poetic expression. New gardens might also serve
ground in childhood, picking blackberries with his family along
as remediating locales for the site’s toxic legacy. Denied access to the
roadsides for the making of cobbler. His professional life bears
Mill’s interior spaces, our lenses refocused on threshold: a provisional
some resemblance: a gathering of lessons gleaned from thirsty,
interface between domains. Threshold compelled design responses that
thorny work in oﬃce, ﬁeld and classroom and consolidated into
celebrate transition and negotiation, suggesting locations and programs
sweet and humble sustenance. He is a licensed landscape archi-
to entice discovery and ritual use.
tect, teacher and tender of ground. Through his company, The Land
The Radical Gardening School can be investigated in much greater depth at http://radicalgardening.com; a retrospective exhibit is
Mechanic, he seeks an integrative and process-oriented approach to the cultivation of landscapes.
scheduled for Fall 2011 in the Dean’s Gallery at the UC-Denver College of Architecture and Planning. Conclusion To design with the land, we confront a paradox; shape, order and ornament are vital to making space comprehensible and appealing but seem to distance us from the dimension of spontaneity in which nature actually performs. Gardens provide a ground for investigation of this enigma, where a mutuality of inﬂuence is enabled through a common dimension of process. Prospects for restoring signiﬁcance to the dimension of landscape depend upon the restoration of authenticity to its manipulation. Celebration of process is the knot that holds us fast to the factual aspects of our practice and happens to also be the knot that lashes us in place, wherever we are. If we accept this invitation, wrapped in chain link and thistle, we can surely fashion ways to speak to the ﬁeld through the ﬁgure – anywhere ground is broken. 15 | DISCOVER
A New Environmental Frontier?
D E N V E Râ€™S A LLE YS
PREVIOUS A GIS map detailing Denver County’s streets and alleyways. Alleys are signiﬁed by the dark, black lines.
Our alleys have evolved a great deal since the “typical cobbled Denver alley between incinerators smoking slowly” mentioned in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, published in 1958. Today, cobblestone alleys are rare in Denver, and smokestacks are not allowed in the city. The unsafe feeling associated with alleys remains as these linear paths continue to symbolize where things and people go to be out of sight and out of mind. Alleys are a piece of the city’s fabric that often go unnoticed until stories like Kerouac’s arise. But they serve a much more important purpose than they get credit for and have the potential to become something greater than their current image suggests. If streets are the arteries of the city, then alleys are the capillaries. While streets provide free circulation through the cityscape, alleys grant access to the critical daily services that maintain the city’s pulse. Denver’s burgeoning urban fabric contains nearly 5,500 public alleys that are vital infrastructure for the city’s maintenance and cleanliness. In 2005, Denver began its unimproved alley paving program to cover more than 1,000 dirt alleyways with concrete and asphalt. The program is on track for completion this year with only several dozen unimproved alleys remaining (Kennedy 2011). Denver’s current alley system consists of three types of construction: concrete, asphalt overlaid and black gold alleys. Concrete alleys are most prevalent in
Denver, with nearly 2,500 throughout the city. Asphalt
connections. Fortunately, where soil conditions are
overlaid alleys consist of a concrete base beneath a
appropriate, Chicago found a more sustainable solution
layer of asphalt and are the second-most common
which also brings a cheaper price tag.
with 1,400. “Black gold” alleys are unimproved surfaces
Chicago launched its Green Alley Program in
covered with a compacted layer of recycled asphalt.
2007. A cooperative eﬀort of the Department of
According to the city’s website, denvergov.org, citizens
Transportation and the Department of Streets and
often complain about unpaved alleys, making note of
Sanitation, this program promotes the applications
instability during wet conditions while creating air and
of innovative construction methods and technology
water quality concerns.
to all new alley renovations. The program has several
But is paving these spaces really the most
main goals: conserving resources and energy, managing
appropriate solution? One of the three options
storm water, reducing the urban heat island eﬀect and
Denver pursues, black gold alleys, appears to be a
promoting recycling. Then-mayor Richard M. Daley
step in the right direction. The open-graded material
and Cheri Heramb, Commissioner of the Department
allows storm water to infiltrate and recharge the
of Transportation, launched this eﬀort with a team of
water table and provides for the least expensive
designers: Hitchcock Design Group, Knight E/A, Inc. and
installation. But this is also the least-stable method
Hey and Associates, Inc. Current project director Janet
and requires annual upkeep to maintain. There must
Attarian, AIA, LEED AP, is proud to announce that over
be a solution to allow the benefits of permeability
150 alleys have been completed to date.
and use of recycled materials with minimal
The program’s use of innovative environmental
maintenance. Finding such balance can bring these
technologies incorporates highly-reﬂective pavements,
hidden corridors back to life.
dark-sky compliant lighting (which reduces upward
Perhaps Denver can beneﬁt from observing the
glare or light pollution) and pervious pavement options
progressive actions of other U.S. cities. Known for its
in which concrete or asphalt is specially mixed to allow
large network of alleys (1,900 miles covering 3,500
water to drain through their small voids. This mixture
acres of surface area – the equivalent of ﬁve major
allows up to 80 percent of captured rainwater to
airports), Chicago ranks among the largest in the world.
inﬁltrate the subsoil and recharge the groundwater
Many of the city’s original alleyways were built without
system. As illustrated in its Green Alley Handbook,
a connection to the city’s combined sewer and storm
Chicago’s Department of Streets and Sanitation applies
water system, and as a result, adjacent properties
one of many combinations of these technologies to
– especially basements – often ﬂood during heavy
every new alley renovation project.
precipitation. This nuisance would require costly and extensive construction to ﬁx by installing new sewer
The program began with ﬁve test alley installations in fall 2006, allowing the Department of Streets and Sanitation to experiment with alternative pervious
17 | DISCOVER
pavement mixes. Engineers spent over a year in a laboratory testing core samples from these alleys to ﬁnd a mix suitable for Chicago’s harsh climate. Once tests produced an eﬀective mix, city crews had to establish an appropriate maintenance protocol (keeping pores clear is vital to the function of these porous pavements). They found the typically-prescribed method of pressure washing only made matters worse; the constant forcing of sediment deeper into the void spaces eventually clogs the system and counteracts its original intent. Fortunately, testing showed that Chicago’s ‘Pelican’ street sweeper (set on dry mode) could Why is the City Interested in Green Alleys? With approximately 1,900 miles of publics alleys, Chicago has one
Material Recycling Imagine if all the alleys were constructed with recycled materials,
eﬀectively clear clogged pores by scouring the pavement of its sediments without applying pressure. This
of the most extensive and important pieces of infrastructure of any city
thereby reducing the amount of construction and industrial waste
in the world. That’s approximately 3,500 acres of paved impermeable
hauled to landﬁlls and reducing the burden on our natural resources.
procedure is done twice each year in the spring and fall.
and improve our environment.
Energy Conservation and Glare Reduction
for with city taxes and have left some residents feeling
environment in the alleys were energy eﬃcient and reduced glare and
These eﬀorts to improve the alley system are paid
surface that provides an opportunity to better manage our resources Imagine if the thousands of light ﬁxtures that provide a safe Imagine if all of the alleys in Chicago were green alleys. Up to 80
light pollution to the point where you could see the stars at night. All of these beneﬁts can be accomplished within the alley’s right
reducing localized ﬂooding, recharging groundwater and saving taxpayer
of way! In this document you can learn what you can do to increase
money that would otherwise be spent treating stormwater.
the beneﬁts of the green alley by implementing your own sustainable practices on your property.
Heat Reduction Imagine if all the alleys had a light, reﬂective surface (high albedo) that reﬂected heat energy, staying cool on hot days and thereby
and recycling services. But overall, the city has been supportive of the program. Attarian says the program
percent of the rainwater falling on these surfaces throughout the year could pass through permeable paving back into the earth, thereby
money could be better allocated to improved trash
has achieved nearly a 70 percent public approval rating based upon an independent survey conducted by graduate students at the University of Michigan. The Green Alley Handbook extends the responsibility to residents by suggesting strategies and methods
reducing the “ubran heat island eﬀect,” a condition where dense urban
to further these eﬀorts. These include: incorporation
areas become several degrees warmer due to the density of buildings
of permeable pavements within private property,
and amount of heat-absorbing paved areas.
rain barrels and rain gardens to capture roof runoﬀ and green roofs on garages to soak up rainfall. By promoting recycling, composting of kitchen scraps and planting shade trees, the Green Alley Program extends beyond the venue of alleys as a catalyst for change throughout the city.
R O O Tv 3 | 1 8
What can Denver learn from Chicago’s eﬀorts, and by what means should Denver approach this potential
Permeable pavement has pores or openings
that allow water to pass through the surface and percolate through the existing subsoil. Permeable
change? These ideas are not only sound but necessary
pavement comes in the form of permeable asphalt,
as Metro Denver anticipates expansion to more than 4
permeable concrete and permeable pavers. In areas
million people by 2035 (Denver’s population is currently
where soils do not drain freely, permeable pavement can be used in combination with subsurface drainage
2.9 million) (metrodenver.org 2011). Denver’s Metro
systems, like pipe underdrains or stormwater
Vision 2035 Plan lists a goal of a ten percent increase
inﬁltration trenches to slow runoﬀ and reduce stress
in urban density by 2035 and foresees 50 percent of
on the combined sewer system.
new housing in urban centers (www.drcog.org 2011). This
dramatic boom of inﬁll development will place a burden
-Reduces the rate and quantity of stormwater runoﬀ
on Denver’s aging infrastructure as well as its natural
-Reduces stress on the sewer system
capital. The availability of clean water will play a major
-Recharges ground water
role in determining Denver’s carrying capacity. Chicago’s
-Filters silt, pollutants and debris
techniques of using porous pavement, rain retention
systems and recycled materials could improve water
High Albedo Pavement High albedo pavement material is light in color
quality in Denver, but due to Colorado’s strict water
and reﬂects sunlight away from the surface. With less
laws, available quantity would not be increased.
sunlight absorbed by pavement, less heat is radiated
“What works in Chicago will not necessarily work
by the pavement. High albedo pavement therefore reduces the urban heat island eﬀect. This reduces
for the rest of the world,” says Attarian, but “there’s
cooling costs, helps the survival of urban vegetation,
not many climates worse than Chicago.” For some of
and improves air quality, which can help reduce the
Denver’s city staff, climatic concerns are only part of
symptoms of some respiratory diseases.
the issue. Cracking, or “spalling,” in porous concrete Potential Beneﬁts
around Denver has not impressed Terry Baus,
-Reduces the urban heat island eﬀect
program manager with the wastewater management
-Can be used under a wide variety of site conditions
division of the Denver Department of Public Works. Engineers at Denver’s Wastewater Management
-Conserves energy by reducing cooling costs High Albedo Pavement
-Improves air quality
Administrative Building are currently testing porous asphalt and permeable pavers adjacent to its Central Campus Facility Complex location. While the porous
appearance perhaps adding value to the building and
lot. These parking areas only carry a temporary
asphalt has proven to plug easily over time - limiting
adjacent property” (Baus 2011). Other porous asphalt
load, which does not quite compare with the weekly
its infiltration ability - the pavers have performed
tests have shown positive results, like the installation
route of a heavy garbage truck. “I think alleys are an
very well. Baus notes that in addition to performance,
of several parking stalls on the Auraria Campus and a
underutilized opportunity,” says Baus. From a water
permeable pavers have a “visually aesthetic
larger installation in Aurora’s Super Wal-Mart parking
quality point of view, he is excited about the cleansing
19 | DISCOVER
incorporated in a variety of ways in green alleys.
Technique 4: Recycled Construction Materials
Recycled concrete aggregate can be used in the
capabilities of porous systems. He suggests a thorough analysis of Denver alleys to determine potential candidates for a pilot program.
concrete mix and as a base beneath surface paving.
A rigorous process of soils, water and pavement
Also, slag, a by-product of steel production, can be used as a component of the concrete mix, reducing
mix testing is vital to any project’s success. “We’re
industrial waste. Ground tire rubber can be used in
not averse to trying anything,” declares Pat Kennedy,
porous asphalt and reclaimed asphalt pavement in
engineering supervisor in the street maintenance
division of the Denver Department of Public Works. Potential Beneﬁts
He is directly involved with Denver’s Unimproved Alley
- Reduces waste hauled to landﬁlls
Program and makes decisions aﬀecting road and alley
- Reduces the need to extract virgin natural resources
construction procedures. Already, 95 percent of standard
- Develops new technologies and saves money
asphalt mix designs use 25 percent recycled materials (Kennedy 2011). With the planned renovation of unpaved alleys in the next few years, the opportunity for testing new pavement mixes is there. Kennedy lists several roadblocks to a green alley program in Denver: porous
Energy eﬃcient, dark sky compliant light ﬁxtures are specially designed to direct light downward, focusing light where it’s needed. These ﬁxtures can
concrete’s low compressive strength, complicated
Dark Sky Compliant Light Fixtures
maintenance and diﬃculty of repairs. The weight of trash
also incorporate the latest technologies in energy
collection trucks may be too much for porous concrete
eﬃciency while maintaining adequate light levels.
to handle. Permeable pavers have more load-bearing
New alley ﬁxtures will also use metal halide lamps,
capacity but come with a much higher price tag. He also
which produce white light, instead of the yellow light produced by the existing high-pressure sodium
notes the diﬃculty in patching porous pavements over
ﬁxtures. This will help people to be able to distinguish
conventional ones. Kennedy suggests, however, that a
color at night.
combination of conventional and porous pavements, laid
Potential Beneﬁts - Reduces light pollution from site
out appropriately, could be a viable solution. “Denver already has a reputation as a green
- Reduces glare and provides better light uniformity
city,” says Cindy Bosco, an environmental scientist
- White light produced by metal halide ﬁxtures has
from the Oﬃce of the Mayor who also works with
a high “color rendition index” and therefore allows
Greenprint Denver. With eﬀorts to reduce greenhouse
people to perceive color more accurately
gas emissions, improve water quality and promote renewable energy sources, Denver shows its green consciousness. Pilot testing has begun for low-impact development techniques around the city including
R O O Tv 3 | 2 0
green roofs, tree-vaults in rights-of-way, bioswales
along roads and permeable parking lots. Bosco is
Pat Healy is an MLA candidate at UC Denver. After receiving
excited about the expansion of green infrastructure
Janet Attarian, AIA, LEED AP, Project Director, Streetscape and Sustain-
his B.A. in landscape architecture from UC Berkeley in 2005, Pat
able Design Program, Chicago Department of Transportation. Telephone
and low-impact development in Denver, as Chicago has
worked for ﬁve years at Van Dorn Abed Landscape Architects
interview, April 18, 2011.
demonstrated. “Our experts continue to maintain that
of San Francisco on a range of projects including residential
our better opportunity to capture stormwater (to slow
and mixed-use developments. Pat currently works in the Learn-
it down and treat it for water quality) may be in parking
ing Landscapes division of the Colorado Center for Community
lots or other areas that receive less truck traﬃc, to
Development and is the Vice-President of UC Denver’s student
get the best bang for the buck,” says Bosco. In addition
ASLA chapter. In his free time, Pat enjoys hiking, mountain bik-
to concerns about traﬃc, she is worried that intense
ing, snowboarding, cooking and playing guitar.
porous asphalt and concrete. She also mentions that
conditions before replication. Denver’s climate may not be suitable for a program as extensive as Chicago’s. Use
to Create a Greener, Environmentally Sustainable Chicago. Chicago: Chicago Department of Transportation. Fiegel, Erin. “Chicago’s Green Alleys: Permeable Pavement Used to Alleviate Flooding.” Accessed April 22, 2011. http://concretethinker.
seems relatively simple to implement, but dark-sky
poses a real challenge. Although testing has begun, more research is necessary to adapt permeable pavement technologies to Denver’s semi-arid western climate. With pilot green alley projects already underway in Detroit, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland,
Pat Kennedy, PE, Engineering Supervisor, Street Maintenance Division,
Daley, Richard M. The Chicago Green Alley Handbook: An Action Guide
of highly reﬂective pavements and recycled materials compliant lighting and especially pervious pavement
interview, April 19, 2011.
City and County of Denver. “Alley Paving Program.” Accessed April 22,
public alleys and would need to approve of light ﬁxture It is important to adapt an idea to environmental
Cindy Bosco, Environmental Scientist II, O+ce of the Mayor. Group
Denver’s power company, Xcel Energy, has a lease on the retroﬁt before a dark-sky program could begin.
Denver Department of Public Works. Group interview, April 19, 2011.
Denver Department of PUblic Works. Group interview, April 19, 2011.
sunlight and big swings in temperature – which occur almost daily in Denver – could hinder the longevity of
Terry R. Baus, PE, Program Manager, Wastewater Management Division,
Hoyer, Sharon. “Sustainability in Back: Chicago’s Green Alley Program.” Accessed April 22, 2011. http://www.worldchanging.com/ archives/009756.html. Metro Denver. “Population Demographics.” Accessed April 22, 2011. http://www.metrodenver.org//demographics-communities/demographics/population.html.
it’s evident that Chicago’s inﬂuence has reached many other cities. Perhaps one day in the near future Denver will join the list. “We had no idea this was going to
Kriscenski, Ali. “Chicago’s Next Lead: The Green Alley Project.” Accessed April 22, 2011. http://inhabitat.com/chicagos-next-lead-the-greenalley-project/.
become such a hot topic,” says Attarian. Saulny, Susan. “In Miles of Alleys, Chicago Finds Its Next Environmental Frontier.” New York Times, November 26, 2007. Accessed April 22, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/26/us/26chicago.html.
21 | DISCOVER
R O O Tv 3 | 2 2 ,
iA"~Ep,, NOTICE roseculed
Lee Pouliot and Chris Hardy
Health, Ecology, Activity and Legacy
H . E . A . L . C HI C OPE E
PREVIOUS The Uniroyal/Facemote property does its best to supress visitors from entering its grounds.
If a site is characterized as invisible to the public, the considerations taken in the creation and content
How invisible is a site beyond a chain-link fence? What can city government do with a post-industrial contaminated site that has unstable structures, an historic legacy and unfavorable market conditions? In 2010, after 15 years of legal battles, the city of Chicopee had acquired all parcels of the former Uniroyal tire and Facemate textile complexes, totaling approximately 65 acres. With environmental assessments underway, the city moved forward with professional master planning in January 2010 (see Figure I). This process was initiated while city oﬃcials operated
of any development scheme will diﬀer widely from a site
under the assumption that the site was insigniﬁcant
that is recognized as part of the public realm (Goheen
and therefore invisible to the citizens of Chicopee
1998). H.E.A.L Chicopee investigated the public memory
because of low turnout at public meetings. City oﬃcials
and legacy of the former Uniroyal and Facemate tire
planned to demolish all 26 historic structures and clean
and textile factory complexes in the Chicopee Falls
up contamination to enable redevelopment. Under
neighborhood of Chicopee, Massachusetts, which have
the guidance of Assistant Professor Deni Ruggeri, the
been oﬀ limits since the 1980s. The investigation included
project was undertaken as a MLA capstone studio
the participation of over 400 survey respondents 18
at Cornell University. The focus of the studio was to
and older, in-class visioning exercises with nearly 700
engage real world community planning challenges by
elementary and middle school students and community
pairing student teams with community development
meetings. Working with city oﬃcials, this investigation
organizations. These relationships were intended to
resulted in a strategic plan for the site. The process
create new forums of dialogue between communities
revealed clear public opinions and intent that was
and redevelopment initiatives. This project, H.E.A.L.
invisibility was linked to indiﬀerence – that which is
previously invisible to city oﬃcials. Results from this
Chicopee (Health, Ecology, Activity and Legacy),
invisible is not valued enough to register with the observer.
investigation inﬂuenced the city to adopt key changes
operated independently but in communication with the
to the redevelopment strategy, better integrating the
professional planning team.
are centrally located (Berger 2006). These marginal
community’s desires for the site’s future. The complete H.E.A.L Chicopee study suggests that traditional methods of community participation can be supplemented to
Places such as the Uniroyal/Facemate site deﬁne the margins of a city, the drosscape, even if these sites
An Invisible Place Although the Uniroyal/Facemate site is physically
places can direct the observer to pay attention to parts of the city that have live, active content. However, this
develop more accurate assessments of public perception
visible, the working hypothesis tested its ﬁgurative
generalization does not account for human curiosity.
