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Ground Up Staff


Editorial Rebecca Sunter, Co-Director Monica Way, Co-Director Shanna Atherton Miriam Eason Johanna Hoffman Elaine Laguerta Kevin Lenhart Erica Nagy Mariel Steiner Isaac Swanson Tricia Tsuzuki

The second 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, UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley

Graphics Steven Lee, Director Eden Ferry Marta Gual Patrick Haesloop Annie Hansel Erik Jensen Jenika Florence Lauren Hall Knight Kyle O’Konis Production Robin Kim, Co-Director Junice Uy, Co-Director Cacena Campbell Marketing and Outreach Daniel Prostak, Director Justin Oh Justin Richardson

Faculty Advisor Karl Kullmann Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning and Urban Design, College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley

Special thanks to: David de la Peña Sara Jensen-Carr Molly Mehaffy Sarah Moos GROUND UP Issue 02 was edited, designed, and produced by students of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley. For inquiries, contact Visit online at

Printed in Emeryville, California © Copyright 2013, The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved. 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.

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Warm water Cove Park Molly Mehaffy Horses for Houses: A Trade with Consequences Jill Desimini Matrices, Margins and Messiness Catherine W. Fennell


The Coarse Course Sarah Cowles and Erin Forrest


Peeling back the layers, stories, sanctuaries and sweat Daniel Winterbottom UNDERGROUND UNIVERSITY Niknaz Aftahi with Kevin Lenhart

10 32 36 52 68 72 78 86

Glocal Gritty Randy Hester and Marcia McNally Seeping Boundaries Suzanne Harris-Brandts Defying taboo Brent Bucknum in conversation with Monica Way



From Individual to Collective action Santiago Cirugeda



Public Domains: Material Fiefdoms, Entropy and the Built Environment Richard L. Hindle


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2.5 Microns Xiaowei Wang True Grit Kristina Hill Suites of New Elemental Landscapes Brett Milligan Boardwalks of Rockaway Isabelle Angieri



Local Code + Amigos de Los Rios Nicholas DeMonchaux in conversation with Johanna Hoffman



ResiliEnce in the Right of Way Erik Prince and Kimberly Garza

06 12

Designer as Dreamer Walter Hood Of Urban Islands, Rhizomes and other Archeologies Manole Razvan Voroneanu Below Imperial Richard Crockett

Grit is from the ground, abrasive and coarse. Grit erodes and accrues. Like sandpaper, grit refines. Like the grain of sand that creates a pearl, grit is an agitator and a catalyst. The inaugural issue of GROUND UP peered into Landscapes of Uncertainty, examining who and what defines the next move in landscape architecture. This second edition asks how our field fulfills its potential by exploring grit as a quality, texture and approach for negotiating change in our landscapes. Shifts in climate and society call for responses and interventions grounded in courage and creative resolve. How we each take up this call is as diverse as the fingerprints on these pages. For our team, grit was born of the dialectic between the desire to create critically acclaimed landscape architecture and the necessity to cultivate intact ecosystems and spatial justice. Your submissions expanded grit’s meaning, introducing implications, actions and inventions well beyond our original query. As Walter Hood tells it, grit is the stuff of dreams. Through Brett Milligan’s microscope and macroscope, grit is the sediment casualty, the matter moved. For Iran’s Baha’i religious minority, grit is defiance of human rights violations. From your expanded definitions of grit, the narrative arc of the journal emerged as a journey of design— operable at multiple scales—moving from the process of a single project, to the lifetime of a designer, to the ontological evolution of the design discipline. Abutting the limits of print, the journal expresses the iterative, cyclical, blended nature of process in a static framework. The dialogue evolves over four units: DREAM BIG From speculative imagination to continental scale, expanded vision pushes convention. SPECIFICITY Citizen data, parametric multiplicities and geodesign make tangible the intangible. AMPLIFICATION Inherited artifacts, mores and intellectual property widen our present futures. RESOLVE Convictions, like water, stay the course and find the cracks to ¬shift dominant inertias. What do you make of your grit?


From our journey to yours, GROUND UP team

Shadow Catcher Structure, University of Virginia (Hood Design)

Clear articulation of how speculative processes can bolster professional competence—rather than marginalizing uncertainty and artistic inquiry—empowers designers to be open to a design dynamic that is undecipherable and chaotic at times, while also grounded in practical concerns. The epistemology of design provides a navigable framework to the speculative realm while maintaining a clear set of relationships to the practical expectations of design work.

Walter Hood

Designer as Dreamer

The focus on practical solutions in design practice and pedagogy limits imagination. The current model of normative professional praxis makes it difficult for professionals to imagine how to describe and teach what is meant by speculation, namely how uncertainty, conjecture, and contemplative reasoning fits within the design process. When it comes to pedagogy, professionals are often disturbed to find that they cannot account for personal and subjective processes they have come to see as central to professional competence.1

Practice refers to “the actual application or use of an idea, belief or method, as opposed to theories relating to it.”2 Schön outlines the characteristics of practice as, “specialized, firmly bounded, scientific, and standardized.”3 In this normative mode, practical considerations are the most powerful drivers of decision-making in the design professions. In particular, standardization, Schön’s last characteristic of practice, embodies a linear mode of design procedures. What arises are standard frameworks that may include schematic, preliminary, design development, and construction phases. Legislated rules and limitations driven by standardization and tightly upheld boundaries between professional disciplines often encumber design practice. As such, standardization limits and compromises the territory for speculative ideas to emerge. Linear approaches move a project towards a particular end, and a clear and defined product becomes the main goal. Codification ensures

Several limited patterns arise from standardization in professional design practice: •

Practitioners accept that every project has a “big idea,” versus being made up of several small ideas, or multiple ideas that may seem completely disassociated from one another.

Techniques become best practices through the creation of new nomenclature: “rain gardens “,“community gardens,” “mini parks,” “parklets,” and “green walls/roofs.” Thematic nomenclature also emerges from techniques: “design sustainability”, “ecological design,” “river restoration,” “creative reuse,” and “urban greening.” These become standard labels and practices to design problems, repeated without contemplative or subjective notions.

The case study approach utilizes precedent projects instead of a design idea, promising a similar product without any commitment to specificity or relevance to their own project.

Beyond pure standardization is a healthy dialectic between the practical (specialized, firmly bounded, scientific, standardized) and the speculative (uncertainty, contemplation, contradiction). Successful mediation between the practical and speculative can demystify practice to those outside


the field and promote a dynamic between them that allows the designer to be present and flexible rather than reductive and static within a project. Working in a speculative mode enables designers to push against the inertness of practice, forcing the designer out on an edge. Fear of rejection often keeps many designers from embracing personal and contemplative ideas. The conflict between the theoretical and the practical is not new. Philosophy has engaged this discussion between pure reason (practical) and theoretical thought (speculative) for centuries. Immanuel Kant states, “ Pure reason is both teleological (the study of design/purpose in natural phenomena) and epistemically primary in its relation to speculative reason. Both the interest and the principles of knowledge of speculative reason are subordinate to those of pure practical reason.”4 Drawing from Kant’s argument, it is possible to embrace both polemics, creating a context for the speculative to engage and provoke the practical while maintaining a subordinate relationship. While Kant believed possible the marriage of speculation and practical, the role of theory in practice has been a point of constant debate within the context of art, architecture and landscape architecture.5 Individuals have developed successful practices that engage both theory and practice, but they are idiosyncratic and their impact on mainstream practice has been marginal. Artist Mary Miss has challenged landscape architecture practice through her public commissions; Diller Scofidio and Renfro transitioned from installation art to architecture and landscape architecture, and Powell Street Parklet, San Francisco (Hood Design)

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Walter Hood

that the outcome has clarity and control to satisfy numerous issues that are external to the design process, including health, safety and welfare. In architecture, the process for designing a building is highly specialized and codified into a standard set of rules that apply regionally. In public art, programs have firmly bounded art in between narrow requirements of urbanism, architecture, and landscape, dictating where and what an artist may contribute; this might include sound or wind, tiles, murals, site furniture, or sculpture. And in landscape architecture, design is standardized and enclosed, reinforcing techniques and best practices. No matter how avant-garde or radical in their inception, the practitioner’s ideas are ultimately applied through redundant methods employed over and over again across multiple projects and contexts. When contradictory or critical ideas arise that would change or transform these methods, they are usually met with skepticism and dismissed for any number of reasons.

Figure 1 Speculative diagram

George Trakas brought his site specific sculpture into the context of landscape architecture. Speculation employed by these studios defies the linear mode of practice, if only momentarily. These contemplative modes of reasoning and thinking lead designers away from focusing on the end result. How “ideas” inform the designer’s creative process needs to be better articulated in design pedagogy. Social scientist Henri Rinne expounds claiming, “the process of creation of art is often an elusive, unobservable phenomenon, resulting in a product (the work of art) that many times does not project any notions of the procedure that led to its creation.”6 Rinne describes how speculative concepts drive idea development. For the designer, this idea refers to negotiating divergent points of inquiry within a project. Figure 1, Speculative Diagram, describes the simultaneous movement of practice along the x-axis—where specialized, scientific, standardized and bounded processes comply. Speculative bifurcation moves between periods of determination on the x-axis outward along the y-axis. The practical and speculative axes manifest a wider spectrum of inquiry. Uncertainty, contradiction, and other conflicting actions move along the y-axis, leaving the x-axis dominant and intact. Thus, where the y-axis crosses the x-axis in the process, knowledge can converge, and new and innovative decisions can be made. Rinne refers to this as a “moment of bifurcation ” where new ideas emerge,

but also where confusion or disorder is prominent. Rinne claims that, “reaching points of bifurcation may seem chaotic and undecipherable, but it is through this path that the system emerges into a state of order. Each time a choice is made by the artist, the system emerges in new form…”7 More encounters may occur along the y-axis as designers begin and then less frequently as they get closer to project completion. It takes courage for designers to act in these moments of bifurcation and make personal and more idiosyncratic decisions about what exactly they want to do. Practicality is the primary structural framework for any design process, as making/creating is the goal. Yet it is the points of bifurcation along the practical axes where ideas and concepts can move outward into the unknown. Like a jazz musician who improvises, the mode of the song remains intact as the musician takes chances in between the music’s structure. These points of bifurcation are where the designer must be resolute in their decisions. Through this dynamic conversation, practice becomes malleable to circumstance, as it draws upon external influences that may be personal and idiosyncratic to the artist or community, allowing room for contradiction as it questions assumptions and creates a richer context for the work. Practice can be expanded to accommodate doubt, uncertainty and idiosyncrasy, while still maintaining its knowledge base. Choosing to engage both practical and speculative polemics, a cultural practice emerges. A cultural practice advocates for diversity

Walter Hood is an Oakland, California based environmental designer, artist and educator. He is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Department, in which he was recently appointed inaugural holder of the David K. Woo Chair in Environmental Design. His studio practice, Hood Design, has been engaged in a cultural practice in environmental design, urban design, art installations, and research commissions since 1992.



instead of standardization; a broad view in lieu of specialization; a fluid approach replacing scientific, and openness substituting the bounded. These characteristics reinforce multiplicity, not a homogenous, clean, and definable idea of what a dominant, normative view of “culture” may be. Speculation in practice creates a serendipitous path that might be arduous at times, yet it forces designers to engage with the specificity of place and people no matter how unfamiliar, complex, or unresolved the context may seem.

