Ground UP Issue 07: CONSEQUENCE

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EDITORS-IN-CHIEF David Koo Kate Lenahan Alexa Vaughn

The seventh issue of GROUND UP was made possible by the generous support of: The Beatrix Farrand Fund for Public Education in Landscape Architecture Department of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning, College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley

GRAPHICS LEADS Greta Aalborg-Volper Serena Lousich EDITORIAL LEADS Dana Davidsen Courtney Ferris


TEAM MEMBERS Miriam Arias Molly Butcher Cheyenne Concepcion Zack Dinh Sarah Fitzgerald Josh Gevertz Jiaqi ‘Lucky’ Li Arturo Ortiz Julia Prince

Special thanks to: Jessica Ambriz Karl Kullmann Susan Retta GROUND UP is curated and produced by students of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley. For inquiries, contact Visit us online at Printed in Canada © Copyright 2018, The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

FACULTY ADVISOR KARL KULLMANN Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning, UC Berkeley

No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form by any means without the prior permission of the publishers. Articles, photography, and image copyrights are retained by their authors or original owners. The opinions expressed in these articles are those of the contributors and staff, and are not endorsed by the Regents of the University of California.

FOREWORD A moment of sublime nothing and then ... The Big Bang and then ... An Ice Age ended and then ... Our ancestors harnessed fire and then ... The euclidean grid and the world is parceled and then ... Perspectival drawing is invented and then ... Rome fell and then ... The allied forces won the war and then ... A nuclear bomb and then ... A man on the moon and then ... A drought and then ... A spring rain and then ... It’s 2018. And then … Where do we locate the beginning of a story? The middle? Can there ever be an end? 5

Ground Up Issue 07 seeks to understand, confront, and retell dominant narratives of consequence. Read in conversation with each other, the featured authors call into question linear understandings of cause and effect, shedding light on the interstitial relationships that shape our natural, built, and psychological environments. Their dialogue traverses scales and time—from an itemized receipt for a park bench to sea level rise, from mud to queer experience. Most articles are earthbound, while others reach out into our solar system. Their mediums and modes of representation, from tapestry to poetry to prose, suggest that the way a story is told, and by whom, is consequential in and of itself. As we grapple with consequences of generations past, we must consider those for which we will be inevitably responsible in the future. Moving forward, we are challenged as designers, artists, policymakers, mothers, scholars, stargazers, optimists, and imperfect humans to find new ways to preserve the agency of landscape—to expand it, to empower it—through our unique voices and untold narratives. Because ultimately, no matter the storyteller, our agency is determined by how we situate ourselves within the arcs of consequence.


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A L E X A C A P E 17 VA U G H N
















MY TRUANT I received the phone call so often that just seeing the number on my phone screen made me tense. “This is Eagle Rock High School. Your son, Levi, was tardy or absent for one or more classes today.” The recorded, impersonal voice then read the list of missed classes. Usually all of them. “Why are you skipping school?” I asked him. “It feels like a prison,” he said. “If there wasn’t a fence, I wouldn’t feel like jumping it.”

He was in ninth grade at the time, and a third year

of trees or shrubs from high school classrooms and

of spiraling grades and increased absences.

cafeterias—a cut grass yard or athletic field won’t do it unless it also has garden-like plants or trees—

Levi was not the only one to liken Eagle Rock High

with reduced anxiety, quicker recovery from stress,

School to a detention center. A dear friend and

less criminal behavior, better test scores, and higher

neighbor with elementary school children told me

graduation rates. What better use for this research

she wouldn’t send them to the high school because

than to improve high school environments?

“it looks like a prison.” In a Lyft on my way to a meeting, my driver mentioned he went to Eagle Rock High School.

THE CONSEQUENCE OF RESEARCH Bring up ‘high school’ or ‘teenagers’ in almost any

“Did you like it?” I asked.

conversation, and you’ll get a groan of sympathy or

“No. It felt like a prison,” he replied.

survived parenting two and am midway through

At parent night, I sat in classroom after classroom

continually struck by how hard our young people

trying to listen to Levi’s teachers, but consumed with unease. The rooms were crowded with too many desks. Most had no windows. Those that did had posters or paint or security grates blocking the daylight and life outside. I was depressed after two hours. RESEARCH OF CONSEQUENCE

wagged head. Teen-hood is infamously awful. I’ve guiding my third teenager to adulthood. I’m have it today. In 2017, the Child Mind Institute reported suicide as the leading cause of death worldwide for girls between 15 and 19. Nearly one-third of teenagers will suffer an anxiety disorder, eighty percent untreated. Sixty percent of depressed youth go untreated.


It has been almost five decades since psychologists

After months searching for a high school (or any

Rachel and Stephen Kaplan proposed attention

school) designed for mental health, I called

restoration theory to describe the restful attention

Dr. Sullivan.

people gain from watching leaves moving in a breeze, the sound and sight of water, a natural view.

“Do you know of any schools or communities

Their work influenced the therapeutic gardens and

designed specifically with mental health in mind?” I

green schoolyards movements, as well as research

asked him.

on public housing and high school landscapes. “I don’t know of anyone doing this work,” he said Drs. Frances Kuo, William Sullivan, Andrea Faber-

by phone. “If [parents] knew that green views

Taylor, and their doctoral students connected green

were roughly equivalent to a dose of Ritalin, even

views and access to nature with improved attention,

for students without ADHD (Attention Deficit

social cohesion, self-esteem, impulse control,

Hyperactivity Disorder), they would demand that

test scores, and graduation rates while reducing

districts get rid of classrooms without windows and

stress and criminal behavior in public housing and

put in gardens at every school.”

The Woods, popularized the idea of nature-deficit

Instead, too many urban schools remain physical

disorder, or the negative mental and physical

manifestations of fear. In Los Angeles, tall fences

impacts of leaving children inside. In his 2010

made of chain link or steel bars line school

doctoral thesis on Michigan high schools, Rodney

perimeters. Exits are gated and locked during

Matsuoka associated open campuses and views

school hours. The main entry is guarded by cameras



schools. Richard Louv’s 2005 book, Last Child in

ABOVE Eagle Rock High School, 1927. Image courtesy of Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society. RIGHT Eagle Rock High School student entrance, 2017

or staff. The Los Angeles Unified School District

was built over the old road that once continued

(LAUSD) has its own police force that patrols

around the block.

middle and high school campuses. Students are searched randomly and they are forbidden to leave


campus. The largest green spaces are reserved for

In Los Angeles and across the nation, Black

competitive sports like football, which is getting increasing attention for causing brain injuries with 12

violent side effects. As a journalist, I write about connecting people to nature. In landscape architecture, I design school landscapes. But being a mother is what drives me to use my writing and design to advocate for high school and community environments that support mental and community health.

teenagers fight for their lives against a law enforcement system that is supposed to protect them. Brown students and students of different faiths are afraid of being abandoned by a country that immigrants founded on religious freedom. Women, young and old, rail against misogyny. LGBTQ+ youth and adults are teaching us to recognize them as the individuals they are. Our melting pot has become a pressure cooker. And our teenagers are drowning in it.


High school students experience stress differently

Eagle Rock Junior Senior High School lies against

than the adults in their lives. Dr. Frances E. Jensen

tree-covered hills over an old stream bed. From

writes in The Teenage Brain that stress causes the

1923 through 1969, a long and elegant Spanish

body to release tetrahydropregnanolone (THO),

Mediterranean building fronted the main road with

which modulates anxiety in adults ‌ but actually

broad steps presenting a collegiate-like campus to

increases anxiety in adolescents.

its community. It was replaced in 1970, a reaction to the 1960s riots, student walkouts, and concern over

Children and adolescents spend the majority

seismic activity, with a Brutalist structure designed

of their waking hours at school. The average

(not surprisingly) by a prison architect. An eight-

American spends 15% of their lifetime in primary

foot-tall chain link fence and the backs of temporary

and secondary school. School shapes how we think

buildings now front the main road between a

of the world, ourselves, and others. In her book

football field and baseball diamonds. The entry is at

Welcome to Your World, Sarah Williams Goldhagen

the far back of a dead-end, where the new building

reports that characteristics of the built environment

account for 25% of a student’s learning progress. She describes touring a private high school with her teenage son and coming across the only space meant for the important purpose of socializing— a corridor stuffed with old couches and deafening noise. “Students participate less and learn less in classrooms outfitted with direct overhead lighting, linoleum floors, and plastic or metal chairs than they do in ‘soft’ classrooms outfitted with curtains, task lighting, and cushioned furniture, all of which convey a quasi-domestic sensibility of relaxed safety and acceptance,” Goldhagen writes. “Windowless rooms of the kind in the high school we visited exacerbate children’s behavioral problems and aggressive tendencies, whereas daylit, naturally ventilated classrooms contribute to social harmony and facilitate good learning practices. And the sort of noise we heard that day detrimentally impacts learning, just as it does children’s sense of wellbeing at home, communicating to inhabitants their lack of control over their surroundings.”

Our melting pot has become a pressure cooker. And our teenagers are drowning in it.



ABOVE Eagle Rock High School, 2017 GU : ISSUE 07

PERCEPTIONS OF SAFETY AT LOS ANGELES UNIFIED HIGH SCHOOLS Source: Los Angeles Unified School District, 2016 School Experience Survey

30% 20% 10%


Van Nuys High School


Roosevelt High School


North Hollywood High School


Marshall High School


Los Angeles High School


Lincoln High School


Jordan High School


Jefferson High School


Hollywood High School


Fremont High School


PROPERTY CRIME (LA Times, Mapping LA) May-Nov 2017 (0 highest, 100 lowest)


Franklin High School

VIOLENT CRIME (LA Times, Mapping LA) May-Nov 2017 (0 highest, 100 lowest)



STUDENTS: How safe do you feel when you are at school? (% Safe, Very safe)


Eagle Rock Jr/Sr High School

STUDENTS: How safe do you feel in the neighborhood around the school? (% Safe, Very safe)



PARENTS: My child is safe on school grounds (% Safe, Very safe)


Dorsey High School

PARENTS: My child is safe in the neighborhood around the school (% Safe, Very safe)



STAFF: I feel safe on school grounds during the day. (% Safe, Very Safe))


Crenshaw High School

STAFF: I feel safe in the neighborhood around my school. (% Agree, Strongly agree)

ABOVE Perceptions of Safety at Los Angeles HighAND Schools. TOP,Unified MIDDLE, BOTTOM CORE RATED HIGH SCHOOLS THROUGHOUT LAUSD Source: Los Angeles Unified School District 2016 school experience survey.


Now apply this same principle to a high school’s

of a loved one, with the latter being more common.

outdoor environments, where students are

There were 1,152 shootings in Los Angeles in 2016.

expected to develop social skills in spaces that are

And 294 homicides. About the same in 2017. But

too often devoid of defined areas, trees, gardens,

those numbers don’t express the experiences our

or seating options. In Los Angeles, students eat

young people and their families go through.

outside, walk outside between classes, and often take physical education outside.

Just as Levi began emerging from school-induced depression last fall, his best friend was shot and

Dr. Jensen writes, “Adolescents are at especially

killed in Watts. Isaiah had gone to a birthday party

high risk for experiencing emotional trauma

with two friends, and gotten into a drunken fight

compared with the rest of the population, and the

with a couple of gang members. Thrown out of the

consequences for their brain development can be

party without a ride, the men came out and beat

devastating.” By the age of sixteen, a quarter of

him until he lay unconscious in the alley. When one

them have experienced a “high-magnitude” or

of the men pulled a gun, his friends ran for their

“extreme stressor.”

lives. Shots exploded through the night, and they ran back. He died in their arms as they tried to stop

In 2016, mental health director Pia Escudora

the bleeding.

reported that 50% of LAUSD students suffer moderate to severe post-traumatic stress disorder

Isaiah was like a big brother to Levi. He was a sweet

(PTSD). These students might experience

soul. He spent days at a time with us between

homelessness, an incarcerated parent, abuse,

washing dishes at the Mexicatessen just around the

violence in their neighborhood, or a number of

block. The morning we got the news that Isaiah was

these. The American Psychiatric Association reports

dead, Levi crumpled into my arms. His heartbreak

the strongest predictors of PTSD for adolescents

shook his body and mine. My head filled with heat

are exposure to violence and the sudden death

and my eyes ached with tears.

Isaiah’s family, friends, and community are

to carry their concerns about the neighborhood

devastated by his loss. Yet, I cannot muster up

with them into school. High schools are not the

hatred of his killers—how dark their lives must

bubble of safety that we as parents and teachers so

be to do such a thing. We created this situation.

want them to be. Teenagers are desperate for safe,

Fear-based and racist planning, law enforcement,

calm, restorative environments. Keeping students

and banking systems; inequitable resource

in school is a prime objective for districts across

distribution; and lax gun laws sentence our youth

the nation. California funds public schools based

to violence. Adolescents—those often neglected,

on attendance. More than 80,000 LAUSD students

misunderstood, and feared young people—have

missed three weeks last year, costing the district

the most to gain from us rethinking the design of

$20 million in lost funds. Imagine using that money

their everyday environments.

to create warmer, more welcoming high schools.

The LAUSD is piloting efforts to disrupt the school-


to-prison pipeline, provide health and wellness

Designing safe spaces means designing with love

services, and strengthen science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) curriculum. But the connection between mental health and campus design is still missing. PERCEPTIONS OF SAFETY

instead of fear. Designing with love means working with the community to first understand the issues you are trying to solve. Social justice planner Monique Lopez helped me break my assumptions of what might make a

LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King, and John

restorative school landscape. She reminded me of

Deasy before her, promise the safety of students

the importance of participatory design.

and staff as the district’s top priority after incidents or threats to schools. Last May, the School Board

“If we have people who are intimately familiar

unanimously passed a Safe Schools Resolution

with the space, how can we honor their expertise

for Immigrant Students and Families to quell the

to shape the built environment to work best for

emotional trauma caused when Immigration and

them?” she asked, and then gave me the answer.

Customs Enforcement (ICE) picked up a father

“Have a shared understanding of the historical and

dropping off his daughter at school. LAUSD joined

social context. Is it a red-lined neighborhood? Has

the ACLU of Southern California, the California

it had a lot of police violence? Because one thing

Schools Are Sanctuaries nonprofit, and the

we don’t want to do is replicate any traumas that

California Charter Schools Association in pledging

have happened in that space.”


to maintain schools as safe places for all students and families.

Beginning twenty years ago, Anne Whiston Spirn and her graduate students from the University of

In LAUSD’s annual School Experience Survey,

Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of

questions about safety on campus and in the

Technology worked in one of Philadelphia’s poorest

surrounding neighborhood are the only questions

communities to nurture understanding of the

addressing the campus environment. The answers,

natural and cultural forces, including racist zoning

when broken down by students, parents, and

and lending practices, that shaped their floodplain

staff, reveal an important difference between

town of Mill Creek. Spirn’s West Philadelphia

how students perceive the safety of their schools

Landscape Project began by building landscape

compared to adults.

literacy with Sulzberger Middle School students and their teachers. LATANÉ

Parents and staff view schools as safe places, even in violent neighborhoods, but students seem GU : ISSUE 07

They are prisoners in training.

Conduct a participatory process Engage the students, school, and the

“Twenty years ago, I thought that the worst effect of landscape illiteracy was to produce environmental injustice in the form of physical hazards to health and safety,” Spirn wrote. “The Sulzberger students showed me that there is an even greater injustice

broader community in planning, designing, and maintaining school gardens and grounds improvements to develop a sense of ownership and community pride.

than inequitable exposure to harsh conditions: the

Plan with the greater community in mind

internalization of shame for one’s neighborhood.

Nearby senior citizens aging in place could

This is a particularly destructive form of injustice.”

be adopted grandparents to the school in return for student mentorship, garden

Spirn saw the power of allowing understanding to

expertise, or simply eyes on the schoolyard

replace shame, and hope to replace resignation.

to improve safety.

“Without an understanding of how the neighborhood came to be, many believed that the

Build landscape literacy

poor conditions were the fault of those who lived

Students who understand the social,

there, a product of either incompetence or lack of

political, environmental, and

care,” she writes. “Learning that there were other

economic forces that shaped their

reasons sparked a sense of relief. Once they had

communities gain insight and hope to

the knowledge and skill to read the landscape’s

change their outcomes.

history, they came to consider the possibility of 16

alternative futures and brimmed with ideas.”

Challenge preconceptions Educate school administrators and

This should be our goal for high school

educators who may not know the research

environments: to give teenagers a sense of

on attention restoration theory, and may

possibility and purpose, a place where they can

not see the opportunities to design with

imagine positive futures and act to create them.

nature (and love) on school grounds.

What would a high school campus look like if every design and programming decision was made out of love for each student and a concern for their mental health and well-being? Months of exploring this topic has led me to a few considerations:

Prioritize mental health Design to alleviate stress, restore attention, and build community to help heal the trauma and mental health disorders that impact physical health and disrupt learning.

Harvest the low-hanging fruit Ask administrators and teachers about removing posters, paint, grates, and security bars from school windows and planting trees and gardens where students can see them from classrooms; take advantage of mandates to manage stormwater on school sites to increase students’ access to nature.

DO NO HARM The common experiences of our young people could and should be filled with life, comfort, and wonder to provide the scaffolding their evolving minds and bodies will need to become healthy and productive humans. Instead, too many of our youth, especially those with the least economic and social resources, determine their self-worth in barren landscapes of learning, fenced in and exposed. They are prisoners in training. We know the consequences of everyday environments on mental health and well-being. High school campus landscapes are consequential to students’ ideas of themselves, their peers, and their community. The way we plan, design, and maintain high school landscapes shapes our teenagers’ self-esteem, self-control, ability to pay attention, and their prospects for the future. What are the bounds of our professional mandate to do no harm? Surely it also extends to undoing existing harm. Once we are aware of a harmful environment, don’t we as landscape architects have


the responsibility to rectify it? If we are to help heal the generational traumas of redlining, environmental injustice, and systemic racism as well as improve the mental health and well-being of our young people, we must leverage our professional knowledge and ‘do no harm’ mandate to advocate for, design for, and nurture the mental, physical, and spiritual health and wellbeing of our constituents. We have the knowledge.


Do we have the heart?




“If Los Angeles hangs on long enough, it will cart entirely the mountains away ...” - John McPhee, The Control of Nature “Wildness is not preservation of the world, it is the world.” - Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild


ABOVE Station Fire in Los Angeles, CA,

Los Angeles is a beautifully bizarre and seductive place. Its many

August 2009. The largest fire in Los Angeles

personalities sit in stark juxtaposition to each other, illuminating the

County history, which consumed 160,557 acres. Photo by Dan Finnerty. RIGHT Projected development of public green

rich ecological and cultural diversity that make up this vast territory. The most enduring of these, and the one that is personally most appealing, is the city's relationship to the natural environment.

belts along the historic lines of water and debris flows

It is a city continually shaped and reshaped, not only by its many inhabitants, but also by the many natural ecologies that surround and impact it. The wild spaces of the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains, the vast vistas and extreme temperatures of Death Valley and the Mojave Desert, and the unfathomable depths and swells of the Pacific Ocean, coupled with Los Angeles’ urban, political, and economic framework, all frame the feeling of the city’s impermanence and ad-hoc nature.

as the vast metropolis next to which they reside.

its proximity to wilderness—not wilderness in its

Mountains, thick with vegetal, biological, and

metaphorical sense, but actually wild-ness: places

geologic diversity, transform through cycles of

primarily untouched, or rather uninhabited, by

extreme drought and flood into fluvial territories

human culture. Sometimes mythologized and

that wash through developments, expand the

exaggerated through media for dramatic effect,

hillside, and reclaim areas of the city fabric. The

through the vignettes of earthquakes, fires, floods,

boundaries of oceans and deserts, too, with their

mudslides, drought, sharks, mountain lions, and

combination of rich ecological makeup and shifting

the like. This dramatization is itself rooted into

atmospheric conditions, transform on a continuing

the larger narrative and identity of the city. The

basis and challenge their occupation by human

proximity of the urban fabric to these untamed

settlement. Through a deeper understanding of

environments is real. It has significant impact on

the relationship between these two realms, we can

our city and the manner in which we understand its

develop other urban tactics and strategies that,

overall ecological makeup, and the nature of Los

although specific to Los Angeles, can be applied to

Angeles' public space in particular.

similar conditions across the globe.