(To see the full study, please go to http://www.chicopeema.
invisibility to Chicopee’s citizenry. The physical and
As a people, we want to explore and discover, to deﬁne
gov/docs.php?cat=74 and click on the ﬁles that begin with
temporal separation of the site removed the place from
the “geography of fear,” (Potteiger and Purinton 1998,
the title “Cornell Students Uniroyal Facemate…”).
its regular interaction with the public. In this project,
82). The H.E.A.L. team’s ﬁrst experience with the site 23 | TRANSITION
LEFT Figure II. Evidence of tagging and other disturbances reveal that there has been informal exploration at the site.
revealed physical and digital evidence conﬁrming local
online article response boards, some community
citizens have informally explored the property (see
members exclaimed, “Knock it down!” Others found it
Figure II). The survey included written responses to
a shame that historic structures had been left vacant
collect stories from participants’ direct site experience.
to deteriorate for so long, while others expressed
These narratives of exploration indicated that the site
concern over who is responsible for the environmental
was not invisible to all.
clean-up of such sites, asking whether or not taxpayers
Narratives of exploration are inherently dramatic;
should be burdened with such responsibility. Further,
people must act upon their curiosity. Prior to the
the survey was designed to solicit memories of site
installation of a ten-foot, alarmed chain link fence
events, to determine the context and connotation of
in 2009, the site was protected by 24-hour security
the place as they related to the opinions and memories
surveillance. However, prior to these measures, and
the H.E.A.L team had already encountered.
even during them, evidence of site explorations was
For the Uniroyal/Facemate site there are names,
uncovered. From the evidence presented in Figure II to
memories, stories, a visible skyline and personal
online videos of “urban spelunkers” exploring the site,
experiences; the family histories for many of the
unauthorized access has occurred.
citizens of Chicopee begin with an immigration story to
There are other, subtler interactions that observers
work at this site. The H.E.A.L. team sought to determine
have with separated sites that can inﬂuence their opinions
what proportion of the population observed these
and values. The most common interaction that Chicopee’s
characteristics and what opinions exist concerning the
citizens have with the site is observation. Observers may
site in order to inform the future.
deﬁne an object within their viewshed diﬀerently based on perspective and bias, sometimes labeling the same structures as “blight” or “historic” (Mudraka 1982). These
Within four years of the establishment of the
opinions were the primary data collected while developing
Springﬁeld trading post, settlers pushed out into the
an assessment of the community’s values.
wilderness to settle the North Springﬁeld District,
The daily life of observers near a marginal
the area of modern-day Chicopee. As John Mullin
landscape may be punctuated by events of increased
describes in Bellamy’s Chicopee: A Laboratory for
observance. Increased attention can be triggered by
Utopia?, “Chicopee, due to its prime soils and proximity
personal, situational, physical or contextual changes
to Springﬁeld’s marketplace, evolved as an agricultural
(Schneider 1977). For example, in 2008 the site was
community” (Mullin 2003). For the next 170 years, this
brieﬂy brought to the community’s attention when
identity would continue to deﬁne Chicopee, as its
the southeastern corner of the main Facemate
villages never further developed industries typical of
building collapsed (MassLive 2008) (see Figure III).
other New England towns.
This event sparked community dialogue that revealed a multitude of opinions and memories. Through R O O Tv 3 | 2 4
The History of Place
A new identity would form around the potential power of the naturally occurring Skenungonuk Falls
BELOW Figure III. In 2008, the collapse of the southwest corner of the Facemate building caused a brief ﬂare in community attention to deteriorating structures.
(Chicopee Falls) on the Chicopee River. The Boston
Chicopee Falls was also home to a number of
declared bankruptcy in 2003 and abandoned all 65 acres.
Associates, a group of outside investors, realized
other well-known companies that produced a wide
Today, much of the two million square feet of industrial
the value of this resource and purchased land and
variety of products from brass and iron to bicycles
space are vacant and deteriorating.
water rights in Chicopee Falls. Owners of the famed
and automobiles. Firearms companies like J. Stevens
mills in Waltham, Holyoke and Lowell, (the ﬁrst
Arms & Tool Company / Savage Arms were known
entire site. With the Massachusetts’ designation as
factory systems integrating people and machines)
internationally. Additionally, the ﬁrst gas powered
a Brownﬁelds Priority Project, the city was given
the Associate’s plans were revised upon a site visit to
automobile produced in the United States was produced access to capital and technical assistance from
include four Lowell Systems mills.
By 2010, Chicopee had gained ownership of the
in Chicopee Falls by Stevens-Duryea. Other companies
MassDevelopment. The site was also selected
Chicopee suddenly converted from a farming
located in Chicopee Falls include Victor Bicycles / the
for inclusion in the Commonwealth’s Brownﬁelds
community into, “a place of profit” (Mullin 2003,
Overman Wheel Company, the Lamb Knitting Machine
Support Team Initiative, which strives to streamline
140). Shlakman states, “this town did not grow into
Company and Westinghouse.
the redevelopment of Brownﬁelds in Massachusetts
an industrial community; it suddenly found that it was one” (Shlakman 1934-35).
Following World War II, the contracts that had
through local, state and federal authority collaboration.
supported the Chicopee Falls mills slowly faded. When
As Figure IV depicts, the “machine” of brownﬁeld
Uniroyal ceased operations in 1981, the complex was sold
redevelopment is highly complex, which often slows or
then known as the Chicopee Manufacturing Company
to Facemate which, in vain, tried to establish a Chicopee
stops the redevelopment process as varying levels of
and were located on the present-day Facemate property.
Industrial Park. After years of declining activity, Facemate government enforce authority over a project.
The mills constructed by the Boston Associates, were
These mills were used for the manufacture of textiles and operated from 1823 through 1915 when Johnson and Johnson purchased the property and continued similar production activities. In 1977, the property was purchased by the Facemate Corporation, which produced ﬁnished cotton and synthetic cloth products. From 1870 until 1896, the Uniroyal property functioned as a lumber yard for the Chicopee Manufacturing Company. From 1896 through 1898, the Spaulding and Pepper Company owned the property and manufactured bicycle tires. Fisk Rubber Company, which later changed its name to United State Rubber Company and then to Uniroyal, Inc., purchased the site in 1898 and, until 1981, manufactured adhesives and pneumatic tires for bicycles, automobiles, motorcycles and trucks. Fisk Rubber was one of the world’s largest such manufacturers, producing 5,000 tires daily with a workforce of 2,500 – 3,000. 25 | TRANSITION
BELOW Figure IV In order to comprehend the machine of a Brownﬁelds redevelopment and strategically alter it to match community desires, it is necessary to separate out the components so that each part is appropriately addressed. Brownﬁeld sites discourage development for a variety of reasons, the most notable is the complexity of regulation and liabilities associated with the site. This diagram shows the chains of accountability, starting close to the site with the cleanup process and legal battles, and spreading outward. LEFT Figure VI. The Facemate tower is the most iconic structure on the site.
Outreach to the Community The H.E.A.L team decided to test the site’s invisibility. Two outreach strategies to assess the relationship between the community and the site were utilized. The survey was intended as a research tool to inform decision makers of community opinions. The student participation process was intended as a combination of local history education and visioning to develop ideas for the ’site’s future. The development of a student visioning process was the result of a number of inﬂuences. First was a continued interest in testing the hypothesis that the site was invisible while addressing the survey’s ﬁnding for enhanced local history education. Second, the H.E.A.L team was interested in sparking dialogue with Chicopee’s younger generations, to better understand their views of the City’s history while involving them in the redevelopment process.
R O O Tv 3 | 2 6
LEFT Figure V. Although each age group was relatively evenly represented in the survey response (due to targeted survey distribution), the bias was disproportionately skewed toward the younger generation when compared to the demographics of Chicopee, which is largely an aging population. BELOW LEFT Figure VII. An unexpected result of the survey was that the younger population was more interested in the preservation of factory structures than the older generation. This could be because of a perceived mystique of the site, a separation from the actual functioning of the site or a heritage value; we cannot conclude the reason with certainty.
Community Survey The survey was organized around speciﬁc issues for
When provided pictures of various site structures and asked which merited preservation, 52 percent
which community input would be beneﬁcial during the
of respondents indicated that they would like to see
planning process. The ﬁrst was the identity of the site
the Facemate tower preserved. Built as part of the
and knowledge of its history. Since most site structures
original main factory building in 1874, the tower is the
cannot be preserved, the survey was used to identify
architectural focal point of the complex. The Facemate
which structures should be prioritized. The opinions
tower rises above the ﬁve-story building attached to
and relationships between diﬀerent neighborhoods
it, constructed of multi-wythe common brick, capped
and age groups built a framework for the redesign
with a large open belfry. Other charismatic structures,
while prioritizing public expenditures for non-market
such as smokestacks, were not signiﬁcantly preferred
amenities including recreational trails, remediation
for preservation (see Figure VII). This may be due to the
gardens, a street tree nursery, stormwater management
fact that there are many similar structures on other
systems and reforestation.
abandoned factory sites in Western Massachusetts,
What started as an “ideas” poll became a public opinion poll with 403 responses. The proportion of
including structures in Springﬁeld, Holyoke and Ludlow. An unexpected result of the questionnaire was
responses to the proportion of age groups in the
that Chicopee’s younger population, 18 to 35, is
city shows a higher percentage of participation by
signiﬁcantly more interested in preservation than the
ages 19-35 (Figure V). One unusual note is that the
older population (see Figure VII). The reason for this can
average survey respondent has lived in Chicopee for
only be speculated upon. It is possible that the site is
greater than 80 percent of his or her life – the survey
more associated as mysterious ruins and relics to the
respondents are mostly citizens for whom Chicopee
younger population, or perhaps the past as “history”
has always been their primary home.
may be more forgiving to the memory of the site than
The survey asked participants to locate the
“past as memory of actual working conditions.“ Older
neighborhood of the site. The overwhelming response
survey respondents remember the threat of ending up
was the correct neighborhood, Chicopee Falls. This
at “Uniroyal University” should they do poorly in school.
clearly shows that the site is literally visible to the
One respondent vividly recalled, “My dad worked at Fisk
citizens of Chicopee, as the site was recognized as part
for 3 days – his skin started to turn yellow from the tire
of a speciﬁc neighborhood.
resin, and he left his job.” These stories contrasted with
However, a majority of respondents had little
the aspirations voiced by younger respondents, such as
experience with the site. The primary ways participants
“I would be excited to see the older buildings downtown
identiﬁed their experience of the site was through driving
being used again. Chicopee has beautiful factories that
or walking past. At the same time, almost one-ﬁfth of the
are not being used to the fullest advantage.”
participants have a relative who worked on the site. 27 | TRANSITION
LEFT Figure VIII. Chart showing the number of seals completed at each of Chicopee’s 15 participating public schools. LEFT BOTTOM Figure IX. The seals were classiﬁed according to the most dominant theme shared by others. This process was diﬃcult and time consuming, but extremely rewarding. City Hall now has all 682 seals on display.
Anna E. Barry Belcher Bowie Memorial Chicopee Academy Chicopee Comprehensive Chicopee High Edward Bellamy Fairview Veterans Memorial Lambert-Lavoie Memorial Patrick Bowe Robert R. Litwin Selser Memorial Stefanik Memorial Streiber Memorial Szetela
Grades K - 5 Grades K - 3 Grades K - 5 Grades 6 - 12 Grades 9 - 12 Grades 9 - 12 Grades 6 - 8 Grades 6 - 8 Grades K - 5 Grades PreK - 5 Grades K - 5 Grades K - 5 Grades K - 5 Grades K - 5 Grades PreK
65 0 260 8 0 0 0 99 39 22 74 54 26 35 0
K - 12
In response to the future program and public
public recreation and event planning are all non-
amenities section of the survey, it became clear that
market based strategies suggested for the first
recreational trails are in high demand within the city.
phase of revitalization.
This demand corresponded with results from the River Visions project conducted in 2003, which concluded that although there are many parks in Chicopee, the majority are in the outer suburbs. Community participants were also asked what they
A meeting between the H.E.A.L team and school department administrators was held to determine a successful process for executing the visioning activity at
would like to see in Chicopee 20 years from now. The
all 15 public schools (three high schools, two middle and
most frequently mentioned vision was for Chicopee
ten elementary). Principals agreed to disperse lessons and
Center to undergo a renaissance, developing a character
activity materials to participating teachers if the H.E.A.L
that was, “like Northampton [Massachusetts].” A
team could develop and produce the required items.
combination of restaurants, stores and a walkable
A lesson plan was developed to guide participating
district were all elements of this vision. The next most
teachers through the visioning exercise. Consultation
discussed item was a river walk.
with two elementary school teachers from a neighboring
The results of the survey challenged the previously
district led the H.E.A.L team to utilize the SCIOP®
held assumption that this place is invisible to the
Lesson Plan developed by Pearson Education, Inc.
citizens of Chicopee. It revealed that the industrial
School principals required the lessons and activities
legacies of the site are still part of local family
be linked to Massachusetts Department of Education
memories and immigration stories and that younger
generations are interested in historic preservation. With
Two lessons were developed; one focusing on
community participants believing the Facemate tower
the history of Chicopee and Factory Village and the
is the site’s most iconic structure, the H.E.A.L. team was
other on the concepts of sustainability as defined by
able to conclude that funds allocated for preservation
H.E.A.L. ‘Health’ strategies focused on remediating
should prioritize this structure over any others on the
Brownfields and repurposing such properties;
site, and the city agreed.
‘Ecology’ strategies focused on the importance of
Although a majority of respondents were
R O O Tv 3 | 2 8
re-connecting the Chicopee River to its floodplain,
interested in some form of architectural
biological diversity and restoration efforts; ‘Activity’
preservation or historic interpretation, the vast
strategies focused on bringing people back to the
majority were interested in reinventing downtown.
site through recreation, community activities and
They consistently indicated the desire for more
programming; while ‘Legacy’ strategies focused
river access and public open space amenities. Since
on preserving Chicopee Fall’s industrial past
the market does not support development, an
through increased local history education, artifact
alternative strategy is necessary: beautification,
preservation and repurposing stable structures.
BELOW Figure X. Tallies of seal elements.
Following the lessons, students were then asked to create a new city seal, resulting in eight major frameworks for redevelopment (Figure IX). An openresponse question asked students to, “Imagine Chicopee 20 years from now – as a community member, what are you excited to see?” Reponses included: “I will make the factories new houses. So more people will live
Natural Elements Park Space Vegetation Patriotic Elements Animals People Chicopee River Homes Factory Buildings
215 205 200 199 159 156 129 127 109
Stores Educational Facilities Cars Playgrounds Recycling Sports Facilities
59 49 46 45 40 35
in them,” “I want to at least see something nice built for us. I think that it should be as a memory place...” and “...I would like to see people and no pollution... we are the
property values and a strong business anchor tenant
technologies that are now being applied to remediation
only people that can make a change.”
in an office complex. Each projection was built
activities. The power of this project resides in the
using programmatic elements identified through
realization of city oﬃcials and residents alike that the
community outreach efforts.
site is far from invisible and that the ideas and feelings
The students favored a park framework for the site’s redevelopment. Students also identiﬁed a strong sense of Chicopee’s current civic and patriotic identities as inﬂuential to the city’s future.
Each market scenario enables a diﬀerent ﬁnal
of diﬀerent generations simply cannot be assumed
community. In all cases, the site becomes a driver for
based on the results of minimum public participation
Chicopee and realizes diﬀerent visions as depicted by
requirements. By challenging the preconceived notion
Strategic Plan: Changing Ecology.
students. With no market, the site is connected to the
that the community is disinvested, the H.E.A.L team
community through park activities, river recreation
was able to inject community desires and visions into
and community gardens. In a moderate market, the site
the project resulting in a plan that both supports and is supported by the community.
The Uniroyal/Facemate redevelopment is an opportunity for the city of Chicopee to look to its future.
has become part of the neighborhood, with residential
Since current market conditions require a long-term
development integrated with park space and mixed-use
redevelopment strategy, the city has ample time to
inﬁll. In high market conditions, the site is a focus within
develop a vision to aspire to.
downtown with both a high residential population and
The strategic plan provided the city results from community outreach efforts and a conceptual kit of
employment base. (Figure XI) H.E.A.L Chicopee was shared with the professional
parts, establishing precedents for each strategy and
master planning team who opted to include some of
programs identified by the community. In addition,
H.E.A.L’s suggestions including: preservation of speciﬁc
the plan suggested an urban design framework with
buildings as industrial relics, increased open space and
three projections for development by 2030. The first
“natural” trails near the Chicopee River. Additionally, the
projection explored the possible uses of the site with
document led to the Mayor presenting the Uniroyal/
no market for development. The second projection
Facemate site at a meeting of the National Conference
is based on a moderate market for new development
of Mayors dealing with “water in an urban context.”
while the third projection is based on optimistic market assumptions including high residential
BIO This project was part of Cornell University’s Department of Landscape Architecture, Master of Landscape Architecture Capstone studio led by Assistant Professor Deni Ruggeri. This paper is based on the strategic plan provided to the city of Chicopee for the Uniroyal/Facemate properties, presented in spring 2010. In addition to the authors, contributors include: Declan Keene, Chris Gruber and Chris Horton.