1. David Schön, The Reflective Practitioner (New York: Basic Books, 1983). 2. Ibid., 20. 3. Ibid., 23-24. 4. Rex Gilliland, “Kant’s Doctrine of the Primacy of Pure Reason and the Problem of the Unitary System of Philosophy,” in Kant und die Berliner Aufklarung: Akten des 9, Internationalen Kant-Kongress (Berlin: deGruyter, 2002): 29-38. 5. The works of writers, critics, and academics such as K. Michael Hays, Marc Treib, and Lucy Lippard are of particular note in the on-going discussion regarding the role of theory in art and design practice since the second half of the 20th century. 6. Henri Rinne, “An Art of Becoming: Concepts of Time and Space in Jazz Improvisation and the Visual Arts,” in Time, Rhythms, and Chaos in the New Dialogue with Nature, ed. George P. Scott (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1991): 33. 7. Henri Rinne. “An Art of Becoming: Concepts of Time and Space in Jazz Improvisation and the Visual Arts,” in Time, Rhythms, and Chaos in the New Dialogue with Nature, ed. George P. Scott (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1991): 41.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Walter Hood

7th Street Gateway, Oakland, Calif. (Hood Design)

Manole Razvan Voroneanu

Of Urban Islands, Rhizomes and other Archeologies



Manole Razvan Voroneanu is an experimental architect whose work focuses on theorizing potential futures of urban landscapes. He holds professional degrees in architecture from Miami University and the Technical University of Iasi. He currently teaches architecture and urban design at Southern Polytechnic State University located in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

This article is an elaboration on the preview for Below Imperial published in GROUND UP Issue 01: Landscapes of Uncertainty. Below the Imperial Valley, at the bottom of a terminal basin, lies the world’s most spectacular dump: the Salton Sea. Imperial is home to many unhealthy yet extremely productive ecologies that are simultaneously burgeoning and collapsing, calling into question our definitions of place, ecology and landscape. Today, a large water transfer deal with urban southern California and the subsequent floundering of the Salton Sea restoration project have enveloped this desert agricultural region in uncertainty. For decades, residents, politicians, government agencies, engineers and architects have seen the Salton Sea’s declining health and the hazards this will create as a call for its revival. The project profiled here, Below Imperial, questions this premise.


BELOW IMPERIAL: Drainage Infrastructure in a Desert Terminal Basin

Existing system

System of linear changes

Below Imperial challenges not only the Salton Sea restoration, but also the very idea of a Salton Sea, that is, the existence of a large shallow body of agricultural wastewater sitting at the bottom of a terminal basin. Through an understanding of the Imperial Valley’s intricate drainage system, we see a reason to look past the Salton Sea as the issue, and instead see the larger infrastructural challenges and potentials of an agricultural drainage system in a desert basin (which is necessary to control salinity) where water can only leave through the sky. There are a number of reasons why restoration is an inappropriate approach to the challenges of the Salton Sea, but fundamentally what a sea-centric view misses is that the sea is just a single entity within a larger infrastructure drainage system.

13 Imperial’s desert agriculture uses an immense amount of water and 40% of the water applied to fields becomes wastewater drainage. Volume-wise, just the drainage wastewater portion of Imperial’s water is more water than all of Los Angeles County uses yearly. Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to avoid this waste because the

excess water is necessary to leach salts from the soil to maintain the viability of agriculture in the desert. But, it does comprise a huge amount of water (albeit polluted water) that could be repurposed in a number of ways instead of being left to stew in the unmanageable Salton Sea. Through the operative abilities of landscape, a reimagined drainage infrastructure system will not only drain but also treat and reuse. By retrofitting the existing system for cleansing and reusing water, secondary functions and operations will emerge in the process. Migratory bird habitat, biomass and geothermal energy production, recreation and

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Richard Crockett

Furthermore, it can be argued that the Salton Sea is an unfitting piece of this system, especially viewed through a lens of a future filled with uncertainty around water supplies. The question we ask about the region should not be, “How do we fix the Salton Sea?” but instead, “How do we make the most of Imperial’s agricultural drainage water in the context of a terminal basin?”

Valley landscape cut from the agricultural fabric. Together, thick drains and drainage parks provide a highly structured but flexible infrastructure that serves to do the formal and orderly operations of treatment and reuse of water on an industrial scale. But, there are softer elements to the system that serve the valley in ways the mono-functional, limiting, inflexible infrastructure (and landscape) of the Salton Sea simply cannot. Thick drains and drainage parks are seen as a huge malleable platform of infrastructure and landscape that evolves with the uncertainties of future Imperial Valley, all the while lending a frame and meaning to the valley landscape.

Thick Drains New drainage system

improvements to the social landscape will reinforce the multifunctional advantage of the infrastructure investments in the valley. A robust, flexible and effective infrastructure situated in the valley, instead of the Salton Sea, takes advantage of the smaller scale of the valley’s fabric. These attributes in a system are critical given the uncertainty of many factors affecting Imperial’s water in the coming decades. Below Imperial proposes a series of operations and physical interventions. The primary two elements that replace the Salton Sea are a thickened, retrofitted drainage canal system and drainage parks, a new addition to the Imperial

An overlooked but essential piece of the drainage infrastructure of Imperial Valley is the 1,500 miles of drainage canals that transport agricultural wastewater (full of salts, nutrients, and chemicals) from the fields to Salton Sea. Essentially a trapezoidal ditch ten feet below the surrounding field level, these canals support a series of informal and emergent communities. With 1,500 miles of canals, there is ample space and opportunity to splice new operations into these drainage corridors. Drainage parks can appropriate water, extract salts and nutrients, and bolster the leak, spill and seep ecologies endemic to a system like this. Thick drains also take the critical step of separating the two types of drainage water coming from the fields, one of which is saline, because in the treatment/ reuse system there is no reason to make any water more saline than it has to be.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Richard Crockett


Extraction of salts is a critical operation of the Drainage Parks. This is primarily done through passive solar desalinization, an emerging technology that is cheap and simple. Essentially a salt pond inside of spherical Tupperware, this infrastructure produces both fresh water ready for recirculation and huge pyramids of salt.

Drainage Parks Unlike thick drains, drainage parks are an additive element to the valley’s landscape. Large swathes of land at strategic points would be reworked to provide a variety of large scale functions supportive of the thick drains like water storage, recirculation, and forms of treatment not viable in a drainage canal. Here at the drainage park, the Salton Sea, an inflexible landscape of little utility to the average person of Imperial, is replaced by smaller, flexible patches of open space, economic opportunity,

landscape performance and community service decentralized throughout the valley. It is a place where the people of Imperial can participate in the future of their home, a place to witness the new spectacles of industrial-scale water treatment and reuse, and the odd bucolic landscape it will create. In all, the new system decentralizes elements, services and ecologies throughout the valley instead of concentrating them at the Salton Sea. In this way, this project challenges the idea of a “Salton Sea” as infrastructure or landscape in the valley. The valley will get beyond the condition of a huge, shallow body of water at the bottom of the sink and begin to use this water in secondary, robust ways that strengthen its ecology and community. Richard Crockett received concurrent Master of Landscape Architecture and Master of City and Regional Planning degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. He works at SWA Group in San Francisco.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Richard Crockett

Drainage parks work to appropriate drainage water coming from the fields, and also extract salts and support a series of seep/spill ecologies emerging from the park’s various infrastructures.


Erik prince with kimberly garza

Resilience in the Right of Way

“Grab a Root and Growl”1 The High Plains region is a vast landscape explicitly shaped by extreme cultural and climatic forces. The region is ground zero for the infamous Dust Bowl and ironically now home to some of the most productive agricultural land in the country. The landscape reverberates a tension from extreme climate cycles and echoes a cultural resiliency to cultivate prosperity from the harsh land. Out of the Dust Bowl arose progressive conservation measures and unique landscape infrastructural projects.2 Yet these progressive measures soon became irrelevant with the ability to efficiently extract water from the Ogallala Aquifer—an immense geologic resource lying bellow the vast plains. The Dust Bowl transformed to the Bread Basket at the flip of a switch and now supports 20 billion dollars in food and fiber annually, yet it is extracted to a net deficit of twelve billion gallons of water a day.3 The region’s notorious resiliency is now inexorably dependent on the aquifer’s soil and water dynamics; its figure characterizes the region and the current trajectory of exhaustion puts it at a “risk of overall regional collapse.”4 This project positions the next aggregation of landscape infrastructure projects inspired by a Dust-Bowl-like resiliency, while benefiting less aquifer intensive agriculture and further connecting

a dispersed mobile community. The project derives a fluid set of relationships and cultural accretions configured by the historic modalities of the High Plains, the Jeffersonian grid and the ranch.5 These agglomerations are contingent on the aleatory road as a mechanism of movement and exchange and acting as an instigator of change.6 This project positions a landscape-based mechanism designed in conjunction with the innately performative gridded roads to aggregate resources over a large territory.

Typical functioning playa, major sources of natural aquifer recharge

Farmed or sediment-filled playa, reduced water infiltration, reduced aquifer recharge

19 Road Infrastructure Jefferson Grid Roads Interstate Highways

Plainview, TX Ports to Plains Highway

Water Resource

Est. usable aquifer lifetime 31-50 yrs.

Shelterbelt Playa exchange City Park Nurseries

Resilient Landscape

Est. usable aquifer lifetime 16-30 yrs.

Est. usable aquifer lifetime less than 15 yrs.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Eric Prince with Kimberly Garza

Decentralized well extraction Playa wetlands (recharge)

GROUND UP issue 02 Eric Prince with Kimberly Garza

Ogallala Aquifer Water Level Change

Soil Wind Erosion

Irrigated Crops, US

Shelterbelt Corridor(s)

Ports to Plains Corridor Interstates, US


Landscape strategies in the R.O.W. - Providing the mechanism for a new resilient agriculture on the high plains

Exisiting homogeneous crops High irrigation production from aquifer.

Dryland farming Soil conservation Drought conditions No irrigation

Diverse rational crops Wet condition Runoff irrigation

Diverse rotational crops Median condition

Typical ports to plains highway R.O.W. median

Typical ports to plains highway R.O.W. basin

Shelterbelt Nursery

Shelterbelt Nursery

Ports to Plains Corridor Ports to Plains Median Basin Highway

Runoff is collected along the ports to plains highway corridor and directed towards vegetated medians and used to clean and store water fro shelterbelt nurseries and irrigate agriculture areas.

Ports to Plains Highway

Ports to Plains Corridor R.O.W. Basin

Runoff is collected along the ports to plains highway directed towards vegetated R.O.W. basins for shelterbelt nursery use and to irrigate agriculture areas.

Typical Ports to Plains Highway Playa Interchange Shelterbelt Nursery

Ports to Plains Highway

Interchange Playa

Existing Grasslands and Agriculture Areas

Highway interchanges along the ports to plains highway are terraced and vegetated. The interchange playas store runoff for shelterbelt nursery use and to irrigate agriculture areas.

Pedestrian Trail

Detention Basin

Ports to Plains Highway Corridor

Irrigation Storage Basin

Typical Section: Ports to Plains Highway - Playa Exchange


Erik Prince holds a BS in Landscape Architecture from Colorado State University. In 2010 he graduated with distinction from the Harvard Graduate School of Design with a Master of Landscape Architecture where he received the Jacob Weidenman Prize, the school’s highest honor for design.

Kimberly Garza holds a Master of Landscape Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and Bachelor of Arts in Landscape Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley. Currently, she is a landscape designer at Reed Hilderbrand in Watertown, MA.


The project builds upon a federal and state invested highway trade corridor and intersects with areas of the region most at risk. The regional strategy is to crystallize resources and communities along this transect; network water runoff with the establishment, and distribution of climate mitigating shelterbelts. The strategic corridor intersects and transforms with the local conditions to structure a non-linear ecological framework. The region’s extreme context and current trajectory set the stage to re-emphasize the network of roads in relation to critical resources and model an expanded public territory at the intersection of urbanism, food and infrastructure.

1. John McCarty, creator of the Last Man’s Club in Dalhart, Texas, as a mutual support group to the Dust Bowlers. 2. The Prairie States Forestry Project from 1935-1942 created 30,233 shelterbelts containing 220 million trees stretching for some 18,600 miles of the High Plains. prairie_forestry_project.htm. 3. John Opie. “Ogallala: Water For a Dry Land,” in Our Sustainable Future (University of Nebraska Press). —J.J. Gurdak and C.D. Roe. “Recharge Rates and Chemistry Beneath Playas of the High Plains Aquifer—A Literature Review and Synthesis,” U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1333, (2009): 39. 4. Jeanne X. Kasperson, et. al. “Regions At Risk,” Comparisons of Threatened Environments (The United Nations University,1995). 5. The ranch, a term for a spring of water and some buildings, and an indefinite amount of grazing land—control of ranch land ebbs and flows with the density of self-organizing herd logics. 6. J.B. Jackson. A Sense of Place, A Sense of Time (New Haven: Yale University Press,1994): 10 &154.

Ports to plains highway corridor Farmer’s market agriculture field Proposed tree shelterbelt nursery Truck stop plaza station Farmer’s market

Aerial view: Ports to plains highway playa exchange Highway and stormwater runoff is collected and directed along proposed playa berm into detention basins. The collected water is used to irrigate interchange tree shelterbelt nursery and a farmer’s market agricultural field

Shelterbelt Nursery

Highway Runoff and Storm Collection

Pedestrian Trail

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Eric Prince with Kimberly Garza

Detention basin

Trained in architecture, Nicholas DeMonchaux looks beyond the building to the larger context of city and landscape. He recently took time from his post as Assistant Professor of Architecture at UC Berkeley to talk with Johanna Hoffmann about data in design, advocacy and the methodology he used to design over 800 stormwater remediation and community spaces in the Los Angeles (LA) River Basin for non-profit Amigos de los Rios.