Typically seen as ‘empty,’ the territories surrounding

In the 1870s, during the early years of the city,

Los Angeles are in fact dynamic ecosystems

the landscape surrounding Los Angeles was filled

operating at the same scale and complexity

orange with groves, vineyards, farmland,


One of the unusual things about Los Angeles is



and mountain ranges. Even within the boundaries

to provide adequate facilities in support of this

of the city, an extensive network of privatized

increased density, we need to look for other options

gardens provided relief from the harshness of

to fulfill this need. Such efforts can enhance, and

urban life. As such, there was no perceived need for

build upon, Los Angeles’ history of open space.

public parks or open spaces. As the city developed, becoming more and more dense, city officials

In recent years Los Angeles has exhibited an

realized that publicly owned open space was

extended cycle of drought, fire, and flood. These

required. By then, however, all that remained were

three components of Los Angeles’ extreme

leftover residual spaces, marginal land occupied by

weather cycle create a deadly combination. Fire

unstable hillsides, defunct infrastructure, and soft

clears vegetation from Southern California’s steep

marshes. We can see this today in the character

canyons, leaving them vulnerable to flash floods

of Los Angeles’ public spaces. Our city is not one

and perilous mudslides. For most of the 20th

of singular civic spaces. Rather, the public realm

century, city, state, and federal agencies have

exists in those places where wilderness and people

attempted to control these natural processes as

meet: the beach, Santa Monica Mountains, desert,

communities sprawled deeper and deeper into

and the Los Angeles River. As a consequence,

once-uninhabitable canyons. The infrastructure

our understanding of public space and its future

developed for this purpose has entered its 50-year

incarnations is radically different from that of other

lifespan, leaving a void in the city’s management

major urban centers.

of these systems. By hacking into this network of debris basins and spreading fields, we can begin

As we look toward the future of public open space

not only to provide an updated and ecologically

in Los Angeles, there is a substantial movement to

resilient line of defense against these events, but

adopt models from other cities and cultures. But

offer much needed publicly accessible open space

with increased property values being driven by a

in the process.

development renaissance, the opportunities for large public spaces are becoming limited, if not eliminated, from our dense urban centers. In order

ABOVE Quantities, areas, volume, and ultimate maintenance cost of debris system in Los Angeles.

ABOVE Micro-Basin System. Pre-fabricated, transportable steel structures are deployed across the slopes of burn sites and organized into two configurations: those that slow debris flow,

BELOW Mountain Making. Over time, the basins accumulate debris, making way for vegetation, habitat, campsites, and overall increased resiliency to the hillside.

and those that capture and retain.




The 2009 Station Fire, which ravaged a 252-square-

mitigating future disasters. In other words, this

mile area of Southern California's La Crescenta

project proposes 'hacking' into the natural

foothills and sparked multiple catastrophic mud

processes of mudslides and wildfires to generate

slides, was the result of severe climatic conditions,

a new 'landform infrastructure' that reuses the

cyclical weather cycles, and an outdated, aging

material these events produce. As debris is

infrastructure. In our SLIDE project (illustrated

redistributed along historic lines of mudflow,

here), we reimagine the existing debris basin

larger urban connections can be created in the form

infrastructure being transformed into a more

of greenbelts, establishing open space networks for

sustainable model that protects residents living

adjacent residential neighborhoods, and serving

at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, while

as a catalyst for increased public space and

simultaneously allowing greater access by the

property values.

public. This project attempts to deconstruct both the meteorological disaster and the infrastructure

The project proposes the installation of a network

that failed to contain it in hope of identifying a

of oversize gabion cage structures throughout the

more landscape-driven approach. In particular, the

hillsides. The cage walls, made of varying aperture

project proposes the use of waste management

sizes, slows the slide of debris and traps the rock

systems, landscape interventions, and the

and soil at different rates throughout the year, while

differences between local and regional approaches

allowing water to filter through. After 15-20 years of

to devise a more resilient infrastructure for

extreme weather, this intervention would result in a

communities vulnerable to these natural disasters.

network of micro-basins along the foothills, linking the canyons together in a single, dynamic system of

Currently, following a mudslide, trucks clean out

extreme weather mitigation.

debris basins and then haul away the debris to 22

landfills at a rate of half a million cubic yards per

“Landslides and other ‘ground failures’ cost more

year. This expensive solution carries a huge carbon

lives and money each year than all other disasters

footprint, and is also spatially unsustainable: the

combined, and their incidence appears to be

1,365-acre La Puente Landfill, where so much of

rising. Nevertheless, the government devotes

this debris has been trucked over the years, is now

few resources to their study—and the foolhardy

full. As such, this project utilizes the debris as a

continue to build and live in places likely to be

reusable material, capable of being reorganized

consumed one day by avalanches of mud.”

and redistributed to help stabilize the hillsides,

- Brenda Bell, The Atlantic Monthly

System is appropriated during ‘off season’ by hikers, campers, education groups, wildlife, etc.

This process creates a closed loop system capable

The idea of wilderness speaks toward an unknown

of supporting and generating multiple forms

potential—a mystery that is both comprehensible

of occupation within close proximity to disaster

and unfathomable, dangerous and comforting,

zones in the wilderness. During periods of clement

remote yet present, in our everyday experiences

weather, this new infrastructure of mud, rock, and

and imaginations. The wilderness that is Los

steel would become the armature for recreation

Angeles expresses all of these through an urban

and habitat, turning weather cycles into an asset for

condition borne of a synthetic relationship among

the local foothill communities. This new geology

people, economies, vegetation, geology, biology,

of mountain-making acts as a hybrid infrastructure

infrastructure, and the environment. As we develop

of both natural and synthetic interactions aimed

new models for publicly accessible open space in

at re-thinking extreme weather and the space it

the city, we need to embrace the latent potential

creates, allowing us to fundamentally re-think the

that exists within these relationships; developing

relationship between the city and the edge of

spaces and scenarios that do not accept old

nature from one of danger and contention to one

models, but rather build upon and reinforce the

of symbiosis and opportunity. By challenging the

unique urban condition of Los Angeles.

nature of mudslide infrastructure, this project also challenges the roles of landscape architects and designers to move beyond the purely aesthetic and engage with the systems and processes that

BELOW Basins are designed to filter and catch specific materials

support urban and natural life.

which can then be utilized and reused across the region



Simulation of system during a natural disaster event.




ABOVE A desert severely denuded of 24

vegetation by cattle grazing (left) in 1957. At right, it has returned to a scrubland skinned in blue gramma grass after only a decade of managed use. Image at left courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. BELOW A map of the Rio Puerco (left fork) and Rio Grande (right fork)

The ditch must rank quite near the top of inglorious landscape features. Patently unsophisticated, aesthetically uninspired, and even phonetically grating, ‘ditches’ are not, at first blush, fertile ground for deep examination. Yet fertile ground is exactly what the proverbial ditch is all about. In the pantheon of low-tech innovations of Homo sapiens, perhaps none were more fundamentally consequential. Ancient infrastructural systems that redefined entire geographic regions employed the ditch as their common unit, beginning the process of turning deadly-dry dirt into productive land. Indeed, human beings arguably wrenched themselves from their nomadic origin, and established their roots as settlers, by no single act more transformative than the digging of a shallow rill to swamp a field they’d sown. The oldest known human writing is Sumerian cuneiform regarding the rights to, and allocations of, water bled off the mighty Nile by (of course) ditches. And though we marvel at Roman aqueducts, Haussmann’s revolutionary Parisian water network, and stupendously-scaled dams the world over, the ditch was the seed of them all—a revelatory cornerstone upon which civilization itself was founded, and is still today in many places grounded.

In the rift valley of the Rio Grande south of

hijuelas, and carreritas) to flood the desired fields.

Albuquerque, laced through the region’s modern

In keeping with the vascular analogy of human-

city, its rural villages, and iconic pueblos, this

made waterways, the heart powering it all was

modest method is an almost invisibly banal thread

(and remains) the massive, silty, and occasionally

woven through the fabric of the place, omnipresent

impetuous Rio Grande.

yet understated. The ditch is, in fact, the critical stitch holding the whole garment together.

A familiar story unfolded as the Spanish (arriving around 1600) seized upon the ingenuity and

This dimension of the region is not a singular

technical advantages the acequia system provided,

entity, but an extensive network: a system unto

and promptly put the indigenous population to

itself that has major implications for the very way

work in expanding and enhancing it to satisfy their

of life here. Not only is flood irrigation via the

exploits of imperial conquest and regional resource

ditch system the dominant mode of sustaining the

extraction. Extensive, unbridled cattle grazing of

alfalfa, hay crops, and permanent pasture of this

wide swaths of desert destabilized soils throughout

reach of the Rio Grande, but its wide wanderings

the region, and, by exacerbating erosion,

through the landscape have served to preserve

dramatically disrupted the rhythms and natural

some semblance of the area’s natural topography,

processes of Western waterways.

demarcate property boundaries, and define the modern manifestations of its various urban, cultural,

Just as the earliest Mesopotamians conceived of

ecological, and infrastructural layers.

written law to manage land, so too did eminent thinkers in the age of the vagabond American

Pueblo means people, really. Its literal definition

west. John Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil

is closer to settlement or civilization, but to

Government, published in 1689, put forth a simple

contemplate a pueblo is simply more intimate.

theorem pertaining to land ‘ownership’ (a concept

Indigenous Tribes (The Isleta, Cochiti, Santa

fundamentally alien to most indigenous North

Domingo, San Philipe, Sandia, and Santa Ana, the

Americans). His exposition asserted that a person

six distinct Southern Pueblos) were farming using

essentially made the land their own by “mixing

gravity-fed ditch systems here in the 10th century.

their labor with it”—the so-called Homestead

Their communal network was composed of shared

Principle. Of course, Locke was mainly aligning his

irrigation ditches, called acequias, which were

rhetoric with the inexorable tide of Europeans and

maintained by the entire community, employing

newly-minted white ‘Americans’ sweeping across

numerous smaller ditches bled off the main vein.

the continent. This particular flood of humanity


was intent on extirpating, interning, and even Indeed, acequia, like Pueblo, is a word for the

exterminating indigenous peoples in the process,

community that uses it as much as the physical

and ‘civilizing’ the land in their ebb. Even today,

feature itself. An intricate system is braided into

on top of all of the other complications layered

the landscape of the broader river valley to weave

upon this place and its namesake lifeblood river,

water into plots and parcels close and low enough

the treaties and water allotments—dictating which

to swamp. A diversion dam (presa) shunts water

indigenous people are due X volume of water—

from the river at the toma into the acequia madre,

is a matter so fraught and contentious that most

which feeds secundarias: smaller ditches. Head

agree its adjudication, if ever resolved, will

gates (regaderas) and laterals (linderos) further

last generations.

prevent flooding, as water ‘steps down’ into smaller

A particular and somewhat peculiar fever brought

and smaller structures or micro-topographies

settlers to the deserts of the American Southwest in

(brazos, bancales, melgas, ancones, eras, ramos,

the 19th century, and somehow kept them here. GU : ISSUE 07


broaden irrigational reach, and drains (desagues)

Mining, trade routes, and almighty war generated

The desert is a strange place, which anyone who

livelihoods in the least likely of places. Commerce

has spent time in it can attest to. The scale of the

connecting the Gulf of Mexico, the Sea of Cortez,

visible landscape and the seeming emptiness

and the mighty Pacific meandered across the

therein somehow refocuses one’s attention to

landscape. In the 20th century, the Southwest

vacillate between the massive and the micro. And,

played host to some of man’s most marvelous

because of its extreme nature, the desert displays

and Machiavellian machinations, as stupefying

a dramatic, sometimes dangerous dynamism:

civil engineering projects like the Hoover Dam

the monsoon and its flash-flooding; the haboob;

threatened to blot out the sun and a thermonuclear

electrical storms that rake the plains and scorch the

arsenal was tested in the background.

earth. Routine inconveniences become existential in such an unforgiving place: flat tires, dehydration,


The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District

or simple bad timing can prove lethal turns of fate.

(MRGCD), which today manages irrigation and flood control systems in the area, and the Bureau

Yet the desert is also a terribly alive place, for all

of Reclamation (formed, literally, to reclaim land for

its arid, bleak vastness and potential fatalities. The

the 17 western States) have spent decades testing

intersection of the drama that is the desert’s severe

interventions aimed at taming and directing the

weather and the sere palette that it plays upon

hydrology of an extremely arid place, in a process

becomes apparent when an arroyo is activated

that is, depending on your perspective, awesomely

by storms so intense that the land melts in the

audacious or pathologically misguided. Perhaps it

embrace of its torrent. The parched earth simply

is a bit of both.

cannot soak up the rain fast enough, and nearly

every drop of the ensuing flood races down the valley as quickly as gravity and friction can conspire to shuttle it. Major river and arroyo systems of deserts are such tempestuous agents of the landscape because they focus so much energy so rapidly. If the Rio Grande is the mother of the Chihuahuan Desert, the petulant Rio Puerco is her proverbial problem child. Diving diagonally southeast across New Mexico’s northern scrubland to join the Rio Grande, the Puerco has permanently shuttered at least one town. Its flooding can only be described as biblical. To study fluvial processes is to discover

To look upon it, the Rio Puerco does not appear to be a large river. Much of the year, it doesn’t appear to be a river at all. Its power and occasional fury, however, draws from a sizeable, 7,500-squaremile watershed draining the Nacimiento Range northwest of Albuquerque. In the astonishingly fast melt of New Mexico’s spring thaw, the winter’s cache of snow goes ripping down the valley with a vengeance. True to its name, the Puerco is a tremendously silty waterway. Though puerco translates to ‘pig,’ it is the porcine proclivity towards muddiness that informs the colloquial connotation. The Puerco is legendary for the amount of silt and

that water is only half of the story; rivers are

IMAGES Land use changes in far-off places contributed to the

landform-making machines, and their sediment

flooding and geomorphology evident in these 1950s photos

transport is one of the most active processes

(courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, at left), juxtaposed with

canyons, and valleys we so often associate with riverine systems are emblematic of water’s removal, movement, and commensurate deposition of mindboggling volumes of ‘land.’

photos of current conditions (by author, at right), to illustrate timelapse. A decade later, though native vegetation has crept back into the landscape, the dreaded and famously thirsty Tamarisk (or salt cedar) has established itself along all waterway banks in dense colonies, adding another chapter to the complex saga of western water woes.


continuously shaping the earth. The chasms, voids,



mud that it activates, transports, and relocates

But the acequia system employed on a modest

during flood events. In 1957, the Puerco carried

scale was an ingenious, flexible, and sustainable

2.25 million tons of earth downstream in a

system. The scheme deployed and maintained

single day.

today by the MRGCD is undeniably inflexible and, given shifting weather patterns and predicted

The command-and-control ethos that drove the

precipitation reduction in the Southwestern deserts,

reclamation of the West sought to harness, utilize,

nearing the verge of irrelevance. It may be that

or altogether ignore the reality of the region that

today’s residents of the Rio Grande Valley are living

waterways like the Puerco embody. The Rio Grande

through the twilight of the region as we know it.

and its tributaries act as barometers, registering


the impacts of distant upstream logging, grazing,

Until quite recently, the management practices

wildfires, and development. Salinization, seepage,

employed by agencies such as the Bureau of

silting, aggrading, erosion, and sedimentation

Reclamation would likely frighten and astonish

of waterways is problematic for the rhythms of

any current civil engineering student. Before

civilization, so an extensive infrastructure was

adopting a view of the sinuosity of a river like the

designed and deployed. This complex network

Rio Grande as an important and dynamic aspect of

includes our ancestral acequia system, as well as

its health, and thus an indicator for its monitoring

canals, diversion dams, pumps, and reservoirs,

and management, Bureau engineers would literally

all of which are collectively managed by regimes

drive a fleet of D9 Caterpillars up the river channel

charged with ensuring the infrastructure maintains a

to straighten it out and maintain bank profiles,

predictable function—in times of extended drought

grades, and channel shapes that conformed

and flash flooding alike.

with grandfathered-in engineering specs. After leaving their bulldozers in the river channel over

It is notable that the acequia, as a hydrologic unit,

the weekend, a particularly unlucky crew returned

could not deviate more from the geomorphology

during an unexpected storm to find one of the

of the area’s natural waterways; acequias are always

machines lost to the torrent. Upon dragging it

wet, devoid of turbulent flow, and thus typically

out of its watery grave-to-be, the local Caterpillar

transport minimal sediment.

distributor disassembled, cleaned, and rebuilt the entire machine, at an undisclosed cost to taxpayers.

TOP ‘Mudballs’ wadded up by raging waters tumble down arroyos underwater; deep scouring and incising on the Puerco

Following the endangered species protections

after a flash flood; Rio Chico washed well over the truck, and

that were enacted for the Rio Grande silvery

swamped it in four feet of silt.

minnow (Hybognathus amarus) in 1994, sweeping

RIGHT Bureau of Reclamation Engineer, sitting on Rio Puerco head cut, 1962. Images courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

changes for the region’s land use and water management began to take effect. In a pattern

becoming all-too familiar, a minuscule, practically

stream of sandhill cranes soars ceaselessly up the

microscopic indicator became understood to

valley. A maze of cottonwoods frames the river,

be of macro-spatial consequence. Many experts

itself invisible from this distance and very low and

fear the endangerment of the minnow may be

slow besides. The ‘bosque,’ a thick, verdant gallery

foreshadowing a slow march to ruination for the

forest snaking north toward Albuquerque and

region’s life and landscape. A gauge for ecosystem

south toward Truth or Consequences, is the only

health, the minnow is not only under severe strain

indication of surface water visible for many miles

to survive, but is also now grappling to adapt to

in any direction. But the water is here, for those

the environmental pressures and extreme events

who know how to look. It’s seeping into acequias

stemming from our shifting climate.

and flooding alfalfa fields. It’s hiding in the drains and ditches that lace through the town of Belen,

I’ve come to the Rio Grande Valley to interview a

where we now sit. It might even be sheltering a

retired Bureau of Reclamation engineer. Sitting

silvery minnow in some silty pool upriver. I ask

on his porch, a four-foot ristra of red Hatch chiles

the engineer what he thinks of the consequence

hangs on the wall as we chat over margaritas.

of all of the Bureau’s meddling with the river, and

Looking across the Rio Grande rift valley at the

the region inextricably wed to it, before they got

Manzano mountains straddling the horizon, the

religion and started reading Leopold. He scoffs

oddness of the desert is on full display. Virga

a bit and shakes his head. “Whatever was there

blurs the southern sky—rain evaporating prior to

when the engineers took over, they broke it beyond

making landfall. It’s hotter than hell. Someone in

fixing,” he says. “Maybe for good.” I don’t ask if,

the neighborhood is burning tires, and an acrid

by ‘good,’ he means ‘permanently’ or ‘for some

blue haze slinks through the palo verde and

benevolent purpose.’ We both take a drink and

creosote peppering the hillside. The indelible polka

watch the cranes fly through the virga.

backbone beat of some distant, vague Norteño



music washes in and out of audible range. A steady



The Public Sediment Team is:

The consequences of human action are felt across geography

SCAPE: Pippa Brashear, Gena Morgis, Kate Orff, Sophie Riedel, Nick Shannon, Gena Wirth, Nans Voron

and time. The Bay Area is beginning to viscerally experience the

DREDGE RESEARCH COLLABORATIVE: Brian Davis, Yuanyuan Gao, Rob Holmes, Justine Holzman, Yuzhou Jin, Jingting Li, Brett Milligan UC DAVIS: Victoria Eilish Chau, Beth Ferguson, N. Claire Napawan, Brett Snyder, Sahoko Yui


effects of elevated global greenhouse gas emissions, facing new environmental realities of rising sea levels, unpredictable weather patterns, and increased flood, fire, and erosion events. While global change impacts the region, its response is shaped by the legacies of past decisions—resource management policy, physical infrastructure, and social patterns—that can exacerbate the impacts of climate change at the local level. While the consequences

ARCADIS: Christopher Devick

of some choices, like building in the floodplain, are clear and

ARCHITECTURAL ECOLOGIES LAB: Evan Jones, Margaret Ikeda, Adam Marcus

perceptible to the general public, other actions reveal their

TS STUDIO: Abby Granbery, J. Lee Stickles, Wright Yang

Sediment proposes to investigate the invisible yet considerable

VIDEO: Nabi Agzamov, Huai-Kuan Chung, Guan Min ARTIST: Cy Keener

impacts slowly over time and are invisible to the human eye. Public effects of a material largely out-of-sight and out-of-mind: MUD. Mud is infrastructure, an infrastructure that is slowly eroding, drowning, and subsiding in the Bay Area. The region’s shorelines, beaches, marshes, and mudflats all rely upon a supply of sediment


that is transported downstream from regional waterbodies and

LEFT Manzana Creek photographed by

local tributaries to replenish these ecosystems over time. This slow

Eric Vizents CENTER Hydraulic Mining in Nevada County, California, 1866. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

wash of mud (or more technically, sediment supply) is critical to the sustained ecological and community health of the region. It is literally the substrate for the bay’s shallow water ecosystems, which

RIGHT O’Shaughnessy Dam

stabilize and protect urban neighborhoods with stronger living

photographed by Johnnie Chamberlin

edges, buffer the impacts of sea level rise and extreme flooding,






and improve social and environmental health

capacity and water storage. In the bay’s greater

through the production of cleaner water, cleaner air,

watershed, land is managed to slow erosion and

and access to living systems. Yet the region faces

reduce sediment flows downstream, for the benefit

a looming scarcity; scientific predictions indicate

of water supply and habitat management. Yet,

that soon there will not be enough sediment to go

muddy water, at the right times and volumes,

around. The trickle of mud that currently moves

is essential to a range of Bay Area ecosystems.

downstream is insufficient to sustain marshes and

Large-grain sediments, like sand and cobbles,

mudflats with aggressive rates of sea level rise.1

provide critical spawning habitat for fish in creeks

Current sediment management practices are not

and channels. Fine-grain sediments nourish bay

adapting at a pace that meets new climate realities.

ecosystems, helping them accrete over time and

Today’s practices were shaped by the 20th century perception of sediment as a nuisance, waste


keep pace with sea level rise. Without sediment, the Bay Area’s marshes will drown.

product, and contaminant. Sediment is treated as

Public Sediment proposes to invest in sediment

an obstruction; huge volumes are annually dredged

infrastructure—the building block of resilience in

from the bay to clear passage for ships. When

the bay. The team aims to design with mud, to

timing and budgets allow, some of this material

connect the region’s uplands with its lowlands,

is beneficially reused for wetland creation, while

and rethink sediment management as part of an

in other scenarios dredged sediment is shipped

engaged and dynamic public realm. PUBLIC SEDIMENT TEAM

off the coast and dumped in offshore disposal sites, outside of the bay system.2 Upstream, in impounded streams and behind dams, sediment flows are decoupled from water flows. Sediment builds up in reservoirs where it limits flood control




The bay is entering an era of sediment scarcity.3 Historically, the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers provided the majority of its sediment, building historic marshlands and mudflats. During the Gold Rush, hydraulic mining power-washed hillsides and flushed huge volumes of sediment into these rivers. This surplus helped build some of the marshes and mudflats known today. Contemporary dams trap sediment far upstream of the bay, leading to sediment scarcity at a time when it is needed most. Without sediment inputs, shallow habitats will drown, and the bay will flood more intensely.4




Sediment scarcity and wetland drowning are difficult to perceive. There is no clear disaster moment—this catastrophe is slow, rendered in millimeters over years. 32

BAYLAND ECOSYSTEMS TODAY Constructed ponds and diked agricultural areas were built in


former marshlands, and have subsided deeply over time as their soils were exposed to air. To slow subsidence and restore habitat, a massive effort is underway to return diked ponds to


tidal baylands, often requiring large volumes of sediment to raise them to marsh plain elevation.