The inﬂuence of H.E.A.L Chicopee does not lie in its urban design strategy or its reliance on recent 29 | TRANSITION
BELOW Figure XI. The site has become a driver for Chicopee and connects to visions drawn by the children from a school participation project. Each market scenario enables a diﬀerent ﬁnal community. In high market, the site is a focus within downtown, with both a high residential population and high employment base. References Berger, Alan. Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006. Burnham, Collins G. “The City of Chicopee.” The New England Magazine 24, no. 4 (1898): 361. Cochran, T.; Harvey, S. 2008. “Homology and Derived Series of Groups II: Dwyer’s Theorem.” Geometry & Topology 12: 198. Cosgrove, Dennis. Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984. Goheen, Peter. “Public Space and the Geography of the Modern City,” Progress in Human Geography 22 (1998): 479-496. James, Cameron. “Eﬃcient Estimation Methods for “Closed-Ended” Contingent Valuation Surveys.” The Review of Economics and Statistics 69, no. 2 (1987): 269-276. Jendrysik, Stephen. “Chicopee home to area’s early factories,” Chicopee Plus: The Republican 30 (2009): CP4. Lapane, Kate, et al. “A Comparison of Two Distribution Methods on Response Rates to a Patient Safety Questionnaire in Nursing Homes.” Journal of the American Medical Directors Association 8, no. 7 (2009): 4461. Matthews, Hugh. “Children and Regeneration: Setting an Agenda for Community Participation and Integration.” Children & Society. 17, no. 4 (2003): 264-276. Mudrak, L. Y. Urban Resident’s Landscape Preferences: A Method for Their Assessment. Ithaca: Cornell University Urban Horticulture Institute, 1982. Mullin, John. “Bellamy’s Chicopee: A Laboratory for Utopia?” Journal of Urban History 29, no. 2 (2003). Schneider, Walter and Richard Shiﬀrin. “Controlled and Automatic Human Information Processing.” Psychological Review 84, no. 1 (1977): 1-66. Shlakman, Vera. “Economic History of a Factory Town: A Study of Chicopee, Massachusetts.” Smith College Studies in History 20, no. 1-4 (1935). Stilgoe, John R. Common Landscape of America, 1580 to 1845. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982.
R O O Tv 3 | 3 0
C HAN NE LED C RE AT I VIT Y The Use of Street Art in Landscape Architecture Kelley Price
PREVIOUS Northside Park graﬃti wall. Photo by Kelley Price, 2011. BELOW One artist putting the ﬁnishing touches on a mural oﬀ Morrison Rd. in Westwood. Photo by Francisco Gallardo, year unknown.
“Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal,
and cleaning up graﬃti, (Los Angeles spends $7 million
strengthen aesthetic value, some communities use it to
a city where everybody could draw whatever
annually according to the Los Angeles Times (2008)),
combat gang tagging and violence. This article explores
but no matter how far we suppress it, street art will
two distinctly diﬀerent examples of the application of
they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colors and little phrases.
always surface. There is opportunity to actively design
street art in Denver and the lessons that can be applied
Where standing at a bus stop was never
for street art in our profession by harnessing it in a
to landscape architecture.
boring. A city that felt like a party where
positive way, thereby transforming urban spaces in
everyone was invited, not just the real estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall—it’s wet!” – Street artist Banksy, from his book, Wall and Piece (Banksy 2005).
One may think of street art as trains and subway cars riddled with multicolored markings and cryptic symbols. Thanks to its gritty beginnings, street art has developed a bad reputation, synonymous with trouble, gangs and vandalism. Our contemporary ideas of what cities should look like exclude street art, therefore suppressing it into an underground movement. In some form, the murals and tagging we see on the sides of buildings, billboards and buses are engrained in our memories, which points to its astounding ability to reach an audience of millions, even if those millions have no desire to be reached. We spend millions preventing
R O O Tv 3 | 3 2
an uncommon, memorable manner. Instead of leaving these spaces open to vandalism, we can embrace street
Street Art: A Brief History “Street art is the biggest counter-cultural movement
art and integrate it into our urban fabric by creating
next to the punk movement of the 1970s,” states Banksy
interactive landscapes that give urban communities an
(Exit Through the Gift Shop 2010). Coincidentally, both
artistic and democratic voice.
originated around the same time. Street art’s roots
In New York, London, Philadelphia and Los Angeles,
can be traced to Philadelphia in the late 1960s with
street art is becoming increasingly recognized and
the original graﬃti writer, “Cornbread.” He earned this
accepted. Contemporary street artists such as Banksy
nickname while in reform school, after constantly
sell their work for hundreds of thousands of dollars; in
complaining to the school chefs that beans and
2008 his Vandalized Phone Box sold for $550,000 (Exit
cornbread needed to be a part of the dinner menu. While
Through the Gift Shop 2010). Philadelphia has embarked
serving a sentence in jail, Cornbread decided to write
on a citywide project that uses artists to paint murals
his new name on any surface he could, gaining fame
on the facades of entire buildings to display the city’s
and notoriety with other inmates. Garnering so much
evolving culture and revitalize its roots by giving
attention in jail, Cornbread took to the streets upon
local residents a voice to tell individual and collective
release, repeating the process and gaining a legendary
stories (muralarts.org 2011). Beyond using street art to
status throughout the city (Bomb It 2007).
RIGHT One artist of the Barrio Unity Mural Project posing in front of a newly created mural. Photo by Francisco Gallardo, year unknown.
In 1971, New York surpassed Philadelphia in
Wherever the graﬃti artists painted or scribbled,
becoming the unoﬃcial graﬃti capital of the world.
law and authority was not far behind. Before 1989,
Street artists credit graﬃti writer “Taki 183” for paving
graﬃti writers focused their craft on trains; this
the way. Taki 183 was a messenger who grew up on
rolling artwork could be spotted all around the city.
183rd Street. While roaming the city he left his mark
In 1989 train companies began a system of washing
everywhere, including buildings, trains and subways,
the painted cars thus taking the fame of the artists
leaving a recorded trail of his daily travels. In the Bronx,
away. With trains a less than ideal target, artists
with no parks to play in, kids were forced to play in the
moved to the streets, thus growing the never ending
streets (Bomb It 2007). Writing their names in public
cat-and-mouse game between graﬃti artists and the
places was a rare form of self expression in a part of
law. Today, more and more street artists are being
the city that was otherwise overlooked, helping engrain
sanctioned to display their talents, but there is still a
graﬃti as a symbiotic part of the city; one can’t do
ﬁne line of legality. It seems the big diﬀerence between
artists to paint colorful murals that use “graﬃti as a call
without the other.
art and vandalism is permission.
to action” and bring to light the many social issues the
Self identiﬁcation has been a part of human culture
community faces (graspyouth.org 2011).
since our beginnings. The term graﬃti comes from the
Westwood Community and the Barrio
Italian word graﬃato meaning scratched or etched
Unity Mural Project
(arthistoryguide.com 2011). Think of ancient caves
The Westwood neighborhood in southwest Denver
Francisco Gallardo, better known as Cisco, is a Denver graﬃti artist and former gang member now devoted to GRASP and the Barrio Unity Mural Project. A
and walls with crude drawings or engravings, or the
is a culturally vibrant mix of just over 15,000 people.
Denver native, Cisco has been doing graﬃti art for more
Roman Catacombs or Pompeii. Even Alexander the
The demographics are mostly Hispanic (80 percent),
than 20 years and is a pioneer of street art in Denver. For
Great carved his name into the top of the Egyptian
but there is also a small Asian and Caucasian population
him “street art is a social utility to unify and beautify [the
Pyramids. Tagging, or graﬃti writing, is the most
(city-data.com 2011). Most of the houses lie within
city]... it’s for the masses because you can put up a piece
basic form of street art. Although tagging now draws
the mid – to low-income range, but for what it lacks
really fast and it has its own style, colors and message.”
mostly negative attention, all street art evolved
in show it makes up in community strength and pride.
Cisco exited gang life in his early twenties but has
from it. Graﬃti artists are similar to musicians;
One challenge within the community is its youth. Kids
always continued to paint, both for personal enjoyment
they take a style and add beats and rhythms until it
are growing up with serious problems, including family
and a worthy cause. “I was in all kinds of trouble, art
becomes something new and original. Like how the
dysfunction, gangs, alcohol and drug abuse (graspyouth.
oﬀered an [alternative] experience.”
Jazz movement spawned from classical music, graﬃti
org 2011). The struggling economy can disrupt entire
artists took the alphabet and stretched it; they took
households, leaving them isolated and vulnerable.
troubled youth around Denver’s neighborhoods and
the shape of a letter and gave it new form by extending
Numerous graﬃti tags on abandoned buildings, stores,
provides a positive outlet for them. The mural project
it, contorting it and rethinking it. The idea is to keep
fences and signs make gang activity visible throughout
started in 2007 as a peace treaty between the two rival
the basis of the letter, but lose the letter, much how
the community. The Gang Rescue Support Project
gangs of CHI 30 and Oldies 13 in the northeast Denver
professional designers approach design ideas.
(GRASP) aims to ﬁght ﬁre with ﬁre with the induction of
neighborhoods of Swansea and West Cole. GRASP, along
the Barrio Unity Mural Project that commissions local
with Denver Gang Coalition and His Side Gang Rescue,
Now the program director of GRASP, Cisco targets
33 | TRANSITION
BELOW Graﬃti walls at Northside Park show a mixture of graﬃti murals and gang tagging. Photo by Kelley Price, 2011.
painted two murals in the battling neighborhoods calling for a cease ﬁre. Artists painted two grasping hands with
Northside Park Designed by Wenk Associates, Inc., 13-acre Northside
ball. “I wish they would do something with it [the walls], most of what’s there is just gang related.” The walls take
the phrases “Barrio Unidos” painted above it and “Cease
Park opened in 1999 in Denver’s industrial north next
a mix of tagging and artistic murals, but the diﬀerence
Fire” painted below. What could not be communicated
to the South Platte River. The park is constructed on an
is noticeable. “You can deﬁnitely tell the diﬀerence
through words was communicated through art. The next
abandoned sewage treatment plant. The park includes
between the art and gang tags,” Williams states.
mural was painted at the site of a fatal teen shooting.
multipurpose play ﬁelds and restoration of wildlife
Graﬃti tags are quickly done and usually look like
At least ﬁve murals have been painted since then, their
habitats and is the recipient of an ASLA Design Merit
childish scribbles, their main purpose to stake a claim
location determined by areas of high gang activity and
Award and numerous land stewardship awards. The
or territory. In contrast, the painted murals are pieces
tagging. These murals serve as poetic justice in areas
designer’s vision included reusing existing structural
that take time and skill. Multiple colors and techniques
that are riddled with malicious tags and gang violence.
columns from the treatment plant as focal elements and
(such as spray cap variety) are applied with artistic style
Since their unveiling the murals have gone largely
seating in the park. Among the reused remnant structures
tantamount while still maintaining an urban grittiness.
untouched by outside tagging. Cisco believes there is
are a series of four large, evenly spaced walls towering
The walls are painted over monthly to give artists a
a level of community respect with the murals because
12 feet high along the west edge of the park, which have
fresh canvas. Unfortunately, tagging is not limited to
they are sending a strong message.
been left open as graﬃti walls. The user can weave
the walls. They have spread to some of the surrounding
through the narrow corridors and discover the variety of
structures. The unwarranted tags are strictly gang
painted imagery layered on the walls.
related, and the city is quick to paint over them. “Why
With more budget cuts in schools, local art programs are quickly leaving kids a nontraditional setting for artistic expression. “There is a lack of outlets for
These walls have sparked controversy among the
don’t they have a competition to see who can come up
people to do art, so people will go do their own,” says
park’s surrounding residents though. Frank Williams, a
Cisco. He believes street art also gives kids focus by
middle-aged Colorado native, has lived in north Denver
allowing them to channel their creativity, thoughts and
since childhood and visits the park with his black lab
Associates, brings over 30 years of professional
frustrations in a positive way and be rewarded for it
Maggy at least twice per day. Wearing shorts on a chilly
experience to the ﬁeld. In an interview at his oﬃce
both in fame and even ﬁnance. “Murals are a way to
overcast April morning, the open PBR tall-boy in his hand
regarding Northside Park, Wenk stated the goal of the
capture history and where you want things to be in the
must have added an extra layer of warmth. Williams
project was to “create a park that would regenerate
future; they speak to injustice and history; they unify a
seemed eager to converse about the graﬃti walls while
and re-image the area.” However, due to its isolated
community and put out a message.”
Maggy sat nearby impatiently jawing a slimy tennis
industrial location and chopped up connections to
R O O Tv 3 | 3 4
with the best murals?” Williams asks. Bill Wenk, founder and president of Wenk
surrounding Denver the park has yet to realize its
continues to evolve, there is a need for a better
goal. “It is an interesting project that is out of place.”
understanding of the relationship between people and
Before planning began on the park, the site was mired
spaces. We ask ourselves why someone would want to
in abandonment and left to its degradation. Graﬃti
deface and paint over what we may see as beautiful.
art covered many of the walls and, according to Wenk,
The answer lies deeper than a few juvenile delinquents
were “beautifully done.” To Wenk, “graﬃti is a larger
out for a good time. Sometimes as designers we have
question...a result in something, probably a good cultural
too heavy a hand in the spaces we design and may not
expression. The negative is that it’s marking turf, and
understand what people who use the place may actually
proﬁle.” Accessed April 2011. http://www.city-data.com/neighbor-
then there is a political message in between.”
desire. We strive to provide spaces with a certain
Wenk Associates simply provided a platform for
identity, but shouldn’t that identity be determined at
graﬃti art; although there is mixed reaction to its
least in part by the people that actually live there?
success, its potential is evident. “This is not your normal
Street art provides one opportunity for members of the
park. Look at it [graﬃti] and understand what it is and
community to reﬂect their own ideas, providing an urban
there’s value in that. It makes people aware of their
intervention that designers of all professions cannot.
surroundings and is a statement of intent,” Wenk states.
Street art in public spaces shows vibrant contrast of
The biggest reason for the mixed success is a lack of
daily life, and the diﬀerence between art and vandalism
control; these walls could be controlled by a group of
ultimately lies in the eye of the beholder.
artists like those of the Barrio Unity Mural Project to be properly sanctioned and maintained. Without control, the result is what street artists refer to as “ego walls,” which demonstrate reckless tagging and scribbles. Wenk agrees, “It would be wonderful if someone took ownership of it. It gets a bad rep for all the wrong reasons.”
Scaling walls and bridges, defying law and society to paint in extreme locations has become an addiction to street artists. As we continue to transform the urban landscape, street art will always remain a part of it.
arthistoryguide.com/Graﬃti_Art.aspx. Banksy. Exit Through the Gift Shop, A Banksy Movie. December 14, 2010. Banksy. Wall and Piece. London: Random house Group Limited, 2005. City-Data.com. “Westwood Neighborhood in Denver, Colorado, detailed
City of Philadelphia. “Mural Arts Program.” Accessed April 2011. http:// muralarts.org. Gang Rescue and Support Project. “The Barrio Unity Mural Project.” Accessed April 2011. http://www.graspyouth.org/storage/barriounityproject.pdf. Hackett, Regina. “Art or Graﬃti, the City will Decide.” Seattle Post Intelligencer, September 27, 2004. Accessed April 2011. http://www.seattlepi.com/default/article/Art-or-graﬃti-City-will-decide-1155228. php.
AUTHOR BIO Kelley Price is a current MLA student at the University of Colorado Denver. After receiving his bachelor degree in
Linthicum, Kate. “Attempt to Slash Los Angeles Graﬃti Budget Sparks Controversy”. The Los AngelesTimes, January 8, 2011. Accessed April 2011. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/08/local/la-me-graﬃtiremoval-20110108.
Landscape Design and Contraction from Colorado State University in 2008, Kelley worked professionally for two
Art History Guide. “Graﬃti Art.” Accessed June 15, 2011. http://www.
years on a variety of projects across the Denver front range. As a Colorado native, Kelley enjoys the endless
Reiss, Jonathan. Bomb It – The Global Graﬃti Documentary. May 2008. Wenk Assoiates. “Portfolio: Northside Park”. Accessed April 2011. http:// www.wenkla.com/portfolio/items/category/parks/.
outdoor activities the state has to offer. His inspiration for landscape architecture derives from compelling urban spaces and responsible environmental stewardship.
Instead of designing to suppress it, we should think of embracing it as a tool. Not every urban project is ﬁt for such an application.
Special thanks to Bill Wenk of Wenk and Associates. Special thanks to Francisco Gallardo of the Gang Rescue and Support Project.
However, as the ﬁeld of landscape architecture
35 | TRANSITION
Through the Eyes of a Contemporary Cartographer
EX PLO R AT ION OF A CON T E ST E D FR O NTIE R
PREVIOUS Texas colonia along the U.S. – Mexican border. According to United States federal statute, a colonia lacks adequate sewage systems and decent, safe and sanitary housing. Photo by Ashley Grace Taylor 2007.
What is a Map? Historically, maps have provided a universal medium for communicating. In the most classical sense, maps convey spatial concepts through graphic representation. This organizational framework of geographic information indicates where boundaries, whether they are physically inscribed (a road), ecological (a river, cliﬀ) or political (parcel ownership), exist. Mapping is the abstract constructive operation by which one creates a ﬁnal product between two or more domains of data1. The realms exist between the maps themselves and the creation of mapping. The creating of a map is representative of existing spatial conditions; the act of mapping is a process. One that constructs a space around the relationships between two streams of data and therefore, inherently contains the potential for discovery. Landscape architect James Corner describes mapping as exploration in an editorial, The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique, and Invention. “Its agency lies in neither reproduction nor imposition but rather in uncovering realities previously unseen or unimagined, even across seemingly exhausted grounds. Thus mapping unfolds potential, it re-makes territory over and over again, each time with new and diverse consequences.”2
Through this process, the act of mapping lends
corner of America. Brandt believes that landscape
itself to generalizations, codiﬁcation and orchestration
architects operate at the nexus of culture, society and
of the unforeseen.
environment. As a profession, they are the best aligned
Maps contain, as much as they do not contain,
to construct the ideals and physical manifestation of the
information presented at a particular resolution. The
border. Yet the discipline has operated with little eﬀort
act of initiating a mapping must commence with the
to expose these complex realizations. Any disclosure is
identiﬁcation of the agenda and selection of data and
largely textual and void of practice. In this vein, Brandt
traits to investigate. The mapper can then codify the
aspires to remedy the imbalance through her reveal
information to generate the graphical relationships
of the ephemeral border – beginning with genealogy,
between the two collections of data, generalize the
moving into grounded investigations and ﬁnishing with
resulting representation to eliminate irrelevant data
and reduce complexity, and orchestrate the design of
Her work highlights the international border
the map for the desired audience.3 The ﬁnal step is to
between the U.S. and Mexico, focusing on the crossing
evaluate latent potentials and systems uncovered by
points through Arizona. The practice of mapping
presents a deep layering of history, cultural constructs
The process of mapping is a complex science. To
and current conditions through a visual means that
represent intricate conditions of spatial and temporal
connects these otherwise invisible relationships. Brandt
ﬂux on a ﬂat ﬁeld is no small task for any aspiring
seeks to instill a discourse of the frontier zone as her
cartographer. Contemporary practitioner, Denise
maps articulate the intricacy of the territory without
Hoﬀman Brandt, has executed this powerful process of
over-simplifying the data.
mapping in her research, “Border Cosmos”. Brandt’s accomplished career focuses on a design
She has come to the University of Colorado Denver’s (UCD) College of Architecture and Planning to lecture
practice that privileges ecological considerations. This
students and faculty on her mapping research, “Border
design principle has garnered recognition such as the
Cosmos.” Dressed in classic designer-chic attire – a
Design Excellence Award from the Art Commission of
sharp black blazer and denim jeans – Brandt joins me in
the City of New York for her master plan of New York
the lobby of the Landscape Architecture Department
Hall of Science. Brandt also balances the responsibility
at UCD. Through Brandt’s angularly framed glasses
of running her own business, Hoﬀman Brandt Landscape
her warm hazel eyes counterbalance her reserved
Architects, and teaching the discipline of landscape
demeanor. As we settle into our seats at a round table in
architecture at the City College of New York.
the Dean’s private oﬃce, Brandt seems to decompress
With her hands tied in practice and academia, it’s
from her travels to Denver.
hard to imagine Brandt has time for anything else, let alone compelling research on a controversial
37 | TRANSITION
BELOW Tierra Incognita. 17th century New Spain Frontier. Mapping the U.S. – Mexico border. Denise Hoﬀman Brandt 2010. Note: original map is full color.