NICHOLAS DEMONCHAUX in conversation with Johanna Hoffman


How did this project with Amigos de los Rios come about? The work with Amigos de los Rios came out of the work I’ve been doing on Local Code, a project that uses GIS and parametric design tools together. It’s a framework for parametric urban design that makes GIS data—site geometry but also geospatial attributes, like zoning, soil-type, weather, etc.— available to parametric modeling environments like Python and Grasshopper. The creation of the link lets the user constantly see the results for different sites as he or she tweaks different factors. It grew from a desire to position architecture as a study of interventions within the context of the larger forces of the landscape and the city. Understanding those larger forces through GIS information and folding them into the digital design process has been the overarching goal. So much of design software in architecture is informationbased, but that information can be largely hermetic —it’s generated by the designer through the design process. Bridging the divide between GIS and parametric design software is an effort to connect the design process to the realities of those larger forces. The project with Amigos de los Rios, an LA-based non-profit, implements Local Code as a method to design stormwater remediation and community spaces in the vacant and underutilized lots below advertising billboards throughout the LA River Basin. While Amigos de los Rios technically advocates for the health of the LA Basin’s rivers, it also advocates for the vitality of the communities


along those rivers. Those communities near or adjacent to these underutilized lots are generally lacking in access to open space, plagued by flooding problems and close to highway infrastructural interventions. Working with the non-profit, we expanded their existing database of 150 such sites to over 800 locations along the LA River Basin and, using Local Code, prepared a site-specific design for each. Looking at factors like sewer location and drainage, we made proposals for porous surfaces, detention basins and community centers for those sites, which Amigos de los Rios is now using for their advocacy efforts. That’s an interesting take. How exactly do you see Local Code impacting advocacy in design? This is a particular role for design. Rather than endpoints in the design process, proposals generated using Local Code are design visualizations. While it’s one thing for a group like Amigos de los Rios to say, “We’ve found 750 sites that we’d like to work on,” it’s a very different thing for them to show what those sites could change into. This is design as an integral part of an advocacy and political process. While it may not result in a single proposed design being built, it can change the conversation by showing what’s possible.

The kind of open-ended, data-rich design process in Local Code is primarily useful as a way to render tangible those things which are intangible. Sometimes the understanding comes from looking at all the different designs that are generated and in doing so developing a more intuitive sense of what’s happening in the city because of the different ways the design system is responding. Often the most interesting thing is where the system breaks down. The design process in Local Code is incredibly iterative and empirical—it’s not like you just set up a system, walk away and the designs come out. You’re looping through. The

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Nicholas DeMonchaux

The project explores the tension between human desire for stable settlement and the inevitability of change. How does generating a specific metric language create a springboard for execution of your greater design vision?

chief innovation in the software is a system that allows you to constantly see the results for different sites as you tweak different factors. It’s not an algorithmic process, but an empirical process, in which algorithms are deployed to leverage the results across a scale that would not be possible for a single designer sitting at a desk. That said, designing a system to respond to every single condition is impossible—therefore the system inevitably and, very happily, in my mind, breaks down. If you come up with a system that addresses 90% of the conditions you might encounter, you’ve done a successful job. That remaining 10% of sites that the system doesn’t work for have then become particularly interesting. Those sites, which the process of Local Code helped to identify, are then the areas to pay attention to, to understand what is happening. When does access and manipulation of that amount of data give you more traction with which to delve into design work and when does it overwhelm? The issue of data availability is not new to design. All along, practitioners have struggled with the questions of how much to show, how and what to interpolate and which gaps can be jumped. A decade ago, lack of data was largely the cause of those problems. These days, it’s an issue of access to too much. Whether this unprecedented data deluge is a boon or a disadvantage to design practice is up for debate. What is certain, however, is that as practitioners, educators and citizens, we need to develop a critical sensibility towards data. We need to develop ways to synthesize and integrate data, to generate the data that we do need out of the data we have and to think critically about what we can actually use. We have to train ourselves to negotiate a world of too much. Nicholas de Monchaux is an architect, urban designer, and theorist. As well as directing his Oakland-based design practice, he is Assistant Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at the University of California, Berkeley, where he serves on the executive committee of the the Berkeley Center for New Media. He is the author of Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo (MIT Press, 2011), an architectural history of the Apollo spacesuit, as well as related themes of midcentury media, fashion, technology and nature.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Nicholas DeMonchaux


Xiaowei wang

2.5 Microns

Beijing’s air pollution issues are multi-scalar, and the dimensions of air quality rely heavily on where the boundaries of the system are being drawn. On the ground, a single 2.5 micron particle is invisible to the human eye, at a fraction of 2/100ths of a grain of sand. In high concentrations, the particulate matter forms dense smog that shrouds Beijing most days of the year. In the spring, northwestern winds from Inner Mongolia and western China mix fine, yellow desert sand with city smog, forming an orange cloud over Beijing where the desert seems to encroach the city.1 At the urban scale, air quality is aggravated by Beijing’s vast network of highly congested streets and roadways, over capacity by 5 million cars—a fraction of its 22 million residents. Such a large city population consumes vast amounts of food, water and material goods and generates an immense amount of air pollution and waste in numerous factories, coal burning power plants and trash incinerators that burn 25% of the city’s waste.2 Beijing’s geography exacerbates poor air quality conditions. Higher elevations surround the city’s center forming a temperature inversion that traps polluted air during the summer and creating a layer of impenetrable dust and smog. In the spring of 2012, global attention shifted to this microscopic, atmospheric landscape. The source of all this attention was the US Embassy’s independent monitoring and subsequent public Twitter broadcast of Beijing’s air quality readings. These readings highlighted data discrepancies between US and Chinese air quality reports—a data gap that speaks to the subjectivity of standards, construction of territorial boundaries and governance over a landscape that is ultimately subject to global scales of climate and airflow. In the case of the US Embassy’s air quality monitoring in Beijing, data was targeted towards the population of US citizens living in China, as well as students of Beijing’s international schools, where students were citizens of postindustrial countries with higher standards for air quality. What mechanisms, then, allow countries to regulate “the air?” While the troposphere is constantly moving and shifting over political boundaries, what air quality standards can be created, and do these standards inevitably become politicized? How do countries stake territorial claim to an unseen landscape?

29 Averaged spring air flow over Beijing

The accelerated growth of citizen science speaks to the growing implications of this landscape of data. NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) movements— such as opposition to nuclear plants, factories

and construction of roads through ecologically fragile areas—are supported by the corroboration of grassroots scientific investigation. While populations were once organized and directed through the master plan, with roads and other infrastructure dictating patterns of movement and settlement, citizen science contributes to a growing regional trend that data factors into movement, settlement patterns and daily life. Beijing air as seen from the kite

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Xiaowei Wang

Data collection and mapping of air quality are key components of this borderless landscape, especially as the localized level of data taps into global scales of regulation and other equally invisible networks of information. Air quality readings are used to augment the material infrastructures we encounter daily. Through systems of monitoring and feedback, environmental realities are illuminated, enabling interaction between vast networks to function. As seen in Beijing’s air quality woes, data can be a mechanism for addressing hazardous air quality. Urbanism, to which Foucault refers, was formerly about the management and control of circulation and movement. It is now being transformed into an arbitration of risk and events, largely modulated through the mechanisms of data and standardization.3

contained LEDs that changed color according to levels of sulfur dioxide, VOCs, ozone and nitrogen dioxide, creating a spectacle of light in Beijing’s summer night sky. The sensing modules logged data and initiated dialogue on the availability of air quality information, the causes of pollution and potential mechanisms for lowering smog levels in Beijing.

A sensor you can build

FLOAT_Beijing, a participatory design project, tackled the issue of air quality data availability through grassroots science and citizen sensing. Although the 2012 controversy offered precipitous timing to the project, it was originally conceived during a spring 2010 sandstorm in Beijing. FLOAT drew upon a rich community of kite hobbyists and DIY electronics enthusiasts to create and fly kites outfitted with air quality sensors. A series of community workshops were held where local residents, university students and young professionals constructed the sensing modules and then flew kites with the attached air quality sensors in Beijing’s Dianmen public plaza. The sensors

For the participants of FLOAT, the governmentcontrolled data became a subject to examine and question. The emergence of citizen science as an alternative resource held this notion of data piracy, or information hijacking, that could transcend the state-controlled systems of critical data infrastructure—rendering scientific findings as public rather than governmental domain. Recently, Beijing’s authorities announced new air monitoring sites throughout the city, with more stringent readings that monitor PM 2.5.4 The results remain to be seen, although ample air quality data remains available on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. The space for citizen data collection on environmental factors remains open, allowing citizens to dispute state data, supplement it with further research and call for policy change.

As landscape architects, we have long dealt with the ecological and social impacts of material infrastructures. We are transitioning now to an age of vast information networks, where our training in systems-thinking allows us to undertake strategies for designing these unseen landscapes, making virtual infrastructures that are corollaries of material infrastructures, intervening on landscape ecologies which now include feedback loops of information and production of data from monitoring and surveillance. These feedback loops remain thoroughly intertwined with social, economic and political dimensions of the landscape. Although unseen and invisible, they are also a set of networked ecologies with which we must contend, designing systems that bind together the material and virtual. References 1. A phenomenon visible across all forms of media, easily found by searching “Beijing sandstorm.” 2. “Capital fires up plans for waste incinerators.” China Daily. (06/10/2010). 3. Michel Foucault, Michel Senellart, François Ewald and Alessandro Fontana. Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège De France, 1977-78. (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). 4. “China to Release Data on City Pollution.” Financial Times. (12/30/2012).

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Xiaowei Wang

Xiaowei Wang is a candidate for Master in Landscape Architecture at the Harvard GSD. She spent the past summer conducting research in Mongolia as a student associate of Harvard’s Asia Center and working on FLOAT_Beijing, which received a Black Rock Arts Foundation Grant. Her current work focuses on the impact of Soviet planning on nomadic pastoralism in the Central Asia.

Grit Theory

True grit for many of us implies taking the design battle to the block, or even to the alley or the backyard. For example, planting one tree at a time in neighborhoods where they are needed most. West Oakland might be considered a case in point, where a combination of offshore winds pass over truck facilities and highways, and rising updrafts of summer heat can carry an unusual amount of fine particular matter. West Oakland has some blocks where people get more asthma attacks than normal, rendering children and adults unable to breathe when they lie down to sleep. If we take this problem on block by block, we can address some aspects of it–perhaps by planting trees that intake particulate matter and create shade to reduce the local updrafts that account for part of the problem. But true grit also requires us to go beyond incrementalist, bottom-up urban design. To continue with the West Oakland example, adding trees and cooling the neighborhood doesn’t change its adjacency to port facilities and dense truck traffic that contribute to the generation of fine particulates in the first place, or change the direction of the wind that blows toward the houses from the trucks.

kristina hill

True grit: A design theory

True grit, with its implications of courage, persistence and right action, can be hard to find and even harder to keep. For those of us who value it, how can we practice professionally with true grit? As a way of trying to answer that question, this essay is an exploration of Grit Theory–which gets a new name about 900 words from here.

Beyond just the block, true grit in practice calls us to make our fellow citizens believe in big projects again. Public investments in change are needed to protect the vulnerable and level the playing field for children’s health. We have to clearly and honestly promote the ethical imperative of sharing pollution burdens. And simultaneously, we have to

invest in good subsidized housing where the air is cleaner, and get families out of harm’s way. Either way there’s a burden, and someone has to put it on her shoulders; should it be us, or should it be a five-year-old with asthma? Let’s say that both taking design to the block for bottom-up tactical urbanism AND making people believe in big projects that require coordinated topdown efforts are both true grit. If that’s the case, then what ISN’T true grit? Normative practice is rarely gritty, in the sense that most design firms are hired to make things easier on their clients, not harder. Most clients don’t want our work to be challenging to them or their visitors. I remember Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates’ principal designer, Matt Urbanski, telling me how he designed a prairie planting for General Mills headquarters that was intended to be burned periodically. The problem was, the client didn’t like the “burned look” right outside its corporate headquarters. End of prescribed burning; the prairie plants were replaced. Public clients may want benches that people can’t lie down on, to avoid having people who have nowhere else to sleep lie on them all day. Municipal clients may also want to avoid public input that brings in groups of people who are angry about the past actions of a particular official or department. Working as a professional designer means choosing your battles and maintaining the relationships that produce future work. It’s not unprincipled; it’s just not ideal. Designers who work on infrastructure know this pain as well; there is an almost impossible gauntlet that must be run to build expensive public systems like trains. True grit, in that kind of practice, is sometimes expressed by refusing to give up–not by adding challenges to the project.