MARSH DECLINE Given sufficient sediment supply, marshes can accrete up to 6mm a year, potentially keeping pace with rising seas. However,


faster sea level rise and low sediment supply create conditions where marshes and mudflats cannot keep up. Bay scientists project that many marshes will transition to mudflats in coming


decades, reducing the protective benefits of the bayland buffer.

BAYLAND DROWNING As marshes and mudflats convert to subtidal baylands, habitat will shift, floods will intensify, and tides will be amplified. While today this change is slow and imperceptible, it presents serious risks to humans and ecosystems over time.




SUPPLY AND DEMAND: 2100, 3.5 ft SLR The bar chart to the right is based on preliminary analysis by SFEI. A more detailed analysis is being conducted as part of

(assuming (assuming current current average average annual annual load) load) load)

the Healthy Watersheds Resilient Baylands project (

averageaverage annual load) annual 400 400

Sediment mass (million Mt)

Sediment mass (million Mt)

1 Sediment supply was estimated by multiplying the current average annual sediment load values from McKee et al. (in prep) by the number of years between 2017 and 2100.

2 Sediment demand was estimated using a mudflat soil bulk density of 1.5 g sediment/cm soil (Brew and Williams 2010), a tidal marsh soil bulk density of 0.4 g sediment/cm soil (Callaway et al. 2010), and baywide mudflat and marsh area circa 2009 (BAARI v1).

400 Sediment mass (million Mt) Sediment mass (million Mt)



(assuming (assuming current baylands baylands extent) extent) current baylands baylands extent) extent)




1Sediment 1Sediment supply supply waswas estimated estimated by multiplying by multiplying the the current current average average



TRIBUTARIES TRIBUTARIES SAC-SJ DELTA SAC-SJ DELTA annual annual sediment sediment load load values values fromfrom

McKee McKee et al. et(in al. prep) (in prep) by the by the number number of years of years between between 2017 2017 andand 2100. 2100.

the Res pro



0 0

Based Based on analysis analysb detailed detaile Basa conducted condu ana thethe Health He detB Resilient Resilie con project projec (h

2Sediment 2Sediment demand demand waswas estimated estimated using using a mudflat a mudflat soil soil bulkbulk density density of of 1.5 1.5 g sediment/cm3 g sediment/cm3 soil soil (Brew (Brew andand Williams Williams 2010), 2010), a tidal a tidal marsh marsh soil soil bulkbulk density density of 0.4 of 0.4 g sediment/cm3 g sediment/cm3 soil soil (Callaway (Callaway et al. et2010), al. 2010), andand baywide baywide mudflat mudflat and and marsh marsh areaarea 2Sediment demand 2Sediment was demand estimated was estimated circaa circa 2009 2009 (BAARI (BAARI v1). density using mudflat using soil av1). mudflat bulk soil bulk of density of

1Sediment supply 1Sediment was supply estimated was estimated by multiplying by multiplying the current the average current average annual sediment annualload sediment values load fromvalues from 1.5 g sediment/cm3 1.5 g sediment/cm3 soil (Brew and soil (Brew and McKee et al.McKee (in prep) et al. by(in theprep) number by the number Williams 2010), Williams a tidal 2010), marsh a tidal soil marsh soil of years between of years 2017 between and 2100. 2017 and 2100. bulk densitybulk of 0.4 density g sediment/cm3 of 0.4 g sediment/cm3 soil (Callaway soilet(Callaway al. 2010),etand al. 2010), and baywide mudflat baywide andmudflat marsh area and marsh area circa 2009 (BAARI circa 2009 v1). (BAARI v1).



If this era of sediment scarcity continues, the amount arriving into the system may be well below the amount needed to sustain today’s tidal baylands.5 Moreover, newly restored wetlands— wetlands whose restoration is already planned BAYLANDS TODAY 2018


and underway—will require additional sediment, exacerbating the deficit. While many unknowns make these projections inexact, like the amount of sediment that might enter the system with


increased fires or mudslides and future precipitation


rates, it is clearly urgent to manage sediment differently in the Bay Area—as a valued resource, not waste. HOW WILL THE BAYLANDS CHANGE? MARSH DECLINE WITH 3’ SLR BY 2050

Local tributaries, dams, dredging, construction fill, and biosolids are all possible sources of sediment to feed the baylands. New techniques must be devised to place these materials in ecologically


intelligent and efficient ways. But even with all these sources mobilized, the scale of the potential problem outpaces the supply. There is still not

The drawn scenarios on the following pages depict BAYLAND DROWING WITH 7’ SLR BY 2100

this slow but dramatic drowning of the baylands as sediment needs outpace sediment supply.



enough mud.





DESIGN WITH MUD Where does that leave the bay? If even mobilizing

To meet rising challenges of sediment scarcity,

all of these sources will be inadequate at some

Public Sediment looks to connect the uplands and

point in the future, what can we do today? Should

the lowlands with a series of sediment actions:

we give up? Abandon wetland restoration? No. The

harvest, retrofit, and remove dams; unlock tributary

Public Sediment team proposes to treat sediment

channels; and test new methods of mud placement

as a public resource, and to DESIGN WITH MUD.

that use currents to move mud in the bay.

The next few decades are a critical period, when

Experimentation is vital to ecological resilience.

designers must test methods that can be scaled

Current practices, like beneficial dredge placement

up in the future to strategically sustain baylands

in contained, non-tidal sites, are positive but are not

for a range of ecosystem services, particularly

being explored at a scale or pace that meets the

flood risk reduction, habitat provision, and carbon

urgency of the problem. Collaboration—between

sequestration. Projections of large-scale change

regulators, engineers, watershed managers, policy

make bayland restoration and creative sediment

makers, and designers—is critical to developing

management more urgent than ever. The team aims

new methods and new implementation pathways

to invest differently with sediment, developing new

for sediment management and sea level rise. The

management regimes for portions of the bay with

team is building these relationships as part of

the greatest capacity for long-term survival.

the design process, working to pilot new ways of managing mud collectively in the bay.



MAKE SEDIMENT PUBLIC Simply moving mud is not enough. Public dialogue must change around sediment to understand the material as pilots developed to mitigate climate impacts. The goal is to MAKE SEDIMENT PUBLIC and engage broader communities in monitoring and interpreting their sediment systems. At the neighborhood scale, the team envisions a series of elements that link vulnerable neighborhoods with the bay and engage youth and volunteers to monitor climate change in their backyards. Upland and lowland communities will be connected by pathways and flows of sediment along water bodies. Community sensing stations and mud rooms will reveal the region’s slow and invisible threats, spurring the long-term stewardship of our public sediment resources. GU : ISSUE 07


a resource, not a contaminant. Likewise, scientific and regulatory dialogue must shift to encourage experimental













Public Sediment is designing for sediment systems

stewards that physically connect to the bay.

at the scale of a tributary, targeting the sediment

Design efforts focus on unlocking Alameda

flows of the largest local sediment-shed in the Bay

Creek to move sediment downstream and into

Area: Alameda Creek. This waterbody contributes

the bay, where it is needed most. Selectively

more sediment to the South Bay than any other

breaching levees will feed neighboring marshes

tributary. Even so, its potential is far from realized;

with sediment, re-connecting the channel and the

the flood channel was only designed for the flow of

bay. Inland, the team will test the use of upland

water. Sediment is trapped upstream behind dams

sediment sources, dredged materials, treated

and in the channel itself, where it reduces flood

wastewater, and biosolids to support fresh- to

storage capacity and requires expensive dredging.

saltwater transition zones and plan for future marsh

Public use of the creek is limited, and fish passage

migration areas. Along the channel, strategically

is impaired. The team aims to redesign Alameda

altering the flow of sediment will feed distributaries,

Creek to bring sediment to the baylands, reconnect

build erodible tributary sediment pools, and move

steelhead with their historic spawning grounds, and

mud downstream. In the creek’s upper reaches,

organize a tributary-based network of community

sediment must be harvested from behind dams.

ALAMEDA CREEK CRAWL Over 100 people joined the team on February 24, 2018 for a tour of the creek. The tour began at the Niles Canyon Staging Area, where the creek enters the flood control channel at the mouth of Niles Canyon. Photographs by Ramon Estrada.

a system, developing an interconnected suite of projects that generate watershed-wide benefits. PUBLIC SEDIMENT IN ALAMEDA CREEK But this isn’t just about mud. Alameda Creek should be designed for social equity and public benefit as much as sediment. Greater empathy and awareness of the connective landscape systems that define this watershed are crucial for long-term ecological and human health. This #trib connects communities that are diverse in race, ethnicity, age, and income level, linking them with each other and the bay. Community events oriented around natural systems, like the Alameda Creek Crawl, create moments to reveal our inter-connected environment, get our hands and feet muddy, and discuss collective public sediment infrastructure for the future. The larger proposal constructs a network of paths, mud rooms, and community sensing stations along the creek to enable inter-species interactions and empathy, building capacity over time for a new sediment public.

ENDNOTES 1 The changing sediment dynamics of the Bay Area are highlighted by The Costal Conservancy’s Baylands and Climate Change: What We Can Do 2015 report and The San Francisco Estuary Institute’s Changing Channels 2017 report. The Baylands and Climate Change: What We Can Do. Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals Science Update 2015. California State Coastal Conservancy: Oakland, CA, 2015.

Dusterhoff, S., Pearce, S., McKee, L. J., Doehring, C., Beagle, J., McKnight, K., Grossinger, R., and Askevold, R.A. Changing Channels: Regional Information for Developing Multi-benefit Flood Control Channels at the Bay Interface. Flood Control 2.0. SFEI Contribution No. 801. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA, 2017. 2 For more information on sediment management, The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) has worked with state, federal, and local partners to develop the Long Term Management Strategy (LTMS) for Placement of Dredged Material in the Bay Region based on USACE research and incorporation of flood protection, habitat restoration, sand mining, and shoreline erosion. San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. LTMS Management Plan 2001. San Francisco, CA, 2001.


3 In addition to the San Francisco Estuary Institute’s work in this area, the Dredge Research Collaborative dedicated DredgeFest California 2016 to understanding this era of sediment scarcity. Milligan, B., Holmes, R., Wirth, G., Maly, T., Burkholder, S., and Holzman, J. “DredgeFest California: Key Findings and Recommendations.” Dredge Research Collaborative. 2016. dredgefest-california-white-paper/ 4 See Diana Stralberg’s 2011 “Evaluating Tidal Marsh Sustainability in the Face of Sea-Level Rise” and Mark Stacey’s 2014 “Coupling of Sea Level Rise, Tidal Amplification and Inundation” for more information about compounding impacts. Stralberg, D., Brennan, M., Callaway, J., Wood, J., Schile, L., Jongsomjit, D., Kelly, M., Parker, V., and Crooks, S. “Evaluating Tidal Marsh Sustainability in the Face of Sea-Level Rise: A Hybrid Modeling Approach Applied to San Francisco Bay.” PLoS One 6, no. 11 (2011). Holleman, R.C. and M.T. Stacey. “Coupling of Sea Level Rise, Tidal Amplification, and Inundation.” Journal of Physical Oceanography 44 (2014): 1439–1455. 5 SFEI’s projections were shared at San Francisco Estuary Partnership’s 2017 State of the Estuary Conference as part of their presentation “Sediment Supply to San Francisco Bay: Today and Into the Future.” Resilient By Design Bay Area Challenge is a year-long collaborative design challenge bringing together local residents, public officials, and local, national, and international experts to develop 10 innovative designs around the Bay Area that will strengthen the region’s resilience to sea level rise, severe storms, flooding, and earthquakes. Please join the Public Sediment Team in developing the proposal for Alameda Creek by visiting Find out more at SCAPE’s website: Unless otherwise credited, all images provided by Public Sediment Team / SCAPE



These actions approach sediment management as





















“ GU : ISSUE 07


“The wall is a spatial device that has been inserted into the landscape, but with complete disregard for the richness, diversity, and complexities of the areas in which it was built and proposed.“ -Ron Rael, Borderwall as Architecture

“The Wall was not really a single object but a system that consisted partly of things that were destroyed on site by the Wall, sections of buildings that were still standing and absorbed or incorporated into the Wall, and additional walls—some really massive and modern, others more ephemeral—all together contributing to an enormous zone.” - Rem Koolhaas on the Berlin Wall




Ron Rael & Stephanie Syjuco at the Tijuana borderwall

There are 14 major sister cities along the United States-Mexico border whose urban, cultural, and ecological networks have been bifurcated by a borderwall. With 650 miles already constructed, and the population in these urban areas expected to grow to over 20 million inhabitants over the next decade, the long-term effects of the wall’s construction must now be carefully considered. This speculation serves to anticipate the consequences of its incision into a context of rapid growth and massive migratory flows, especially as the current political climate calls for further wall construction. Siting our investigation at the U.S.-Mexico borderwall, the Borderwall Urbanism graduate studio at UC Berkeley traverses the fields of art, BORDERWALL URBANISM STUDIO

architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning to explore the American borderwalled city as an evolving political, societal, historical, and cultural phenomenon. Using experimental methods of analysis, fabrication, and collaboration, students have been challenged with examining the complex conditions of borderwall urbanism, ultimately creating objects and artistic responses to site and space.





There are more invisible walls than visible ones—

In Tijuana, the studio attempted to ground

especially in the case of the U.S.-Mexico barrier—

theoretical frameworks of the borderwalled city

dividing rivers, farms, Native American lands, public

in on-the-ground site research. This transition

lands, cultural sites, and wildlife preserves. At this

from an academic space to an active-participatory

scale, the invisible walls that exist in parallel to

one unearthed a variety of conflicting responses

the U.S.-Mexico borderwall are unsurmountable.

and questions from students about how this site

The grander the walls, the greater the inability to

should be constituted, as we challenged our roles

discuss, negotiate, and resolve common challenges

and expertise in a highly politicized space. This

or problems. Understanding how the Borderwall

article plays back reflections on our experiences in

manifests a cultural condition that is imposed onto

the U.S.-Mexico Borderwall city. Questions about

the landscape, onto the city, framed the discussion

agency and intention in an unfamiliar, multinational

of the course.

space weighed on us. Questions about identity and interference were vocalized. Questions about our

Several field trips brought students directly to

relationship with the Borderlands emerged. Here

border sites, where they learned from examples

we highlight and confront these questions—from

of local artists, writers, and designers whose work

theories on activism and architecture, to personal

reacts to the wall. This article recounts student

recollections of the ever-evolving borderland.

experiences and reflections as investigators and designers in the borderwalled city, Tijuana. The final project, to be completed after the date of publication, will consist of individual and collaborative works that will be deployed at a site along the border.1

TOP Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman of Estudio Teddy Cruz, UCSD MIDDLE Marcel Sanchez-Prieto of CRO Studio, Woodbury Univ. BOTTOM Marco “Erre” Ramirez, Mexican artist, Tijuana native RIGHT Student photos taken during the borderwall site visit


LAURA BELIK, PhD of Architecture

Posting a photo of the wall on social networks felt weird. Visiting spaces of dispute and making them icons, to be shared as such, reinforced the power of that object, on one hand; and on the other, by sharing it as an absurdity, reinforced the movement in the opposite direction. It reminds me of the relationships we have with holocaust or war memorials, for example—except here the monument is actively serving a need. I might see it as a monument from one perspective, but I cannot deny its purpose as a tool. The ‘monumentalizing’ of it might be one of the aspects this tool brings with it, and the simple act of barricading, another. DESIGNERS IN THE BORDERLAND

ARTURO ORTIZ, Master of Landscape Architecture

How do designers play a role in borderland landscapes, and how can design be used as a form of activism? As a designer, I’m diving into this ‘other’ world—the world that has the ability, the privilege, and the resources to physically and dramatically change our environment. Norma Prieto’s words, “you can design even if you don’t have a transborder experience,” resonated with me; if you have the ability to help, then help. VISITING THE PROTOTYPE

SOPHIA SOBOKO, PhD of Education

It was intense, emotional, and contentious to visit the border


wall prototypes and, later, an informal settlement. I had many informal conversations with classmates during these visits as we grappled with the same questions: what are we doing here? Why is this visit important? What are we learning? Who are we not talking to? Who is this knowledge for? What will we do with it? I don’t have simple answers to propose; rather, I think grappling with the questions is an ongoing part of this work. I was struck when a man drove by us and yelled “fuck the U.S., go back to your country.” I respect his act of resistance, and I think he has an important point: we should look back at ourselves, our country, and share our knowledge with the people in our country who are creating this problem. CROSSING THE BORDER: A NEW(ISH) EXPERIENCE GABRIELA NAVARRO, Master of Urban Planning

Never in my 33 years of crossing this border on foot had I been stopped to fill out paperwork. This act in itself was not much, but the message behind it left me uneasy: we will no longer let you walk freely into our country. That sense of relief BORDERWALL URBANISM STUDIO

that usually accompanies the crossing into Mexico was no longer there! Instead I was met with skeptical attitudes and an unwelcoming feeling.

ENDNOTES 1 Selected works are featured at





“A lot of current queer language is new and is strange, right? Because it’s literally creating language where there was no language before,” says Justice Gaines (xe/xem/xyr), a 23 year-old poet and community organizer. Xe works for Rhode Island Jobs with Justice on an initiative to establish community protections against police violence in Providence. Xe laughs as xe describes liking “to force people to think a little more” with xyr pronouns. “I identify as a black trans woman, and I also identify as genderfluid,” Justice says. “The first thing I came out as when I came out as queer was demisexual and asexual … For me, it was a process of learning these labels and being like: one—that’s wild. Then two—wait, that sounds kind of familiar. Huh … That language is actually speaking to an experience that I had literally no way of


naming before.”

Queerness is a landscape unto itself Queerness is a landscape unto itself—an inclusive identity beyond the gender or sexual binary, a political statement, and a word laden with pejorative meaning for many members of the gay community. Queer individuals are navigating their personal identities amidst a LGBTQIA+ movement that is growing—whether judging from numerous surveys of the more-likely-to-be-non-conforming Generation Z, the increasing number of gender and sexuality options listed on sites like OkCupid and Facebook, or the record number of queer characters that are appearing on the television programs shaping our inner narratives, shows like One Mississippi, Transparent, and Orange is the New Black. More people are diving into the open waters of gender and sexual identity and resurfacing under the queer umbrella, with consequences for the futures we plan and the communities we foster within them. This piece weaves together stories from queer artists, educators, XE/XEM/XER are gender-neutral pronouns. Read more about gender-neutral pronouns on

farmers, community organizers, coders, and others to examine their personal landscapes of queer identity. These inner mappings are

the website of the Gender Equity Resource

not uniform. Rather, they embody the grappling, disagreement, and

Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

rebellion inherent to queerness, a practiced comfort with standing

ABOVE Vigil in Providence after the Pulse nightclub shooting. Photo by Ash Trull.

conform, queer individuals have been forced to act as architects of the self, re-casting their own molds, spitting out assumptions, and delivering the consequences of this personal work to the communities they live in. From the Stonewall riots led by trans women of color and gender-non-conforming activists, to intersectional queer feminist activism of the 1980s and 90s, to the Black Lives Matter movement, queerness has had the reputation and consequence of social transformation. The deep and personal journey embedded in queer experience, of norm-toppling and identity-finding, impacts our communities beyond gay-coded spaces. An important look ahead emerges from the perspectives to follow—futures through a queer lens confront business-as-usual practices with a honed skepticism of ‘the ways things are,’ with the boldness to envision more powerfully the way things could be.