Denise, what were your motivations and/or inﬂuences
Why mapping as the research method?
for this research? While working on research related to boom and bust economic cycles and western landscapes I spent some time in the borderlands of southern California, Arizona and New Mexico. That formed a background for the idea, which was actually generated by a discussion at the Right to Landscape Workshop at Cambridge University in 2008. There were two projects, which provoked my research. First, a team of Lebanese researchers described the border condition between Lebanon and Israel deﬁned by a deep zone of hazard due to Israeli cluster bombing. My observation was that this created a border morphology that has not yet been internationally legislated – there is no legal mechanism to deﬁne an invisible territory of danger that creates an impassable frontier zone – the border remains interpreted as a line. And second, another presentation looked at land-use legislation as a mechanism for evicting land-owners who do not develop land according to the ideation of the dominant political authority. These issues of invisible spatial control and the social impact of land law had resonance with my observations in the US Mexico borderlands.
What was your research question or hypothesis you were trying to prove? I suppose my research question was: how can you define a border landscape as it is animated by change over time? I have used mapping a lot in my research, and before becoming a landscape architect I worked as an archaeological illustrator. As a landscape architect I used mapping in my research to draw the dynamic aspects of a place, but I had never used mapping as a tool to investigate landscape history. The ‘mission’ therefore had two aspects: to establish a methodology for a critical mapping of landscape history and to define the border history in such a way that it would instigate design speculation. Fueling this was the initial idea that economies are the dominant agents of change in American landscape; so the mapping used that as a basis for investigation.
R O O Tv 3 | 3 8
Landscape architects know that landscapes are subject to bio-physical, socio-political and cultural change; yet, there has been little exploration of how these processes might be graphically conveyed to illuminate the inter-relationships that activate urban ecologies. Landscape architects like Alan Berger use mapping to delineate complexity in macro-economic systems that shape the land. A lot of the research strikes me as apolitical. The authors
describe the systems but sever the discourse from how it aﬀects the ‘lived’ landscape. I was interested in establishing a critical process; one that can encompass ambiguity and acknowledge ethical complexity. In a way, the idea is to map the subjective with the objective and to cross scales and incorporate other images to convey many registers of information.
Why did you choose the U.S. Mexico border for your research topic?
What is a fence? A fence makes material the expression of
Robust social, cultural and economic periods were
separation. In the last 15 years, the U.S. has spent billions
also periods of dramatic movement in the frontier.
You might say it has been dominant in national rhetoric lately, and I think that reveals the link between cultural identity, socio-economic mechanisms and landscape. The contemporary desire of many to see the border as a line constraining ﬂow in one direction is not consistent with the historic frontier, which was animated by movement in many directions. The idea of borders as simple lines that are emblematic of complex ﬁeld conditions is borne out by looking at the historic maps – on most of the maps the borderline is overwhelmed by other trajectories of movement. I also wanted to plot the spectrum of historic ‘players’.
of dollars on 1,127 kilometers (1,817 miles) of fencing to
On either side of the border, small settlements have
enforce the border.4 The physicality of a fence brings
arisen due to these conditions. On the Mexican side,
forth a desire of “crossing.”
these villages are growing at a rapid rate, despite the
Often, Native Americans, Spanish, European-Americans and Mexicans are mapped separately or in opposition. Because my objective was to map types of movement and spatial occupation I was able to use limited data to map relative conditions and not absolutes. Unlike a written text, the maps are able to convey relative conditions simultaneously. What you lose in explicit accuracy, the population of a settlement in a speciﬁc place in a speciﬁc time for example, you gain in understanding the systemic conditions. The maps reveal relative forces and scales of settlement coverage as they change over time.
Brandt states, “The border landscape reveals larger
brutal conditions. Settlements are devoid of running
social and cultural ideas. Like an eco-tone, the border
water, sewage, have self-wired electricity and are
is a rich and productive zone that is characterized by
often dangerous. On the American side of the border,
dynamic change in its organisms – be they human or
residents feel the demographic squeeze and often ﬂee
hydraulic.” The border zone is a frontier because it
these areas and abandon the towns. The civic conditions
is always a little alien, she says. If you plot Hispanic
deteriorate and alarmingly become more like their
heritage in the U.S. – Mexico borderlands, it is legible as
southern neighbors. In an exercise of irony, the towns
a frontier where no social group dominates all aspects
have adopted the Latin term for a slum, “colonias.”
of life. This reasoning arguably is the nature of a frontier.
Brandt explains there is a segment of the population who believes in sealing of the southern frontier in eﬀorts
to improve the economy and social conditions of the rest
The hardening of the fence also facilitates new selective
of the nation. This, she says, is not evident in the mapping.
points of exchange. It is characterized by movement, not stasis. There is a national rhetoric that the border condition is homogenous throughout the 42 U.S. and Mexico crossing
What does it all mean? Brandt’s initial idea that economies are the dominant
points. The maps reveal that many of the historic and
agents of change in American landscape was the basis for
contemporary border crossers – the ﬂows – were/are
investigation into the ephemeral border, using mapping
from self-funded and – guided explorations of the place;
facilitated to support economic enterprise. Borderlands are
as her reveal. Issues of invisible spatial control and the
it is no wonder that her maps powerfully transpose
zones where maximal porosity (NAFTA) and maximal closure
social impact of land law resonated with her observations
As Brandt further explains, her research stemmed
these personal discoveries. Brandt’s presentation to
(Border Patrol) are demanded simultaneously. However,
in the U.S. – Mexico borderlands. Her idea to map the
UCD highlights her research through the lens of three
these hot spots of activity are rich with their own complexity
subjective with the objective and convey many registers
chapters: genealogy, grounded investigations and
and unique personality, based on the terrain and towns they
of information, mapping types of movement and spatial
contemporary conditions. (Metaphorically, the notion of
run through. Many times, crossing points occur in the void
occupation, allows her maps to convey relative conditions
a fence was a poetic way to explore how the border has
of the desert. The void refers to the desolate, inhospitable
simultaneously. The maps reveal relative forces and
arrived at its current status).
places that celebrate the harsh desert conditions. Crossing
scales of settlement coverage as they change over time.
in these points forces individuals into forging uncharted trails through the ruthless desert terrain.
When I approached Brandt about what she hopes her mapping will accomplish – a solution to the border
39 | TRANSITION
BELOW A River in the Holocene. Hydrologic systems in the border zone. Denise Hoﬀman Brandt 2010. Note: Original map is full color.
condition, the adjacent slums, the fence itself – her
techniques and procedures of mapping have not been
borderland area, which are raised as points of research and
resolve is grounded. Brandt explains how she doesn’t
subjects of inquiry, research or criticism. They have
consideration. Her reﬂections are of present conditions.
feel the border situation needs to be remedied. “The
become codiﬁed, naturalized and taken for granted as
border ‘condition’ is simply the nature of the interface
institutional conventions. Thus critical experimentation
all practicing landscape architects and aspiring students
between diﬀerent cultures and social systems. The
with new and alternative forms of mapping remains
indeed tracers? As Corner would have it, a map is separate
interface can be productive or destructive depending
underdeveloped and signiﬁcantly repressed. Alleged
from tracing because it has agency: a product of omissions
on the will of the communities.” Illustrating her strong
competence of tracing dominates the exploratory
that overall suggest new narratives and visual components
feelings toward the border Brandt states, “They are
inventiveness integral to the act of mapping.”
I would like to argue that in this modern day and age aren’t
that collectively speak to deeper understandings. As maps are
As Brandt’s mapping reveal nothing new, and in fact
singularly focused, and disregard needless facts to support
attempting to stop movement that sustains us socially
there are no aspects of the mapping that serve to answer
a given topic, the act of omission that Corner is referring to is
and environmentally.” Brandt continues, explaining
the hotly contested questions or issues surrounding the
what empowers mapping with its agency.
stimulated by the waste of money and resources
her concern that stimulating new industries based in security apparatus will spiral up and lead to even more systemically destructive conditions. As landscape architects, Brandt feels, “We operate at the nexus of culture, society and environment … to constructively shape the idea and physical manifestation of the border. I look forward to landscape architects taking on the charge to reveal the frontier as a sustaining human ecology and to speculate on its potential beyond a line in the sand.” To Map, or to Trace; That is the Question Corner would argue that Brandt’s mapping would fall into a ‘tracing’ category vs. mapping. He explains that mapping is a collective enabling enterprise, a project that both reveals and realizes hidden potential.6 “Not all maps accomplish this however; some simply reproduce what is already known. These are more ‘tracings’ than maps, delineating patterns but revealing nothing new.”7 In this perspective, Brandt’s mapping on the borderland appears to be an act of tracing. Corner points to “the prevalent tendency to view maps in terms of what they represent, not what they do. An unfortunate consequence of this is that the various R O O Tv 3 | 4 0
This begs the question, that whether tracings – as
not informing new information, answering questions or
they are deﬁned by Corner – can in fact exist as they
oﬀering solutions. Rather, she reappropriates the givens,
are a product of human agency to some degree. It could
to illuminate the harsh truths. This exercise may indeed
be argued that the creation employed to assemble
end as one of tracing, but it’s certainly one of importance.
With the advent of other mapping technologies,
Barcelo, Margarita Theresa. Geographies of Struggle. Ann Arbor: Bell & Howell Co. , 1997. Brady, Mary Pat. Extinct Lands, Temporal Geographies: Chicana Litera-
previously unrelated elements into a new dataset is indeed an innovation. A “new” representational realm.
tures and the Urgency of Space. Dhuram & London: Duke University Press, 2002.
Ever since she can remember – Erin says she has had a passion for Brandt, Denise Hoﬀamn, interview by Erin Devine. Professor of Land-
most notably Geographic Information Systems (GIS),
plants. She has been a ﬂoral designer for over nine years, and has
every designer who engages with this technology
always shared an equal passion for the landscape. The desire to
assembles data to support their needs. As previously
learn a broader scope of design interventions is what brought her
stated, the act of mapping is a conceptual endeavor.
to Colorado. Erin is a student at the University of Colorado Denver
The mapper assembles and omits data and never really
pursuing ﬁnal year in the masters of Landscape Architecture
constructs “new” information sets. They just rearrange
program. With this degree, Erin hops to combine her past experi-
scape Architecture at the Coty College of New York (September 13,
given facts to support their argument. This line of
ence with her newfound knowledge of landscape design to create
thinking could support that these ﬁnished products are
unusual applications for her favorite material palette – plants.
traced proposals and not innovative mapping initiatives. These notions of authenticity are still for debate. Is Brandt and fellow landscape architects alike, “tracers”? Corner might argue we fall short. I argue: who cares? Disputing the subtle nuances of mapping and tracing as agency is tiresome. The important thing to note from
Notes 1 Pratt Insitute ModeLab, ModeLab, 11 10, 2010, http://modelab. nu/?p=1103 (accessed 05 24, 2011). 2 James Corner, “The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention,” in Mappings, 213-252 (London: Reaktion Books, 1999).
both aspects of the process is not a label, but a valid research tool for landscape architects. It is a medium
3 Pratt Insitute ModeLab, ModeLab, 11 10, 2010, http://modelab. nu/?p=1103 (accessed 05 24, 2011).
of communication that can clearly display information, albeit new or reinvented. Regardless of the verdict, what is evident in Brandt’s research is the translation of a highly contested terrain. Brandt’s mapping raises important questions and illuminates hidden associations and cultural truths. In this progressive, emergent ﬁeld of borderland mapping,
4 Denise Hoﬀman Brandt, “Border Cosmos,” City College of New York, Self (New York, 2010). 5 Denise Hoﬀman Brandt, “Border Cosmos,” City College of New York, Self (New York, 2010). 6 James Corner, “The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention,” in Mappings, 213-252 (London: Reaktion Books, 1999).
Brandt makes important contributions. She engages an increasingly important issue, as borders become more permeable and fortiﬁed by globalized free trade
scape Architecture at the City College of New York (April 1, 2011). Brandt, Denise Hoﬀman. “Border Cosmos.” City College of New York. Self. New York, 2010. Brandt, Denise Hoﬀman, interview by Erin Devine. Professor of Land-
Corner, James. “The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention.” In Mappings, by Denis Cosgrove, 213-252. London: Reaktion Books, 1999. King, Geoﬀ. Mapping Reality: An Exploration of Cultural Cartographies. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996. ModeLab, Pratt Insitute. ModeLab, November 10, 2010. Accessed May 24, 2011. http://modelab.nu/?p=1103. Pickles, John. A History of Spaces: Cartographic Reason, Mapping and the Geo-Coded World. London: Routeledge, 2004. Schama, Simon. Landscape and Memory. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995. Staﬀ, UCD, interview by Erin Devine. Professor of Landscape Architecture (April 22, 2011). Staﬀ, Unites States Department of Homeland Security. The United States Department of Homeland Security, April 15, 2011. Accessed April 15, 2011. http://www.dhs.gov/index.shtm.
and a security-obsessed U.S. Her mapping research is 41 | TRANSITION
NOW west legend: border barriers fencefwall barrier prior 10 2006
fence oonslrucled 2Cai-2009
prooosed double/triple layer fence 1"1111111111111111111111111111111111' border YJith no plans lor new fence
population density - 2OCX)
1000 people/sq. mile
50-500 people/sq. mile
10-SO people/sq. mi le united slates
cross-border environmental systems rivers
average annual precipitation
BEFOBE 1911 : no co" st'l'\jrlt
on Mexican crossings .
• native american reseNaticns color keyed to history maps
III" ... RATION U'T,\.
connective tissue· US-International priority conidor
of teh door on
for the rest
":~:~~~%~~IIY closed rv
50J statute miles <O denise hoffman brandt 20 10 R O O Tv 3 | 4 2
MEX-Intemational priority corridor
Domestic rootes scaled to fl ow level
*based on federal highway adrri nistration map
50 mile frontier offset line
R O OM TO M OV E A Reflection on Americaâ€™s Migratory History Benjamin Brehmer
The following parts, I, III & V, are accounts of my personal family history, describing the changing atmosphere of Madison, Minnesota, where I was born and raised. Part I takes place in 1965, part III in 1990, and part V in 2010.
Building entrances open and close, exchanging cold
a ﬂedgling business. His children have gone to the
and warm air as main street breathes with the friendly
nearby ice rink for the evening, to join in hockey games,
and unhurried bustle which can often be found in the
ice-skating and snowball ﬁghts that regularly occur
rural small town, caught in the midst of the holiday
when the neighborhood youth come together. He hopes
season. Relatives, friends and neighbors alike cordially
their energy will ﬁnd release, and the house will sleep
greet each other along the sidewalks, in the stores
ﬁtfully tonight. For in the morrow, he plans to take them
and in front of the community banks. They take time
ice-ﬁshing, to remind them that the joys of nature can be
to converse between errands they are set out to do,
just as exhilarating as those of the city.
for there is no rush in the atmosphere of this winter’s day. Mechanics and bank tellers, farmers and teachers, pastors and physicians – the assorted, numerous
Part II – Time and Place The previous narrative describes a place with the
residents of this place are joyous in spirit this year,
vibrancy of a human community in its prime. Now,
for the crops were harvested in good weather, the
conceive the converse: the image of a ghost town.
classrooms were crowded with their children, and the
Imagine yourself amongst the strewn wreckage of a
merchandise on the shelves has found itself wrapped in
place forgotten, kneel in its ruins and read the various
colorful paper as cheery Christmas presents.
signs of human life left inscribed within the landscape.
One business owner in particular is glad the economy
Stop and wonder, search among the clues of the
is thriving. An entrepreneur who built his automotive
landscape as an archaeologist would and attempt
P a r t I – T h e P r o s p e r o u s To w n
parts store up from humble beginnings, grew up on
to piece together some kind of historical account,
c.1965 – population 2,380
a farm in the nearby countryside and has therefore
remnants of a way of life we can only now imagine.
Three young boys, accompanied by their
witnessed the great devastation that nature can wreak
Our history as Homo sapiens has perpetually been a
older sister, stroll down the main street of their
upon a farmer’s gamble with seed. As an alternative,
migratory one. For every newly inhabited place humans
hometown. They are set out to complete some
he hopes that owning a store in town will entail fewer
have migrated to, another location has concurrently
errands assigned to them, yet frolic along the
unknown risks and greater stability of income. And
been left vacant. For each of those migrations, a
way, as is expected of such youth without parents
today, business is good. His four young children enter
dialogue between the land and its inhabitants has
nearby. The fresh snow crunches mightily beneath
from the main street entrance just before he closes
transpired. It is the resolution of these outcomes that
their rubber-soled boots, a symbolic precursor of
the doors for the day. Their errands completed, they all
most intrigues us about our past and drives us to reﬂect
Christmas, just a few days away. As they walk, they
clamber into the pickup, making the short drive across
on our history. It is also the accumulated knowledge we
joke and play, reveling in the unwitting pleasure of
town to join the rest of the family in the warmth of home.
have garnered through each interaction that propels our
youth on winter vacation with nothing better to
That evening, as dishes move from the supper
civilization to continually evolve.
do. The eldest sibling diligently watches over her
table to soak in the sink, the father and businessman
younger brothers, simultaneously deterring them
retires to his basement. Escaping to a place of quiet
toward migration and colonization of new places
from acts of heightened mischief, yet hawkishly
and solitude, he ﬁnds tranquility through his hobby
to optimize our survival. These movements are
poised to join their games.
of taxidermy and silences the concerns of managing
often complex, and can be driven by any number
R O O Tv 3 | 4 4
As with all other organisms, humans are driven
BELOW Mainstreet of Madison, Minnesota. Photo scanned from material found at the Lac qui Parle County Museum in Madison run by the Lac qui Parle Historical Society. Est. 1950.
or combination of natural, cultural or political determinants. At the root of most migrations, though, some fundamental forces can be distilled and identiﬁed. These are: 1) technological advances, 2) biophilic propensity and 3) a synthesis of the two. 1) Technological advances and innovations, which often dictate the modus operandi by which a journey is made, as well as the eﬃciency with which the resources of a given place are utilized. In other words, transportation can determine the method and volume of any given migration of people. Compare the ease of transport by ship, train or automobile to that of more historic methods such as wagon, canoe, horse or foot. In addition, advances in technology facilitate the extraction of an area’s given natural resources, thereby increasing the population density, which has further implications for population dispersion and distribution. 2) The desire to surround ourselves with other forms of life, coined as the term “biophilia” by Harvard entomologist E.O. Wilson, has persisted in culture through millennia. The hypothesis states that because humans originally issued forth from nature, we are hardwired and attracted to all other forms of life, as they reciprocally nurture and sustain our own life (see E.O. Wilson’s book, The Biophilia Hypothesis). Simply put, we tend to inhabit places rich in life and quickly vacate those which are not.
our psychological and physiological needs are all
at some point. Their mode of transport and desire to
fundamental motives which drive us to migrate to
be surrounded with other life forms will not dictate
3) A synthesis of the two previous forces has even
new places. These motives draw from technology and
their migration. However, these factors will force the
deeper implications, as it comprises the values that
biophilia, yet are empowered by our own personal
conscious will of the people to choose to either stay and
drive our personal ambitions and makes each of us
will. For instance, when a drought aﬄicts a landscape,
chance death or move elsewhere and hope for life.
unique. Our beliefs, moral code and desire to fulﬁll
the human population living there will likely migrate 45 | TRANSITION
heat of the long summer days. When lessons are over,
Part IV – New Frontiers
to any human migration throughout history. Let us
it’s oﬀ to their grandparents’ house, where relatives
of the Restless American
choose a particular common technological advance
from afar have just arrived in town.