So what theory can we use to move beyond the typical practices of professional design, which are often woefully low in grit?


Tactical urbanism can be seen as an exciting response to the lack of grit in normative practice. But unless it has a progressive social agenda, I believe it will become “normative practice lite.” For example, with all due humility, I would say that designing parklets outside hipster coffee shops doesn’t require true grit, not unless those parklets perform in innovative emotional ways that create an emotional alliance between willingly mobile young people with disposable income and the unwillingly mobile local people without disposable income. True grit is something that imbues designed space with unsettling versions of ethical truth in ways that make cities better for kids whose moms work two shifts, as well as kids with their first software industry jobs. Pearls in oysters come from the unwelcome invasion of a small parasite. Designers with grit invade our collective comfort without blocking our process of adding layers of iridescent meaning, initiating the pearl in the oyster of urban culture. Invisible armatures of the Bay Area Geologic fault lines Gas pipelines Water supply pipelines

Nexus theory I’m not going to describe the details of hierarchy theory here, but I can tell you that there is a missing link in the application of that theory for physical design. The missing link is the absence of spatial concepts other than the awareness of scale itself. To address this absence, I use the term armature to identify a physical structure–of any origin–that influences flows at scales both larger and smaller than its own extent. For example, a highway system is an armature that affects the flow of people and goods at a larger scale than its own extent,

El Diablo winds from NE Tidal shore of the bay

and also affects flows at scales smaller than the highway itself, within neighborhoods. The Bay Bridge, in this sense, is a piece of that armature, as is the topographic feature of the Golden Gate channel. The San Andreas and Hayward faults are armatures, as are aqueducts and dams. The Sierras are an armature, at a very large scale, and the Oakland–Berkeley Hills are a smaller scale version of the same thing, shaping the movement of wind, water, fire, animals and people. Electric power transmission lines are armatures that affect local energy distribution. Rivers and creeks, as well as major water supply pipes, can also be thought of as armatures, as they structure flows across regions and in local districts, right down to the parcel scale. In order to understand what is actually happening–a precursor to designing with grit–it is critical for designers to identify and understand the

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Kristina Hill

Perhaps we can find a model in a set of ideas in ecology known as hierarchy theory, an outgrowth of early systems theory. This theoretical framework tracks the flow of information within and between scales in various systems, in order to understand how information is a signal that can provoke a response across scales. The term information is broadly defined, and could include all system responses and variation–from the level of nutrients in plant leaves, to the population growth of an internal parasite to the immune response of a rabbit.

City of Berkeley, California

1.5 feet


10.5 square miles 112,500 people

Berkeley average monthly rainfall

Daily residential water demand (105 gal/person/day) 1 jug = 1 million gallons per day (MGD)

If we wanted to store enough water for three months without rain, the stored water would cover all of Berkeley at a depth of 1.5 feet

Average annual rainfall

Figure 1 Why armatures are essential to water use in Berkeley, California

control these structures can exert on the flow of resources as well as hazards in urban landscapes. Many of them can be changed, but only at great expense, representing a latent investment that produces inertia in the dynamic scale hierarchies of an urban region. Armatures of any origin, from ridges to bridges, are the basis for an extension of hierarchy theory that I have begun to refer to as nexus theory–a study of flows across scales as they are mediated by structures. It seems possible to me that these structures could be cultural as well as spatial in definition and include language structures or cultural practices that have spatial implications. This theoretical approach might allow us to identify specific processes and patterns that we can change incrementally, within the complex dynamics of a city and its region (which itself is now arguably global in extent). We might also be better able to identify the limits of the incremental approach and be clearer about which armatures are strategically important to our era, versus the ones that persist because of the inertia of legacy investments. One could apply this nexus theory analysis to any urban system, such as food, transportation or energy use. I’d like to develop this idea here by exploring how it might apply to urban water flows. Water Incremental design for water detention, filtration and infiltration can produce better urban water quality, safer and more walkable neighborhoods

and flow regimes that allow fish to survive in creeks. This kind of design relies upon understanding a physical process, and it’s scalable–more siteby-site detention and infiltration across an urban watershed results in proportionally better water quality and less stream erosion. This process can even be spatially optimized—sites can be chosen to provide the most bang for the buck by removing more oil and grease, or by accumulating more pounds of sediment. And it can be propagated through urban districts by code changes. If we change the standards for roadway and drainage design (every city has right-of-way design manuals), either by giving permission for alternative designs or by actual specifying a new standard, we can change the performance of cities in a truly block-by-block fashion. That’s a critical step in how we got functional examples of new city blocks in Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon and Prince George’s County, Maryland since the late 1990s. Decentralization of these strategies can even be cheaper overall, while providing opportunities for multiple benefits that justify private contributions to projects on private land. That results in a cumulative win-win strategy for the public because it leverages public investment with additional private dollars to get improved performance. That’s a positive feedback loop, in which public investment leads to private investment, which leads to an expanded public good. Every drop of water infiltrated within a stream basin adds to the health of urban streams. Cumulative small-scale designs

The water supply story is different. Let’s imagine the scales involved to give some context for the story: The very basic numbers in Figure 1 demonstrate that the water supply needs of a city can’t be met with only local resources in Berkeley’s climate, unless that city happens to be on a major river where the river’s waters have not been used up by agriculture. Whatever water strategy we will use here in the future, it likely will require an armature in addition to any bottom-up conservation or water collection approach. Even a local desalination plant would qualify as an armature; the one being built in San Diego County using private investment and a US/Israeli design and management team will cost at least $1 billion to supply 50 MGD of drinking water. Armatures are structures or investments that require substantial coordination, making them difficult or impossible to build with a bottom-up approach alone. They are essential to support the cities we live in with today’s population densities. There are also important scale concerns in urban water adaptation. The waters of the San Francisco Bay are expected to rise by three feet or more by the end of this century. What would the consequences be of using a single adaptive intervention, a barrier to salt water at the Golden Gate, versus a decentralized effort to adapt in each of the municipalities and counties around the Bay? The shoreline of the Bay is in itself an armature, complex both spatially and temporally as it changes position with the tides, with storms and with the warming global oceans. If a million property owners have to adapt this long armature instead of intervening in one strategic location, the risk of unequal outcomes goes up. Designs of levees and all the other adaptive structures will vary, producing different levels of risk. Differences in risk may produce environmental injustices, as some people may end up more exposed to flood hazards than others. Moreover, the cost of adapting at least 500 miles of Bay shoreline may be higher than the cost of a single 400 ft. deep dam. But then the Bay would


become fresh water instead of saline, as did the Ijsselmeer in the Netherlands when the Dutch constructed the Afsluitdyk in the late 1920s. As in the Dutch example, a large freshwater version of San Francisco Bay could be used for future water reuse schemes, but the salinity changes would fundamentally alter the Bay’s ecosystem, affecting fisheries and shellfish beds, nutrient flows from ocean to rivers (herring, salmon, steelhead) and migrant seabirds whose food sources would disappear. Ecologically, it might be far better to build adaptive shorelines along the whole Bay. But without regional governance and consistent implementation, this is likely to be an uneven system with varying costs, benefits and risks. It’s not just what we do, but also how we do it that affects performance. Nexus theory, or something equally gritty, will eventually help us understand the trade-offs and strategic advantages of different armature strategies across all of the applied disciplines– design, engineering, planning, law, finance, public administration and public health, to name a few key participants in urban change. We need gritty realism about linkages across scales, and we need gritty resolve to take positions that will both cost money and rock the boat. With luck, that combination of realism and resolve will put designers in a position to help voters, elected officials and the heads of agencies make better choices for urban adaptation over the next 100 years.

Kristina Hill is an Associate Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Hill’s work addresses urban ecological dynamics in relationship to physical design and social justice issues. Her primary area of work is in adapting urban water systems to the new challenges associated with climate change.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Kristina Hill

add up to a stronger armature, which in turn does other work at both the local and regional scales using that improved capacity.

“Globally, humans and our conscripted

machines now move up to 45 gigatons of earth annually, with 10 of those gigatons consisting of undesigned feedback effects of our actions. John F. Kennedy International Airport used to be part of a massive wetland complex of Jamaica Bay before it was made into a hardened plane of tarmac. Likewise, thousands of additional acres encircling the Bay were soft and marshy before being filled in with an unknown tonnage of earthen and non-earthen materials, forming a variety of anthrosols recently categorized by the New York City Reconnaissance Soil Survey (Figure 1).1 In contrast to the solid urban fill now encircling Jamaica Bay, we can see the remains of salt marsh islands scattered within it. Due to a combination of influences that include dredging and filling, upstream channelization, and torrents of treated wastewater and stormwater outflows, these islands are eroding at an ever-accelerating rate. Without additional acts of human intervention, such as remaking them with sand dredged from nearby shipping channels, the islands could completely disappear within a decade.2 Due in part to PostPanamax channel deepening of the New York/ New Jersey Harbor, an ambitious feat of logistical infrastructure networked from as far away as the Panamanian Isthmus, Jamaica Bay’s islands are now receiving a unique supply of restorative sand.

brett milligan

suites of new elemental landscapes

The “cosmopolitan ecology” of Jamaica Bay is a vast microcosm exemplifying the broader extent of human agency on geologic and hydrologic cycles.3 Textbook diagrams of these material flows typically separate hydrological processes (evaporation, precipitation, surface runoff, and the like) from the geologic (weathering, sedimentation, uplift), while subtracting human agency from both. Such diagrams are incomplete depictions of the full

range of forces at work here, failing to illustrate how these cycles are deeply enmeshed with a multitude of distortive alterations engendered by our designs. Rather than geology happening predominantly outside of our influence, humans are currently the earth’s preeminent geomorphic agents. Via our ability to direct and manipulate matter, we currently exceed the earth-moving propensities of rivers, glaciers, winds and plate tectonics.4 Globally, humans and our conscripted machines now move up to 45 gigatons of earth annually, with 10 of those gigatons consisting of undesigned feedback effects of our actions.5 Within the United States, it has been estimated that 30 tons of earth are moved per person every year.6 By contemporary land uses, more than 50% of Earth’s ice-free land area has been directly modified by human actions, the consequences of which ooze and cascade well beyond those directly affected areas.7 This anthropogenic co-making of geologic and hydrologic processes can be referred to as the dredge cycle.8 The dredge cycle is not limited to the transportation of underwater sediments via herculean shovels and wonders of industrial engineering. Rather, the dredge cycle implicates a far more extensive range of human encounters with sediment (Figure 2). The dredge cycle includes both intentional acts of earthen manipulation, as well as a plethora of unintentional counter-actions feeding back upon one another. The dredge cycle accelerates and decelerates flows of sediments, as well as pollutes, transforms and cleans them. The dredge cycle is now ubiquitous and inseparable from what were formerly considered natural formations. It is titled the dredge cycle because it identifies recurring, self-organizing and ever-aggregating strings of events driven by anthropogenic influences. These cycles range from the absurdly Sisyphean to adept strategies

3 Pavement & buildings, outwash substratum Nearly level to gently sloping, highly urbanized areas with more than 80 percent of the surface covered by impervious pavement and buildings, over glacial outwash; generally located in urban centers. 4 Pavement & buildings, wet substratum Nearly level to gently sloping, highly urbanized areas with more than 80 percent of the surface covered by impervious pavement and buildings, over filled swamp, tidal marsh, or water; generally located in urban centers. 6 Ipswich-Pawcatuck-Matunuck mucky peats Low lying areas of tidal marsh that are inundated by salt water twice each day at high tide, with a mixture of very poorly drained soils which vary in the thickness of organic materials over sand. 7 Laguardia-Ebbets-Pavement & buildings, wet substratum complex Nearly level to gently sloping areas filled with a mixture of natural soil materials and construction debris over swamp, tidal marsh, or water; a mixture of anthropogenic soils which vary in coarse fragment content, with more than 15 percent impervious pavement and buildings covering the surface. 92 Pavement & buildings, wet substratum-BigappleVerrazano complex Nearly level to gently sloping urbanized areas where sandy dredged materials and loamy fill have been placed over swamp, tidal marsh, or water; a mixture of sandy and loamy-capped anthropogenic soils, with up to 80 percent impervious pavement and buildings covering

the surface; located along coastal waterways in Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens.

and buildings covering the surface; located along coastal waterways in Brooklyn and Queens.