“I felt like I had to make a decision as to what I identified as, I felt really strongly that I had to find the word. And I felt really strongly that I couldn’t,” says MJ Robinson (they/them/theirs). MJ is a 25 year-old artist, community organizer, and a museum educator with the Rhode Island School of Design. They now use the word queer to describe their sexuality and genderqueer or trans to describe their gender. Growing up north of Philadelphia at a time when they knew only a couple other gay people in their high school, they remember feeling a lot of anxiety when coming out. “The most intense wave of panic consumed my body,” they say, describing one night a crush cuddled close to them.“ That was sort of my trigger that I need to figure shit out.” Words map the expanding landscape of queerness. Discovering explanations and labels that subvert dominant narratives about gender and sexual identity and using them to name one’s reality is a formative experience for many queer people. These words can capture an experience outside the box of GU : ISSUE 07


up and standing out. In bucking social pressure to


ABOVE Illustration by M.J. Robinson,

heteronormative romance and the confines of the

with distrust in order to name their queerness—a

‘man-or-woman’ gender binary that structures most

story that offers two gender options and tells us

lives from childhood. Some interviewees recognize

how men and women are supposed to dress and

queerness in their earliest memories. Others

behave, what genitals they’re supposed to have,

recount specific experiences and people that

and who they’re supposed to love. Being queer is

helped crystallize their personal identities later in

an act of questioning one or more of these stories.

life. Many describe adopting and then changing the

Queer people must fight to create spaces in a

words they use to explain their gender and sexual

society that continues to privilege straight and cis-

identities. Few personal landscapes remain static.

identities and experiences.

Steph France (she/her/hers) first heard the word in

Toby (he/him/his or they/them/theirs) works

second grade at her all-girls Catholic school, where

in the field of sexual health and sexual violence

she remembers lesbians often getting teased.

prevention on a mid-sized university campus. (Toby

“Mom, I think I’m a lesbi-OWN … I like girls,” Steph

is not his real name). Toby identifies as transgender

recalls saying when she cornered her mom doing

and queer. “I think a lot of queer and trans folks

her hair in the bathroom. “And she’s like: ‘Oh, I

find themselves drawn to information, because so

know that … Of course I know.’”

many of us are not afforded information about our identities,” Toby says. “I remember the first time

Steph France and Rowena Jones (she/her/hers)

I heard the word transgender and transsexual,

are both 29 years old and live together in southern

and I was definitely overwhelmed with my own

Rhode Island. They have been dating for five

transphobia. I really tried to play the game,” Toby

years. Steph works independently as an actor and

says. Then I finally realized the game is rigged ...

together with Rowena to manage a business selling

The truth is that vanilla, straight, cis-gendered-ness

books and other retail through Amazon.

is such a tiny slice. And any time that any one of


us, it could be argued, steps a foot outside one of Steph remembers feeling ‘like a dude’ when she

those boxes, we’re experiencing queerness.”

was growing up in southern Rhode Island. She became comfortable identifying as a woman in her late teens. “Not all women have to be super feminine, not all women have to fit into the stereotypes,” Steph says. “I’m not going to call myself a guy because I’m masculine. I want to put it out there that women can be whatever they want.” Rowena also identifies as a lesbian and remembers some of the judgment she faced when exploring her own identity. “She didn’t think at all that I could possibly not be into guys,” Rowena says of her mom, remembering getting ‘the talk’ from her about sex and relationships. “That affected me. I tried to be with guys until I was in my twenties,” Rowena says. “It really messes you up and confuses

I finally realized the game is rigged … The truth is that vanilla, straight, cis-gendered-ness is such a tiny slice. And any time that any one of us, it could be argued, steps a foot outside one of those boxes, we’re experiencing queerness.

you when people tell you what you are.” There is a loud, societal story about relationships BURR

and gender identity that a person must confront GU : ISSUE 07

“I never hid it,” Luisa says of her lesbian identity, thinking back on coming out to her Catholic and conservative family in Venezuela. “I was brave enough to come out, still at 15, and the first person I told was my mom,” Luisa says. “I was strong in my belief that I needed to be out there, even if they treated me like shit. Because, especially in Venezuela, you don’t see it out there. It’s not like we don’t exist, we are there. We’re just hidden. And it’s not fair.” In her first two relationships, Luisa dated women who were not open about their queer identities. She describes this as a challenge. “I was out and ABOVE Photo by Ash Trull

I felt comfortable and I wanted to hold their hand but they didn’t feel comfortable,” she says. Luisa

There are generational differences in the ways

says that dating someone who was also out was an

queer people choose to identify. In a study

important milestone; bringing a partner home who

comparing Generation Z (age 13-20) to Millennials

was open about their relationship helped her mom

(age 21-34), significantly more of the younger

accept her as a lesbian. “This partner was not afraid

generation reported knowing someone who uses

to hold my hand at my house and be there like ‘I’m

gender-neutral pronouns (56% of Gen Z versus 43%

Luisa’s partner.’”

of Millennials). College campuses are increasingly 54

providing resources for transgender and gender

Lindsey Medeiros (she/her/hers), a 33 year-

non-binary students, and introductions that include

old farmer, grew up in a religious, working class

each person’s preferred pronouns are becoming

household in Massachusetts, with a Catholic father

a new norm on many campuses and in other

from Portugal and a Jewish mother. She became

community spaces. Yet, historically, and presently

comfortable living as queer when she moved to

in many places around the country and around the

New York for college. “I’ve always considered

world, queer-identifying persons have been forced

myself to be a tomboy, even when I was four,” she

to remain ‘closeted’ and hide their gender and

laughs. “I consider myself to be genderqueer, but

sexual identities for fear of violence, discrimination,

I feel not right using the they/them because I feel

or non-acceptance from their families and friends.

it takes away from people who are transitioning and that’s not the space I want to occupy.” Now

“At this moment, I consider myself to be a woman

she uses the words lesbian, dyke, queer, and

and my pronouns are her, she, but I feel like if I

genderqueer when describing her gender and

was born in the 2000s and I was an adolescent at

sexual identity.

this time, I would probably be more comfortable calling myself gender-neutral or something like

Even in queer spaces, people grapple with the

that,” says Luisa Piña (she/her/hers), a 32 year-old

validity of their personal experiences and the

Venezuelan filmmaker who lives with her wife in

feeling that there is a standard of queerness to

southern Massachusetts. “I’m very comfortable with

live up to. Many queer people feel confined by

my body, I like my boobs and my vagina. I’m just

norms perpetuated by both the straight and

upset that just because I like my body that puts me

queer communities.

into something.”


ABOVE From “Reborn,” a film by Luisa Piña inspired by her coming out. Photo by Daniel Oliver.

Ash Trull (they/them/theirs), is a 30 year-old

like I lose that solidarity with femmes or with

community organizer, facilitator, coder, and farmer

women,” Ash says. “AFAB is something that’s really

in Providence, Rhode Island, who identifies as non-

helpful for me in talking about my socialization,

binary, queer, and genderqueer, occasionally using

my upbringing, what gender I was assigned, and

the term AFAB, or ‘assigned-female-at-birth,’ to

then pushed into for a huge chunk of my formative

describe their identity. “I’ve chosen a lot of different

years.” As a queer coder, Ash has gravitated to

words for my gender over the years, and a lot of

communities like ‘She Hacks’ and ‘Lesbians Who

times it’s just like meeting someone whose gender

Tech,’ but notices the ways in which non-binary

I resonate with and then hearing what they say

identities are invisible in the title font of

and being like ‘oh yeah! Non-binary! That’s me,’”

these gatherings.

Ash says. “I feel like we’re missing something if we can’t get all people together who suffer from gender

have had to use the term AFAB—assigned-female-

oppression,” Ash says. “There’s complexity to the

at-birth—to gain access to spaces more explicitly

way that you experience privilege and oppression,

marketed to women. “A thing that happens in

but we have to be able to hold that so we can

identifying as non-binary or genderqueer is feeling

support each other.”


Ash explains that, as a non-binary person, they



community. In Chechnya in 2017, the round up

Coming out as queer and openly adopting

and torture of gay men—their crime: being gay—

queer-identifying labels is challenging and often dangerous—many individuals in the United States and around the world face enormous pressure to live up to straight and cis-gender cultural norms. In many places, this pressure takes the form of open, violent discrimination. In the United States, as of 2017, people can still be fired by their employers for being gay or transgender in 28 states; the 45th president has attempted to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military; and transgender individuals—especially trans women of color—are murdered at a disproportionately high rate. The second deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history happened at a gay bar, the Pulse nightclub

Lana (she/her/hers)—not her real name—grew up in Siberia and won asylum in the United States to escape Russia’s persecution of the gay community. “I came out at a relatively young age … I wasn’t really thinking about the consequences of being open. It is dangerous because you actually have to be on high alert all the time, because you don’t really know what’s going to happen to you. You can be attacked by your classmates or you can be attacked by your neighbors or people on the street if they know that you’re gay,” Lana says. “And

in Orlando.

moreover, nothing is going to happen to them.”

Around the world, there are more than 70 countries

In the United States, the transgender community

with laws that criminalize being queer. In Russia, anti-gay propaganda laws purporting to protect the morality of children have resulted in hate 56

sparked an international outcry.

crimes against gay individuals and allow officials to imprison people for being part of the queer BELOW Photo by Ash Trull

has also been more visible in recent years and there has been a reciprocal backlash. “Queerness is much more widely accepted, trans-ness is so misunderstood,” Justice Gaines says. “We’re at a flashpoint for trans identity where

you’re either going to accept it and try to learn, or

fairer future: one that celebrates free expression,

you’re going to push back hard.”

encourages the creative questioning of what has come before, and drives the construction of

Justice also emphasizes that racial identity and class

communities that uphold the rights and life-giving

privileges significantly impact a person’s experience

ideas of their constituents.

of being queer. The way trans people are portrayed in the media has a sizeable impact on public


perception, and one of the most visible transgender

Queer people are actively shaping communities,

embodies a wealthy and white experience of transness. Transgender people in the United States, especially transgender individuals of color, are at a high risk for extreme poverty. Poverty endangers lives and impacts an individual’s ability to be openly queer—financial resources often dictate whether a trans person can afford identity-affirming healthcare. When queer identity is only celebrated in the context of whiteness, as happens when white people uphold the privileges and power afforded by white identity ahead of grappling with queer oppression, queer people of color are harmed and abandoned by the queer movement. “There’s no way to escape this idea that queerness and whiteness are tied together as long as we have a capitalist system. Because capitalism only benefits when something can be made white. And as long as queerness can be made white and not something more expansive than that, there is no real liberatory aspect to it,” Justice says. “Now that [queerness is] part of the mainstream culture, it also then has to be adapted to whiteness, and that’s why you have ‘Gays for Trump’ and you have all of these movements that can be anything that they want and be queer. With queer people of color, you can’t be a queer person of color and be anything you want.” “The existence of queer people of color is at the crux of so many different levels of oppression, that we recognize that you cannot separate those levels of oppression if you want to solve a problem,” xe says. Lessons from these landscapes of queerness, from those rebelling against the oppressive structures of a tired status quo, can be drawn into envisioning a

taking on diverse forms of engagement in political, artistic, and other social and work spaces to create the futures they seek. Queer individuals have long pushed the boundaries of dominant structures of society and self. But, in the age of the Anthropocene, an era of human-accelerated change for our physical landscape, there is a new urgency to re-envision the practices that have trapped us in a cycle of resource exploitation and environmental degradation. How does the multifaceted landscape of queer identity translate to new visions for our local and global communities? “You have to be able to imagine that it’s possible that it won’t always be this way,” Ash Trull says. “It takes a lot of creation and imagination and vision.


And I think that is really deeply connected to gender liberation for me and sexuality and all forms of identity, that people can imagine themselves in a liberated form.” Steph France describes her work to write screenplays that bring strong, genuine female characters to the screen. She imagines action films in which gayness is present but incidental. “A lot of LGBT movies are about being gay—I want to see a movie where there’s a gay couple and it’s fine,” she says. She is working on scripts with roles for women that break out of Hollywood tropes. “I’ve gotten told twice during auditions, ‘um, can you just be less—powerful?’” Steph says. “In reality, all women are not wimpy and vulnerable and super sensitive.” Rowena Jones adds, “If you just take the main guy character and replace Steph with him, that’s her.” Luisa Piña waves away the idea that being a lesbian has dictated her career choices, but some of her GU : ISSUE 07


women, Kardashian-connected Caitlyn Jenner,

The community organizing work that Justice

Gaines does directly addresses harm experienced by the transgender community. In 2017, RI Jobs with Justice supported a community-wide campaign to pass the Police-Community Relations Act in Providence, an act that includes protections for transgender individuals during police stops among other rights for community members. Now, the campaign is working to ensure the act is implemented to full effect. Justice says xyr trans identity is connected to xyr organizing work. “I think the ultimate benefit I’ve seen from this work and from these ways of pushing is a more holistic understanding of oppression in general,” says Justice Gaines. “So, me as a black trans woman, I can’t separate those two things, which means I ABOVE Photo by Ash Trull

art connects to her identity. “I’ve always known that I like girls, even before I came out when I was 15, 58

it’s so normal to me and so a part of who I am, it’s like me having brown hair. Does me having brown hair influence where I go to school? Not really,” she says. “Me being a lesbian does influence my art, but it doesn’t dictate what I do.” In the last year of her masters program, Luisa made an experimental film called Reborn about her comingout experience. One of her current projects weaves in themes of being gay and working in the healthcare industry. “It hits home for me in so many big ways,” Toby says of the connection between being queer and trans and doing sexual violence prevention work. “A lot of the people who are doing this specifically anti-violence work are usually white, cis-gender, straight women. So I feel super underrepresented. I am very well represented in the client base, in the people who have experienced harm, but I am not well-represented in the service providers,” Toby says. “I wanted to be able to have a say in my own destiny … I wanted to be a decision-maker about my own life.”

also can’t separate sexism from transphobia from racism, which means you can’t either.” “This newfound ability to be like ‘we’re actually going to tow the line, we’re actually going to risk things, we’re actually going to pull down a statue, we’re actually going to climb a flagpole to take down a flag—those are things that I feel like have been activated because of queer people of color,” Justice says. “And, particularly, queer women of color, even, specifically, the Black Lives Matter movement founders.” Justice also hopes that the ways gender is assigned and policed will change in the future: “If I ever have grandchildren, I don’t want there to ever be a point where the doctor decides what gender they are. And, even me, if I never do any medical transitions, I’m still a woman. I don’t want gender to have to be tied to the body you were born in unless you want it to be. For me, even transgender ultimately is a term that should be phased out.” The experience of being out and queer, especially as a member of a queer community that is at risk of persecution, is to learn to rise up against such oppression.

ABOVE Art by Lindsey Medeiros

“I think being gay—especially if you’re persecuted

and is poisoning watersheds, land, and air. Growing

or you’re bullied and you decide to come forward

it where we live and eating that food is just an

and use your own experiences and trauma to

immediate connection to the earth—

change the world for other people—that has

you’re grounded.”

everything to do with the way that you are and the fact that you’re gay,” Lana says.

Lindsey has noticed more queer people joining


the farming community. It might not be a “Sooner or later Russia’s going to get there,” Lana

coincidence. “If you’re used to rebelling against

says, describing a world in which gayness is so

gender stereotypes or gender norms or who you’re

normal and accepted that people have no fear

supposed to love or what you’re supposed to do

of losing their rights, a world in which a stranger

with your body, you’re also open to the idea of

wouldn’t automatically assume that every woman

rebelling against just the basic thing, food in your

must be with a man. “The question is when and

mouth, four times a day, and where that’s coming

how many people will die in between … we’re not

from and who makes it,” she says. “It is kind of

there yet.”

a rebellion.”

The impacts of queer identity are playing out in

Of what consequence is the queer rebellion, of

physical spaces—from human rights’ rallies to new

purple lipstick against a bearded face, of two

stories for film scripts to the radical act of small-

women locked in an embrace, of naming ourselves

scale, local, holistic farming.

and asking that others call us by our names—of being open to the idea that there is a brighter future ahead for the building? What we have is not

we all grow food everywhere,” Lindsey Medeiros

enough. Every furrowed brow, every questioning

says. “The more that we learn about where our

look, every life-threatening act of being—that is

food actually comes from, the more we learn about

in itself an act of facing down the old guard, of

how unjust it all is, the whole system—from the

fearlessly bucking broken trends and creating the

way that the practices of industrial agriculture is

vessels in which our communities can live

stripping the soil and essentially uses slave labor

out loud.


“It’s the only reasonable, sustainable future—if




What does it mean to look at a landscape? Furthermore, in the multidisciplinary field of contemporary artistic practice, can looking at and painting a landscape be a consequent act? 60

There are two elements to this discussion: landscape—which is external, and looking—which is both the lens through which we perceive the landscape and the act through which we engage with it. In my practice as a painter I first go out into the landscape, often walking great distances with my camera. Here I am looking, returning with images which assist me to occupy these landscapes in the space of my own studio.

RIGHT Panel Paintings Forest Blizzard Night Oil on birch ply panel Each 70 x 56cm, 2015 (Right panel, part of a diptych)




The landscapes I depict are remote; they are border zones where human narrative is absent, as well as places in which we become more aware of our own perceptions. I see these ambivalent, empty spaces as a place from within from which to explore very basic ontological ideas. Through the observation of landscapes that appear out of reach, there is an attempt to pull apart the difference between ‘landscape’ and ‘nature,’ that which we perceive and that which exists beyond us.

The landscapes I depict are remote;

they are border zones where human narrative is absent ...








THIS SPREAD Notes on the Sea Day and Night Oil on birch ply Each 70 x 56cm, 2014 DAY PART 1, II


The dialogue that happens through the process of looking and painting is a dialogue about the objective world outside and my subjective responses to it. Both looking at and recording the landscape are consequent acts. I aim to express certain values through actions in the studio. At the root of everything, in making an art work, it is the intention that comes through. Presence


and attention, curiosity and engagement, are all attitudes I aim to embody through physical making. What I hope, then, is that my experience of looking at landscape is carried into the experience of looking at the paintings.











ABOVE Large-scale infrastructure projects are


planned throughout Colombia

All land is land of consequence. While sites that bear the

to reinforce projects of

deleterious impacts of industrial effluents, resource depletion,

modernity and production

and widespread conflict directly express past use and misuse, the systems developed to control and partition land underlay all territories as latent networks of consequence. As designers, it is essential that we commit to unearthing and making visible these systems of control in the work that we do, questioning the boundaries of land and characteristics of landscape that have long been constructed to appear as innate. This process begins with a recognition that almost all of the land on which we operate has been the site of colonization, and most land continues to be organized through colonial patterns of occupation.

LEFT Highly unequal land distribution in the country, coupled with displacement during


conflict, has led to the concentration of land to be used for agroindustry plantations, such as oil palm

The traces of these colonial legacies have often

that defines land in the settler colonial state, these

become the seams of visible contestation,

powerful acts of Indigenous refusal are essential

evidenced by the continued protests over

to making visible the continued logics of colonial

infrastructure development across Indigenous

land control.3 Despite the significant ruptures in

sacred sites in the United States. At Standing

the status quo that these examples provide, there

Rock, Water Protectors have been resisting the

also are many contexts in which the legacies of

construction of a pipeline through land with deep

colonization and continued dispossession are

significance to ecological and human health,

less visible. Instead, the insidious foundations

spiritual practice, and prolonged histories of

of how land and landscape are categorized and

occupation. Indigenous Hawaiians have shut down

commodified often persist largely unchallenged.


on Mauna Kea, contesting the establishment of

In order to spatialize this discourse within a specific

space infrastructure on a culturally and ecologically

site, I turn to the context of Colombia’s eastern

significant site. Their acts undermine the hegemony

piedmont region to consider the ways in which

of the settler colonial occupation that persists on

landscape typologies have been constructed

their land. As just two examples of the tension

through colonial mapping and natural history




the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope

expeditions. The prolonged effects of colonization

crop production.

endure in Colombia, both through the construction

These representational

of the country into regions, and through deeply

narratives can still be

unequal systems of land tenure and property

read in arrangements

ownership. By emphasizing this location specifically,

of land ownership into

I do not intend to suggest that this case is

haciendas and more

representative of all contexts, nor do I consider this


site exceptional in its relation to larger patterns of

accumulations for

hegemonic control. Rather, I turn to an examination

agroforestry and oil

of this region to indicate both the potential and

palm plantations.

possible approaches for critical site research within

These demarcations

the design disciplines.

of land and its parceling into


The early scientific and state-building expeditions

unequal systems of

to claim the territory of present day Colombia

ownership for the

employed landscape painting traditions that fixed

production of capital are now

landscape typologies into place, subsequently

fundamental to our understanding of site. As

categorizing Indigenous populations according

designers, the lot lines derived from surveys and

to imagined geographies. While Alexander von

ownership deeds are the starting point for our

Humboldt’s travels—in the land that is now known

drawings. If left unchallenged, the ordering power

as Colombia—are well documented, the most

of the colonial gaze and unequal traditions of land

significant of these projects was the Comisión

accumulation will and do persist in the very base

Corográfica de Nueva Granada. Led by Augustin

map that underlays our designs.