As investigative tools, we can apply these concepts
such as the telephone, internet, combustion engine,
Similar scenes play out across this small town. The
We know that people are driven to migrate to new places, and by doing so, the places they inhabit
electricity, or an innovation such as the wheel,
parks and playgrounds are sanctuaries of youthful
consequently change as well. To better understand why
domestication of plants, or lithic tool and submit
bustle, where children are able to roam free, and
we migrate and the scale in which we do, let us examine
its impact on society. Each has played a vital role in
parents are not required to keep a watchful eye. Along
what are generally considered the ﬁve great historical
determining where, and in what way, people have
the main street, and throughout the town, community
migrations to, and within, the U.S. The ﬁrst and rightful
chosen to migrate in the past. For example, advances
events are annually held to promote the patronization
landowners of the Americas, the descendants of Asian
in shipbuilding allowed Europeans to discover the
of local businesses. The “main drag” isn’t the hubbub of
pioneering tribes, are assumed to have crossed over to
New World, and the advent of the Information Age has
activity it used to be. People have increasingly decided
the continent roughly 15,000 years ago via the Bering land
enabled us to live far from our familial roots, yet feel
to do their shopping outside of town, often driving up
bridge, which once connected present-day Russia with
connected to home at all times.
to 60 miles away for the cheaper goods and services
Alaska. (Zimmerman, 49-50) We can imagine they did
they desire — to the Wal-Marts, the Targets and the
so as a collection of nomadic bands, utilizing untapped
technological habituations, is our innate attraction to
strip-malls of larger cities. Only the most versatile,
resources and hunting now extinct megafauna, such as
life and all things resembling it. Historian Leo Marx
determined and independent business owners have
the American mastodon (Mammut americanum), the
refers to this paradigm as “The Machine in the Garden”.
remained open in these adverse years. The specialized
Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi), and the
The two concepts are dialectic, yet complementary
appliance, clothing and entertainment businesses are
Ice Age bison (Bison latifrons), as they expanded into
toward the fulﬁllment of human ambitions.
mostly closed, and the vacancy of prime real estate
uncharted, uninhabited regions. They migrated across
showcases this stagnation.
the Americas over a few thousand years, expanding
In the same vein, yet commonly at odds with our
As the hot summer day wears on, the two boys
their presence across the vast landscape. However, this
return home where supper is awaiting them. While
original migration typically fades in prominence to that
they had been reveling in frivolous activity, their
of the European settlement of the Eastern U.S., known
for the opportunity to make his play. Centerﬁeld is
mother has been occupied at home and their father
colloquially as the “New World”. The overseas immigration
his home, and his mind is tempted to wander while
toiling at his business on main street. No longer
to this “virgin” land is attributed primarily to people
waiting for the crack of the baseball bat to awaken
the automotive parts store he inherited it as, his
of European and African ancestry, with those of lower
his attention. When little league is over he ﬁnds his
business has grown to include any and all kinds of
– and middle-class status comprising the former and
younger brother, and together they ride their dirt
hardware, tools and supplies one would need for
captive slaves the latter. Motivations for the Europeans
bikes across town for swimming lessons. The towering
almost any conceivable occasion. But the efforts
to emigrate included land entitlement, abundant
oaks and elms lining the streets provide intermittent
have been costly, both monetarily and personally. It
resources, liberty from oppression and sometimes
relief from the blazing July sun. Along the way, lawn
takes the conscious support of a community to keep
sheer desperation. It was a momentous juncture in
mowers rumble over bluegrass lawns and cicadas buzz
that community vibrant, and when that wanes, so
human history, for within a relatively short time-frame,
incessantly from above. Once at the pool though, the
does the spirit of the place.
great volumes of people were suddenly partaking in a
Part III – The Carefree Summers c.1990 – population 1,951 A young boy stands in the blazing July sun, waiting
clear, crisp water is enough to escape the unrelenting R O O Tv 3 | 4 6
life-changing journey. From 1760 to 1775, around 221,500
immigrants and slaves arrived from Europe and Africa,
Signaling the fourth migration was our increased
Enter the great ﬁfth migration (1970’s – Today).
equating to roughly 15,000/year, a signiﬁcant population
dependence on technology, machines and the natural
Although still the recipient of a signiﬁcant foreign
increase for a developing nation (Wolf 1999, 10).
desire for opulence (1920s – Today). The preference
immigrant populace, most domestic population
The second population dispersal resulted from
of the automobile over mass transit, the television for
transfers are now occurring at “hot spots” of both
the great Westward expansion, originating from the
the radio and the suburban home for the metropolitan
cultural and natural richness (Wolf 1999, 68-69). Self-
national surveys of the late 18th century and peaking
apartment all foreshadowed this new exodus. The
realization of our sudden rampant technological growth
in the Homestead Act of 1862. The desire for land and
mass-production of the automobile alone led to a new
has caused us to reﬂect on our biological sensitivities.
new opportunities drew immigrants across the Great
kind of industry, which grew rapidly in power.
Of paramount importance to the contemporary U.S.
Plains and into expansive vistas, fertile land and rich
One scholar notes that, “To assure the continuation
citizen is still a lifestyle built around technology and
ﬂoodplains. For reasons perhaps likened to the origins
of this trend and the popularity of automobiles, starting
its associated comfort and security, yet a growing
of our species, the most arboreal, montane and arid
in the 1930s a company known as National City Lines
concern is now the natural world, the “garden” of life
locales of the West were not favored to the extent of
— backed bY General Motors, Standard Oil, Phillips
and sustenance. (Marx 1964, 73, 102) The urban dweller
the savanna-like, mixed – and tall-grass prairies. This
Petroleum, Firestone Tire and Rubber, Mack Truck, and
of today resides in a mechanical world born out of the
vast land was ripe for European settlement and was
other auto interests — bought up and then closed down
fourth migration, yet still clambors for the presence
bereft of society’s norms.
more than one hundred electric trolley lines serving
of biological life. Although not a requisite of city living,
J.B. Jackson notes that, “Danger in the wilderness was
forty-ﬁve cities... As late as 1947, 40 percent of U.S.
a routine fulﬁllment of our biophilic desires enriches
by then no new feature of the American experience; what
workers went to work on public transportation; today
our daily phenomenological experience. It is an innate
was new was the individual, solitary adjustment to what
fewer than ﬁve percent do” (Wolf 1999, 13).
desire to keep other biologic organisms near to us,
was still an experimental and incomplete landscape order,
Resource-rich and “on top of the world”, most
as well as to habituate them to also live comfortably
a new organization of space that radically aﬀected work
Americans found luxury in a suburban life without
within our “machine”. (Marx 1964, 145) More than at
and sociability and the business of living”. (Meinig, 159)
conceiving the destabilizing nature of their resource-
any other moment in history, the citizenry of the U.S. is
Having its origins in the Industrial Revolution,
intensive practices. At the same time, the principles
consciously attempting to reconcile this juxtaposition,
the third U.S. migratory wave occurred roughly from
of a new landscape design paradigm arose in
especially in our metropolitan centers.
1820-1950. As land in the West became scarce, and as
conjunction with this migration, and our biophilic
African Americans were freed from slavery, new and
tendencies never truly escaped us. E.O. Wilson
Part V – Solace in Silence
old immigrants alike turned to the great manufacturing
expounds on this, stating, “When people are confined
c.2010 – pop. 1,551
centers of the country. Continued discrimination toward
to crowded cities or featureless land, they go to
blacks in the south drove them north, while both the east
considerable lengths to recreate an intermediate
prairie, the faint lavender glow of the setting sun giving
and west coasts enjoyed prosperity due to a plentiful,
terrain, something that can tentatively be called the
a moody, sad color to the horizon. It’s the heart of winter,
rejuvenated workforce. Cities such as Minneapolis,
savanna gestalt” (Wilson 1984, 111).
and the deep drifts of snow drown out any hint of fertile
Chicago, San Francisco and Pittsburgh, owed their
Our desire to have views over the surrounding plains
I drive along a lonesome, arrow-straight road on the
ﬁelds and resilient grasslands. But I know better than
booming economies to the millions of new residents
and to be near lakes and moving water are results of
to think the landscape barren. A trek by snowshoe into
who called the burgeoning city, and its technological
this biologic imperative, and our continued, evolving
any woodland, marsh or prairie here would reveal the
splendor, their home (Wolf 1999, 11).
manipulations of landscape mirror this fact.
existence of hidden life to a discerning eye. I take care 47 | TRANSITION
to scan the roadside ditches as nightfall approaches,
away, I reach my destination. Exiting the car, I breathe
is located in the heart of America’s farmland . The
for even as deer should be making a bed by now, there
deeply the cold, crisp air of the still night. Exhaling, a thick
population in 1960 was 2,380, meaning that 35 percent
always exists the rogue wanderer.
cloud of vapor instantly crystallizes and hovers before
of the population has left in the last 50 years . The
Darkness has arrived, but my destination draws
me. I revel in the peacefulness of this perfectly calm
county it resides in, Lac qui Parle (named so by early
near. Even from miles away, the revolving light from
evening, and it seems that time stands still, frozen by the
French trappers), had experienced steady growth
the county airport shines like a lighthouse in the night.
cold. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s the winter night,
due to second wave immigration until reaching a peak
Distance is measured by regular, rectilinear sections,
but at this precise moment my hometown seems more
population of 15,554 in 1920 . Since then, the county
with each passing perpendicular road marking mile
serene than I can remember at any other time.
has experienced a slow and steady population decline,
after precise mile. Time is tallied by approximating one
with 7,259 persons — less than 50 percent of that peak
mile for each minute, a relentlessly straight path in
P a r t V I – S m a l l To w n A m e r i c a :
the darkness. Ahead, the glow of my hometown grows
The Next Lost World?
brighter with each passing moment.
As noted earlier, the previous parts, I, III, & V, account
population — counted by the 2010 census . The theme is common in Minnesota, as well as throughout the Midwest. Young people are leaving
Entering the town, an urge propels me to drive
my personal family history, describing the changing
rural lands in favor of the metropolitan. The continued
down main street, a short two blocks from the highway
atmosphere of my hometown, Madison, Minnesota.
struggle the family farm faces, and the rise of
I arrived by. The streets are quiet and hardly any traﬃc
Although Madison is located in a rural region, I should
industrialized agribusiness, has contributed to the
is to be seen, granted most establishments are closed
note that the fate of all modern small towns is not
decline as well. The baby-boom generation is about to
by now. Lights along the street portray the jubilee of
the same. Many rural areas — especially those near
retire, and many of them will choose to move elsewhere.
the holiday season, yet no bawdy revelers stumble
a metropolis — and recreational environments are
Will the rural population someday rebound? As these
from any late-night bar. The streets are tidy, white with
experiencing a population boom. Let us consider the
lands are slowly vacated, what will potentially be lost
snow, and everything glows with the diﬀuse light of
size of the “small towns” in these regions to have
by neglecting this unique American landscape? As a
overhead street lamps.
between 5,000 and 15,000 people. People currently
scholar on vernacular landscapes notes, “Not all ruins
migrating to these areas desperately want the “country”
means sudden disaster; many represent a long series of
recall the location of a few former businesses. Although
way of life and do so by reconciling a residence in the
decisions, choices between alternatives that we have no
some local retailers have survived the recent economic
exurbs with a willingness to commute up to 100 miles
inkling of. All cities, all landscapes sooner or later come to
hardships, there are numerous others which have not. It
to get to their city job (Wolf 1999, 58-59; Marx 1964, 5).
an end; that we know. What we do not always know is how
seems to me that those who have remained are actually
In contrast, there are numerous genuinely small towns
or why” (Jackson 1984, 68).
prospering: perhaps the citizenry of the town have
throughout the Great Plains that have a signiﬁcantly
realized the value of a strong local economy, or maybe
smaller, dispersed population and are located far from
study the processes of migration and change in our
those remaining have found their niche in the structure
any metropolitan area. These areas will likely never
contemporary rural landscapes. In this way, the present
of rural commercialism. At the least, a fortiﬁed remnant
transition into exurbia status.
is our key to understanding the past.
Years of time cloud my memory, yet I can vaguely
of the former streetscape remains.
As a genuinely small town in rural western
But perhaps we can choose to “know” more if we
We have manipulated, studied and critiqued our
Main street ends at the county courthouse, and a
Minnesota, my hometown of Madison is well-suited
landscapes for centuries, yet it remains diﬃcult to
local patrolman passes before me — the lonesome vigil
to reﬂect upon in this light. As of the 2010 decennial
positively predict the future of any single one of
keeping watch over these silent streets. Only a few blocks
census, it has 1,551 residents, is the county seat and
them. Given our history as a biologic species that has
R O O Tv 3 | 4 8
BELOW Mainstreet of Madison, Minnesota illustrating change and continutity over the years. Photo by Ben Brehmer 2011.
embraced technology, we can be sure that there will always exist a desire for both “garden” and “machine”. No matter how desperately we cling to our cities and engineering accomplishments, our deeper biophilic tendencies will continue to drive our conservation eﬀorts. Our biologic relationships with other species will remain valuable to us, for with each advance in technology, new opportunities to re-engage with such life emerge. Therefore, great potential to reconcile our biophilic tendencies resides currently within our urban realm, where the splendor of technology is greatest. On the contrary, there exists the possibility of rural regions someday achieving the digital and interactive opportunities found in the metropolitan, thereby reducing our desire to live in the city. One could then speculate that if we cannot ﬁnd reconciliation in the city — in our urban parks, green roofs and open space — perhaps the future does portend that we return to our agrarian and vernacular roots. AUTHOR BIO As a candidate for a Masters of Landscape Architecture at the University of Colorado, Denver, Ben has a keen interest in the relationship humans have forged between the natural and built world, both in rural and urban settings. He ﬁnds inspiration for his work and ideas through nature and enjoys hiking, camping, photography, rock climbing, music and above all continued travel to investigate new landscapes, cultures, wildlife and people. Ben currently resides in Denver with his beautiful wife Katie and aﬀable malamute Rolﬁe. References Bressi, P. G. a. T. W., ed. Understanding Ordinary Landscapes. New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1997. Jackson, J. B. Discorvering the Vernacular Landscape. New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1984. Marx, Leo. The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America. New York, Oxford University Press, 1964. Meinig, D. W., Ed. The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes. New York, Oxford University Press, 1979.
University of Minnesota, Morris. “Center for Small Towns - Minnesota Census Data.” Accessed June 17, 2010. http://www.morris.umn.edu/
Wolf, P. M. Hot Towns: The Future of the Fastest Growing Communities in America. New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 1999.
cst/temp/mdc/census/. Zimmerman, Larry J. Peoples of Prehistoric South Dakota. Lincoln and U.S. Bureau of the Census. “2010 Census Data.” Accessed June 17, 2010.
London: University of Nebraska Press, 1985.
http://2010.census.gov/2010census/data/index.php. William H. Whyte, J. The Exploding Metropolis. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1993. Wilson, E. O. Biophilia. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1984.
49 | TRANSITION
R O O Tv 3 | 5 0
Recounting the Evolution of American Agriculture
AB ANDO N E D FA RMH O USE S
PREVIOUS 2662 Goldﬁnch Ave. 1985 Value: $16,040. 2010 Value: $10,480.
“Now that humankind has colonized the whole earth, however, people can no longer abandon spent fields and just wander off looking for new soil.” (Soule 1992, 12)
growing food crops that we don’t eat. We’re depleting
rates established under the Reagan administration’s
some of the most fertile soil in the world in a time when
economic cool-down policy which left him completely
our growing population needs all the food it can get.
broke. Soon after, his wife left him and took his highest yielding piece of land with her. He never recovered from
The 1980s Farm Crisis: Through the Eyes of the Exira Community As a native to Iowa, I witnessed this high-yielding
this depression. He lives in the same house to this day, surrounded by land he can’t aﬀord to farm. The easy loans drew in other farmers all over the
agriculture personally and through the experiences of
community. My mother’s uncle, Emmert, ran a farm
my family. In summer 1977, my parents moved back to
operation across from her old country school that fed
Exira, my mother’s hometown of 970 people in southwest
close to 1,000 head of cattle and farmed an additional
Iowa. This was on the heels of Secretary of Agriculture
500 acres of land, which was very large for the time. He
Earl Butz’s 1972 ultimatum to farmers to “get big or get
aligned with Butz’s ultimatum and was always telling
out” and just ahead of the infamous farm crisis of the
my grandpa, Merne, to go bigger. However, my grandpa
1980s. As a result of Butz’s urge for farmers to take out
did quite well for himself by practicing restraint.
large sums of money to expand their farms, money was
Because my grandpa and grandma grew up in the Great
Why Does the Rural Landscape
absurdly easy to get from banks. If a farmer wanted a
Depression, they were low-ﬂiers ﬁnancially and would
loan, he got what he requested and more. For example,
have been out of their comfort zone to take out large
Because corn and soybeans grown in the Midwest
the year after moving in, my dad, Jim, went into the local
sums of money to expand their farm (their biggest
feed the livestock that ends up on our plate, this region
bank to get a loan for a few calves; he was expecting
extravagance was buying a new car every few years).
is the most essential source of animal protein in the
something like $2,500 and walked out with $10,000. He
On the other hand, Emmert borrowed $250 thousand to
United States (Jackson 2008). We need the Midwest
sealed the deal with no application, just some writing on
purchase his 500 head of cattle, and when the interest
to sustain our lives, so by default we need the Midwest
a napkin. In this manner, farm operations in rural Iowa and
rate on that loan doubled, he went down, just like our
to master its own sustainability. States like Iowa and
the greater Midwest grew rapidly.
neighbor and so many other family friends.