98 Greatkills-Freshkills complex Gently sloping to moderately steep areas where household landfill material is capped by loamy fill of variable thickness.

129 Hooksan-Dune land complex Nearly level to moderately steep areas of sandy soils formed in eolian and marine deposits, and sand in hills or ridges and intervening troughs, drifted and piled up by the wind, and either actively shifting or so recently stabilized that no soil horizons have developed. Located along coastal waterways in Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens.

99 Bigapple-Fortress complex Nearly level to gently sloping areas that have been filled with sandy dredged materials; a mixture of well drained and moderately well drained anthropogenic soils; located along coastal waterways. 100 Inwood-Laguardia-Ebbets complex Nearly level to gently sloping areas that have been filled with a mixture of natural soil materials and construction debris; a mixture of anthropogenic soils which vary in coarse fragment content. 101 Pavement & buildings, wet substratum-LaguardiaEbbets complex Nearly level to gently sloping urbanized areas filled with a mixture of natural soil materials and construction debris over swamp, tidal marsh, or water; a mixture of anthropogenic soils which vary in coarse fragment content, with up to 80 percent impervious pavement and buildings covering the surface. 106 Bigapple-Verrazano-Pavement & buildings Areas where sandy dredged materials and loamy fill have been placed over swamp, tidal marsh, or water; a mixture of sandy and loamy-capped anthropogenic soils, with more than 15 percent impervious pavement

210 Jamaica-Barren sands Areas that have been filled with sandy dredged materials; a mixture of poorly drained and somewhat poorly drained anthropogenic soils; located along coastal waterways in southern Brooklyn and Queens. DATA SOURCES New York City Anthrosols: Reconnaissance Soil Survey, a collaborative project of U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service New York City Soil and Water Conservation District; and Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station. Special thanks to Richard Shaw. Filling Jamaica Bay: AKRF, Inc. Special thanks to Eymund Diegel. Historical Marsh Islands: National Park Service

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Brett Milligan


Figure 1 Map of Jamaica Bay, including areas of historic fill, dredge-related anthrosols and historic outlines of Marsh Islands

of sediment manipulation. From the 800,000 dams around the world that now prevent one-third of all river sediment from reaching the oceans, to the profusion of erosion control silt fences that prevent loosened sediments from escaping construction sites, the dredge cycle recognizes humans as multi-scalar participants in the granular constitution of the earth’s surface.9 The dredge cycle is a navigation chart for this new generation of landscapes.

Figure 2 The Dredge Cycle, diagram by the Dredge Research Collaborative

Sediments Dredging is a pivotal moment within the repertoire of dredge cycle operations. It is when we intentionally counter forces of gravity by scooping up rock and sediments and transporting them elsewhere. Dredging is an event of forced uplift in which human intervention in the geologic cycle is at its most overt, when we take on the heavy and laborious work of reversing sedimentary processes, so as to construct or maintain essential services that support current settlement patterns. Dredging is enacted to maintain navigable depths of ports, harbors and shipping channels, to reclaim land, create sea defenses and clean up toxic environments. Dredging is primal infrastructure, the malleable earthen substrate over which other support systems are built and operated. As such, dredging is perhaps one of the grandest landscape architecture projects in the world, yet it goes largely unrecognized as the design leviathan it is. Driven by a quantitative necessity from ever-greater manipulation of sediments, there is a contemporary shift away from 20th century linear–disposal operations to those that are more circular,

intelligent and anticipatory of their own effects. The maturing process of dredging appears to have an awareness of its own doings–both its shortcomings and successes–and is responding accordingly. In response to this infrastructure’s concealed and somewhat impenetrable status, the Dredge Research Collaborative organized DredgeFest NYC, a public symposium and harbor tour held in the fall of 2012.10 In the years leading up to this event, we had researched, documented and speculated on dredge landscapes, finding that many of the seemingly far-fetched designs we envisioned were actually already happening in analogous forms, often rather quietly. The world of dredging is full of fascinating instruments and massive engineered landscapes with which design communities often never cross paths. Additionally, those actors with practiced agency in the design and construction of these landscapes are typically not landscape architects. Thus with DredgeFest NYC we sought to bring together diverse and isolated disciplines operating within these realms, such as corporate practitioners, government agencies, scientists, theorists, industry experts and designers to see what we might learn from one another. We assembled this group with a public audience (which turned out to be equally diverse) to talk about dredging and its manifestation in the New York/New Jersey region. The gritty experiment of DredgeFest was twofold: it was an investigation of the aggregate flows of sands, silts and clays within the United States’ densest and perhaps most polluted coastal metropolis, and it was also a catalytic mixing of disparate expertise, serving to reveal gaps, opportunities and shared interests amongst them. Envision corporate manufacturers of geotextiles being enthused by designers asking what additional shapes and uses geotubes might assume, or designers being awed by the landscape modeling and analysis techniques currently used by scientists and engineers. These moments happened. DredgeFest NYC’s format was structured by the dredge cycle itself in order to link dredging to its constellation of related processes, such as regional changes in land use, upstream watershed and urban stormwater management practices and climate change. The symposium was divided into three sessions, opening with Dredge and the Anthropocene, in which the U.S. Army Corps

Just one month after the DredgeFest NYC symposium, Hurricane Sandy ripped through the New York/New Jersey Harbor sending surges of water and sediment through the city’s boroughs. In its aftermath, the symposium’s discussions on climate change and coastal resiliency took on a difference in meaning and poignancy. Sandy became a catastrophic and costly event for understanding the dredge cycle’s processes. Rather than being approached as a natural disaster by popular media, Sandy was interpreted as at least partially made by us through alterations in the earth’s atmosphere. Just after Sandy, the New York Times published an article contending that beach nourishment–the industrial dredging and re-application of sand to keep dynamic coastlines locked where we have decided we want them–will become prohibitively expensive and technically unfeasible with sea level rise induced by climate change.12 In such futures we might simply run out of enough usable sand, considering that 80 million cubic yards of it have already been mechanically placed on 54 of New Jersey’s 97 miles of developed coastline, averaging out to a truckload of sand for every foot of beach.12 This is an example of the dark and vibrant feedback of the Dredge Cycle, where in many instances, the

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy it was easier to envision how coastal development, loss of dunes and wetlands, rising atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, flooded subways and postPanamax shipping channels are at least partially interconnected and quasi-designed. Here quasi implies that although these particular elements may be rigorously considered, the networked gestalt of their interactions is often not. Such assemblages exceed the effects and borders of their constituent parts. Process diagrams such as the dredge cycle are a method for articulating the expansiveness of networked ecologies, which in turn may lead to more effective siting of design interventions within them, be they political, material, communicative or other. Such charts are inherently speculative and partial, a type of propositional geography that isn’t necessarily the definitive authority on such dynamic assemblies of stuff. Rather, the charting of material trajectories opens up spaces and sightlines for more focused or detailed ontographies within them, “processes of accounting for the various units that strew themselves throughout the universe.”13 These diagrams are not teleological, as they are as multiplicative as they are reductive. As an example of an ontographic machine, the dredge cycle articulates “a profusion of particular perspectives on a particular set of things.”14

Nutrients Consider another massive microcosm, this one on the other side of the United States. Upper Klamath Lake is located on the eastern flank of the Cascade Range in southern Oregon. With a surface area of about 80,000 acres, it is considered one of the largest lakes in the United States. The lake is extremely rich in nutrients, or hypereutrophic. During the summer it is saturated with thick masses of cyanobacteria called Aphanizomenon flos-aquae,


more we construct and reorder hydrogeologic and atmospheric flows on a grand scale, the more we ironically end up with less control over those very processes. At times like these we are forced to go back to the drawing board, or to our computational models, and reconsider our strategies. Climate change is perhaps the most vexing feedback we’ve engendered thus far, as the scales of effects are unprecedented.

“Dredging is primal infrastructure, the malleable earthen substrate over which other support systems are built and operated. As such, dredging is perhaps one of the grandest landscape architecture projects in the world, yet it goes largely unrecognized as the design leviathan it is.”

of Engineers, the NYC Economic Development Corporation, a geologist and a designer discussed the larger implications of ever-expanding dredging in an era defined by human agency. What are the operational and environmental limits to this hulking geologic infrastructure? This question led into the second session, Circularity and Feedback, where we examined new methods for working with sedimentary flows that integrate waste streams and operational contingencies. Here the EPA discussed design challenges encountered in implementing its Beneficial Use of Dredge Program, followed by private sector experts in environmental imaging who demonstrated the analytical and forecasting rigor required to design soft and more responsive forms of sedimentary infrastructure. The final session, Regeneration and Public Participation, explored engagement with sediment as a more open-source platform for environmental regeneration. Tactics introduced included grassroots campaigns for citizen oyster gardening (for the creation of reefs to stabilize channels and improve water quality) and efforts to bio-inhabit the industrial banks of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal.

“Like the dredge cycle, the anthropocene’s novel flows and fluxes of nutrients are in need of speculative geographies that can better account for them, as well as new design frameworks able to respond to conditions of diminished resiliency within radically altered landscapes.”

or AFA, which feed upon copious amounts of phosphorous in the water. These algal blooms turn the lake into an opaque, swirling kaleidoscope of deep emerald greens when seen from above. The recurring blooms and subsequent die-offs of AFA are correlated with degraded water characteristics of elevated pH, toxic levels of un-ionized ammonia and lack of dissolved oxygen.15 Excessive phosphorous in Upper Klamath Lake is an effect engendered by changes in the Klamath Basin over the past century. These changes include widespread logging, drainage of wetlands and extensive water flow modifications associated with irrigation and livestock grazing. Altered land surfaces have accelerated erosion rates throughout much of the watershed and increased the inflow of nutrients.16 Most significantly, wetlands in the Upper Klamath Basin were reduced from 350,000 acres to 75,000 acres as they were drained, diked and converted to agriculture.17 The alterations of the Klamath Basin are similar to those of many other US watersheds. The EPA currently estimates that 15,000 waters nationwide are degraded by excess nutrients.18 On top of nutrient overload from land alteration, are added nutrients from industrial fertilizers. Since the early 20th century when techniques were developed to manufacture such fertilizers, extensive parts of Earth’s surface have literally become awash in reactive nitrogen. Expanding dead zones at the mouths of rivers, such as the Mississippi Delta, occur as vicious chain reactions set in motion by excessive nutrients. Globally, the amount of available nitrogen in the environment has doubled due to anthropogenic influences, while the amount of phosphorous has increased three-fold.19 Exactly what this plethora of liberated elements signals for current and future landscapes remains a speculative question. We’ve initiated a global diaspora of critical minutia without knowing where and how it will repatriate in various material assemblies. Future geologists will likely deem sediments enriched with nitrogen as the tell-tale strata of our Anthropocene era, as the distinctive isotopic signatures of reactive nitrogen derived from inorganic methods (rather than microbes) are found in sediments everywhere, including the world’s most remote lakes and the Arctic.20 Like the peculiar traces of iridium found in the

earth’s 65 million year-old rocks–material evidence of a transformative collision with an asteroid– emergent strata laced with nutrients tell of an extensive transformation now underway. Widespread nutrient pollution continues to increase even while industrial fertilizer production is becoming more challenging, both in terms of energy required to manufacture it and declining quantities of base materials, such as phosphate rock. Similar to the cycling of sediments, the contemporary nutrient cycle is richly anthropogenic and ever-aggregating, feeding back on itself with us as the primers of the pump. Seen in aggregate form, the reality of peak phosphorous is less a quantity issue and more a geo-spatial redistribution problem. Clever corporate ecologies have already begun to exploit these disconnections between nutrient sourcing and byproduct.21 For example, a major source of excess phosphorous comes from remnant nutrients in treated human sewage. Canadian corporation Ostera recently unveiled the world’s largest municipal nutrient recovery facility in Hillsboro, Oregon, where their Pearl® Nutrient Recovery Process reclaims phosphorous and nitrogen from wastewater via a patented process that transforms them into “Crystal Green®, an environmentallyfriendly, slow release fertilizer.”22 Crystal Green® is endorsed by the Audubon Society and Robert Kennedy, Jr., who serves on Ostera’s board of directors. In a publicity photo featured in the Oregonian, Kennedy stands shoulder-to-shoulder with three other smartly-attired men, all of them standing remarkably close to a large open sack of Crystal Green® pearls distilled from human excrement.23 The three men are holding the edges of the sack open while a smiling Kennedy pours Crystal Green® pearls from a clear glass beaker into the bag. None of the men are wearing gloves. Ostera’s design strategy, performed within the engineered interior of a treatment plant, closes a bio-industrial loop by coupling processes and operations which were formerly disconnected. A question more germane to the field of landscape architecture is what solutions and synergies are possible within landscapes themselves. Like the dredge cycle, the anthropocene’s novel flows and fluxes of nutrients are in need of speculative geographies that can better account for them, as

In the Upper Klamath Basin, a variety of techniques are currently being evaluated to reduce excess phosphorous, methods that include mechanically filtering and harvesting phytoplankton with new instruments, dredging the lake’s phosphorus-laden sediments, and the deployment of treatment wetland typologies.24 The latter technique, the design of landscape machines “made of landscape features and driven by landscape processes,” are being considered based on how they might be sited and chained together within the biophysical processes of the upper basin.25 In the Klamath and elsewhere, the legislative grit of the Environmental Protection Agency’s TMDL requirements–whereby Total Maximum Daily Loads of pollutants, sediments, and nutrients are established for impaired water–is becoming a generative code for a number of new and yet to be designed landscapes, particularly in light of just how many U.S. waters fall under this designation.26

Elemental Difference


well as new design frameworks able to respond to conditions of diminished resiliency within radically altered landscapes.