Codazzi, the Commission produced maps, written accounts, and a series of watercolor paintings that

Moving from this specific case to its broader

classified landscapes and divided the country into

significance for lands of consequence, there is

distinctive regions. Images from this expedition

an imperative for design to research, represent,

to the Amazon, painted in what is present day

and challenge the multiple and conflicting

Caquetá, depict lush vegetation in riverside scenes.

histories of site. It is important that we consider

Indigenous people are treated as a part of the

these contested places as more than composed

landscape, coding both bodies and landscapes

of historic overlays through time, and instead

as ‘other.’ Analyzing this archive, historian Nancy

understand that amplifying underprivileged

Appelbaum has suggested that the Commission’s

narratives is necessary to effectively counter the

work in the Eastern Plains and the Amazon

dominant histories of site. While the task is certainly

represented an ‘ethnographic cartography’ that,

a difficult one that stretches into some of the very

while indebted to the local knowledge of people

foundations of our design process, the orientation

that lived in these regions, sought to justify their

and lineage of design disciplines make them adept

subjugation and the control of territory by the newly

at interrogating the status quo and critiquing that

formed state.

which has been constructed as natural. To move



beyond the colonial perspectives of the sites we While these expeditions produced perspectival

operate on, it is necessary that we challenge the

images of the landscape, they also influenced the

visual archives from which we derive our materials,

establishment of colonial structures of land tenure.

considering alternative locations to find base

Lands in Eastern Colombia were idealized through

information and critically speculating about the

representations as territories suited to cattle

voices that are missing from the site research we

production or verdant landscapes of bounty for

have been doing. Considering the limitations of


ABOVE Highway development through the landscapes of Eastern Colombia seek to materially connect this region to national and international markets, while they also serve as important symbolic constructions that constitute this region as part of the national imaginary.

recognition of our positionality as designers. This positionality must be layered, intersectional, and complex. It will be established not solely by indicating our identities, but also through honesty about the institutions, firms, governments, and interests that we have come to accept, and in turn how this acceptance has shaped the histories and priorities of site design.

ENDNOTES 1 Brave Noisecat, J, and A. Spice. “A History and Future of Resistance.” Jacobin Magazine, 2016. 2 Long, K. K. Hawai’i: Mauna Kea, “Hawaiian Independence and the Politics of Jurisdiction.” The Funambulist Magazine, January/February 2017: 14–19. 3 Nunn, N, and Z. Matson. “Space Infrastructure, Empire, and the Final Frontier: What the Mauna Kea Land Defenders teach use about colonial totality.” Society and Space Online, Investigating Infrastructure Forum, 2017. 4 Codazzi, A, and C.A. Domínguez. Obras completas de la Comisión Corográfica: geografía física y política de la Confederación Granadina. COAMA-Unión Europea, 2002. 5 Appelbaum, N. P. Mapping the Country of Regions: The Chorographic Commission of Nineteenth-Century Colombia. UNC Press Books, 2016.



our research ultimately requires a humility and



Step out of a taxi in Hong Kong. Surface from the London Underground onto High Street. Look down the wide avenues of Buenos Aires, Sydney, or Johannesburg, and you’ll see it: the London plane tree (Platanus x hispanica), with its mottled graywhite bark and arching branches, thrives in large cities around the world, in highly polluted air and compacted soils. It’s prized in Paris for its ability to survive cold winters and in Australia for outlasting hot summers. It’s almost as if it were designed to thrive in the city. So, where does this miracle tree come from? Nowhere. The London plane tree is not native to London, nor anywhere else for that matter. It’s a hybrid—the offspring of an Oriental plane tree (Platanus orientalis) and an American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). It ‘evolved’ in 16th or 17th century Europe in the hands of an enterprising plant breeder. The new species quickly gained popularity as a tough street tree in Europe, and in


European colonies around the world. Native to nowhere, the tree thrived everywhere.

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Native plant enthusiasts argue that native plants have evolved for thousands of years to be optimized for their environments. This is based on the assumption that environmental factors like soil type, climate, and ecological communities change very slowly, at the rate of geologic time. The fitness advantage of native plants depends on a relatively static, unchanging environment. Yet cities are anything but static. Urban soils are altered by construction, compaction, and contamination. Impermeable surfaces and water infrastructure change urban hydrology. Urban heat island effect and microclimates affect soil and air temperatures. Cities are defined more by how urban they are than by where on the planet they In preparation for his 2017 book, The World’s Urban

are located. A tree adapted to urban environments,

Forests, Professor Joe McBride traveled to 33 cities

for example, is much more likely to flourish in San

selected to represent the world’s 11 biomes. He

Francisco than one adapted to coastal dunes. In

found the London plane tree in major cities across

short, cities are post-native; they no longer reflect

six of these eleven biomes. Far exceeding the

the environmental conditions for which native

range of either of its parents, the London plane

plants evolved. They are something new.



grows vigorously in urban environments that kill most trees. And, despite the declining populations

Cities are not the only places irreversibly altered

of its parents, the London plane will continue to

by human activity. Human influence ripples out

grow as climate change and urbanization advance.

through resource extraction, food and energy production, and global climate change. Cities are

The idea of the London plane tree (a tree native

already several degrees warmer than their historical

to nowhere) thriving in global cities (a novel

temperatures, and many native plants cannot

ecosystem) invites us to reconsider how we

survive in this altered environment. Climate models

select plant species for urban sites. This article

predict several degrees of warming globally in

argues that ideas of nativeness are rapidly losing

the next 50 years. Native plants face challenges in

relevance to our profession as we enter a world

urban settings today, and 50 years from now they

irreversibly altered by human activity. Further, the

will face challenges everywhere. As the effects of

consequences of clinging to nativeness in a post-

climate change spread beyond cities, landscape

native world are far worse than the consequences

architects will need to move beyond geographic

of embracing global biodiversity in the

provenance to find plants adapted to a post-

designed landscape.

native world.

LEFT The hybrid London plane tree (Platanus x hispanica) WESSELS

thrives in many biomes. Its potential range includes most of the world’s major cities. ABOVE A London plane tree in an urban environment GU : ISSUE 07




ABOVE Cities are already irreversibly altered from their natural state. By the time the trees we plant today mature, the world will have

warmed by several degrees. Cities are a harbinger of things to come. Top image source: “Impact of Urbanization on US Surface Climate.”2 Bottom image source: IPCC, 2013: Summary for Policymakers.3


AMERICAN CHESTNUT, ELM, AND ASH Prized for its timber and as a source of food for people and animals, the American chestnut (Castanea dentata) once made up 20% of the trees in the Appalachian forest. Due to the value of its wood, nuts, and shade, it was the most economically and ecologically important tree in much of the eastern United States.4 In 1904, a forester in the Bronx, New York, noticed a large number of chestnuts under his care were dying from an unknown blight. By 1912, all of the chestnut trees in New York City were dead, and over the following three decades, the blight spread to wipe out nearly every American chestnut, leading to an effective extinction of the species.5 The chestnut blight was caused by the fungus, Cryphonectria

parasitica, which was introduced from the planting of non-native Japanese chestnuts (Castanea crenata). In the early 20th century, the chestnut blight was described using the narrative of a foreign invader decimating American trees. In a 1915 article in American Forestry, Samuel Detwiler wrote, “Less than fifteen years ago the chestnut blight was unknown to the scientist or the woodsman. Seven years after the discovery, in 1904, near New York City, of this undesirable alien from Northern China it was conservatively estimated to have done $25,000,000 worth of damage ... It is thought that it will all but exterminate the chestnut in the Northern States ... and may invade the South with like disastrous results.”6

‘Undesirable alien,’ ‘exterminate,’ and ‘invade’

expect to see trees succumbing to foreign invaders,

framed the blight as a human-generated attack

human action, and differences in precipitation at

against nature and an unnatural abomination

an unprecedented rate. No amount of caution and

that had to be prevented at all costs. The U.S.

prudence will protect us from this type of disaster.

government responded by felling thousands of acres of chestnut trees, in the hopes of stopping

Should we keep trying to turn back the clock,

the spread of the disease, and by passing the Plant

prevent change, and restore ecological systems

Quarantine Act in 1912 to prevent a repeat of this

that are no longer suited to an altered

disaster. Additional resources were poured into

environment? Or will we finally embrace and take

plant pathology, development of fungicides, and

responsibility for our role as a disruptive species

monitoring of forest health. The United States

and ecosystem engineers?


did everything in its power to protect the natives against foreign invaders.


Elm Disease swept through the United States, eventually resulting in the loss of 75% of American elms.8 The country was heavily invested in the elm; many American cities had planted long, important streets exclusively with elm trees. When Dutch Elm Disease hit these streets it rapidly decimated the population, leaving main streets entirely devoid of trees and denuding neighborhoods over the course of a few years. Again, the cause of the outbreak was determined to be a fungal pathogen from Asia. Again, the disease was framed as a battle against a foreign invader, and again America lost. In recent years, emerald ash borer, pine pitch beetle, sudden oak death, and many other blights have threatened similar calamities. It has become clear that this is not a one-time threat, but an occurrence that is increasing in frequency. As tree species become more stressed by climate change and urbanization, we can expect additional epidemics. The strategy of trying to prevent and reverse these epidemics has not worked in the past, and is even less likely to work in a volatile future. Yes, these changes are human-caused. But they are not caused by the planting of non-native species; they are the result of much larger, irreversible changes in the movement of goods and levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We cannot address this change by being more cautious. With the rate that our climate is changing, we can

Globalization has irreversibly altered the planet, but it may also hold the key to surviving climate change. Designers today have unprecedented access to plants from around the world. For millennia, plants have been continuously evolving new, more efficient ways to survive in an astounding array of environmental conditions. In a post-native world, we will have to reconsider the idea that each plant is custom-evolved for a particular place on the


earth, and instead think of global biodiversity as a library of adaptation. This library holds the key to successful planting in urban areas today, and hope for an uncertain future. What I’m suggesting is that we embrace global biodiversity while we still have it; that our cities become hotbeds of plant species richness, hybridization, and cross-pollination; that we start a thousand divergent experiments, in small and controlled ways; and that we embrace this moment of globalization to produce an unprecedented explosion of diversity with which we can begin to replant and repopulate this irreversibly altered planet. The resilience of natural systems lies in diversity, redundancy, and flexibility. Individual plants, and even individual species, die off frequently, but there is always another individual or another species to fill the void. Relying on a small set of native trees without embracing the redundancy and diversity of natural systems is a recipe for disaster. GU : ISSUE 07


But then it happened again. In 1928, Dutch


To fully grasp the consequences of relying on native plantings, imagine for a moment that you are a landscape architect in Northern California. You’re not a native plant purist, but you use native plants in most of your projects because they do well, you know them, and they’re a built-in selling point for your clients. Imagine a recent project where native trees are important to the scheme, and now imagine sudden oak death wipes out every coast live oak on the project. Imagine that all your drought-stressed redwoods die from botryosphaeria. Now, extend this nightmare to the rest of your built projects. Put yourself into this world I’m describing—one where the two native trees that we depend on so heavily are gone. It’s a bleak and apocalyptic place. Add to that the loss of native forests in surrounding areas, and it’s looking like we’ve massively failed at our mission. The biggest danger in using only native plants 72

in the designed landscape is that we are putting

urban ecologies that will carry us through the changes ahead. PLANTING A POST-NATIVE WORLD

Abandon the image of nature. We fetishize native plants, restoration of native ecologies, and the wild. But trying to restore a snapshot of a plant community in a rapidly changing world is futile. It requires massive human intervention and resources. In order to recreate an image of untouched nature, we fight against the forces of nature. Instead, we should harness these forces.

Embrace the forces of nature. Nature fights adversity with diversity and evolution. It tries a million strategies at once, and those that succeed are replicated and iterated, while those that fail are rapidly scrapped. Nature is not conservative; it is brutally honest and highly experimental.

all of our eggs in one basket. In Northern

Become a force of nature.

California, there are a handful of native trees that

As landscape architects, we live in fear. We fear

are commercially available and viable in urban

the consequences of our choices, and that others

environments. The result of this is that many

will see us as incompetent, immoral, or imprudent.

landscapes are limited to the same group of three

But the consequences of our collective timidity far

to five trees.

outweigh the potential consequences of radical action.

The consequences of holding fast to native plant dogma in a rapidly changing world are grave. As the climate changes and we hold plants static, we are pushing the ecosystems on which we depend to mass extinction. Our desire to undo the damage that our species has caused to this planet is causing us to hide our heads in the sand and hope the problem goes away. It’s time we take responsibility for our role and accept the consequences of our actions. There is no going back. However, if we embrace the forces of nature (diversity, evolution, creativity) rather than clinging to the image of nature, we can move into an unpredictable future with hope. If we learn to recruit the tenacity of nature as an ally, rather than framing it as an enemy, we can use its incredible diversity to build robust

ENDNOTES 1 McBride, Joe. The World’s Urban Forests: History, Composition, Design, Function and Management. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2017. 2 L. Bounoua, et al. “Impact of Urbanization on US Surface Climate.” Environmental Research Letters 10, no. 8 (2015): 084010. 3 T.F. Stocker, “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basics.” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, 2013. 4 Davis, D.E. “Historical significance of American chestnut to Appalachian culture and ecology.” Proceedings of the conference on restoration of American chestnut to forest lands, Steiner, K.C. and J.E. Carlson (eds.), 2005. 5 Freinkel, Susan. American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009. 6 Detwiler, Samuel. “The American Chestnut Tree: Identification and Characteristics.” American Forestry 21, no. 362 (1915): 957-959. 7 Waterworth, H. E. and G. A. White. “Plant Introductions and Quarantine: the need for both.” Plant Diseases 66 (1982): 87-90. 8 “New Varieties of Elm Raise Hope of Rebirth For Devastated Tree.” New York Times, Dec. 1989.


In 2016, we began a study to more systematically explore the future of the built environment in cities. From our perspective as designers heading the innovation lab, XL, at SWA Group, we wanted to gain insight into what the near future might look like for the cities that we design for. Not only were we thinking about the implications for our design of long-life, public realm, urban sites, but also our largescale urban design and planning projects, where changes in land use, infrastructure, and mobility play important roles. We started with cities that, as a firm, we know most intimately, cities that our designers live and work in every day. We narrowed the list to five cities, all with strong economic growth and international influence.1 The group includes two global giants, New York and Los Angeles; two knowledge capitals, San Francisco and Houston; and an Asian anchor, Shanghai. Once we identified these five case studies, we collected the


knowledge of our locally-based colleagues, mapped indicators, and conducted fieldwork. We isolated major drivers of change in each city— sometimes a policy decision, a shift in material or technology, or most often, a change in environment. The goal was to bring into focus larger drivers of change at the municipal level, to make them recognizable. We tied each driver to a small and very specific point—the body, the five senses, and from there to a physical object that produces an experience of sight, smell, touch, sound, or taste. Sections of these stories and scenarios follow here, in order by longitude, east to west from the prime meridian.2 As designers, this foresight study helped us to think toward possible constructions of the built environment and changed economies—not only the ones we know today, but those that are forming, and those we do not yet know. Infrastructure, transit, food systems, ecology, energy, economy, and climate—the things that affect the built environment— are large-scale, require abstract thinking, and planning for the long term in order not to be purely reactive to systemic shocks. Grounding



these issues in the bodily senses, in human experience, and in particular objects, makes the abstract tangible. By grounding speculation in the familiar, we can follow our accustomed things into multiple futures, multiple scenarios—ones we still have agency in shaping. In this way, we can be ‘in touch’ with the near future. GU : ISSUE 07




The New York City

Department of Transportation

operates the most extensive lighting system in the

ABOVE Dark spots indicate areas in New York we project could be bright in the future due to changes in energy use. Base data acquired from NASA’s International Space Station aerial photography archives.

United States, with over 250,000 street lights in its five boroughs.3 Near the end of Mayor Michael

In 2016, a team of researchers from the National

Bloomberg’s administration in 2013, city officials

Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the

approved a $76 million project to retrofit these

Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute

luminaires with energy-efficient light-emitting

predicted an increase in worldwide light pollution

diodes (LEDs), in hopes of saving the city millions

if LEDs continue to be adopted globally, given

of dollars in energy and maintenance costs every

that blue wavelengths are more easily scattered by

year. The introduction of LEDs represents a major

the earth’s atmosphere and more easily perceived

shift in illumination technology; the chips last up

by the human eye.5 While this brighter future

to four times longer than traditional light sources,

could result in improved pedestrian security and

produce two to three times more light per watt,

reduced criminal offenses, it could also result in

spread illumination more evenly, and emit a

negative health outcomes. The American Medical

brighter and whiter light with higher temperature

Association recently revealed a link between LED

ratings, measured in degrees Kelvin. NYC’s streets

light and a decrease in melatonin production.6

are staying brighter for longer; residents who have compared the lighting to “a strip mall in outer

Or, the future of New York could be dark. A rise

space” and “a prison yard” already feel the

in dark-sky proponents pushing to reduce light

effects of this illuminated future—cold,

pollution or advancements resulting in lower Kelvin

unflattering, too bright.

LEDs could darken New York’s nights.


Houston, a city defined by sprawl, is experiencing

fragrant, many with a sweet, pleasant odor profile.

increased temperatures and precipitation.

Examples include Japanese honeysuckle with an

According to Climate Central, the average summer

overpowering sugary and lemony perfume, and the

temperature is 13°F higher in the city than in nearby

Kudzu with notes of artificial grape flavoring.

rural areas, and the metropolitan area is seeing a 167% increase in heavy downpours.7 Recently,

Since Houston has no formal land use codes,

ecologists have discovered that non-native, or

the city is a mosaic of residences, warehouses,

so-called invasive plants—often from subtropical

and industrial areas, with vacant lots dispersed

or tropical regions—are better able to respond to

throughout. In the future, many of these

these climatic changes than those endemic to the

abandoned parcels could become overgrown with

region. Many of these spontaneous urban plants

spontaneous, opportunistic vegetation, suffusing

are shifting their flowering schedule, allowing them

the city with a sweet-smelling perfume.



to shade out their competition and giving them access to more water, nutrients, and pollinators.

Or, the future of Houston could be less fragrant.

Recently, a citizen science program, called The

A pilot program aimed at tackling the issue of

Invaders of Texas, has emerged, training volunteers

overgrown lots, managed by the Department of

to identify species in their neighborhoods and

Neighborhoods’ Inspections and Public Service

add them to an online database. A number of

Division, could keep the invasive species, and their

the newly recorded plant species are highly

fragrances, at bay.

BELOW Dark spots indicate areas in Houston we project could be fragrant in the future due to changes in ecology. Base data acquired from Harris County’s vacant parcel information.






In recent years, Los Angeles has been among the top cities with the highest car sales, the highest number of hours spent in traffic, the largest municipal street system in the U.S., and the highest number of lanes in an urban highway. And all those cars on the highway make noise. An apartment next


to a freeway registers at about 90 decibels, or ‘very loud’—the same range as a gas lawn mower at three feet. In an effort to reduce decibel levels and save scarce highway improvement dollars, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has taken an interest in “quiet pavements” in lieu of noise walls. From 2002-2006, Caltrans built and tested five sections of quiet pavement north of L.A., with the hope of getting the data incorporated into a highway traffic noise prediction model that maps decibel levels at an urban scale.10 Compared to Caltrans’ normal dense graded hot mix asphalt (HMA), opengraded friction courses (OGFC) and rubberized asphalt concrete were better at reducing noise in the tests, according to the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.11 Out of 100 different pavement samples from Caltrans’ 76

pavement noise database, testing in 2005 showed that the loudest pavements and the quietest differed by as much as 16 decibels—the difference in noise level between the inside of a subway car and a live rock concert. In March 2017, the Los Angeles Times reported that between 2005 and 2015, the number of building permits L.A. granted increased sharply within 1,000 feet of freeways. In 2015 alone, the city issued building permits for 4,300 homes near freeways—more than in any year over the last decade.12 Miles of freeway and expressway are already becoming more desirable areas for living and easier to permit. More residential density next to major thoroughfares could create a new urban form—thin linear villages situated in the former buffer areas or odd lots between inaccessible, elevated highways and existing neighborhood grids. With the addition of quiet pavements, existing property values could increase, and reduced noise could mean better health outcomes for those already living nearby.13 Or, the future of L.A. could be loud, regardless of the introduction of quiet pavements. Predictions of population growth for the city are high,14 which could mean more car ownership, higher commute times,

ABOVE Dark spots indicate areas in Los Angeles we project

and additional highway building.

could be quiet in the future due to changes in transit. Base data acquired from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ National Transportation Noise Map.