Nebraska, in the Corn Belt, are producing bushels and
Around the same time, our
bushels (1 bushel = 56 pounds) of corn and soy beans
neighbor, living two houses down the
We’re growing food crops that we don’t eat. We’re depleting some
every year to feed their cattle and hogs; in 2010 these
dusty, gravel road from our place,
of the most fertile soil in the world in a time when our growing
states jointly harvested the third highest-yielding
was renting his home and farmland
population needs all the food it can get.
corn crop in the United States’ recorded history with
from a man with a good job in “the
12.4 billion bushels (Iowa Corn 2011). Out of that 694.4
city.” When farming increased in proﬁtability this man
billion pounds, we do not eat any of the grain directly.
stopped leasing his property and came back to make
equipment repossession and farm sales erupted all over
If this grain does not go into feeding our protein, food
money on his farm. He expanded into a large livestock and
the countryside. If you saw an 18-wheeler hauling oﬀ a
companies will process the remainder into high fructose
grain-handling operation and hired two full-time men to
piece of farm equipment, it was undoubtedly taking it to
corn syrup or soybean oil. It is then further processed
help maintain the farm. Unfortunately, he expanded his
be repossessed, not sold. Similarly, people had no choice
into store-bought food before consumption. We’re
operations just in time for the new 21-percent interest
but to sell their family farms and everything that went
This scenario was so common in the 1980s that
51 | TRANSITION
BELOW TOP Southwest Iowa, circa 1970. This farmer is cultivating for weed control - a practice that chemicals have now taken over. BELOW 2421 280th Street. 1985 Value: $6,160. 2011 Value: $8,840. Photo by Emily Lynam.
with them just to keep their heads above water. After these heartbreaking sales, if no one bought the houses the property would turn into farmland. Sale by sale, abandoned homes and cropland became more and more expansive across the Midwest. These traumatic experiences during the farm crisis greatly contributed to designing the rural Iowa landscape as it is today. Miles Between Neighbors My father attributes the appearance of the current landscape to another primary phenomenon: population decline and viable farmland. Audubon County, in central Iowa, peaked in population around 1910. At that time an 80-acre farm was average, and farmers would not rent any more land on top of that. This setup reﬂected the grid layout of each township in each county: one section had 640 acres, so with each family farming 80 acres, an average of eight families lived in each section. A series of momentous events challenged people and changed this method of operation: the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, World War II and Mechanization. While the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl projected ﬁnancial burdens on farmers, the end of World War II and the intensive production of tanks and other machinery that went with it brought mechanization to the agricultural realm. Mechanization accelerated the amount of land each rural family was capable of farming. The phase of mechanization we’re dealing with in the United States today started in the 1920s, when the engine replaced draft animals (Soule 1992). Because engine-operated machines do not tire as quickly as animals, they can cover more ground and, therefore, signiﬁcantly increase the potential size a farm could sustain. As mechanization evolved, soon each family needed 160 acres instead of 80 to be viable farmers—now you need at least 600 acres to be viable, and because of the high cost of machinery and operation, you would still probably have to rent another 1000 to 2000 acres to earn an income that could support yourself and your family. Farming 10,000 acres today is not unusual. With this massive increase in acres farmed, families are becoming more spread out, resulting in miles between inhabited houses. Many families are forced to move to town or into the city, leaving vacant homes behind, never to be ﬁlled again. This displacement of families aﬀects R O O Tv 3 | 5 2
RIGHT 2662 Goldﬁnch Ave. 1985 Value: $16,040. 2010 Value: $10,480. Photo by Emily Lynam 2011.
metropolitan areas as well as rural communities.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture.
“Today, there are many urban homeless, while the
Spearheading the 2002 and 2007 farm bills, he pushed
homes left behind in small towns and rural areas are
agriculture conservation, small town rural development
decaying” (Bird et al. 1995, 4).
and access to healthy foods. These three tenets have
Aside from changing the layout of the land, mechanization is degrading the land. Large machinery
the potential to make a huge impact on quality of life and land productivity in the Midwest.
gives farmers the capability to farm thousands of acres of cropland and, along with government incentives,
compels them to plow over wildlife habitat and deplete
A fundamental paradigm shift is required for
soil for the sake of maximizing the land they can use for
agriculture to succeed in Iowa and other Midwestern
their crops. Machinery weighing several tons compacts
states. Policies cannot work by themselves. Perhaps
the soil, which lowers its hydration capacity and the root
agriculture is the realm where scientists and designers
depth of crops. Tilled soil blows away with the wind or
overlap to create systems that revolutionize farming as
washes into the rivers and streams; all of the beautiful
we know it. This growing blend of disciplines is deﬁned
black topsoil that Iowa is known for will inevitably
by the concept of “agroecology.” Rooted in the 1970s,
disappear. During the other six months of the year,
today this notion has evolved to be:
oceans of monocultures spread as far as the eye can see. Even though Iowa has some of the best topsoil in the world, this land cannot possibly sustain such harsh impact forever (Soule 1992). Along with the high environmental costs of industrial farming, the economic costs are just as staggering. A
•The application of ecology to the design and management of sustainable agroecosystems. •A whole-systems approach to agriculture and food systems development based on traditional knowledge, alternative agriculture and local food system experiences. •Linking ecology, culture, economics and
used 2010, 24-row John Deere planter can cost up to
society to sustain agricultural production, healthy
$200,000, not including the tractor required to pull it
environments and viable food and farming
nor the $225,000 (used) combine required to harvest the
communities (www.agroecology.org/ 2011).
seeds it sows. With these steep costs, a farmer cannot
These principles have not yet made it to Exira, but
aﬀord a couple of bad years where crop prices are low
some changes toward them have slowly started to
or land rental prices are high.
take place. For example, farmers used to plow their ﬁelds upward of ﬁve times a year: once in the spring for
The Political Effort After gaining Iowa’s seat in Congress in 1974, Tom
planting, a few times in the summer for cultivation and then over the dry remains of the harvest in the fall. This
Harkin switched to the U.S. Senate in 1984. During
practice exposed the topsoil to the elements and allowed
his stint in Congress, Harkin became a member of the
the winter wind to blow the top layer away. Over time,
Agriculture Committee and later graduated to the
technology has moved toward sustainable eﬀorts, and 53 | TRANSITION
BELOW 2421 280th Street. 1985 Value: $6,160. 2011 Value: $8,840. Photo by Emily Lynam. Photo by Emily Lynam 2011.
farmers now have the option to make one trip across their ﬁelds (aside from the harvest), with their no-till planters and attached sprayers, and can plant healthy crops without breaking into the soil. While not every farmer practices this method, no-till agriculture is one step in the right direction toward sustainable agriculture. Other popular movements are the local food movement, where people make an eﬀort to eat food that is grown locally. Also gaining popularity, is the use of perennial crops, as developed by Wes Jackson and the Land Institute, where farmers plant a perennial breed of corn which grows roots that mimic the deeply rooted plants of the prairie. The people living in rural Iowa are perfect candidates to make this kind of transition work. Nobody knows the land like farmers do, and ladies like my grandma, Lois Riesgaard, know all the tricks in the book about canning, freezing and other ways to make food last through the winter—these are the same practices that proponents of local food and sustainable agriculture movements tout. Reflection An array of scientiﬁc disciplines and governmental agencies are addressing the issue of unsustainable agriculture and declining rural communities. We can take cues from the likes of Joan Nassauer, professor for the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) at the University of Michigan, who designed her landscape-focused agricultural study “to integrate scientiﬁc knowledge from many disciplines into plausible landscape futures that would emphasize the range of choices available” (Nassauer 2002). In similar fashion we should collaborate to give more angles to the iterative process of forming future scenarios and speed up the paradigm shift in rural agriculture that is so needed. Laura Jackson, a professor in the Biology department at the University of Northern Iowa and the daughter of Wes Jackson, proposes that the agricultural landscape is not an accident; public policy and the market, not farmers, design the landscape, and the R O O Tv 3 | 5 4
BELOW John Deere DB120 Crop Planter 48 row planter, John Deere’s largest planter ever. $345,000. “Depending on eld conditions, the DB120 should plant 90-100 acres/hour.” (http://cornandsoybeandigest.com/world-slargest-planter-john-deere-s-db120)
design isn’t serving producers or consumers well. “Landscape architects are in a unique position to draw attention to the relationship between agency and aesthetic of rural landscapes, something many rural residents have been forced to sacriﬁce to economic reality” (Jackson 2008, 37). The Exira community has had to make those sacriﬁces. For example, the land around my home is farmed by one of my neighbors, and he set it aside from planting for about ten years in lieu of a ﬁnacial incentive from Harkin’s Farm Bill that gave some farmers ﬁnancial prerogatives to set aside fragile land so that it can rehabilitate. During this time it was home to a plethora of wildﬂowers, deer and pheasants. However, corn prices have since increased, making planting crops more economically feasible than preserving land, and those ﬁelds are now again home to soy beans and hay. This incident simply illustrates that if any sustainable agriculture ideas are to succeed, they must make economic sense for the farmers who are to implement them.
AUTHOR BIO Emily Lynam was born and raised in the dreamy rolling hills of Iowa where agriculture rules all. Since that time, she has discovered that the world knows too little about Iowa and, even more concerning, what a signiﬁcant role the state plays in our everyday lives. Now that she’s working towards her Master’s in Landscape Architecture at the University of Colorado Denver she has gained the opportunity to spread the word about the needs of the Midwest and hopes to someday incite change in agricultural practices.
55 | TRANSITION
LEFT 1869 270th Street. 1985 Value: $19,070. 2009 Value: $33,980. 2011 Value: $6,140. Photo by Emily Lynam 2011.
References Agroecology. “Home Page.” Accessed March 2011. www.agroecology.org/. Bird, Elizabeth Ann R, et al. Planting the Future: Developing an Agriculture that Sustains Land and Community. Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1995. Davidson, Osha Gray. Broken Heartland: The Rise of America’s Rural Ghetto. Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 1996. Francis, Amy. The Local Food Movement. Michigan: Greenhaven Press, 2010. Harkin, Tom. “Biography.” Accessed April 2011. harkin.senate.gov/abouttom.cfm. Iowa Corn. “Creating Opportunities for Long-Term Iowa Corn Grower Proﬁtability.” Accessed April 2011. http://www.iowacorn.org/index.cfm?nodeID=30321&audienceID=1&action=display&new sID=11594. Jackson, Laura. “Who ‘Designs’ the Agricultural Landscape?” Landscape Journal, 27 (2008): 23-40. Nassauer, Joan, et al. “The landscape in 2025: Alternative landscape future scenarios as a means to consider agricultural policy.” Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 57 (2002):44A–53A. Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma. USA: Penguin Press, 2006. Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation. New York: Houghton Miﬄin, 2001. Soule, Judith D. and Jon K. Piper. Farming in Nature’s Image: An Ecological Approach to Agriculture. Washington D.C.: Island Press, 1992. USDA. “Farm Bill 2002.” Accessed March 2011. www.usda.gov/farmbill2002/conservation_fb.html. Vitek, William, and Wes Jackson. Rooted in the Land: essays on community and place. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996. Warner, Keith Douglass. Agroecology in Action: Extending Alternative Agriculture through Social Networks. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2007. Wood, Richard E. Survival of Rural America: Small Victories and Bitter Harvests. Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2008. Woolf, Aaron. “King Corn.” Documentary Film, 2007. Inverviews Audubon County Assessor’s Oﬃce. April 2011.
R O O Tv 3 | 5 6
My parents, Jim and Bonnie Lynam, residents of Exira, IA. March 2011.
DE NV E R U RBA N T RU CK FAR M Mobilizing the Garden in Industrializationâ€™s Wake Ryan Sotirakis
What if we took the notion of growing food in urban areas beyond the traditional vacant lot or community garden? What if we used a remnant of our collective industrial past? Meet the Denver Urban Truck Farm: urban agriculture mobilized! Inspired by a similar project in Brooklyn and constructed by landscape architecture graduate students Ashleigh Quillen and Ryan Sotirakis, the Denver Urban Truck Farm highlights several methods of reclaiming space. The Farm shows the public that food can be grown in the smallest of urban spaces and that vegetable plants and herbs are incredibly productive, even in containers. Constructed in the bed of a 1966 Ford F-250 pickup truck, the Farm uses several layer components of a green roof system to demonstrate how they are built and also to keep it lightweight, keeping fuel eﬃciency tolerable and easing the burden on the old truck’s shocks. In 2010, the Truck Farm was planted with a wide variety of vegetables and herbs. Taller plants such as tomatoes were planted against the cab to protect them from wind, though the truck never sees any high-speed roads. We secured a season-long space at the Old South Pearl Street Farmer’s Market in Denver and were greeted with excitement from the community. By late summer we had a large following of people watching our progress. Additionally, the Denver Urban Truck Farm made appearances at the Civic Center Lunchtime Market and a local elementary school at the request of several parents. Colorado Public Radio featured a story on the Farm in mid-September. For 2011, the Denver Urban Truck Farm is hoping to participate in more events and aiming for even more exposure. The original truck farmers in Brooklyn have created a non-proﬁt organization and have launched 25 new truck farms in cities across America. Each is required to visit at least 25 local schools as part of the mission to bring urban agriculture to the forefront of a national conversation. Here in Denver, we have provided the model for the other truck farms and increased awareness of reclaiming space, however small, and putting it back to productive use. This year we will be attending multiple farmers markets, visiting many local elementary schools, and partnering with local farm-totable restaurants for various events and special meals where patrons can experience the farm on a personal level. The Denver Urban Truck Farm demonstrates that knowledge and willpower is building to repurpose traditional space - be it an urban lot, a backyard, a ﬂower pot or even an old pickup truck and reconnect to our food and our communities. AUTHOR BIO Ryan Sotirakis is a co-founder of the Denver Urban Truck Farm, a collaborative urban agriculture demonstration project. He is a MLA candidate at the UC Denver, and holds a Bachelor of Urban Planning from the University of Cincinnati. Prior to attending UC Denver, Ryan has worked in several urban design ﬁrms and public planning agencies. Additionally, Ryan is actively involved in UC Denver’s Student chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and currently serves as National Student Representative to the Board of Trustees in Washington, DC.
R O O Tv 3 | 5 8
MYSTE R I O U S M O RAY
Incan Embellishment Reflected Upon the Ground Kenneth R. Wright, PE
PREVIOUS Aerial view of the Moray from the Shippee-Johnson survey in 1931.Photo by Shippee-Johnson 1931.
The priests in a church in Cuzco knew of their [the muyus] existence and said they had been used by the Incas for religious presentations
Johnson in 1931 as they ﬂew over the expanse of the 11,000 – to 12,000-foot-high plateau of southern
The Layout of Moray Although the terraced holes are the dominant
Peru while performing geologic surveys. They were
features of Moray, the site has additional components. To
astounded to see four sets of perfect concentric circles
the south of the three largest muyus is a series of linear
etched into the terrain. Fortunately, the very moment of
terraces that provide balance through contrast to the
their discovery was captured on ﬁlm as they circled over
concentric circles. Just south of the northernmost muyu
the site, snapping a series of remarkable photos.
is a special complex that has remnants of a double-jamb
Compelled by such photos and personal site
doorway, which signiﬁes an entrance to special high-
visits, I brought in my non-proﬁt organization, Wright
status ceremonial buildings for the Inca. Between the two
Paleohydrological Institute (WPI), to undertake ﬁeld work
largest muyus, a high ridge overlook juts out.
and research at Moray to better understand the ancient
In each muyu are carefully placed hydraulic
water use and management at the site. WPI is a collection
drop structures (vertical channels), coupled with
of engineers, archaeologists, scientists and other experts
geometrically situated ﬂying stairs (stairstepped rocks
We have, however, not been able to find any mention
who donate their knowledge, skills and time to learning
jutting from terrace walls), adding order and detail to
of them in the literature on the region. (Robert
and educating on the subject of paleohydrology. WPI has
each set of circles. They suggest this place was not built
Shippee 1932, 18).
also conducted research at Machu Picchu and Tipon in
simply for utilitarian purposes.
during their ﬁestas. Twenty-two miles northwest of the ancient
Peru, Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, Barbegal,
Inca capital of Cusco, Peru, on a high plain at the
France, Pompeii, Italy and Olympia, Greece. Landscape
northeastern base of the Wanumarka Mountain, lay four
architecture and its function has been a major element of
giant sinkholes that have been sculpted and terraced
the sites WPI studies.
into a place of beauty. This landscape achievement,
WPI conducted ﬁeld reviews (detailed
What We Know About Moray Moray was constructed during the ﬁfteenth and early sixteenth centuries by the Inca. By A.D. 1534 it was abandoned and lost in obscurity for the next 400 years.
Moray, covers 92 acres. Its deep, terraced holes, which
measurements, hydrogeologic investigations, pollen
We know that the Inca did not have a written language or
we know as muyus (mi•yews), range from the smallest
studies, landscape and architecture design and
the wheel. Without iron or steel and having no modern
at 130 feet in diameter to the largest at nearly 400 feet.
construction analyses) at Moray in October 2005 and
surveying instruments, the Inca engineers built Moray
The nearly perfect concentric circles of the largest
February 2009 to examine existing knowledge about
in such a way that it endured into the 20th century
muyu are complemented by gently curved ovals that,
water use on site and to better understand what may
relatively unscathed. We know that it endured because
overall, cover a distance of more than two football
have been its function through study of evidence.
of those stunning photographs, taken long before there
ﬁelds from north to south. There are another two large
The common assumption with which we began was
was any thought of site restoration.
sinkholes nearby, also with concentric circles, and a
eventually ruled out, and a new picture of the site’s
fourth, shallower depression of similar form.
purpose emerged. A complete account of WPI’s work at
high-altitude environmental conditions, modern
Moray is available in Moray: Inca Engineering Mystery,
designers must marvel at the thousands of feet of
published in 2011 by ASCE Press.
terrace retaining walls that remained whole over such
The site was ﬁrst noticed by American geologist Robert Shippee and U.S. Navy pilot Lieutenant George
R O O Tv 3 | 6 0
Taking into consideration the centuries of ravaging
PREVIOUS Aerial view of the Moray from the Shippee-Johnson survey in 1931. Photo by Shippee-Johnson 1931.
a long period. This alone is a striking example of the
Elsewhere in the muyus, geometry aﬀects soil
extraordinary design and construction that achieved
temperature due to shadows from terrace walls, as well
stabilization of the sloping walls of ancient sinkholes
as from adjacent hills during diﬀerent hours of each
using soil mechanic principles to combat adverse
day. It was this type of shadow creation that formed
subsurface moisture and drainage conditions.
the foundation of Earls’ theory. His hypothesis was not
Certainly, Inca technical capabilities are well
based on the terrace elevations (although that is often
represented by the ﬁeld evidence left at Moray.
an assumption made by others). Terrace elevations have
Inca know-how was the key to Moray’s remarkable
nothing to do with soil temperatures, only orientation to
appearance and longevity.
the sun during the various seasons.
What We Thought We Knew About
temperatures at a depth of about four inches below
the ground surface over a period of an entire year, in
Earls’ meticulous ﬁeldwork included measuring soil
One cannot look at the sculpted muyus of Moray
addition to calendric observations. His soil temperature
without wondering why the Inca undertook this
readings were made on terraces without the leafy
monumental landscape architecture eﬀort. What was
vegetation that would otherwise intercept the sun’s
its purpose and function? A long-held and popular
rays and without irrigation water that would cool the
hypothesis is that Moray was an experimental
soil. In 1998, Earls delivered a paper entitled, “The
agricultural station and control center for developing
Character of Inca and Andean Agriculture” (Earls 1999),
diﬀerent crop strains. The theory was that climates of
that summarized this data (http://macareo.pucp.edu.
many diﬀerent ecological zones were present at this
single site and the deep natural bowls caught sunlight
Earls’ solstice, annual and monthly data indicated
and shade in such a way as to create variations in
substantial diﬀerences in soil temperature at the
temperature within a small area.
largest muyu, depending upon exposure to the
Australian physicist Dr. John Earls, who has taught
sun, width of the terrace and soil moisture. The soil
for many years in Lima, studied Moray during 1975
temperatures showed wide variations for diﬀerent
to 1976. Earls, who is published and well respected,
terrace levels and orientation to the sun that could be
suggested Moray had been an Inca agricultural research
interpreted as representing diﬀerent ecological zones.
and control center after measuring and recording soil
Generally, the lowest four levels of the muyu were
temperatures there for a year. He speculated that the
consistently cool due to soil moisture, with the ﬁfth level
northern upper-level terraces are very cold during the
being the warmest due to having the widest terrace.