The elemental features of landscape are unlike what they were just a century ago, a qualitative change which we are deeply a part of. The basic mechanical and biogeochemical cycling of material–be it carbon, toxic silts, phosphorous or masses of cyanobacteria–now circulate within new routes and constituent associations. From these new formative cycles, a suite of new landscapes are coming on line, both inadvertent and deliberate. The inadvertent variety typically arrive first, via the odd and sometimes disastrous feedback of these aggregating cycles, which then leads to the design of the deliberate in response to that feedback. We can see this in landscapes such as dredge disposal sites, which are morphing into a diversity of constructed dunes, beaches, aquaculture ponds, roadway base material and decorative landscape products. Likewise, within this new granularity, wetlands are particularly fecund. Ignored or extirpated in the last century, we are now arriving at more expansive typologies and nomenclature of their dark and transformative otherness, all the while generating novel varieties, such as sewage treatment ponds or urban stormwater planters chock full of metals and exotic chemistries.


2. Timeline estimates vary considerably for the full disappearance of Jamaica Bay’s marsh islands, from less than a decade to thirty years or more. The dynamics that characterize this coastal “sewer shed” are still relatively unknown, thus prompting extensive research initiatives by the National Park Service. See National Park Service Jamaica Bay Institute. “Research Opportunities in the Natural and Social Sciences at the Jamaica Bay Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area” (2008), JBAY-Research%20Opportunities.pdf. 3. Kate Orff. “Cosmopolitan ecologies,” in Gateway: Visions for an Urban National Park, ed. Alexander Brash et al. (NY NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 2011): 50-73. 4. R.LeB. Hooke. “On the Efficacy of Humans as Geomorphic Agents.” GSA Today, v. 4 (1994): 217, 224–225. 5. Ibid. 6. R.LeB. Hooke. “On the History of Humans as Geomorphic Agents.” Geology, v. 28, no. 9 (2000): 843–846. 7. R.LeB. Hooke et al.. “Land Transformation By Humans: A Review.” GSA Today, v. 22, no. 12 (2012): 4-10. 8. Becker, Stephen, Holmes, Rob, Maly, Tim and Milligan, Brett. “Dredge, ” in Goes Soft: Bracket 2, ed. Neeraj Batia and Loa Sheppard (Actar Press, 2013). 9. International Rivers. “Damming Statistics.” (2011), www.internationalrivers. org/node/479. -- Michal Welland, Sand: The Never Ending Story (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009): 84. 10. The full program for the DredgeFest NYC symposium is available at the Dredge Research Collaborative’s website: http://dredgeresearchcollaborative. org/dredgefest/.

16. Ibid. 17. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, Klamath Office, “Natural Flow of the Upper Klamath River: Phase 1.” (2006). 18. Environmental Protection Agency. National Aquatic Resource Surveys, 19. Marina Alberti, Advances in Urban Ecology (New York, New York: Springer, 2008): 133-181. 20. Vince Gaia. “Leaving our Mark: Fossils of the Future,” BBC News (11/12/2012), 21. Brett Milligan. “Corporate Ecologies,” Journal of Landscape Architecture, Vol. 5, Iss. 1 (2010): 6-23. 22. Ostara. “Clean Water Services and Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies Open World’s Largest Municipal Nutrient Recovery Facility.” (2012), http:// There is no indication on Ostara’s website that the name Crystal Green bears any etymological relationship to Soylent Green, the popular 1973 science fiction film, despite overt similarities. 23. Dana Tims. “New Clean Water Services Facility in Hillsboro Turns Waste into Gold.” The Oregonian (05/08/2012), index.ssf/2012/05/new_clean_water_services_facil.html. 24. “Upper Klamath Basin Water Quality Improvement Projects: Conceptual Feasibility Analysis.” Forthcoming, March 2013. 25. Paul A Roncken, et al.. “Landscape Machines: Productive Nature and the Future Sublime,” Journal of Landscape Architecture, Vol. 6, Iss. 1 (2011): 68-81. 26. For additional information on The Clean Water Act and TMDLs, see The Environmental Protection Agency, “Impaired Waters and Total Maximum Daily Load,”

11. Cornelia Dean. “Cost of Shoring Up Coastal Communities.” New York Times (11/05/2012), 12. Ibid. The cost of doing this was estimated at $800 million. 13. Ian Bogost, Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2012): 50. 14. Ibid., p.52. 15. Stillwater Sciences, Riverbend Sciences, Aquatic Ecosystem Sciences, Atkins, Tetra Tech, NSI/Biohabitats, and Jones & Trimiew Design. “Klamath River pollutant reduction workshop—information packet.” Prepared for California State Coastal Conservancy (Oakland, California: 2012).

Brett Milligan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of California, Davis. He the creative director of Free Association Design and a founding member of the ExEx and The Dredge Research Collaborative. His ongoing research and design practice in watershed recovery in the upper Klamath River Basin was initially funded by a research grant from the Graham Foundation.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Brett Milligan

1. New York City Soil Survey Staff. “New York City Reconnaissance Soil Survey.” (United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 2005),

isabelle angieri

boardwalks of rockaway


Isabelle Angieri is pursuing her Master of Architecture at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. In her free time, she enjoys writing, photography, and traveling unfamiliar routes through familiar places.43

On a Sunday in midwinter, there are only a few bundled beach goers walking along the shore. The thin width between the water and what’s left of the boardwalk seems eerie and small. A barren aggregation of concrete structures mark the remains of the buffer zone, framing the space left by fractured wooden ties carted away in the wake of 2012s Hurricane Sandy. For now, people are left to weave with uncertainty under stoic cement frames.

On summer days, the wooden planks creaked under the multitudes of urban pilgrims crossing the boardwalk to be closer to the sand and waves. People spread along the beach as they did along the boardwalk, the wide reminder of the city beyond the calm. Each day, an exuberant and jumbled stream of runners, bicyclists, skaters, dog walkers and parades of pedestrians mingled between food carts and long boards in the limbo between productivity and pastime. More local than Jones, and less grotesque than Coney, the Far Rockaways were the metropolis’ answer to a backyard. It’s not hard, not far to reach, we can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach.


“An architectonic structure of any buildable size... whose visible or exposed surfaces may present a permanently growing covering of vegetation”

“Patents originally represented gestures of largesse on the part of sovereigns…to members of their court or tenantry. They where designed to encourage thoughtful pioneering, the results of which might obviously be productive for greater wealth of feudal leaders and indirectly to their…subjects…When the democratic idea broke loose in Europe, the popular representatives of that time deemed it a wise and just act to embody the ‘letters patent’ idea in their democratic constitution… The necessity of invention and growth where highly apparent…for had not invention itself forwarded man to the possibility of emergent DEMOCRACY?” R. Buckminster Fuller, “Throwing in the Patent Sponge,” in Nine Chains to the Moon (1938).

More than 9,000,000 design and utility patents have been issued in the United States since 1836. Richard Buckminster Fuller was awarded 28, representing a .0003% stake in the labyrinthine framework of patent fiefdoms that simultaneously bolster, and inhibit, our democracy. His cartographic devices, tensile integrity structures, undersea islands, and floating breakwaters, are all preserved in the patent archive. And, as their legal status expired, each transitioned to collective ownership in the public domain. The operating manual for spaceship earth is now partially ours. In aggregate, patent legalese defines a considerable portion of the world we inhabit, outlining an eerily omnipresent, yet often invisible form of “public space”. Patents give form to materials, create places, describe systems,


(US 2,113,523)

(US 3,080,583)


“My undersea island has special applications”

richard l. hindle

Public Domains: Material fiefdoms, entropy, and the built environment



“The roots of seedlings may take root, thereby providing an interlocking connection”

grant rights and represent a landscape of power beyond the aerial and perspectival. What does this landscape look like? Robert Moses’ New York? Foucault’s Panopticon? London’s CCTV? The answer is yes, and more! It looks like an edifice of a few billion words and drawings that, when organized into chains of words and drawings, establish boundaries between ideas, ownership and modes of production. It is the ubiquitous, safe, generic American landscape of goods and materials, outsourced. It is cut and paste specifications on construction documents, your morning French press, a radioactivity bunker and this ink. The current 20-year lifespan of a utility patent’s legal status grants exclusive rights of profit to the inventor, theoretically stimulating innovation and progress in the mechanical arts and culture. Yet, as recent lawsuits have shown, the patent system’s most profound contribution may be to the expanded role of jurisprudence and legalese in every aspect of life, where a patent no longer represents innovation, instead representing a defensive stance and posturing designed to protect profits and mitigate risk. Entropy is at work in this system. Patents expire and enter the public domain, contributing to an ever-expanding sedimentation and deposition of collectively owned ideas, images, words and memes. The accumulation of material in the public domain is simultaneously a waste stream of human ambition and the mountain of new rights granted to the public, evoking a sense of ‘publicness’ never before seen by Marxism, capitalism, or the

45 (US1,338,559) “Compromises with truth”

strange communism of China. As of 2012, more than 5.5 million U.S. patents exist in the public domain, freed of their legal status and available as open source technology for any interested party to replicate or borrow and reinterpret. We own the language and images that define prefabricated bathrooms, artificial ski slopes, and millions of other tools and materials that promise to liberate new forms of open source economy and cultural production. It is not happenstance that as the tailings of a traditional patent system have become a new form of public institution, a productive system has evolved that may rework the vast expanse of this latent public realm. Rapid prototyping with 3D scanners and printers, laser cutters, and 5-axis milling machines, as well as the array of local manufacturing and fabrication possibilities have radically altered our proximity to modes of production and the ability for producers and consumers to remix new tools, places, and systems. In an era where 3D printing a children’s toy is a possible copyright infringement, the public domain offers a position of resistance and the grit with which to stake a defensive stance for tinkerers, samplers, and DIY designers interested in cultural production free from centralized control. The promise and lore, of localized manufacturing, architectural-scale rapid prototyping, and crowdfunded public space, must one day confront the entrenched economic and technological systems that define current material culture and production of the built environment. This confrontation is dialectical in nature, as progress


“A mechanism for said structure”

towards an ecological urbanism is in many ways technological determinism at work. Nascent communities such as Thingiverse, WikiHouse, Kickstarter, Shapeways, and the Open Source Ecology project have pioneered new forms of disruptive economics and altered the proximity of community to designer, and designer to object and manufacturing. If any of the basic tenets of technological determinism are true—that technology drives history, technological progress is an agent of change and that these changes have cultural and political implications—then mastery of the cultural production of the technologies that reify our future sustainable cities is tantamount to total design, with broad cultural and ecological affect. As resistance mounts against these systems that debunk corporate control and the omnipotence of jurisprudence, I suggest a defensive stance premised on recombinatory processes that mine the patent archive and bricolage new meaning from shared intellectual property. The alluvium of words and drawings aggregating in the public realm can be mined, strung together and retooled into chains of new drawings and words that enable future production, destabilize centralized control and liberate creative capitol with unforeseen provocations. Richard L. Hindle is an Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and founder of the Horticultural Building Systems Lab. His research focuses on technology in the garden and landscape, with an emphasis on material processes, innovation and patents.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Richard L. Hindle