In San Francisco, a typical summer day starts with

A drier, sunnier San Francisco might have broader

a heavy blanket of fog streaming into the bay. It

effects beyond shifting regional ecologies. The fog

dissipates for a few hours, then in late afternoon,

is often seen as an unexpected nuisance by summer

it rolls in again. The iconic fog can be attributed

visitors; miserably cold tourists on open air double

to a dramatic temperature differential between

decker buses are a common sight. A reduction in

the Pacific Ocean and the inland Central Valley.

summer fog could translate to increased tourism for

According to UC Berkeley professor Todd Dawson,

the region.

in summer fog due to climate change.15 Warmer

Or, the future of San Francisco could be wet. Even

temperatures along the coast are heating up the

if Bay Area summers shift towards drier, sunnier

surface of the ocean, weakening the upwelling

weather due to climate change, more extreme

effect, and in turn, decreasing the amount of fog

winter storms could be ahead for the state.16

produced. This shift could have a profound impact on Bay Area ecologies. Since the region only receives an average of about 20 inches of rain a year, many plants rely on the absorption of airborne moisture for survival.

ABOVE Dark spots indicate zones in the San Francisco Bay Area we project could be dry in the future due to changes in climate. Base data acquired from a U.S. Geological Survey study of fog belts along the California coast. GU : ISSUE 07


this pattern is beginning to shift, with a reduction

Small-scale agriculture has traditionally dominated

A shift in foodways and eating habits might come

the landscape of outer Shanghai. However, local

with health benefits for the Shanghainese. A 2015

vegetable production has decreased 45% since

study in the BMJ suggests spicy food may have

the 1980s. The municipal government of Shanghai

health benefits ranging from boosting metabolism

has made a renewed effort to safeguard food

to reducing the risk of heart disease.21 If a spicier

self-reliance since 2000 by regulating land use

diet contributes to longevity, Shanghai could

to preserve farmland and launching a number

experience more development pressure as people

of programs to support farming in the city.17

live longer, adding to population increases from

Sometimes referred to as planning for a ‘green

rural migrants and rising birth rates.

ring,’ authorities see agriculture as a way of also preserving green space.18 At the same time, over

Or, the future of Shanghai could be mild. If air

the past five years, eight of the twelve highest

quality declines further, there could be a different

temperatures recorded over the past century in

crop shift; shade-loving plants such as chard and

the city have been set, according to the Shanghai

cabbage might be better adapted to grow in a

Meteorological Bureau. While Shanghai is

smog-laden environment.


classified as having a humid subtropical climate with four distinct seasons, light rains in the normal

BELOW Dark spots indicate areas in Shanghai we project could

wet season have decreased over the past years.20

be spicy in the future due to changes in food. Base data acquired

Urban farmers may soon have to shift from crops

from the 2020 Plan of Shanghai Central City.

such as green leafy vegetables to heat-adapted crops like hot chili peppers.




EXHIBITION OPENING Urban Sensorium at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR)



2 For the full scenarios and alternate scenarios, see 3 “Green Light: Sustainable Street Lighting.” New York City Department of Transportation, September 2009. 4 Chaban, Matt. “LED Streetlights in Brooklyn Are Saving Energy but Exhausting Residents.” New York Times, March 23, 2015.

13 Kihlman, Tor, Kropp, Wolfgang, and William Lang. “Quieter Cities of the Future: Lessening the Severe Health Effects of Traffic Noise in Cities by Emissions Reductions.” International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences, May 2014. 14 Lu, Wei. “Densest Cities in 2025.” Bloomberg, September 12, 2014. 15 Johnstone, James, and Todd Dawson. “Climatic context and ecological implications of summer fog decline in the coast redwood region.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 2010.

5 Panko, Ben. “Nighttime light pollution covers nearly 80% of the globe.” Science Magazine, June 10, 2016.

16 Xiang, Gao, et al. “21st Century Changes in U.S. Regional Heavy Precipitation Frequency Based on Resolved Atmospheric Patterns.” Journal of Climate 30 (2017): 2501-2521.

6 “AMA Adopts Guidance to Reduce Harm from High Intensity Street Lights.” American Medical Association, June 14, 2016.

17 Jacobson, Martin. “Shanghai Urban Farming.” World Wildlife Foundation, March 1, 2012.

7 “Across U.S., Heaviest Downpours on the Rise.” Climate Central, May 27, 2015.

18 Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center. Visited December 17, 2016.

8 Wolkovich, Elizabeth, et al. “Temperature-dependent shifts in phenology contribute to the success of exotic species with climate change.” American Journal of Botany 100, no. 7 (2013): 1-15.

19 “Hottest Day Ever in Shanghai as Heat Wave Bakes China.” Agence France-Presse, July 21, 2017.

9 Peter Del Tredici has worked to re-term invasives as “spontaneous vegetation.” See 10 Rymer, Bruce, and Paul Donavan. “California Tests Show Pavement Selection Influences Noise Levels.” Hot Mix Asphalt Technology (Nov./Dec. 2005): 25-33. 11 Rochat, Judith L. “Volpe Center Updates on Tire/Pavement Noise Studies.” Transportation Research Board ADC40 Summer Meeting, July 2007. 12 Barboza, Tony, and Jon Schleuss. “L.A. Keeps Building Near Freeways, Even Though Living There Makes People Sick.” LA Times, March 2, 2017.

20 Tian, Zhan, Chen, Baode, and Jianguo Tan. “Climate Change in MegaCity Shanghai and its Impacts.” Impacts of Climate Change on Future Societies Workshop. Australia-China Science and Technology Week, August 2010. 21 Lv, Jun, et al. “Consumption of Spicy Foods and Total and Cause Specific Mortality: Population Based Cohort Study.” BMJ, August 4, 2015; 351:h3942. Map data sources: NASA, U.S. Bureau of Transportation, U.S. Geological Survey, Federal Highway Authority, Harris County, Shanghai municipal government.



1 Trujillo, Jesus Leal, and Joseph Parilla. “Redefining Global Cities: The Seven Types of Metro Economies.” The Brookings Institution, 2016.



Industrial sites are indicative of the compression of time and material scales that define our age. They collect vast amounts of materials from distant and boundless landscapes Daily consumption of Coal 3,500 tons

and process them briefly before dispersing them again to far-flung locations. The materials they transform often have origins millions of years in the past, and their by-products

Annual Consumption of Coal 980,000 tons

and effects project millions of years into the future; they are consequences of millennia past and profoundly consequential to future millennia. They present perhaps the most powerful and tangible opportunity to explore and communicate the

Total Historic Consumption 106,820,000 tons

consequences of the Anthropocene, a world driven by human geologic agency. However, our growing fascination with post-industrial spaces in the design community has been more preoccupied with the aesthetic character and cultural histories of these sites,


rather than the consequences they embody. Driven by historic Fisk Station Area Boundaries 35 Acres

preservation guidelines that prioritize form and architecture, rather than the ramifications of industrial processes and landscape—not to mention the social and cultural realities of industrial sites—these adaptive reuse projects too often feature mere facades of former conditions stuffed

with incongruous programming. Yoga studios, coffee shops, and condos are dropped into the empty shells of former industry. These adaptive reuse projects represent a missed opportunity to communicate the repercussions of these sites on social, ecological, and cultural communities, and especially the consequences they drive hundreds of years into the future. The iconic landscapes of post-industrial design fail to fully acknowledge the hidden impacts of their industrial operations. They succeed admirably in providing unique and intense experiences by glorifying the scope of production and capitalizing on the subliminal awe of infrastructure, complexity, and scale. What is missing, crucially, is the impact of these industrial activities. For instance, consider the Kokerie Zollverein, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Essen, Germany, deemed such because of both its unique aesthetic qualities and its importance to the cultural history of the Ruhr Valley. The site design provides a thoughtful combination of preservation and adaptation by highlighting its historical significance through new programming, both temporary and permanent. The museum in particular does a magnificent job of contextualizing the industrial dominion of the Ruhr region within its political, cultural, and natural histories and their intersecting timelines.

ABOVE Zollverein Coal Mine. No outward signs signal the ongoing necessity of dewatering stations to prevent catastrophic results for nearby communities. TOP LEFT Scale comparison of coal volume consumption BOTTOM LEFT A view of the Fisk Station with Downtown


Chicago beyond. Photo by Christopher Tallman.

The iconic landscapes of post-industrial design fail to fully acknowledge the hidden impacts of their industrial operations. The difficulty is engaging visitors with the hidden

While Zollverein’s historical significance is

consequences of industrial activity. If done

unmistakable, the project lacks critical recognition

effectively, these sites could become the genesis

of the future of a place, which exists today solely

of the long-term thinking required to collectively

because billions of tons of organic material were

address our responsibility to future generations.

removed from the ground for industrial purposes. How then, can post-industrial site designs reveal

indication that dewatering pumps in this mineshaft

the impacts of their operation? Can they engage

have operated continuously since the coal mine

the vast networks of time and space within

closed in 1986. If the pumps in Zollverein and the

which they operate? A speculative proposal for

other shuttered mines of the Ruhrgebiet cease to

a decommissioned coal plant in Chicago was

function, over five million people would be subject

conceived with this explicit question in mind.

to flooding, subsidence, and contaminated drinking

The proposed design engages multiple time

water on a catastrophic scale. “Everything ends,”

scales of industrial impact, and leverages


Land is sinking and water is rising. There is no

they say, “except the pumping.” GU : ISSUE 07

Record breaking Power Record breaking power

First manmade object First manmade object to the soundsound barrier to break break barrier Queen Mary Queen Mary visits Visits

Father of Centralized Energy Father of centralized electricty

Decomissioned inDecommissioned 2012 in 2012 Q U I T C O A L

First all steam First all steam power plant power plant

Twenty years of sustained Twenty years ofprotest and action sustained protest

Thomas Edison Thomas Edison

the subliminal scale of the site into a

Station’s historical, cultural, and environmental

projective carbon monument that engages

history, as well as its location in the midst of a

visitors in constructing a future.

dense urban core, make it particularly potent.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FISK GENERATING STATION The Fisk Generating Station, a decommissioned coal plant in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, is an auspicious site in which to explore these ideas. Of course, every post-industrial site presents an 82

opportunity to engage the public in future ramifications of industrialization, but the Fisk

The station opened in 1903 at the dawn of the modern age, smashing records for generating capacity and efficiency, and demonstrating the promises held by centralized power run on fossil fuels. It was described in a 1908 issue of Electrical World as a “great cathedral devoted to the religion of power,” whose gigantic supersonic turbines inspired a feeling of worship and attracted luminaries such as Thomas Edison and Queen Mary to marvel at its scale and efficiency. It is no exaggeration to

TOP Timeline of the station’s history TOP RIGHT Mapping the annual emmissions of pollutants from the Fisk Station, and the health impacts of the Fisk and Crawford Stations BOTTOM Tracking the transportation of coal to the Fisk Station. Yellow numbers indicate annual trips of each transportation mode for the station.

say that our national landscape might not be so defined by the proliferation of power lines and smokestacks if the Fisk Station had failed to set such a high standard. The Fisk Station’s record-breaking power, of course, depended on the accumulation

North Antelope Rochelle Mine Black Thunder Mine

115 Tons/Car

115 Cars - 1.4 Mile Length 13,225 tons/Train 74 Trains/Year to Fisk Station

Environmental Justice Offenders (2010)

Fisk: 374 Megawatts People living within 3 miles: 314,632 Fisk: 374 Megawatts Average Income within 3 miles: $15,076 People Living within 3 Miles: 314,632 Average Income within 3 miles: $15,076 People of Color within 3 miles: 83.1%

1. Crawford Generating Station, Illinois Environmental Justice Offenders (2010) 2. Hudson Generating Station, New Jersey 3. Fisk Generating Station, Illinois 1. Crawford Generating Station, Illinois

2. Hudson Generating Station, New Jersey

Annual Pollutant Output (Tons)

3. Fisk Generating Station, Illinois

Annual Pollutant Output (Tons)

x 4924 x 1178

Annual health effects of Fisk and Crawford Annual Health Effects of Fisk and Crawford

x 550

x 41

1.5 Miles

x 1784715

x 230 1937 - Fatal Burn 1938 - Ladder Fall

1974 - Fatal Accident 1976 - Firefighter crushed

1945 - Fatal Burn

Station Fatalities

People of color within 3 miles: 83.1%

x 2800

1954 - Two Fatal Burns

Station Fatalities

Crawford: 597 Megawatts

Crawford: 597 Megawatts People living within 3 miles: 373,690 Average Income within 3 miles: $11,097 People of Color within 3 miles: 83.9%

People Living within 3 Miles: 373,690

Average Income within 3 miles: S11,097 People of color within 3 miles: 83.9%

and compression of organic materials from far

was responsible for 550 ambulance deaths, 2,800

afield over millions of years. Benefitting first from

asthma attacks, and 41 premature deaths annually.

an abundance of coal in Pennsylvania and West

People died as a consequence of this station’s

Virginia, and later the even greater abundance

power. Sure the C-train runs smoothly, but we don’t

of the giant coal pits in the Powder River Basin

really ever get to see the other side of the ledger

of Wyoming, the station irrevocably changed

as clearly, do we? Both local activist groups such

landscapes thousands of miles from its property

as the Pilsen Environmental Right and Reform

line. The volume of coal it consumed, at a rate of

Organization (PERRO) and national groups such

one million tons of coal every year, dwarfed this tiny

as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace targeted the

35-acre site. Communicating these monumental

station for protests year after year until finally, in

scales of time and material is a primary driver of the

2012, the station was shuttered.

new programming in the site’s design. Physically and metaphorically, the Fisk Station The station holds the dubious distinction of

dominated the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago for

being named as the third worst environmental

over a century. Its contaminants and chemicals will

justice offender by the National Association for

linger in the site’s soils for hundreds of years, and

the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in

its emissions will contribute to rising temperatures,

2010. A 2002 study conducted by Harvard’s School

ocean acidification, and all manner of global

of Public Health concluded that the Fisk Station,

chemical imbalances for thousands of years.

in conjunction with its contemporary in the west

This speculative design for the Fisk Station

side of Chicago, the Crawford Generating Station,

Des Plaines River

Chicago 16 Miles from Fisk

NRG Will County Power Station Coal Storage & Transfer Station Rail to Barge

374 Megawatt Generator (1959)

Annual emissions (2003-2006) 230 lbs of mercury 17,765 tons of sulfur 260,000 lbs of soot 1,784,715 tons of Carbon Dioxide 4,924 tons of Sulfur Dioxide 1,178 tons of Nitrous Oxide

980,000 tons of coal consumed annually 3,000 - 4,000 tons consumed daily 41 Premature deaths annually from pollution associated with Fisk Station


North Antelope Rochelle Mine


1500 Tons/Barge Trip 2-3 Trips/Day GU : ISSUE 07

Mining SiteSurfaces Surfaces Mining Site

Exploting Toxic Exploiting Toxic Soils Soils

Creating a Carbon Monument

Creating a Carbon Monument

Creating a Carbon Monument

Exploiting Toxic Soils Extract hardscape slabs from available location on site

Concrete + Asphalt Surfaces

Concrete Surfaces + Grid Structure

Reorganizing Surfaces Removed Slabs (540)

Placed Slabs (165)

Creating a Carbon Monument


4 4 14 13








9 6


3 7



Generator Arcade


Clarifier Gardens


Museum of Un-Natural History


Bunker Gardens


Emergent Forest

10. Gas Plant Wetlands


Remediation / Carbon Gardens

11. Sunken Garden


Museum Plaza

12. Elevated River Walk


Energy Overlook

13. Canal Steps


Water Taxi Stop

14. Carbon Monument

TOP Diagrams of the primary programmatic and spatial drivers for the new site design MIDDLE Diagram of the processes and the locations of removal and deposition ABOVE Axon of proposed site design from the south

proposes a public amenity that both serves its

ephemeral consequences of site operation found

community and engages the public in the grand

in the proliferation of impervious surface, and

scales of material and time enlisted by such

reorganizes the ground plane into a legible and

sites. In it, invisible volumes of industrial actions

meaningful framework within the industrial chaos.

are revealed and made explicit, as a method of

The second engages the toxic soils of the site as

educating the public in the consequences of our

programmatic and spatial drivers that reveal the

industrial practices. By undertaking to sequester

scale of damage and impact that will last decades.

carbon, however futile it might seem, we can

These toxic soils also function as the growing

generate in visitors a desire to understand and

medium for the third programmatic driver: carbon

affect the future in a positive manner.

storage. By converting the central structures of the station into an ongoing carbon sink, visitors will

ENGAGING THE CONSEQUENCES OF COAL To address the lasting repercussions of the Fisk Generating Station, and the multiple time scales in which they manifest, the site design simultaneously pays homage to its importance as a cultural relic and engages its responsibility as an ecological villain. But, of course, green space and economic

be confronted with the disparity between scales of consumption and regeneration. Over 600 years, the massive structures of the station will be filled with the carbon equivalent of only 42 days of power plant operation. MINING SITE SURFACES

benefits are minor relative to the scale of the

The Fisk Station site is dominated by impervious

industrial consequences discussed earlier. Pilsen is

surface. These site surfaces (and building debris)

one of the most underserved neighborhoods in the

are reorganized to explicitly convey the material

city of Chicago in terms of open green space. On

volumes required to sustain this industrial

the most basic level, there is an opportunity for any

operation, and to provide a framework that gives

design to begin to repay the nearby residents for

clarity while simultaneously registering both historic

its many injustices with river access and open space

and emergent site conditions.


that they sorely lack. The surfaces are used to create a new ‘front lawn’ The economic driver of the site’s development is a

for the site that creates legibility. The horizontal

new museum: the museum of Un-Natural History.

plane of the monumental slab surface accentuates

An update on Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural

the looming and ominous 450-foot-tall smokestack

History, the museum seeks to engage visitors in

and boiler housing around which the site rotates. It

both the historical importance of the Fisk Station

is intentionally reminiscent of memorial landscapes

itself, as well as the broader implications of our

and graveyards on a monumental scale. The spaces

industrial practices. Other portions of the site are

resulting from the material displacement make

dedicated to interpretation activities, designed

room for emergent gardens, gathering nodes,

and emergent gardens, a water taxi stop, wetlands,

and water conveyance.

and public access to the river. These spaces are the

These drivers engage the impacts of coal generation at multiple temporal scales. Site programming and spatial organization are driven by three primary actions of material displacement, aimed at explicitly presenting to visitors the

Over 600 years, the massive structures of the station will be filled with the carbon equivalent of only 42 days of power plant operation.

significance of industrial operations. The first, mining site surfaces, addresses the relatively GU : ISSUE 07


result of three primary programming drivers.

Poplar/Black Locust Poplar/Black Locust Grove Grove

Remove soil Remove soil fromfrom site of site former of gas former plant gas plant

Thermally soils Thermally treattreated soil

Deposit treated Deposit treated soil soil in bunkers in bunkers

PAHs Coal Tar VOCs BTEX Heavy Metals



Existing Bulkhead Existing bulkhead

Property Line Property Line

New water barriers and New water barriers and bulkheads bulkheads

River Channel River Channel


Rhizodegradation Bulkheads planters Bulkhead planter

Remove existing bulkheads, Remove existing bulkheads, tiebacks, and polluted soils tiebacks, and polluted soil

Puncture new bulkheads Puncture new bulkhead



The most toxic soil on site is located in the

Typical carbon sequestration strategies fail to

southwest corner, where a former manufactured gas

contextualize a coal power station’s carbon

plant operated for over a century. Here industrial

expenditure within a human experience.

processes have contaminated almost 50,000 cubic

Wood harvest sequestration is a developing,

yards of soil with petroleum byproducts. As with

inexpensive strategy of storing harvested wood

all of the primary site moves, the goal with the

underground or within structures, preserving

polluted soil is not to cap and hide it but rather to

carbon for thousands of years. This technique

reveal its scale, to give it purpose as a reference

will be used to fill the station’s massive boiler

of the past and a resource for the future. To this

and generator structures with carbon. The

end, the soil is placed in phytoremediation bunkers

projective monument looms over the site and

(petroleum byproducts are some of the most

the city itself, measuring both past and future

suitable for phyto technologies) that frame the site

material accumulation and confronting visitors

along the lines of vanished, historic canals. The slow

with the almost unintelligible temporal and

incline of the bunkers rising above the heads of

material scales of the plant’s impact.

visitors as they enter the site presents a progressive

of phyto-treatment render the soil safe for human

As designers, we should no longer be content to stand idle in the willful obfuscation of industrial landscapes.

contact over years and decades. The soil bunkers

Remediation groves and polluted soil bunkers

also frame the site, buffer from ongoing adjacent

are used to supply carbon sequestration

industrial activity, and eventually provide unique

volumes. The ongoing management of the

elevated views of the neighborhood and the river.

groves contributes to the sense of time

Their most crucial role, however, is to yield the

required to engage the volumes of coal

growing medium for the lengthiest program of the

consumed by the station, and provides an

site design: carbon generation and storage.

evolving set of experiences for residents and

understanding of the polluted soil volumes resulting from a century of the station’s operation. The bunkers will only become accessible as cycles

Siltation in shallow channel channel Siltation in shallow

Carbon + Remediation

Carbon + Lumber + Carbon + Experience Lumber +

Carbon + Remediation


Carbon + Lumber Carbon + Lumber

Poplar Saplings Hybrid PoplarHybrid Saplings Hybrid Poplar Saplings

phytoaccumulate and Poplars Poplars phytoaccumulate degrade pollutants and degrade pollutants Poplars phytoaccumulate and degrade pollutants

Harvest poplar forests Harvest Poplar forests Harvest poplar forests

Poplar and Locust Mix Plantings Poplar and Locust mixed plantings Poplar and Locust Mix Plantings

Harvest poplar and replace with Harvest poplar hardwood species and replace with Harvest poplar and replace with hardwood hardwood species species

Managed mixed hardwood forest Managed mixed hardwood forest Managed mixed hardwood forest

Take station artifacts for museum display and sell interior scrap

Take station artifacts Take station artifacts for for display and sell museum display museum andscrap sell interior interior scrap

0 years

10 years

20 years

0 years

10 years

20 years

visitors over the next six centuries. Throughout this time period, remediation groves will be continuously harvested and piled into the building. Once filled, the central building core will hold about 75,000 cords of wood storage, or 300 million 87

pounds of carbon, equivalent to only 42 days of station operation. Building incisions around the site provide visitors with a sense of scale involved in the carbon sequestration efforts. They place the human body directly in relation to the overwhelming historic carbon volumes to reveal the dramatic contrast between the speed of carbon consumption and

for generations, centuries in the future.

carbon generation.