June solstice period and then warm up at diﬀerent rates because of the position of solar angles.
However, Earls’ data does not lend support to the agricultural research station and control center
6 1 | U N D E R S TA N D
TOP LEFT Drop structures that line one side of each Muyu. Photo courtesy Ken Wright. BOTTOM LEFT Flying stairs decorate the sides of the muyus in beautiful patterns. Photo courtesy Ken Wright.
hypothesis because of the simple fact that crops need
is no evidence to support the theory; meanwhile, ﬁeld
water. Currently and historically, Moray receives about
evidence gathered at Moray tells us the following:
20 inches of annual precipitation. While the lowest four
•The muyu sinkholes are in the calcitic Maras
muyu levels maintain soil moisture and thereby maintain
formation that is high in soluble calcium and
fairly consistent soil temperatures, crops on the ﬁfth
sulphates. For instance, water draining from the
and higher terraces would have required irrigation
formation approaches a salt concentration of 60,000
to sustain production. This moisture would have
parts per million. Calcitic soils would be a constraint
homogenized the soil temperatures.
to crop research.
Earls’ data for soil temperatures for January and
•The terraced muyus cover only 6.4 acres, while
February during the rainy season, when soil moisture
a suitable agricultural research station would likely
would be high, shows that all levels exhibit nearly the
require between 50 and 100 acres. Except for one
same soil temperatures – an average of about 62 to 65
building on Terrace 8 of the largest muyu, there are no
degrees Fahrenheit. A variation of temperature of a few
remains of buildings that could have served utilitarian
degrees is not signiﬁcant to an agricultural research
functions to support research staﬀ or house various
station. Furthermore, if the leafy vegetation of a crop
strains of crop seeds and ﬁeld research paraphernalia
were growing there, it would tend to intercept the rays
needed for research and agricultural control. There is
of the sun before they reached the surface of the soil,
evidence of a single building that archaeologists believe
thereby minimizing the three degree variance.
could have been a structure to house site managers. The other few building remains are judged to have been
Other Contradictions for the Agricultural Research Station Theory This argument with Earls’ agricultural research station and control center hypothesis is in no way meant as a criticism of its originator. Dr. Earls, like many
•Moray was rather isolated. Between the nearest village, Maras, and Moray there is no evidence of a trail that would handle heavy traﬃc to and from a research center. •Agricultural research by the Inca could more easily
good scientists, came up with a theory that seemed
be conducted on some of the thousands of accessible
reasonable, and some of his data supported it. The
terraces in the valley and side canyons of the Vilcanota
problem was that many tour guides and academics
River. The terraced slopes of side tributaries would
accepted and repeated Earls’ hypothesis without
provide adequate opportunities for wide temperature
question, giving his notion a level of certainty that had not
variations over the actual elevation diﬀerentials of
been veriﬁed. Earls should be applauded for advancing
hundreds of feet and endless changes of sun exposure.
the dialogue, even if his theory cannot be sustained. The concern with the agricultural research hypothesis is that it does not bear up to scrutiny. There
R O O Tv 3 | 6 2
ceremonial and religious structures.
•Precipitation at Moray during the planting season of September and October averages 0.6 and 1.5 inches, respectively, and the water supply furnished by the
RIGHT Moray’s largest Muyu. Photo courtesy Ken Wright.
Moray spring during these months amounts to only 40 gallons per minute. Both of these factors would have limited agricultural research opportunities. •The Inca would have had to irrigate research crops in the circular terraces of the muyus, but the muyus were natural sinkholes created by solution of the calcitic formation by rain and groundwater. To stabilize the muyus, the Inca painstakingly built the terraces and developed drainage plugs at the bottoms. Adding water to the muyus would have been counterproductive to this eﬀort and would have exacerbated the stability problem. We know that the Inca were very aware of the hazard of excessive water on steep slopes. For example, to stabilize the landslide on the east side of the largest muyu, they installed internal drains to remove lubricating water for the slip-plane of the landslide. One can conclude that the Inca never intended to irrigate the circular terraces. •In each of the four muyus there is only one set of hydraulic drop structures to deliver water from one terrace to the next level. The circular terraces have no secondary rows of hydraulic drop structures to handle excess irrigation water. Furthermore, the slope of the circular terraces is not conducive to moving water around them. •The engineering challenges faced by the Inca at Moray were daunting. To fully imagine the diﬃculties, one can go a short distance down valley from the Moray site to view what the Inca began with: a huge unimproved sinkhole with high, steep sides that are prone to landslides. Would the Inca have invested as much eﬀort as they did at Moray to build a marginal agricultural research station? What is Known about Moray that Could Indicate its Purpose? If Moray was not an Inca agricultural experimental and control station, what was it? Why invest years of resources and labor to tame the unstable slopes of the deep sinkholes when other land existed? A good answer to these questions can emerge from what is commonly known about the Inca: •The Inca loved the landscape and the art of reshaping it. At Machu Picchu, Pisac, Tipon, Ollantaytambo and most all of the Inca ceremonial and population centers, natural features are terraced, enhanced and made regular. This was done to facilitate the cultivation of crops, but also to express power and dominion over the land. •Inca terraces at Machu Picchu and Chinchero were geometric and straight, at Pisac they form curves to hug the hillside and at Sondor they encircle a steep, conical hill. Given the Inca aﬃnity for terra forming, Moray is a site where an Inca royal decided to experiment with circular and oval geometrics when constructing terracing.
6 3 | U N D E R S TA N D
LEFT An unlandscaped sinkhole. Photo courtesy Ken Wright.
•It was characteristic of the Inca to take advantage of immense natural anomalies in the terrain, like sinkholes. The Inca worshipped elements of the natural surroundings and would have had an appreciation for the fact this site was a product of geology, rain and groundwater. Rector Aurelio Padilla Ríos of Peru’s national engineering university wrote that the Inca remade the landscape “without diminishing its beauty but heightening it in the manner of one who carves a gem” (Wright 2008, ix). •The Inca used water for ceremonies and rituals. Liquid was ritually poured onto the ground to quench the thirst of Pachamama, the earth mother. One can imagine the drama of water cascading down the drop structures of one of Moray’s immense muyus until it reaches Pachamama at the muyu’s base. •Many Inca ceremonial sites had a special vantage point where priests and royalty could perch, observe and be observed. At Moray, a natural ridge juts out between the muyus, with remains of buildings at its front boasting a grand view of most of the site. From here priests could have called for water to be delivered from the reservoirs to the muyus, where it would have cascaded from one terrace to the next and ﬁnally disappear at the bottom. •One indication that an Inca building was considered high-status was if it had a double-jamb doorway. Near the ridge of one of the muyus at Moray are remains of high-status buildings with a double jamb doorway. •The circular terraces are perfectly formed and painstakingly constructed. The Inca sometimes built “high prestige” terraces that were not intended for common agriculture (Niles 1982, 173). These constructions favor this interpretation. •The Inca worshipped haucas – stones with religious signiﬁcance. There are many of these scattered throughout the Moray site and in the vicinity. They include: the carved Machuera Rock on the hillside overlooking Moray, the Iconographic Rock with a diagram of Moray’s water system engraved on it and the carved Pacchac Rocks along the Mismanay stream. •For the Inca, religion and agriculture were closely related. The agricultural terraces at Machu Picchu, for example, were used to grow high-status crops like corn, which was used to make the fermented ceremonial beverage chicha. Many signiﬁcant Inca places, like the Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu, have calendric elements in that the sun will cast a shadow in a particular place on a certain day, often the Solstice. Inca Sondor, the terraced, conical hill described above, is a place where the zenith sun will cast no shadows. More study is required, but it seems that the Moray muyus could have had signiﬁcance as the location of an inverse phenomenon to Sondor’s. Moray was a Religious Ceremonial Center The Cusco priests told members of the Shippee-Johnson expedition in 1931 that Moray had been used by the Inca for religious presentations during their ﬁestas (Shippee 1932, 18). Our research and R O O Tv 3 | 6 4
RIGHT Stairs and curvilinear lines of the muyus with a person standing on one of the terraces. Photo courtesy Ken Wright.
ﬁeld work at Moray, coupled with generally accepted information about the Inca, demonstrates that they were right. Careful scientiﬁc work was performed by our team of four archaeologists, a plant scientist, two geologists, a civil engineer-hydrologist and a historian to analyze the components of Moray. Using reverse design, we initially worked to prove the landscape research station hypothesis but could not. Once we decided to let the facts speak for themselves, further ﬁeld work led us to our conclusion that Moray was a religious ceremonial site. The Inca at Moray embarked on a monumental topographic reshaping and terracing eﬀort to embellish the natural sinkholes and create a great landscape architectural masterpiece. The site was not created for utilitarian purposes, but to be a marvel that could be viewed from the heavens in honor of the Inca gods.
AUTHOR BIO Kenneth R. Wright, P.E., founded and still works at the consulting engineering ﬁrm of Wright Water Engineers of Denver, Colorado. Celebrating its 50th year in 2011, Wright Water Engineers specializes in public works and water resources engineering. Since 1994, Wright has done extensive research on ancient water works construction and water handling at Machu Picchu, Tipon and Moray in Peru and Mesa Verde National Park. This work has earned him six academic awards from Peru’s leading universities, a decoration from Peru’s President and, with his wife Ruth, a joint honorary doctor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin. References Earls, J. “Investigación topo climatica en al altiplano oriental de Bolivia.” [Mimeógrafo] Departmento de Ciencias Socialesa, PUCP, Lima. “The Character of Inca and Andean Agriculture.” Conferencia in Israel auspiciado por la PUCP y la Embajada Peruana en Israel, 1998. 1999. Niles, S. A. “Style and function in Inca agricultural works near Cusco.” Ñawpa Pacha, 20 (1982): 163–182. Shippee, R. “The great wall of Peru: Lost valleys of Peru and other aerial photographic studies by the ShippeeJohnson Peruvian expedition.” The Geographical Review, XXII(1) (1932): 18. Wright, K.R., A.V. Zegarra, R.M. Wright, G.F. McEwan. Moray: Inca Engineering Mystery. Virginia: ASCE Press, 2011. Wright, K. R. “Tipón: Obra maestra de la ingeniería hidráulica del imperio de los Incas.” Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería and Universitat Ramon Llull, Lima, Peru. (2008) ix.
6 5 | U N D E R S TA N D
The Living City Block LoDo and Regenerative Living Systems
DIST U RB I N G T HE U R BAN
PREVIOUS Highly Urban settings with large expanses of concrete limit plant design strategies to individual 3’-0” x 3’-0” tree grate holes adjacent to street curbs. Linear, connected planting spaces allow for healthier root growth while potentially enhancing the aesthetics of the urban street. Drawing by Patsy Shaﬀer 2011.
One overcast morning, after a late spring snow, I found myself negotiating heavy patches of slush amid cracked concrete lifts on my way to a meeting at the Webb Building in downtown Denver.
For those of us who are transplants from the east and
back in the height of the mining boom in the 1860s with
west coasts or from other mixed deciduous forests of the
the intent of marketing the area to potential East Coast
U.S. that receive more than 20 inches of rainfall annually,
newcomers as a spacious and lush oasis of deciduous/
the landscape of Denver and the Colorado Front Range
semi-deciduous broadleaf forest (Werner et al. 1993).
does not seem unusual. Tree-lined streets and Kentucky
Despite this perpetuated myth, the potentials of this latent
Bluegrass lawns irrigated from what was commonly
garden are exposed every time we see an ecological event
thought to be endless supplies of glacier-fed reservoirs
take place. Orchestrated by humans or independent of our
have fed this delusion. The 2002 drought was a wake-up
doing, these events reveal conditions that encourage the
call to those who have watched the population explode
ﬂourishing of life, vegetation or habitat based on those
on the Front Range and have wondered about the limits
conditions. In regard to my diligent patch of bromegrass in
of our water resources for local agriculture, landscape
spring, this event can be understood as part of a stage of
maintenance and individual use and consumption. Today,
succession because it is a response to ecological changes
metro-Denver residents use over 48 gallons of water a
that have disturbed previous conditions (Clements 1916).
day on outdoor irrigation (www. DenverWater.org 2011). But while
“We know how to see ecological quality only through our cultural lenses,
Perhaps it was the dim morning light of snow clouds
population growth has certainly
a n d t h r o u g h t h o s e l e n s e s i t m a y o r m a y n o t l o o k l i k e n a t u r e .”
or maybe it was my attention to the ground as I did
taxed these resources, trends
not want to show up to my meeting with a broken
to become “resource eﬃcient,”
nose or a scarred knee, but I was unexpectedly
“sustainable,” “green” and
distracted from my path. A lush patch of smooth
“xeric” in our landscape are not practices that should be
Such disturbances have most often been deemed
bromegrass grew exuberantly out of a decorative
understood as purely reactive to future population and
undesirable to our own species. In an eﬀort to protect
steel tree well. The tree had failed in its place and
resource use estimates.
human habitat from what we consider damage and
left behind an opening for some other biophysical
The reality is that the landscape we inhabit today is a
– Joan Iverson Nassauer
disaster, such as ﬂood, pest and ﬁre events, we
event to occur. Among a sea of grey concrete panels
product of human eﬃciencies and opportunistic resource
have altered the soil nutrient cycle by eliminating
of pockmarked sidewalk and street, this small event,
use for the beneﬁt of ﬁscal growth and human sustenance.
those events which have previously allowed an
combined with climatic conditions, produced a
The constructed city has proved a lab for cycles of
existing ecological state to be transformed into
rather profound phenomenological experience; at
economic production, a nest for the nurturing of diﬀerent
another. Instead, in our attempt to stage an idealized
the base of towering structures of glass and cement,
cultures and a haven of protection from a harsh, semi-arid
urban ecology representative of one that can not
weathered brown steel grates with black striping
region that held the name “Great American Desert” for over
be sustained by our climate or resources, we have
voids allow air, water and sediment to collect. Bright
50 years after it was settled (Werner et al. 1993). But it has
produced an environment not viable for plant life to
green blades standing erect at least ten inches amid
also become a latent garden, an ecological system that
take hold. This landscape has become an architectural
the snow and steel. One living system thrives where
has been used and depleted, paved over and ignored. This
and engineered endeavor for the success of one
another had failed.
system was originally reinvented as an artiﬁcial ecology
species, but at the expense of all others.
6 7 | U N D E R S TA N D
In many ways, our urban street tree is a measuring
sites (post-1940) generally have gone through a
achieve this by integrating practices that will reduce overall
stick for this ecological failure in the city. On any given
larger number of site modifications as well as a
energy use, such as installing solar panels and optimizing
street in downtown Denver, it is more extraordinary to
more intensive grading regimen (Urban 1992).
wind and geothermal resource strategies. But the project is
see a tree that is ﬂourishing than it is to see one that
Two hundred years ago the view from the banks
unique in that it is concurrently pursuing new frameworks
is not. When you line street trees up one after another,
of the South Platte River spoke a diﬀerent story. It
for street design to integrate both human and non-human
you don’t notice health, you notice failure. This is how we
was a narrative of time and geology, periodic drought
processes into how we think about urban communities.
have deﬁned our urban landscape. We have grown more
and ﬂooding, winds and ﬁre. A millennium of prairie
accustomed to having streets lined with newly planted, 2
ecosystem dynamics on Colorado’s Front Range
about the role of urban living systems as components
inch caliper trees than streets lined with healthy mature
produced a deep, rich earth built over time and cut away
in the energy systems of cities. The reintroduction of
trees, accepting that these essential plants will survive
by hydro-geologic forces. These soils developed at ﬁrst
successional processes (including disturbance) in urban
on average less than ten years (www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/
from debris blown down from the mountains (Mutel
environments begins to transform the city landscape
pubs/uf/briefs98/ufassess.htm 2011). If understanding
1992). Over time, the soil of these temperate grasslands
and is expressed in forms that are often termed as
ecological function is necessary for humans to maintain
became nutrient-rich from “the growth and decay of deep,
“green infrastructure.” Stormwater gardens, permeable
“ecological quality” in their environments, then surely
many-branched grass roots” (www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/
pavement, continuous tree wells and bioswales
Denver is in need of a new cultural translation of
exhibits/biomes/grasslands 2011). It was a vast and rich
are strategies that all allow for cycles of ecological
landscape, one that is responsive to the challenges and
resource for the ﬁrst generations of farmers to the area,
process to have a renewed relationship with the urban
needs of our diﬃcult urban conditions (Nassauer 1997).
but regular tilling and cattle grazing of the short and tall
ground. Areas designated to function for stormwater
grass prairie has eliminated the necessary successional
collection, inﬁltration and ﬁltering will once again
processes of frequent, severe disturbances that created
experience disturbance conditions of ﬂooding and
a biodiverse and thriving ecosystem (Mutel 1992).
wind. Such eﬀorts to decrease impermeable pavement
The State of Colorado’s Urban Soils According to renowned urban street tree expert James Urban, FASLA, “Urban forestry practices have largely relied on tree selection or ’the right tree in the right place‘ as the primary method to overcome
Such a project opens doors for innovative thinking
and increase vegetative cover begin to change the soil Denver’s Next Urban Ecosystem: The Living City Block LoDo’s Living City Block Project (LCB) creates a stage
composition of an area amid a sea of concrete. Slowly, we can imagine the urban skin peeled back, transforming
more difficult sites. Current research suggests that
for new ideas and strategies for regenerative and resource
the language of the landscape from engineered
many urban sites are so severe that no species will
eﬃcient urban communities. The one-and-a-half block area
construct to latent garden.
reliably work” (Perry 1989). Both soil quality (aerated
located between 15th and 16th and Wynkoop and Wazee/
and nutrient-rich) and soil quantity (capacity for
Blake alley is composed of oﬃce buildings, retail shops,
Design Intent: Rediscovering the Colorado Front
water holding and root growth through the life of the
restaurants, as well as lower – and higher-income housing
tree) are ingredients for urban tree growth (Acquaah
units. LCB is a non-proﬁt organization aiming to create a
2005). Historical neighborhoods like LoDo may have
“replicable, exportable, scalable and economically viable
storefronts and often irregular, sloping sidewalks, it
better chances for urban tree success because of
framework for the resource eﬃcient regeneration of
is easy to mistake the original intent of this lively and
the lesser degree of soil deterioration (grading,
cities” with the goal of making the LoDo project an energy
now highly desirable neighborhood. The architecture is
compaction, removal of topsoil). Modern building
net-zero block by the year 2014. The organization plans to
dominated by turn-of-the-century red brick warehouses
R O O Tv 3 | 6 8
As you walk the streets of LoDo, with their rhythmic
RIGHT What is the value of a healthy tree in Denver? Successful tree and plant growth naturally amend s soil over time, creating soil environments that have suitable aeration, structure and adequate organics and nutrients. Drawing by Patsy Shaﬀer 2010
that were originally designed to be multifunctional due to
and local ecological systems. This perennial polyculture
the changing face of both settlement and industry, even in
employs knowledge of the biological design of plants with
those early years of the late 19th century (Noel 1991). Many
diﬀering life cycles as a way to understand the long term
of these weather stained warehouses – raised from local
eﬀects of farming annual crops (Jackson 1978).
earthen materials – were used for agricultural storage and
Similar to the annual species we see pop up in the
distribution. Using this historical narrative as a symbol
ﬁrst stage of primary succession, the monoculture
to drive the streetscape design, the form of the crop row
planting of annual grain crops maximize the “weedy”
becomes a signiﬁcant cultural form which shaped both the
and “enterprising” qualities of these plants that are
landscape and the economy of young Denver. This form
biologically designed to have abundant biomass without
becomes instrumental in shaping the planting design of
a lot of energy put into root stock. While such annuals are accepted as “productive” in their
“ N e x t t o n u c l e a r w a r , t h e l a r g e s t e n v i r o n m e n t a l p r o b l e m i s s o i l l o s s .” -Wes Jackson
manipulated form, all lined up and spread across the gentle rises of the Colorado Front Range landscape,
the space while framing an understanding of ecological
this organizational language incorrectly implies eﬃcient
change over time. A migratory seed blows into the city
resource use. In the city, where highly organized systems
from the South Platte’s riparian corridor and embeds
are expected to a higher degree, the presence of annuals
itself in exposed earth. A bunch grass fails among a line of
often breeds contempt for transitional spaces. Those
brotherly soldiers, leaving a forlorn gap. Within an orderly
determined and expeditious little suckers that make
system like a crop row, both events mark an inherent desire
us notice the imperfect cracks in the pavement and the
for non-human systems to wander and misbehave.
loose decomposed asphalt in the corner of a parking lot
More than 30 years ago, botanist Wes Jackson of California State University-Sacramento developed a theory of perennial polyculture for “nature-based”
where the last few leaves have not been swept up—they are a quiet but resilient narrative of a space in transition. Jackson’s perennial polyculture theory promotes
agriculture. He conceded that humans manipulated the
self-renewing and self-regulating prairie ecosystem
native environment for the creation of eﬃcient systems
models for agriculture. He sought to have ﬁelds planted
of food mass-production. But he also recognized the
in polycultures (more than one plant in a ﬁeld), utilizing
ability for technology to develop horticultural systems
spatial mappings of prairie species relatives to guide
that could be productive, eﬃcient and resource sensitive
each ﬁeld’s companion planting. Jackson also wanted
(Jackson 1978). Jackson’s research and work with the Land
to use perennials, which would not need to be replanted
Institute, the Kansas-based non-proﬁt organization he
every year so that soil would be left more intact –
founded in 1976, is noteworthy because of its relevance
preventing erosion – and allowing important relationships
and attention to processes of ecological succession
between soil and plant to develop (Jackson 1978).