(US 2,393,676)

(US 3,080,583) “Unique architectural forms (and) a complete city”

With the establishment of the architecture office Recetas Urbanas, the common work of our friends, employees and collaborators is to revive a critical conscience toward the official urbanism manipulated by economic and political agents, which has led citizens to lose their capacity to react to spatial injustice. It is essential for the public to remain nimble and active in the face of this official urbanism, because it lacks self-doubt and does not engage the public in decision-making.

mediation. Recetas Urbanas is part of the network Arquitecturas Colectivas, and as such is involved in the Aula Abierta (Open Classroom) project, currently in development in Seville. Aula Abierta is meant to activate an abandoned lot in a residential area in the periphery of Seville at a time when public administration in the city is not supporting projects related to culture and the arts. General distrust in the local government has prompted our practice to promote this project, generating a series of direct actions to build the project through an assemblage of recycled construction materials in neglected public space. As a self-built and self-funded space, the project started in 2004 when a group of students from the University of Granada assembled a classroom from materials gathered from a building that was set to be demolished. In January 2012, all the materials were transported to Seville, where Recetas Urbanas and the technical team of the Varuma Theater received them. We assisted in incorporating the classroom into the construction of a new cultural space called La Carpa (The Tent) in a lot donated by Aula Abierta, Sevilla 2012

Given the current economic crisis in Spain, it is heartening to see young groups and collectives organize themselves through different networks to strategize joint actions and provide mutual aid through architectural and legal support and social

Santiago cirugeda

from individual to collective action

Since 1996, I have developed a critical practice through subversive projects in diverse urban environments, all of which ultimately demand the revision of city planning regulations and ordinances. Each of these actions has negotiated the border between the legal and the illegal, as a reminder of the legal constraints that limit our ability to intervene in public space.

47 We initiated what is known today as Aula Abierta Sevilla in the first week of March 2012 with an auto-construction workshop organized by the collective La Matraka. The construction was made with the help of several collectives including El Gatocon Moscas, La Jarapa, El Cuarteto Maravilla, ConceptuArte, Straddle3 and many more friends from different countries. Espacio Artístico - La Carpa (Artistic Space - The Tent), is the headquarters of the Varuma Theater and the future Circus School of Andalucía. The project is therefore based on the technical requirements of the different disciplines linked to the circus, including technical and scenographic

storage; training and rehearsal spaces, and academic and social spaces. Our shared aim is to provide a unique space for the independent cultural scene in Andalucía. The development of this project in a peripheral neighborhood of Seville and the collaboration with several collectives is part of a larger strategy to decentralize cultural production and support actions that have been abandoned by the public administration. The expanded La Carpa project is comprised of structures and facilities, including the tent, pergola, arachnid office, refrigerated truck and portable workshop, which have all been donated, recycled, or reused. The multi-use classroom is open to collectives in need of a space to meet, rehearse, or teach as long as they have social or cultural aims.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Santiaga Cirugeda

the former municipal authorities by public contract. The current construction, however, is technically not legal.

The project has been funded through a variety of means: agreements for the use of the lot, material donations, collective construction, a barter system and the Goteo crowd-funding social network. Through these multiple funding sources, the project articulates a way in which we are co-producing a space independent from government-managed and -funded cultural works. We aim to produce another type of politics. In other words, as long as the state does not expand citizen rights and improve the legal system, we have found our own way to function by means of collectively realized, inhabitable interventions. Each action demands greater rights for our citizens, yet the question remains: what must a group of citizens do to obtain legal rights for publicly-driven reuse of abandoned and obsolete buildings?

La Carpa, Sevilla 2012

Recetas Urbanas is co-founder and part of the network

REFERENCES 1. Urban Prescriptions, 2. As used in this piece, “official urbanism� refers to urbanism made by the public administration, the urban planning office, without civil participation or involvement of other agents. 3. Collective Architectures, 4. Urban Prescriptions.

Santiago Cirugeda is principal at Recetas Urbanas in Sevilla, Spain. He earned his architecture degree from the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya in Barcelona.

49 This elaborately-conceived style of graffiti, based on the street names of its makers, has antecedents in tagging and in countless other versions of handmade writing and images left in plain sight without instructions. The uninitiated, whether separated by time or language or culture, cannot always ‘read’ the culturally encoded messages in this work, no matter how appealing the work may be. In America, graffiti’s cultural divide is especially loaded, and is defined by privilege and power­—the fact that graffiti literacy inverts cultural power from the urban elite to the street is not an accident. One early version of modern American tagging was invented by out-of-work freight-train-hopping hobos, whose elegantly-designed signatures tracked their travels across the country—and continued traveling as ambassadors to future riders. In a similar claim to bravado and agency, profoundly disenfranchised youth in gutted cities

Molly Mehaffy

But there were audiences for the raw beauties of this psychologically remote place, as evidenced by Yelp testimonials. An overt industrial romanticism can be heard in these brief elegies to nostalgic maritime vistas, chunked concrete ramparts, rusted-out MUNI cars and raw independence— along with an unexpected poetic heft that resonates with past San Francisco cultural outsiders. And there’s a proud glorification of the absolute transience of the whole scene, too—found-object bike ramps, generator-amplified free-if-you-knew-about-them punk shows and sumptuous graffiti murals that simultaneously outpaint and paint-out their competition. Such all-out vibrancy, dressed in sufficient respectability, would be the envy of any proper public space.

Besides its edgy atmosphere and distance from the eyes and ears of residential neighbors, Warm Water Cove Park offered a special opportunity for the production of graffiti murals: an eight-foothigh plate steel security fence that surrounds a waterfront crane business and faces the park on two sides, providing over 5,000 square feet of painting surface. Online photographs by dedicated graffiti art chroniclers provide astonishing glimpses of the transformations that took place on this wall. Cassidy Curtis, a San Francisco tech and film wiz with deep appreciation for graffiti art, memorialized some of these changes on his web site, Graffiti Archeology, by stitching together years-long timelapses of Warm Water Cove graffiti into a pseudoseamless body of wall writings.

Warm Water Cove park

A derelict little urban park on San Francisco’s southeast waterfront once served, unofficially, as the gallery, sound stage and terrain park for an outsider population of punk rockers, bike gangs and graffiti artists. Their claim on this place could not have been hard to make, given that it was jammed between the bay and the back sides of industrial properties and that it had no conventional amenities and no maintenance. Its namesake, Warm Water Cove, received into its man-made geography the freshly heated—and deadened—bay water from the cooling towers of an adjacent power plant. If outright neglect and industrial pollution weren’t enough to define this park’s urban grittiness, low tide at Warm Water Cove revealed a vast lumpy bottomland of mud-covered tires, giving it the nicknames of ‘Toxic Beach’ and ‘Tire Beach.’ This was, by either pastoral or civic aesthetic standards, an anti-park park in desperate need of transformation.

The writing is [not] on the wall

Warm Water Cove Park in context.











In the San Francisco area, graffiti writers describe their work in terms of high craftsmanship, visual legibility and dedication to innovation, and they pride themselves on the inclusiveness of their writing communities. No longer bounded by gang identities, but by sustained nerve and imagination, they share street cred with expert surfers and skaters and vie for being best at making homemade typography and doing tricks no one has ever seen. And, like some of the twentieth century graffiti artists who were recognized as luminaries by the New York art world, San Francisco graffiti has its small share of work that crosses the cultural divide from street to gallery—notably Barry McGee’s 2012 show at the Berkeley Art Museum. On August 4, 2007, far removed from such heady celebrations of cultural crossings, the City of San Francisco held a strategically planned and executed community clean-up crusade at Warm Water Cove Park. With the help of more than 100 enlisted participants from city agencies, open-space advocates, business boosters and neighborhood organizations, all of the graffiti at the park was painted out. Newly minted judicial policies required the criminal arrest and prosecution of all graffiti ‘vandals’—eliminating existing restitution options—and made juvenile detention convictions and sentences mandatory for anyone caught defacing the new anti-graffiti paint. A camera surveillance system and heavy policing permanently replaced the cove’s outsider events with hypervigilant eyes-on-the-park. These aggressive legal tactics and the broad public-private alliances that were central to the graffiti removal campaign are well documented in the City’s own report, whose heroes and villains are as polarized as the gunmen in a spaghetti western showdown.1 The combined criminal justice and police tactics used at Warm Water Cove were the same as those used by Mayor Ed Koch to rid the New York subway system of graffiti in the 1980s and have


precedents in countless other American cultural power struggles. These crackdown-style displays of control address urban issues far beyond their explicit targets. At Warm Water Cove, the high profile clean-up aligned—or re-aligned—urban organizers, planners, developers and the City’s legal system with a tacit agenda of cultural coherence, while sorting out which constituents deserve public recognition in processes related to redevelopment—and which don’t. City officials flagrantly dismissed written and vocal support for the graffiti artists’ role in maintaining a long-lasting, productive cultural practice at Warm Water Cove. By disenfranchising artists and their advocates in its revitalization campaign, the ‘war on graffiti’ eliminated a range of possible futures for the park and for the young artists who painted there.2 From a vantage outside of this polarized cultural battle, the social and cultural erasures that occurred at Warm Water Cove risk impoverishing future design processes for this project and for design in general. The repression of counter-ideas and the unwitting—or intended—absence of certain groups from surveys and meetings give lie to the explicit intent of community input. Instead of seeing and hearing the unfamiliar, we engage with a public that looks like the public we want in ‘our’ public spaces and applaud winning design solutions that leave messy social complexity on the sidelines, if not obliterated. Maybe we designers need to refresh our research and development processes. Maybe we need to hire some outside consultants who specialize in crossing boundaries, who innovate wildly with few material choices and who face daunting social and physical conditions with courage and curiosity. Dear graffiti artists, can we talk? REFERENCE 1. Gavin Newson, Mayor, et al. Warm Water Cove Graffiti Vandalism Project 2007: Reclaiming a waterfront park and adjacent properties from Graffiti Vandals (San Francisco: Department of Public Works and the Port of San Francisco, 2007), WarmWaterCoveReport_0508.pdf.

Molly Mehaffy received her Master of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of California, Berkeley and has a design practice based in Berkeley.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Molly Mehaffy

of the sixties and seventies extended their urban territory by writing their names on hard-to-reach buildings and subway cars. Graffiti writing has since evolved—through cross-pollination with comics, commercial sign lettering and other visibly contagious pop culture—and is now represented by a range of international styles, unique artistic expressions and regional distinctions.

“I was driving through Fairmount Park in January and there they were, riding in a posse with their Timberland boots and North Face jackets. They were all guys, no girls, which I found intriguing. And I’d never seen the combination before: black American youth and horses. It breaks the John Wayne myth.”1




According to urban lore, there have been horses on the 2600 blocks of West Fletcher Street in North Philadelphia for over one hundred years.2 The practice can be considered a contested occupation—loved and celebrated by some, unwanted and odious by others. Depending on your point of view, the blocks are a respite in the city or a marginalized space passed over by development. The blocks have changed over the decades; one block has been entirely cleared at least twice, once of its built structures and once of its makeshift farm. Yet, the change has not been substantial enough to displace the horses and their African-American horsemen. On Fletcher Street, the horses currently squat on city-owned land and in city-owned-buildings-turned-makeshift-stables, land and buildings that are officially classified as vacant. Ellis Ferrell, a longtime Philadelphia horseman, has worked on the site since the 1970s, teaching neighborhood youth life skills through horse riding and grooming. While the stables’ tie to the land has weakened, the horse-riding has not gone unnoticed.

Fights between the stables, the neighbors, and the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA) make ongoing appearances in the Philadelphia press. The most notable examples occurred in August 1999 and again in March 2008, when the city demolished makeshift farms and stables along Fletcher Street. Things were particularly heated in the March 2008 incident, when 40 horses were relocated, and the law enforcement officer for the PSCPA, George Bengal, reported: “There have been arrests down there, citations written, horses taken. We’ve been asking the city for years to get involved. This is a good thing; that place is a sewer.”3 While the demolition left stables in three garages on the block, the negative reporting tainted the horseman’s image and further strained the relationship with the city. City stables are gritty, there is no question, but the reporting of one-and-a-half story piles of manure and dead carcasses festering under piles of lye extend beyond gritty to sensationalist. The reports generalize all of the stables along the street, making no distinction between different owners and practices. Martha Camarillo’s photos from her book, Fletcher Street, show orderly stalls, living room stables with saddles, and makeshift street lounges with old couches and a fire barrel. While the stables are not spotless, there is clearly a feeling of organization and care.