As designers, we should no longer be content to stand idle in the willful obfuscation of

As we grapple with the ramifications of the

industrial landscapes.

Anthropocene it is imperative for us to engage with with our actions. Not every space should become a monument to carbon, of course, nor to the millions affected by contaminated air or poisoned water, but every post-industrial landscape should engage with its cultural and ecological consequences reaching far afield, and deep into the future. Only by confronting and addressing the disparity of

TOP LEFT Process through which the soils are treated and the soil volumes revealed to site visitors TOP RIGHT A diagram of the ongoing processes used to generate the carbon sequestered in the station’s superstructures ABOVE Carbon Encounters form the central experience of visiting the site. The site progression is structured around perceiving and traversing massive volumes, which, when fully filled with carbon, will equal only an insignificant fraction of the

industrial cause and effect can we undertake the

station’s carbon consumption. This is an example of the incisions

drastic actions necessary to provide a better world

within the structure that will contextualize these carbon volumes in human scale. GU : ISSUE 07


the vast material and time scales we manipulate







Nine years in the making, Sandra Sawatzky’s 220-foot handembroidered piece, The Black Gold Tapestry, tells the story of how oil has impacted human civilizations around the world, from bitumen bubbling up in the waterways and marshes of Iraq 5,000 years ago, to the global oil economy of today. Examining how oil and natural gas have fueled human ingenuity, progress, warfare, disaster, prosperity, and commerce across the globe, The Black Gold Tapestry highlights fascinating vignettes from the past and the present that will surprise and even delight viewers of this truly epic piece of art.







On October 28, 2015, a tragic shipwreck claimed the lives of nearly 100 refugees en route to the island of Lesvos. The bodies were buried in an olive grove near the village of Kato Tritos in a harried and haphazard manner. We have proposed redesigning the burial ground to honor those lost and create dignified places of rest for the newly deceased. On one hand, the original site is preserved to respect collective memory and to function as an operative monument. On the other, the new burial grounds constitute the shards of the collective memory—that is, private memory. The threshold to the cemetery traverses the middle ground between the old and new burial sites, like a fracture in the landscape. This space is charged with routes, routes of bereavement between memory and oblivion.

LESVOS: LAND OF DISPLACED POPULATIONS The sea has always been the realm of the displaced, and Lesvos a staging ground to the European Peninsula. The distance from the eastern edge of Lesvos to the coast of Asia Minor is less than five miles, which explains the historical presence of a Muslim population on the island, as well as Lesvos’ involvement in numerous population exchanges throughout history. In 1923, for example, 1,500,000 Christian refugees fled from Asia Minor and 500,000 Muslims left Greece.

There are three sea routes to the island, each with a different price tag, depending on their riskiness ... Class often defines the odds of survival.

Throughout the current refugee crisis, the island of Lesvos has been one of the main points of entry for refugees and immigrants. The construction of


the Evros wall in 2011 (on the northeastern border between Greece and Turkey) increased the refugee flow by sea, a considerably more dangerous route compared to the land passage. At the same time, the establishment of the European Frontex program made it increasingly difficult for immigrants to evacuate the Greek islands and reach the peninsula, transforming islands into prisons of enclaved immigrants. There are three sea routes to the island of Lesvos, each with a different price tag depending on their riskiness, whether the trip takes place by day or night, or under good or poor weather conditions; class often defines the odds of survival. Upon arrival, KARATSIOMPANI, TSONIDI, & LOLA

refugees must cross the entire island to reach the Moria, where they can file asylum requests. They are then transferred to one of three operational refugee camps on the island, as shown on the map at right.

RIGHT Map of Lesvos showing common sea routes and refugee camp locations. Source: UNHCR. GU : ISSUE 07


TOP Graphic analysis of the current conditions ABOVE Photographs of the immigrant graves in the cemetery of Mytilene, Lesvos



The accumulation of nearly 15,000 immigrants in

We visited the island in March 2016. With the

Lesvos created various management problems,

kind contributions of the Deputy Mayor and the

most notably what to do with the bodies of the

volunteer who carried out the burials, we surveyed

deceased. A large number of immigrants were

the informal burial site in the olive grove and

buried in the cemetery of Mytilene, the capital of

photographed individual graves. The olive trees

Lesvos, in a disordered manner that ignored the

were uprooted in order to make room for the

orientation of bodies, as specified by the Islamic

graves, in the middle of a field very close to the sea.

religion. To make matters worse, the volume of the

A large number of the victims, infants, children, and

burials in the cemetery brought it close to capacity.

entire families buried here are of unknown identity.

So, when in October 2015 a major shipwreck took place in which nearly 100 people drowned, including a great number of children, the bodies had to be kept in a refrigerated container for about half a month. The situation was resolved by a volunteer who started searching for a suitable place. The burials were made informally in an olive field belonging to the municipality, about 20 minutes away from the city of Lesvos.

“That is the actual reason that forced me to create this cemetery. As soon as I entered, I saw an eight meter by three meter container, and within this container were 46 bodies. For 20 days in this space ... It was a situation that really nobody could have imagined. I do not know the proper expression, neither in Greek nor in Arabic, to describe what I saw.” Excerpt from an interview with the volunteer that carried out the burials

“I wasn’t aware of the size of the problem. When I found out about it, it became my problem. Finding a place was a decision that I had to make. I was involved now.”



Excerpt from an interview with the Deputy Mayor of Mytilene, Lesvos


65 atypical burials


ABOVE The list of 65 atypical burials and photographs of the site RIGHT A comparison of prescribed burial pratices in Christianity and Islam


memories of the diseased, there would be neither

It was imperative to research the burial practices

bereavement nor loss.

specific to the religions of the refugee populations. This work brought us face-to-face with the notion of death, a topic of opposites—familiar yet unknowable, contemplative yet fearful. The notion of death can be considered the causa causans of

Our design for the burial site emphasizes natural elements interlaced with the burial procedure: ground, water, and light. Through their

every religion.

spaces to contain bereavement, where one may

In an effort to better understand this complex

lies beyond.

reality, we asked ourselves: What happens in between life and death? How are they separated


manipulation, we attempt to create appropriate pivot between memory, the present, and what


and how do they communicate? What is the


transition from one to the other?

Our design attempts to spatially materialize the differentiate between the individual and the

served as the physical boundary between the two

collective memory, as the former constitutes a very

worlds of life and death. Once in Hades, the dead

personal matter. Collective memory,1 on the other

would drink of the water of oblivion in order to

hand, is the sum of all individual memories and

forget their loved ones and their previous lives.

contains those concerning historical events rather

Their relatives were left behind to come to terms

than personal ones.

with their loss. As for the site of the informal burials that took place Loss can be interpreted in many different ways:

in November 2015, we conclude that no further

physical loss, existential loss, or even the loss of a

burials should take place, and that the existing site

country. The irreversible nature of such a loss can

be preserved with minimal intervention. Thus, it

desolate a person in bereavement. Memory is the

will serve as a memorial ground to symbolize the

key driver of grief and the core of loss. But for our

collective memory.



notions of memory, loss, and bereavement. We In ancient Greek mythology, the river Acheron


Where time is frozen, the dead must be

is important to note that this cemetery attempts

commemorated, and the root cause of their deaths

to provide for the needs not only of the refugee

emphasized, in order for the site to retain its power

population, but also of any foreigners living on

and meaning. We strongly believe that visitors

the island.

in this place should not be ‘shocked’ by artificial, man-made constructions, but rather, be allowed

In between the memorial and the new burial

to interpret the events through their own personal

grounds there exists what we call a transitional

experience of the site. The informal burial site

space resembling a fissure. Anyone there is in

remains at the highest elevation to illustrate that it

limbo, preparing for what follows. There are two

gave occasion to the whole project.

possible routes; guided by the water or the earth, one can either descend to the burial

Conversely, the new burial sites represent the

grounds or follow a straight line leading to the

shards of the collective memory—the individual

memorial ground.

memory itself. They are situated on the south section of the property and sunken into the ground.

We hope that this project draws attention to the

Here, the lower grounds are better suited to

issues surrounding the respectful burial of refugees,

host and contain bereavement. This depression

a problem created by the modern migration crisis

intensifies the sense of enclosure, creating an

and very rarely discussed in the public realm.

indirect interplay with the scenery.

By fusing monument and cemetery, we honor those lost at sea, and create dignified spaces for

We propose three distinct burial grounds: one

mourning, reflection, and final rest.

Muslim, one Christian, and one interfaith. To reach this decision, we were compelled both by the actual ratios of the religions of the dead and by our wish to respect the beliefs, if any, of the deceased. It

ENDNOTES 1 Halbwachs, Maurice.”Les cadres sociaux de la mémoire” (translated: “On Collective Memory”). Les Travaux de L’Année Sociologique. Paris: 1925.




16 A Walk Down Brigantine Reach W.W. SMITH

I walk b eneath your boughs In your shadow, in the lee Of the shar p Pacific wind I find shelter u nder thee. 100

Hespero! O Hespero! Dear Cupressus, sta nd ing strong In a line, your li m bs defia nt As stalwart sent’nels, a cent’ry long.

On this triu m pha nt coastal terrace Pou nd ing surf does ever car ve The hu ngry waves! A sheltered cave Beco m e thy bra nches, the love you gave.

A n ocea n raging, crashing, star ved For the earth b eneath us! Hallowed grou nd Thy roots defia nt! to the thu nd’rous pou nd.

A nd here I sta nd, on fallen foliage As the ocea n r u m bles on In a m agic wooded haven Welco m e respite of the d aw n.

I step lightly, breathing in The faint aro m a of thy kin Your twisting bra nches tell a story Fro m the past! Now, let’s b egin …

A hu nd red years, a nd m ore, ago A wind swept m eadow, grazéd low By cattle, a m bling to a nd fro The ragged bluff—frigid sea b elow. The hills b eyond were clear-cut! By loggers, gau nt a nd gri m They tore the earth asu nder! Yield ing ti m b er, li m b for li m b. The forests gone, the field s depleted By cows that m ooed, a nd sheep that bleated A la nd far fro m this sacred place O hallowed grou nd! Old Hespero’s e m brace. So —How b eco m eth? Our m ost noble, kind red friend s These hedgerows so define this place W here each m eadow starts a nd end s. I’ll tell you how —‘Twas Walter Frick! W ho bought the acreage to turn a trick— To sell for profit, to a foreig n lot! They defaulted on pay m ents soon after they bought. 101

A nd so, Frick b ega n, Cash in pocket, deed in ha nd To ‘i m prove upon’ his la nd scape A nd reclai m this ravaged la nd.

Hesperocy paris m acrocar pa

Ca m e to define Frick’s ‘ra nchettes’ Used to m a nage his sheep herd s As living barriers, a growing fence. Two dozen ‘roo m s’ Were the Del M ar Ra nch A nd the stern Pacific wind Cast a b end to every bra nch. Of Frick’s you ng Cupressus Monterey cy press, every tree A nd his sheep, they baa h’d a nd bleated In the shelter of the lee.


A line, of cy press after cy press Now agéd a nd full grow n Gia nts rising up a bove m e Their vital shelter have I k now n.


Before The Sea Ra nch Was ever a thought Frick redefined the la nd scape This m ajesty, he wrought! A nd so, a century has passed — The la nd’s b eco m eth so m ething new For ‘living lightly on the la nd’ A vision Larry Halprin d rew. W hen he first saw this coastal wonder In Frick’s footsteps d id he tread For the la nd scape’s process wa ndered on Ever after Frick was dead. The la nd is process! Our i m print too We live in the lee Of what our forefathers do. Just as you ng Cupressus Tender saplings b egin To replace their dying brethren Frick’s gift their fallen kin. 102

Old Hespero, just like us Lucky to see a hu nd red years A nd in senescence, as like we age Hespero falters, withers, wears.

We must replace the m! We steward s of our age In Halprin’s lee, to pla nt a tree A nd pen history’s next page. A final call, a challenge —listen! As I walk dow n Briga ntine Reach Co m e with m e — q uiet— ca n you hear it? The wind, it whispers, lessons to teach. As the bra nches of old Hespero Play their song of the northwesterly Telling the tale, of the wind s that prevail As we walk, safe here in the lee. Re m e m b er, my friend! M r. Frick a nd his sheep For the legacy of Sea Ra nch Of his m e m ory, must we keep.






DeafSpace sprang from the heart of the Deaf community at Gallaudet University1 in Washington, D.C., in 2005. With the guidance of architect Hansel Bauman—who is hearing, but uses American Sign Language (ASL)—the Deaf community at Gallaudet came together through courses and workshops to create radical, bilingual, and highly collaborative discourse on designing more effective campus buildings and public spaces for people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HoH).2 The resulting product is Gallaudet University's DeafSpace Design Guidelines (DSDG), an ever-evolving publication designed for use by architects, planners, and administration. 104

Defined by the DSDG, DeafSpace is a space “in which Deaf culture, in all its diverse dimensions, can thrive through full access to communication and the unique cognitive, cultural and creative dimensions of the Deaf experience are encouraged.”3 Within a predominantly hearing world, the built environment poses many real, physical barriers to people who are Deaf, as well as people with disabilities. These barriers range widely from the absence of visual signage on public transportation to the lack of space to communicate with sign language while walking on public sidewalks. Deaf people have spent their lives adapting to the built

... a space “in which Deaf culture, in all its diverse dimensions, can thrive through full access to communication and the unique cognitive, cultural and creative dimensions of the Deaf experience are encouraged.”

environment. Those who deviate from the 'norm' are expected to make adjustments to fit themselves seamlessly into society— regardless of ability—particularly in public space. As a result, the built environment is viewed as static rather than flexible. While people with disabilities have been guaranteed rights to public space through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) since 1990, these regulations are not exhaustive, and historically have given less attention to those who are Deaf and HoH.4 With recent challenges to the ADA as we know it under H.R. 620,5 designers must use their power to design beautiful and accessible public spaces for all. DeafSpace, and other principles of Universal Design, have the power to take the ADA a step further—celebrating

the beauty of form as well as function, bringing to

tree planting, and design of other outdoor rooms

light the unique identities of those who are Deaf or

and shelters (e.g., parklets). Derrick Behm, a Deaf

disabled. DeafSpace asserts that the environment

graduate student in urban planning at Georgetown

can be changed to create better public space for

University, explains that he generally prefers action

individuals that deviate from the hearing 'norm.'

to happen in front of him, "with a wall or tree

However, in applying DeafSpace to landscape, not

behind to feel subconsciously safe" and to be able

only the Deaf community—but all people—serve to

to better control what goes on behind him.

reap the benefits of more accessible public space.


Spatially, people in the Deaf community require

Social interaction is fundamental to Deaf culture.

enough space between individuals to sign and 360°

Placing collective spaces next to high-activity areas

sensory reach, dependent upon visual and tactile

promotes activation of these spaces by forming

senses. The DSDG attempts to create a better built

both physical and visual connection. Nodes

environment for the Deaf community through five

are central connecting points and intersections

units: "Space and Proximity," "Sensory Reach,"

along main areas of circulation, which promote

"Mobility and Proximity," "Light and Color," and

spontaneous social interaction as people move

"Acoustics and Electromagnetic Interference." It

from place to place. Eddies are located along the

must be noted that these guidelines focus upon

edges of major pathways and can provide space for

applications for the American Deaf community.

conversation and people-watching; an eddy can be

Although many guidelines were found to be

scaled for different uses and serves as a degree of

cross-cultural, Deaf cultures are extremely diverse.

enclosure in public space. Both nodes and eddies

Currently, there are over 200 sign languages in use

can be applied to busy city sidewalks to provide

around the world.

space off of the main path for conversation, limiting obstructive incidents and allowing for space to sign.

As a Deaf graduate student in landscape architecture, new to the Deaf community and


ASL, I wondered how I could apply DeafSpace

Critical to DeafSpace is the provision of freedom

to the larger scales of landscape and urban

of movement for communication, with minimal

design. Although most of the guidelines are

hazards. Wider pathways can accommodate for

specifically for architectural interiors, much can

signers to converse while walking. Dependent on

be applied to the broader, exterior scales of the

place, pathways should allow for enough room

urban landscape. Here, I attempt to dissect the

for two or more people to sign; typically, smaller

DSDG (excluding "Acoustics and Electromagnetic

corridors should be a minimum of seven to eight

Interference," best suited for interior design), by

feet wide to accommodate two signers, while

selecting the guidelines that my Deaf colleagues

public sidewalks should be a minimum of ten feet

and I have found critical for urban space. To the

wide to accommodate for several groups of signers

Deaf community, the landscape is a rich sensory


(and others) to pass through easily. 'Shoulder

experience; in the absence of sound, the visual,

Zones' act as dedicated buffer zones parallel to

tactile, and even the olfactory senses are amplified.

busy urban sidewalks and streets; they should include areas for eddies as well as street signage,


lighting, and plantings. The pedestrian pathway

A comfortable degree of enclosure would provide

should be kept clear of barriers and should always

seen. One is able to feel secure from behind, with a view opening outward toward public activity. This can be achieved through the design of alcoves,

be designed with visual dominance and safety lighting, particularly at busy vehicular intersections. Matthew Sampson, also a Deaf graduate student in urban planning at Georgetown University, describes GU : ISSUE 07


a safe, semi-private space for people to see and be

TEXTURED TRANSITION to provide cues between sidewalk, planting areas, and the street 'SHOULDER ZONE' to create a buffer zone between the sidewalk and the street

DEGREE OF ENCLOSURE to create a secure,

semi-private space to see and be seen

NIGHT LIGHTING to create safer, more visible streets after dark

FLEXIBLE SEATING to accommodate small to large groups joining in conversation

WIDER PATHWAY a minimum of 10 feet to

provide space for conversation and circulation

RHYTHM to create visual patterns along sidewalk edges, aiding in spatial understanding

VISUAL CUE to increase awareness and safety,

especially at busy intersections



Image by author and Courtney Ferris

is a critique of the planning profession itself. Many of these guidelines appear to be standard practice in streetscape design, as per the ADA. However, they are often overlooked or treated as an afterthought. Applying these simple guidelines to streets has the potential to go beyond the ADA in creating space for the Deaf community, increasing safety, improving circulation, and making better urban landscapes for all.

curb bump-outs—or areas where sidewalks bulb


out at busy intersections—as "a way of reclaiming

Transparency is primarily applied to building

pedestrian land, putting pedestrians in the driver's field of view," which can create the visual security required by those who are Deaf as well as security for other pedestrians. Ramps are preferred by many in the Deaf community; they can prevent barriers to conversation and minimize tripping hazards posed by stairs. They should be kept wide as pathways to accommodate for visual conversation. VISUAL AND TACTILE CUES Shared sensory reach is deeply rooted practice in Deaf culture. Visual cues can aid people who are Deaf to safely use and travel through public space. View corridors can visually connect different

interiors and windows, but creating flow between interior and exterior—extending the line of sight outdoors—allows for greater use, understanding, and connection to the surrounding landscape. Reflection can be applied to many landscape and urban materials (e.g., stone, metal, wood) to create subtle clues about surrounding activity. Materials should not be overly reflective to avoid undesirable glare. Natural lighting and night lighting should be maximized to prevent eye strain, but shaded exterior paths are also crucial for glare-free

comfort on sidewalks, which can be achieved with tree canopies and overhangs.

parts of a larger public realm, creating a visible


hierarchy that can be achieved topographically

Furniture, too, plays an important role in the Deaf

and through the planting of trees. Landmarks

community’s use of the public realm. Flexible

and placement of design elements can also aid in

seating that is light, durable, and movable allows

orientation within a larger space. Danielle Koplitz,

for accommodation of small to large groups of

a Deaf graduate student in architecture at the

people joining in signed conversation. Circular or

University of Texas, notes the use of topography

U-shaped tables and chairs allow for a sustained

"to show transition from one space to another"

line of sight. Fixed seating and pedestals (e.g.,

and "indicate important buildings or a change in

low-rise walls and planter edges) at different

the purpose of space" on her campus in Austin.

heights allow for places to set down belongings,

Textured transitions provide subtle cues to

which can be obstructive to signing. Both types of

differentiate between edges of the ground plane

seating encourage mixed social use and can be

and thresholds, as well as safety cues along the

applied in various forms to parks and plazas within

edge of curbs, which are crucial for the DeafBlind

the urban landscape.


community. Easing and eliminating curbs in public more access to people who use wheelchairs or baby strollers. Rhythm can be employed in the landscape to provide continuous, recognizable visual references and alignment for signers. Tree placement (and canopy) is especially important in creating a visible pattern in the urban landscape along sidewalks. According to Sean Maiwald, a Deaf graduate student in public policy at The George Washington University, "immediate visual indicators of space" are crucial and should allow for wayfinding and understanding of use, "especially at a quick glance." Color (e.g., planting, façades, signage) can provide contrast for signing as well as visual orientation for wayfinding in busy urban hubs.