6 9 | U N D E R S TA N D
Jackson’s work as well as research from the University of Florida’s (UFL) School of Forest Resources and Conservation and St. Paul Minnesota’s Greening of the Great River Park Program. UFL’s work acknowledges urban areas as ecosystems that have been deprived of necessary successional processes that can degrade ecosystems beyond recovery without cycles of biodiversity. Instead, researchers advocate for the determination of an “appropriate natural disturbance regime” to reintroduce to urban areas (Binelli et al. 2000). In contrast and grounded in practice, the Greening of the Great River Park Program is a 35-acre project in downtown St. Paul, established in 1995, which utilizes frequent low-intensity ﬁres and grass cutting to maintain the successional stage of the prairie ecosystem (Binelli et al. 2000). Likewise, the recommended design incorporates plant phasing based on the beneﬁcial ecological exchanges of plant succession over time. The concept uses the current tree-planting zone of a linear ﬁvefeet area adjacent to the curb as the active planting area which also functions as an area for stormwater runoﬀ. The design starts with primary succession grass species of the native prairie due to their extremely ﬁbrous and deep roots. The intention here is for these plants to add organics and nutrients to the soil while also aerating it through horticultural processes. The initial phase incorporates mass plantings of grasses such as Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) and Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), which are also used ornamentally in our designed landscapes. These native grasses have a
R O O Tv 3 | 7 0
Successional plantings over time
POLLUTANTS REACHING STORMSEWER
SOIL HEALTH (NUTRIENTS, AIR, INFILTRATION)
The design for the Wazee Streetscape draws from
PREVIOUS As prairie grasses are allowed to escape the rigidity of the regulated human form of crop rows, the successional patterns of prairie plants evolve into their own expression in the landscape. Over time, as grasses fail, the human hand again changes the space by introducing native forbes and shrubs into the gaps that have developed. The use of such native plants is both aesthetic and productive: these drought and ďŹ‚ood tolerant species ďŹ lter pollutants via deep root systems while depositing organics into degraded urban soils. Drawing by Patsy ShaďŹ€er 2010
Use of vertical living systems insulates buildings from radiant heat generated from impervious surfaces.
Air pollution is trapped between buildings amid stop & go bus/car traffic Vertical systems can replicate the filtered shade produced by trees which take much longer to reach desirable heights.
Use of trees adapted to our climate still need at least 100sf of nutrient rich & uncompacted soils to survive to maturity.
Porous surfaces enable plant roots access to water & air while allowing pollutants to be absorbed before entering the stormsewer. 7 1 | U N D E R S TA N D
variety of beneﬁcial qualities for use in highly disturbed
to increase. Without the willingness to place a monetary
urban environments with high levels of pollutants and
value on the designed propagation of living systems
severe microclimate conditions. They are tolerant of
in the city, landscape architects will continue to be
both ﬂood and drought so could withstand our brief
limited to the streetscape design of aesthetic concrete
inundations of rain as well as long periods without
planters and decorative scored cement sidewalks. Lucky
precipitation. They are also natural pollutant ﬁlters.
for us, we will continue to be reminded that sealing the
Trees will be used strategically in the design, from the
ground plane does not stiﬂe the bubbling, breathing,
ﬁrst phase of planting, though an emphasis will be made
pulsating, shifting and burgeoning processes of ecology
on an investment in tree root zone area and quality over
that exist elusively in urban environments.
the number of trees planted. The second planting phase adds prairie forbes to the
1916. Mutel, Corneilia and John Emerick. From Grassland to Glacier. Boulder: Johnson Printing, 1992. Jackson, Wes. “Soil Loss and the Search for a Permanent Agriculture”. The Land Report (1978): N.4. Nassauer, Jane. Placing Nature: Culture in Landscape Ecology. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1997. Noel, Thomas, Stephen Leonard. Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis. Boulder, CO: University of Colorado Press, 1991.
design in places where the grasses have failed. Again,
The author is currently a 3rd year MLA student at UCD and
these perennials are plants that are commonly used
Community Planning Technician at the National Park Service.
in ornamental planting design and are valued for their
She grew up in the suburbs of New York City, studying psychol-
color, form and ability to thrive in our climate.
ogy and studio art at Binghamton University. Patsy then spent
Perry. Thomas O. “Conditions for Plant Growth.” Proc. Fourth Urban Forest Conference, St. Louis. Missouri, 1989. Urban, James. “Bringing Order to the Technical Dysfunction within the Urban Forest.” Journal of Arboriculture 18 (1992): 85.
an invigorating year traveling Eastern and Western Europe
Woodring, R. Craig, Brian Werner. “Deﬁning Ecological and Sociological
to the landscape and utilizes the work that previous
which inspired continued travels of the U.S. She has resided
Integrity for the South Platte River Basin.” Fort Collins, Colorado:
plantings have done to improve soil conditions on the
in Boulder ever since. Her design career has enabled profes-
Colorado Water Resources Research Institute, 1993.
street. Trees chosen for planting in both phases 1 and
sional opportunities with Boulder County Parks & Open Space,
3 will be species selected for their appropriateness
the City of Denver Parks & Recreation and Living City Block
the ground.” Proc. Sixth Conference Metropolitan Tree Improvement
in the semi-arid landscape, as well as their tolerance
LoDo. She is a passionate outdoors enthusiast and considers
to pollutants and urban conditions. Their placement
landscape an interactive canvas for human expression.
The third phase adds shrubs and additional trees
Rakow. “Determining adequate rooting space for trees in planters or in
Denver Water. Accessed October 10, 2010. http://www.denverwater.org.
will be strategic with an emphasis on ameliorating microclimates at pedestrian-frequented areas and optimal success for the plant. The notion of designed successional events into
Needs within the Northeast Area.” Accessed May 17, 2011. http://www. Acquaah, George. Horticulture: Principles and Practices. New Jersey:
urban street tree, does not allow for the recognition of
University of California Museum of Paleontology. “The Grassland Biome.” Binelli, Eliana Kämpf, Henry L. Gholz, and Mary L. Duryea. “Plant Succession and Disturbances in the Urban Forest Ecosystem”. School of Forest Resources and Conservation, Florida Cooperative Extension
the aﬀects of ever-increasing levels of urbanization.
Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of
Denver’s urban ecology has transformed over the last
Florida. June 2000, pgs 1-22.
generation of street trees; soil conditions continue to diminish as acreage of impermeable pavement continue
R O O Tv 3 | 7 2
Prentice Hall, 2005.
urban environments may seem like a radical gesture. But the temporal scale of our most valued plant life, the
USDA Forest Service. “Urban Forest Health: Identifying Issues and
Clements, Frederic. Plant Succession: An Analysis of the Development of Vegetation. Washington, D.C.; Carnegie Institute of Washington,
Accessed May 17, 2011. http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/exhibits/ biomes/grasslands.php.
R EIN H AB IT I N G F O RG OT T EN S PACES
One Writer Reminisces on Circumstances that Define Memories George Sibley
PREVIOUS Vegetation creeps through cracks in a concrete slab near York and 38th Street, Denver, CO. From Happening+2 Acres - A Performance Examing Space. Photo by Stephan Hall 2011.
It was a concrete slab – at least 25 or 30 feet wide, maybe 75 feet long – not that easy to see. Grass, of the raggedy kinds that continue to try tirelessly to take over the planet, had been creeping over it from the edges and out of cracks in it. Some of the cracks were growing sizeable bushes, and at one end, right on the edge of the slab, a maple tree probably 30 or 40 years old – tall enough anyway for our intent. Why the slab was there, we had no idea, and didn’t really care. It was perfect for our purposes: a “natural” basketball court. We chopped and shoveled the bushes and some of the grass oﬀ the slab, mounted a basketball hoop on the tree, and it became the second-best basketball court in town (second only to the asphalt one at the fairground, which was actually intended to be a basketball court). Somebody from the grandparent generation in the neighborhood told me that it was the ﬂoor of an old stable, serving a horse race track that had once been across the street where the football ﬁeld was. The race track and stable had been some of the ostentatious fruits of America’s ﬁrst petroleum boom, along with the opera house and courthouse downtown and a monumental cemetery. Twenty miles to the north, Edwin Drake (a pioneering oil man) in 1859 had drilled the ﬁrst oil well – all of 70 feet deep – when supplies of whale oil were diminishing, along with the whales. Most of the towns and small cities in that area owed their origins and ephemeral glory to the “oil rush” that ensued; oil was the R O O Tv 3 | 74
basic industry of that part of Pennsylvania on into the
all basically lying on the surface. Forget the shovel or
early 20th century, when the industry moved on to Texas.
even the trowel; it’s archaeology with a brush. But no
The stable had burned down many years before and
amount of artifacts from the site gives a deﬁnitive clue
had not been rebuilt – the oil boom being mostly over.
as to why those people, maybe never part of a conscious
Nature had been gradually repossessing what remained
history as such, left the valley or where they went.
of the stable until we interrupted that process brieﬂy to colonize it for basketball.
The mountains surrounding the valley also show evidence of more recent abandonments, artifacts of the
Winters, we colonized another piece of the ruins
restless passage of American industry over the land,
left behind by the oil industry. A scraggly woodland had
a passage not unlike the dance of tornadoes, touching
grown up outside of town where an early reﬁnery had
down here and there to tear things up a little to remove
burned before the turn of the century, but the long-
this or that, like the long-gone oil in Pennsylvania or the
gone oil storage tanks had left behind a lot of round
heavy metals or coal here. Mine dumps, and sometimes
depressions in the ground where no trees wanted to
a colorful but ominous-looking streamlet, mark old
grow, probably for good reason. A high water table
mine entrances – usually, but not always caved in.
turned them into shallow ponds that froze into lovely
There are wood and concrete foundations of old mills
little sheltered ice-skating places.
and breakers, with a scatter of dry-rotting log or plank
I thus grew up semi-consciously aware that
buildings nearby or maybe just the rusting tin cans
sometimes the present is not a continuation or
where the buildings once were. Here and there in the
fulﬁllment of the past but is instead something else
valley ﬁelds, or carved out of a mountain wall, one can
built on the abandoned relics of discontinued pasts. The
still pick out the trackbed of the railroad that pulled
west slope of the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania
out when the mines lost their economic viability, either
is such a fecund and fertile place that it does not take
through exhaustion or (more often) ﬁckle markets.
the plant kingdom long to pull down, break up, cover
For a decade I inhabited the ruins of a largely
over those relics. Even some of the worst ravages of
abandoned mine town and lived in buildings that had
paleotechnic coal strip-mining there are being gentled
logs for foundations – 80-year-old buildings that had
over by the kinds of plants that don’t tolerate places
been built to last a few decades, through the boom.
void of life in wet climates. Archaeology in places like
Those buildings were deemed historic, so they were
that starts with serious shovelwork.
jacked up, foundations were poured under them, and
Where I live now, in the semi-arid American West, is
now they are part of a resort economy that has as much
diﬀerent; the evidence of past human inhabitations is
connection with their origins as our ice-skating ponds
not so easily erased. Adjacent to the town where I live
had to the Pennsylvania oil industry.
in the valley of the Gunnison River, archaeologists have
Why do I – why do we – like such places so much?
found traces of a small hunter-gatherer settlement that
Even as we rejoice in the fact that we didn’t have to
carbon-dates to as much as 10,000 years ago – and it is
put up the essential industries that brought them into
BELOW Sera Sibley explores the reinhabitation, through dance, of an abandoned concrete slab. From Happening + 2 Acres - A Performance Examining Space. Photo by Stephan Hall 2011.
being? I can only conclude that there is a kind of comfort in knowing that, just as there was a world before us, there will probably be a world after us. The lack of historic continuity in human endeavor seems, to me, to be a saving grace. The industrial cities are more intimidating; their abandoned places are so many and so large. I recently watched my daughter, a landscape architecture student, explore, through dance, the “reinhabitation” potential for a two or three acre concrete slab in north Denver – room for about ﬁfty of my old neighborhood basketball courts (and I am not sure there is really a neighborhood there). It is a bleak landscape – until you look more closely and see that, even in that dry climate, the plants are working away at breaking it down. Or step back and see a ﬂight of geese go over honking, apparently undisturbed by what is or isn’t there, against a sky that is what the sky tends to always be: always there. Figuring out how to reinhabit these vast places – some of them poisoned by bad use for the foreseeable future – is a larger challenge than reinhabiting a 30 x 75 foot concrete slab in Pennsylvania or a small mostly abandoned town in the Colorado Rockies. But there might be a measure of creative freedom unleashed in acknowledging that eventually whatever we do will probably be just another forgotten place for plants to pull down, break up, cover over. But, who knows? Maybe someday we will come up with something we don’t want to abandon. AUTHOR BIO George Sibley is a freelance writer and retired teacher who has lived in western Colorado most of the past 45 years. He is also the father of Sera Sibley, UCD Landscape Architecture student and past production manager and layout designer of ROOT. From 1988 through 2007 he taught journalism and regional studies at Western State College in Gunnison, and coordinated special projects for the college, including several annual conferences. He is currently working on a history of water development in western Colorado. His most recent book was Dragons in Paradise, a collection of essays about contemporary life from a mountain perspective.
7 5 | U N D E R S TA N D
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
Invention Sky as backdrop. Ground as medium. Space as canvas. These are the tools of the craft of landscape architecture. Expressive and subtle, pastoral and urban, socially conscious and wild, the moves we make in the landscape are often invisible. And yet, they create indelible images in the memory of those who inhabit these spaces. Other moves provide insight on our cultural ecology, our connection with nature and our evolving aﬃliation with the post-industrial and deteriorating infrastructural networks that have deﬁned us for so long. The contemporary post-disaster landscapes of New Orleans, Thailand, Haiti and Japan provoke an innovative and culturally sensitive dialogue. While previous volumes have invited a discussion of Unexpected Landscapes, Resourceful Obstacles and Forgotten Spaces, this fourth volume of ROOT will highlight work that has actively employed the imagination and challenged the limitations of the landscape architecture ﬁeld. These eﬀorts may be represented through creative expression in the landscape, methods of discovery, new technologies or eﬀorts to change policy. They may be in a stage of development or they may be projects that have existed for years but have developed new layers of meaning. We call on students and professionals alike to participate in ROOT v4. Submissions are requested to address the above topic or to ﬁll ROOT departments including: book reviews, landscape critiques, thesis research, scholarly papers, travel projects, design work, photo-essays or interviews. All submittals will be reviewed by the ROOT editorial staﬀ and faculty advisors. Deadline for submissions is March 26, 2012. For information on submitting, please visit: www.root-land.org or email ROOT v4 editor Patsy Shaﬀer at email@example.com.
R O OTv 3 C o v e r A r t C o m p e t i t i o n R u n n e r s U p This year was our ﬁrst attempt to include contributors purely in the form of graphic art. We wanted to open up the possibility for individuals to submit a graphic that would become this year’s cover. The winning entry is William Rawlings’ “The Factory,” and it is our cover. We had such a wonderful turnout, however, we felt we needed to display the top entries we received. Below, are our runners up. Please be on the lookout for the next competition, as your work may become the next ROOT cover.
Ty l e r B r a h e GIS + Photoshop The media used in formatting, GIS is combination of photoshop, serves as a device to map void space in the urban setting. These forgotten spaces mark the past, while holding great potential for future use as social space. Within charted voids an opportunity lies latent within the urban infrastructure.
K e l l e y P r i c e + Tr e v o r To m s Photography + Photoshop + Graphite The once glorious constructions of man now forgotten, overgrown and consumed by the ecology they sought to control. In the foreground, the channelized stormwater disappears from view, an artistic representation of “out of sight, out of mind” practices in water management since the Victorian era. In the middle ground, nature has come back and overtaken this engineered channel through years of siltation and neglect. Finally, in the background, a nearby EPA superfund site in Globeville that has been fenced oﬀ and deserted.
Emily Bulchis Photography + Photoshop Media method is Photoshop, all photographs taking by me. This montage is meant to be open to interpretation. Pictured are humans in unity with a restored post-industrial landscape. The concept is the ﬁrsthand experience of A ‘Forgotten Space’ as it is actively being celebrated for its intrinsic value. This is intended to illustrate humankind’s potential to restore ‘Forgotten Spaces.’
Frank Zigmond Computer Rendering Instead of simply showing an image of a “forgotten space”, I wanted to use hints of forgotten spaces and create a curiosity of what lies within the publication. The rusted letters suggest that they were once shiny metal, but have long been forgotten and nature is starting to reclaim the space. The footprints in the ground are facing in the direction of the viewer’s perspective, as if the viewer were once in the same position as the creator of the footprints. The footprints are intriguing. They represent the start of a long journey. As LaoTzu said: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” In this case, the “journey” are the works that lie within the ROOT Journal.