ENDNOTES 1 Gallaudet University is the only university in the world designed for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students and provides bilingual education in English and American Sign Language. Three of my colleagues quoted here (Behm, Maiwald, and Koplitz) are alumni of Gallaudet and contributed to DeafSpace in various forms and stages over the years, from conception to application. 2 Deafness is a spectrum: Deaf with a capital 'D' describes individuals that identify with a central deaf, cultural identity and who primarily use sign language. Hard of Hearing (HoH) describes individuals with some degree of hearing. Hearing impaired is an unacceptable medical term to the Deaf community; it carries a negative connotation, views Deafness as an impediment to well-being, and invalidates Deaf language and culture. Furthermore, DeafBlind describes individuals who are both deaf and blind, with a unique cultural identity of their own. 3 Bauman, Hansel. DeafSpace Design Guidelines, Volume 1. (Working Draft) 2010. 4 The ADA has focused on visual emergency systems (e.g., strobe alarms) in places like hotels and real-time captioning in stadiums for the Deaf and HoH. 5 H.R. 620 (The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017), if passed, will provide amnesty for access violators, allowing businesses to ignore ADA requirements until notified by a person with a disability, indefinitely. The burden is thus shifted to the person experiencing access discrimination, causing loss of civil rights to public space granted by the ADA of 1990. GU : ISSUE 07


spaces can also limit tripping hazards and provide






In 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli drew the first map of Mars. The map was crossed with lines which he identified as ‘canali,’ or channels. When American Astronomer Percival Lowell decided to draw a new version of this map in the 1890s, he mistranslated ‘canali’ to ‘canals.’ This suggested a human-modified landscape; conceptions of Martians and a habitable Mars were born.1 The canals, Lowell reasoned, had been engineered to manage Mars’ limited water resources. The theory was popularly accepted, likely because of concurrent widespread droughts in India, Africa, China, and Brazil. Concerns about Earth were projected onto the distant (yet relatively similar) planet. Though astronomers quickly refuted a Martian civilization, it was “nearly impossible” to erase the canals from popular imagination once a credible astronomer had mapped them.2 111

The droughts on Earth and the imagined effects of droughts on a Mars civilization began a narrative—which still stands—that Earth is ‘dying’ due to environmental stressors, and that Mars offers salvation. Since parallels between Mars and Earth—such as a similar day length—were identified as early as the 1830s, Mars has been mapped as though it were a version of Earth.3 While Lowell’s interpretation of drought on Mars widely disproved society’s vision of the planet as one that could support life, it is society’s vision that persists, even in spite of desolate images taken of Mars’ surface. The focus on the potential that life existed on Mars has also persisted. This possibility has been central in maintaining support for continued exploration of the planet. Thus, the metaphor of ‘dying,’ and its liminal state, suggests that Mars awaits salvation.4 SPACE TODAY The space industry as we know it is transforming. Once, there was only NASA. Today, private-public partnerships are taking the place of government space entities. Dubbed ‘New Space,’ these companies are working to make cheap satellites, mine asteroids, and develop reusable rockets—in effect, bringing space landscapes into the everyday. BUTCHER


LEFT Surface of Mars. Image courtesy of NASA.


THE LANGUAGE OF MARS “This independence day, it’s the U.S. that invades another planet—Mars.”6 - ABC News, 1997

New Space and space colonization have the potential to radically shape the future. Thus, it is important to be critical of rhetorical devices used to shape this future. A 1975 report from NASA states, “Why build space settlements? Why do weeds grow through cracks in sidewalks? Why did life crawl out of the oceans and colonize land? Because living things want to grow and expand. We have the ability to live in space, therefore we will.”7 SpaceX has named their future Mars-faring spacecraft the Mars Colonial Transporter (or MCT). This language is incredibly inspiring and calls to mind the drama and excitement of American ABOVE Percival Lowell’s sketch of Mars circa 1895, with instructions to the printer. Image courtesy of Lowell Observatory


Westward Expansion. At the same time, it has an unmistakable resemblance to the language

Archive and Dying Planet.

on Manifest Destiny—Mars has no inhabitants

Many of these companies—from SpaceX to Virgin

of colonization. These rhetorical devices should

Galactic—have set their sites on colonizing Mars.5

be considered critically as we move towards any

Others, like Google, are involved in mapping and

future on Mars. Looking back at historical examples

supporting Mars missions.

provides insight into how our current discourse has

to displace, yet we still speak about it in terms

been shaped. A manned trip to Mars is both an emotional fixation, rooted in a narrative dating back to the first maps of Mars, and a practical fixation. Mars is the most likely candidate for extraterrestrial human colonization because it is similar and close to Earth. Robotic exploration of the Martian surface shows it may have once supported life and liquid water

Once, there was only NASA. Today, private-public partnerships are taking the place of government space entities.

oceans. As such, Mars is seen as a viable location for a human colony, offering redundancy against

A Douglas Aircraft ad from 1960 (lower right) shows

the destruction of Earth. Emotionally, Mars has

a lozenge spacecraft hovering above the surface

been a promised destination for humanity since

of the moon, where 1950s-esque, futuristic, space

the space race of the 1960s, at least, and Martians

architecture stands on a craggy, foreign landscape.

have been both endearing and frightening foils to

The viewer, a voyeur, peers around a jagged hill

our human experience in movies, TV, and books.

in the foreground, watching the spacecraft from

Most importantly, we believe that Mars can save

the surface of the Moon. The accompanying text

society. The caveat: Mars can save society, but only

reads, “When only explorers dared cross darkest

if society can save Mars first.

Africa, few foresaw it as a future vacationland. Outer Space now stands in a similar position. What will Lunar vacations cost? When rocket development

is written off and we have nuclear power, a traveler

In Google Earth Mars, users select Mars from a

may go for about the present price of a tiger hunt

dropdown menu—Mars is literally embedded

or African safari!” The ‘Darkest Africa’ he refers to

within Earth—to reveal the planet, around a

was ‘lightened’ by explorers and vacationers who

patchwork of long rectangular photos stitched

normalized a seemingly alien region of the world, a

together from satellite imagery,8 eerily

feat that parallels our goals to make the red planet

reminiscent of lonely, fragile Earth in the famous

familiar—to make it our own.

1972 ‘Blue Marble’ image.

By taking a look at A Trip to the Moon, a silent

Familiar tourist icons (e.g., a camera and hikers)

film created in 1901 by Georges Méliès, one

branded onto the surface of Mars reinforce the

can see the travelers to the moon encounter

possibility of putting humans on the planet. Green

‘moon-natives,’ dressed as African aboriginals—

icons of two hikers with walking sticks dot the map;

an orientalist ‘other’ that lends an exotic but

humans become green Martians. These hikers walk

familiar quality to the foreign, unimaginable, lunar

on the tallest mountain on Mars and in the dried

landscape. Since much of Africa was colonized

river beds. This representation of human bodies on

by 1900, the placement of (a generic ‘African’ or

maps of Mars, without spacesuits, suggests human

‘other’) aboriginal on the moon suggests that

ownership of the landscape, as well as its future

the moon, too, can be conquered. Similar tropes were followed in later films about Mars, including Thomas Edison’s 1910 Trip to Mars and Out of the Inkwell’s 1924 cartoon of the same name. In both films, Mars is human-scaled and the protagonists interact with characters that reference on-Earth 113

realities, from the gas masks of WWI to tattoos that allude to the African colonies of the time. In all of these examples, the creators use the landscapes of Mars and the moon as tabula rasa, projecting their own humanity and experience onto a foreign ‘other.’ GOOGLE EARTH: MARS “We are investing in the future of generations of scientists to come ... and we may be preparing the ground for somebody to go to Mars one day.” - Gerhard Neukum, principal researcher on Google Earth Mars

Google Maps is the most widely used 2D mapping tool in America, with over one billion users each month. Google Earth is its 3D interactive counterpart. Both platforms contain a map of Mars.

RIGHT This Douglas Aircraft ad appeared in Missiles and Rockets on August 1, 1960. A space tourist peers down at BUTCHER

the moon from their spacecraft, which is about to land. The accompanying text compares space tourism to the darkest reaches of Africa. Image courtesy of Another Science Fiction. GU : ISSUE 07

habitability. Gray camera icons denote images taken by rovers. In the Google Earth Mars image to the right, a thick red line dotted with camera icons traces the path of the Mars Opportunity rover at the Victoria crater. The image recalls a brochure at a National Park, with a suggested route for visitors and scenic viewing areas. Google Earth Mars also has a feature where one can overlay antique maps of Mars— such as Schiaparelli’s—onto the globe, effectively

ABOVE A screenshot of Google

placing Google Earth Mars in the history of Mars’

Earth showing the Mars map LEFT Details include the

cartography. Within Google Earth, Mars awaits the

dropdown menu in which Mars is

arrival of humanity.

embedded under Earth (A), hiker icon (B), and camera icon (C). Image courtesy of Google Earth,

Mars offers a utopic alternative to Earth and Earth’s problems.

ESA, DLR, and FU Berlin, 2014.

Furthermore, users can also explore scientific discoveries of Mars, clicking on markers to reveal 114

names of places and descriptions of geologic features. The act of naming, even without indigenous names to ‘uproot,’ can be read as a political exercise of power by NASA and others. Place name origins are also included, such as Tooper, a town in England; Bigbee, a town in Mississippi, USA; and Holdman, an American astronomer. Again, it can be noted that Mars is being mapped as though it were a version of Earth. A FUTURE UTOPIA

ABOVE Screenshot of Google Earth showing the traverse path of Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity in 2006. The rover follows the edge of the Victoria Crater. Camera icons denote photographs of the Martian surface, recalling a map of scenic rest stops in a national park. Image courtesy of Google Earth, ESA, DLR, and FU Berlin, 2015.

“All Utopias require mapping.”9 - Dennis Cosgrove

like a fantasy. The isolation of space—whether the

The hope that began with the errors of Lowell,

enclosure of a spacesuit or the distance of another

now being flamed by New Space, has led us to the

planet—lends itself to utopian visions. Utopias have

utopian idea that if we can save Mars, Mars can

shifted from being spatially isolated, by rivers and

save us. NASA dubbed the first landing site of the

lagoons, to temporally isolated, by the future.10

Viking rover Utopia Planita, reflecting 1970s hopes for Mars. In spite of the inhospitable images we have of Mars, the planet offers a utopic alternative to Earth and Earth’s problems. Mars is both similar enough to Earth to seem like a plausible alternative, and radically different and distant enough to seem

And Mars hovers ... waiting.

ENDNOTES 1 Washam, Erik. “Cosmic Errors: Martians Build Canals!” Smithsonian Magazine, December 2010. 2 Lane, Maria. “Geographers of Mars: Cartographic Inscription and Exploration Narrative in Late Victorian Representations of the Red Planet,” Isis 96, no. 4 (December 2005): 490. Accessed March 5, 2015. http://www.jstor. org/stable/full/10.1086/498590. 3 Dittmer, Jason. “Colonialism and Place Creation in Mars Pathfinder Media Coverage,” Geographical Review 97, no. 1 (January 2007). Accessed April 5, 2015. 4 Markley, Robert. Dying Planet: Mars in Science Fiction and the Imagination. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005. 5 It is worth noting that the major players in New Space and Mars Colonization are predominantly white male billionaires. Most publicly, Space X’s Elon Musk, former PayPal founder; Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon; and Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group. In effect, the wild economic disparities of our current time are enabling space exploration in a way that NASA has not been able to with limited federal funding. 6 ABC News. World News This Morning, New York: American Broadcasting Company, July 3, 1997. Cited in Dittmer, “Colonialism and Place Creation,” 126. 7 O’Neill, Gerard K. Space Settlements: A Design Study. Honolulu, HI: University Press of the Pacific, 2004. 8 “Man with a Plan: Interview with Gerhard Neukum,” European Space Agency (blog), December 10, 2003. Accessed March 1, 2015. http://www.esa. int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/People/Man_with_a_plan_An_ interview_with_Gerhard_Neukum 9 Cosgrove, Dennis. “Mapping Meaning.” Mappings. Islington, UK: Reaktion Books, 1999. The full quote reads: “Thus the map excites imagination and graphs desire, its projection is the foundation for and stimulus to projects ... All utopias require mapping, their social order depends upon and generates a spatial order which recognizes and improves on existing models.” 10 Jameson, Frederic. Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. London & NY: Verso, 2005.


JUDEE BURR is a queer freelance writer and activist living in Providence, RI. She studied the dual majors of Philosophy and Earth Systems at Stanford University and now works at Freedom Food Farm, serves on the Environmental Council of Rhode Island and the board of Groundwork RI, and organizes with Showing Up for Racial Justice RI (SURJ RI). Her articles on sustainability, science, and culture have been published in Motif Magazine, ecoRI News, Grist, and the journal Occasion.


MOLLY BUTCHER was born and raised in California, and has a deep connection to landscapes with little water. She holds a BA in Art Practice, an MA in Design Research, Writing, and Criticism, and is currently pursuing an MLA at UC Berkeley.


PHIL EVANS began his professional education in 1970 at UC Berkeley in Landscape Architecture. He obtained advanced degrees in agricultural sciences, and went on to develop community college horticulture facilities and curriculum, managed park maintenance for a large municipality, and devoted 25 years to developing the SF State University campus as a model for land use innovation and site design. After retirement, he founded the CityWrights Collaborative, a volunteer civic design and community design engagement network.


0 3 GREG KOCHANOWSKI is a principal at Rios Clementi Hale Studios in Los Angeles, CA. He works to combine the techniques and strategies of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design to create unique, forward-thinking environments that build upon and enhance the specific qualities of place. 13 ETHAN MCKNIGHT is interested in our complex relationships to industrial landscapes. He earned his MLA from the University of Minnesota where he received numerous awards and recognition for his academic work. He is currently a Project Designer at D/O in Minneapolis.

CLAIRE LATANÉ is a mother, writer, and ecological designer. She advocates for public high school environments that support mental health through her fellowship for leadership and innovation with the Landscape Architecture Foundation. She practices landscape architecture as a senior associate at Studio-MLA.


10 ZANNAH MATSON is a PhD Student in Human Geography at the University of Toronto where her research focuses on the construction of territory through highway infrastructure development and counterinsurgency doctrine in Colombia. She teaches urban planning and design at both Ryerson University and the University of Toronto. Matson holds a Masters of Landscape Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design.


0 6 MICHAEL JENKS Originally from Nashville, TN, Michael Jenks now lives in Southern California studying architecture as well as founding SOVRN skateboards in Los Angeles.

MARIA KARATSIOMPANI, KONSTANTINA LOLA, & NINA TSONIDI are graduate students at the National Technical University of Athens. They share an interest in landscape architecture, and center their work around identities and social aspects of architecture, introducing parameters of interaction between personal and collective memory.


NATE KAUFFMAN is a PhD student in UC Berkeley’s Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning department at the College of Environmental Design. A national award-winning educator, his research focuses on the optimization of material flows through large spatiotemporal fields for climate change adaptation purposes. He founded the Live Edge Adaptation Project (LEAP); the Climate, Infrastructure and Resources Group (CIRG); and is the principal at Biosphere Design Lab, a consulting firm focused on the emergent challenges of a rapidlychanging world. 04

REBECCA PARTRIDGE was born in the UK, and currently lives and works between Berlin and London. Since graduating from the Royal Academy Schools in 2007 she has exhibited internationally. She has been awarded several international scholarships including awards from The Nordic Kunstnasenter Dale, Norway; The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, USA; and The Terra Foundation for American Art Fellowship in Giverny, France. She is currently co-curating “Scaling The Sublime,” an exhibition at Nottingham University, UK, in 2018.


07 BORDERWALL URBANISM STUDIO is a multidisciplinary studio in the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley led by Professors Ron Rael and Stephanie Syjuco. 14 SANDRA SAWATZKY is a film writer, producer, and director. Her productions Passing Lane, The Water Cooler, Belly Boat Hustle, Indian Blue, Swing Fling Thing, and feature film The Girl Who Married a Ghost are told through choreographed action and without dialogue.

PUB LIC SEDIMENT TE AM | SC APE is a multidisciplinary design team that views sediment as a core building block of resilience in San Francisco Bay. The team is led by SCAPE Landscape Architecture with Arcadis, the Dredge Research Collaborative, TS Studio, the UC Davis Department of Human Ecology and Design, the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, and the Architectural Ecologies Lab. Their proposal was developed for the Resilient By Design Bay Area Challenge, a collaborative research and design project to explore and implement innovative solutions to the issues brought on by climate change.


CHIP SULLIVAN is an artist and professor of Landscape Architecture at the College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley. Chip received the 2016 Jot D. Carpenter Teaching Medal from the American Society of Landscape Architects, which recognized significant excellence in landscape architecture education. His latest book, Cartooning the Landscape, concerns the metaphysics of drawing and learning how to ‘see.’ The Foundation for Landscape Studies selected Cartooning the Landscape for the 2017 Jon Brinckerhoff Jackson prize for accomplishment in the field of garden history and landscape studies.


17 ALEXA VAUGHN is a Deaf woman studying at UC Berkeley (BA, 2016; MLA, 2018). She specializes in designing landscapes for difference and dis/ability and hopes to remove systemic barriers to the urban landscape in professional practice, teaching, and writing. In 2017, she received a Student Award for her research poster highlighting campus inaccessibility (Crip the Campus Map) at the Berkeley Circus. Recently, she was nominated for the 2018 Landscape Architecture Foundation Olmsted Fellowship.

W.W. SMITH is a nomad by nature, adrift in his vessel on the stream of consciousness, flowing forth from flood to sonder seas of soul’s soliloquy. His poetry and prose contemplate the intertwining relationships of the perceivable universe with and amidst us—the intrepid perceivers! His temple is the forest, his deities the trees; his words will whisper on the wind, in time from he to thee.


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12 ANYA DOMLESKY is an urban designer at SWA Group where she co-leads XL: Experiments in Landscape and Urbanism, the firm-wide innovation lab undertaking practice-based research. Her research on the built environment focuses on scales beyond the designed site, both larger and smaller. Anya has taught at Harvard Graduate School of Design and Boston Architectural College. She completed her graduate work in landscape architecture at Harvard Graduate School of Design and in architecture at McGill University.

ONLINE ARTICLE: 0 0 CARLA FISHER SCHWARTZ is a visual artist and educator based in Chicago, IL. Her studio practice investigates the relationship between the mapped image and contemporary notions of exploration, virtuality, and the simulated environment through print media, sculpture, and video installation.

EMILY SCHLICKMAN is a designer and co-lead of XL at SWA Group, where her work intersects urbanism, ecological infrastructure, and immersive design. Prior to joining SWA Group, she was an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Human Ecology at UC Davis. She holds an MLA from Harvard Graduate School of Design and a BA from Washington University in St. Louis.


MARK WESSELS is an arborist, acrobat, and landscape architectural designer based in Oakland, California. He’s obsessed with city streets, hidden creeks, and urban trees.





GROUND UP... IS the student journal of the Department of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. IS an annual print and web publication intended to stimulate thought, discussion, visual exploration, and substantive speculation about emerging landscape issues affecting contemporary praxis. IS an examination of a critical theme arising from the tension between contemporary landscape architecture, ecology, and pressing cultural issues.

WILL be guided by the interests of our readers and collaborators. We operate on an open call with invited entries from academics, practitioners, students, designers, scientists, and activists.



IS intended as a discursive platform to explore concepts grounded in local issues with global relevance.

Borderwall Urbanism Studio Judee Burr Molly Butcher Phil Evans Michael Jenks Maria Karatsiompani, Nina Tsonidi, & Konstantina Lola Nate Kauffman Greg Kochanowski Claire LatanĂŠ Zannah Matson Ethan McKnight Rebecca Partridge Public Sediment Team / SCAPE Carla Fisher Schwartz Emily Schlickman & Anya Domlesky Sandra Sawatzky Chip Sullivan Alexa Vaughn W.W. Smith Mark Wessels

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