53 three horses found dead in 2008

nine horses died in a fire in 1990 brewerytown square phase 2

*new construction only; part of larger Lucien Blackell Homes project with 655 new homes planned over a 17 block area; 210 have been constructed

Horses for houses trade: Markoe, Master + Fletcher Street Stables

Over the past 10 years, the stables frequented by African American cowboys have all but disappeared in Philadelphia—many being traded for new housing developments—in a horse-for-house market. The horses and the horsemen are evicted, forced to relocate to another part of the city. The number of horses on three sites—on Markoe Street in the west of the city, on Master Street in Brewerytown and on Fletcher Street—has decreased from an estimated 240 to 30.6 With the demolitions, the horses, the horse signs, the horse infrastructure and the community benefits are slowly vanishing.

One of the last places to feel the exciting presence of the horses is on Fletcher Street. It is impossible to visit without seeing the traces of horse or the horses themselves. The activities are even visible on Google Earth—the well-worn paddock shows up in aerial view and the horses themselves make an appearance in the street-level shots, ghosts before they are gone. They have demonstrated a remarkable long-term resilience, but it is hard not to fear that this is the last generation of black urban horsemen in Philadelphia. The horses bring a richness to urban life and a stability to the community worth a fight—a fight for inclusion, equality and diversity of public space in the city. The unexpected sighting of urban horses—coming out of row houses, being twirled about makeshift paddocks on vacant parcels, sauntering down

Evolution of West Fletcher Street stables

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Jill Desimini

Despite these variations, the city of Philadelphia has a history of not supporting the horsemen. In the words of Joyce Wilkerson, chief of staff to former Mayor Street, “To be candid, it is not a priority. I look at a city that has an operating deficit, a school system with problems. I don’t think you take a sport like horses and make it a priority.”4 At the same time, the Fletcher Street site remains part of the city’s vacant land inventory, deemed unsuitable even for the phased public housing planned for the site in the 1990s and abandoned due to soil concerns. The city Redevelopment Authority will entertain selling the site for market value, but has no interest in accommodating, much less supporting a group they consider interlopers, even if they have been interlopers for decades.5

A trainer works with a horse in the open space adjacent to the Fletcher Street stables

residential streets amid cars and buses, grazing idly on the lawns of Fairmount Park, shepherded by caring yet surprising owners—is an experience undoubtedly worth promoting. The horses of Fletcher Street are underappreciated compared to their carriage pulling compatriots who lead tours around the Liberty Bell and their law-enforcement counterparts who remain effective crowd-pleasers and -controllers, but they are more remarkable. Today, horses in the city may appear uncanny and at times undesirable, but this has not always been the case. Horses and cities have a rich and entwined history, and it could be argued that horses could not have survived without people. Dense populations required horses for power and transport, and it is due to their ecological niche as a partner for humans that European horses survived and were eventually brought to the United States. While horses are often associated with a rural condition or with preindustrialization—United States horse urbanization in the 19th century was more rapid than human urbanization. It was not until the early part of the twentieth century—with the advent of different modes of power and transport—that the growth of the human population superseded that of their equine partners and people began to outnumber

horses in the city.7 With technological change, sanitary concerns and changing land values, the urban horse infrastructure began to disappear and with it the many stables that dotted the urban landscape. The stables moved to the suburbs, and some horses slogged into work in the city every day, a precursor of the human suburbanization to come. In Philadelphia, a few horses remained in the city, where owning horses has remained legal throughout time. The legislation, a relic of past agricultural practice, states that as long as there is residential structure on a property, there can be a horse.8 This is not inconsequential, in that it has greatly influenced the longevity of urban cowboy practices in the city, as well as offered a glimmer of hope towards a lasting future. The horses and horsemen of Fletcher Street have become something of a cause célèbre, appearing on the cover of Life Magazine, on a television episode of This American Life, and inspiring the teen fiction book Ghetto Cowboy.9 These artists and journalists generate compelling images: the surreal nature of a horse in a row house; a black cowboy on an urban street; an afternoon of informal horse racing in a city park; with the return home on the overpass, over river and highway, to a small stable tucked into a residential neighborhood,

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Jill Desimini


Horses in the national and city timeline

19th century Philadelphia stables concentrated in the urban center

Markoe, Master + Fletcher Street Stables and the migration of stables from the urban center


REFERENCES 1. Sanjiv Bhattacharya. “Red Riding Hood.” The Telegraph (02/17/2007),, accessed 4/24/2011. 2. Christine Olley. “Unstable conditions: 4 horses rescued from Strawberry Mansion properties.” Philadelphia Daily News (01/24/2009). DiFilippo, Dana “City Corrals Rowhouse Horses: Officials to Shut Slumlike Stables.” Philadelphia Daily News (03/06/2008). 3. Dana DiFilippo. “City Demolishes Makeshift Stable.” Philadelphia Daily News (03/08/2008). 4. Sarah Nassauer. “In the Inner City Of Philadelphia, Horsey Set Bridles: Traditional Black Stables Get Booted, as Government and Developers Encroach.” Wall Street Journal (09/25/2007). 5. Dana DiFilippo. “City Corrals Rowhouse Horses: Officials to Shut Slumlike Stables.” Philadelphia Daily News (03/06/2008). 6. The numbers were derived through archival newspaper research. The records held by the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals are classified. 7. Clay McShane and Joel A. Tarr, The Horse in the City: Living Machines in the Nineteenth Century. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007). 8. Larry King. “Protecting Philadelphia’s Animals.” Philadelphia Inquirer (08/26/1990). 9. Street Riders: An Unlikely Tale of a Tough Philadelphia Neighborhood and the Young Horseman Who Live There appeared on the April 22, 2005 cover of Life Magazine. —Season 2 Episode 1 Escape features the horsemen in the prologue. “In Philadelphia, teenaged boys find ways to impress girls and break out of the confines of their families, using technology that’s been obsolete in their neighborhood since the 19th Century.”, accessed 03/22/2012. —Greg Neri writes: “Though this story is fiction, it’s inspired by the real life urban black horsemen of North Philadelphia and the Brooklyn-Queens area.” Accessed March 22, 2012. 10. Kathie Dobie, “Untitled” in Fletcher Street, ed. Martha Camarillo (Brooklyn, NY: Powerhouse Books, 2006).

Jill Desimini is an Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Prior to joining the full-time faculty, she was a Senior Associate at Stoss Landscape Urbanism in Boston. She holds Master of Landscape Architecture and Master of Architecture degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from Brown University. Her research focuses on reproductive strategies for abandoned urban lands.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Jill Desimini

just adjacent to the local school. There is an unexpected conflation of bourgeois pastime and inner-city clientele. Racehorse outcasts adopted by, in the words of Loic Wacquant, urban outcasts. The bond is productive. The stables provide a refuge for impoverished city children to work with and develop a love for horses, as well as a place to interact with strong male role models. The North Philadelphia horses represent a prototypical example of productive urban land use by the community, for the community. As Lee Cannady explains: “If you ever get a chance to come around here, it is a real nice thing because Fletcher Street is where a lot of kids come from broken homes, single-parent homes, drug-addicted parents. Their neighborhoods are not the best, and they come to Fletcher Street and they don’t have to worry about any of the above. We make sure that doesn’t happen on Fletcher Street.”10




With increasing urbanization and globalization comes sameness. Obliterating disorder and simplifying nature, homogenized landscapes deprive us of the very complexity necessary for life. In contrast, the folded and irregular surfaces of natural landscapes perform and read rather differently. As spatial catalysts, they promote speciation. As textural distinctions, they help us scan and make sense of a largely horizontallyorientated world, for we learn from the knowledge we integrate and embody by exploring our senses. It is not only biodiversity that profits from a heterogeneous landscape–our well-being and survival depend on it, too. Responding to the challenge of an increasingly urbanized landscape of simplified, constrained spaces requires a shift in perception from nature and culture as irreconcilable opposites. We need a more integrative approach where the aesthetic is not an either/or but an enlargement of the sensory experience. As leading edges, discontinuities and disjunctions drive ecological and evolutionary processes. Tactilely, they transfer legibility to the landscape. Roughing it up thus responds aesthetically and operatively to the needs of both ecology and culture–as both template and text for resilience.

CITIES IN THE HOTSPOT: ENABLING DIVERSITY With a total urban area projected to triple by 2030, cities are the most rapidly expanding habitat type worldwide. Sprawling at unprecedented rates, adjacent biodiversity hotspots and urbanized landscapes are significant repositories of global biodiversity and potential generators of ecosystem services.1 As critical natural capital, cities need to look to biodiversity and ecosystem services to build resilience. Call it biodiversity that reorganizes and renews, sustaining desirable ecosystem states in a world that is changing–and fast.



When it comes to landscape surface, roughing it up a bit makes sense–for biodiversity and for us.


Spatial and dynamic catalysts: enabling diversity through process Spatial and dynamic catalysts both promote ecological and evolutionary processes. Whether spatially fixed and structurally defined by topography, soils and vegetation; engineered by living organisms, or driven by disturbance, constructing heterogeneity in the landscape provides the requisite conditions for sustaining biodiversity.

Topographic heterogeneity Topographic variation in undulating landscapes and at the 1cm-0.5m microtopographic range explains species richness in wetlands; pit-andmound Douglas Fir forests, upland-lowland gradients; centers of endemism; as well as speciation rates and population stability.3 In mesic and semi-arid grasslands in South Africa, surface rockiness is second only to rainfall in influencing species richness. Operating at a localized scale, intermediate amounts of rock cover account for high species numbers, particularly of trees and shrubs because they are protected from fire.4

Textural discontinuity: the matrix matters Landscapes vary in their vertical structural complexity and horizontal spatial grain, with complex landscapes having high vertical complexity and fine spatial grain. The resultant matrix is not


only texturally discontinuous but significant in generating biodiversity patterns. For example, butterfly species richness in Prague’s grassland reserves depends, in part, on the mosaic of gardens, parks and green spaces in the city. There is a similar requirement for maintaining habitat heterogeneity at multiple spatial scales for farmland, and in the case of gardens, for generating vertebrate and invertebrate diversity.5 Discontinuous scaling of biophysical features is also mirrored in discontinuities in animal size. The fact that shrub encroachment in the open savannas of southern Africa threatens the survival of larger animals, and that small and large birds are distributed between different landscape types in south-eastern Australia, references the critical interrelationship of complex and simple landscape textures for species conservation. Applied in landscape management practices, this means that planting shrubs in agricultural landscapes, for example, may help attract small birds of conservation concern.6

Ecotones Ecotones occur across a range of scales, from centimetres to kilometers and vary in width and shape (sharp, gradual, perforated, convoluted). Easily recognizable as natural boundaries between biomes or ecosystems, they typically contain more species than ecosystem cores. Their potential as locales for high speciation rates is ascribed to the combination of high diversity and rapid rates of change.7 In South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region, soil ecotones–the narrow and sinuous interfaces between alkaline and acid soils as well as nutrientrich clays and nutrient-poor sands–are responsible for ecological diversification at the microscale. In contrast, transitional areas between vegetation communities account for most of the variation in species richness and high levels of endemism for birds and frogs in South Africa’s savanna system and for bird and rainforest diversity in the rainforest-savanna ecotone in Cameroon.8

Ecosystem engineers Ecosystem engineers are organisms that modulate the physical environment in what evolutionary biologists call niche construction. In the African savanna, for example, termites determine species richness patterns and drive evolutionary and ecological dynamics by modifying the landscape

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Catherine W. Fennell

To accommodate and enable biodiversity in cities we need to move beyond traditional conservation approaches for two reasons. First, whereas ecosystem protection at global and regional scales depends on large and contiguous habitat patches, habitats in the city are small and fragmented. Second, conservation efforts tend to model static snapshots of species distributions, ignoring the myriad of ecological and evolutionary processes that promote persistence, especially when threats are dynamic.2 Thus, rather than objectifying nature and focusing on pattern, we need to mimic, model and replicate nature’s processes and functions in the design of urban spaces. Managing for process can be achieved in a number of compatible ways. When it comes to designing in small spaces, spatial surrogates and catalysts offer an efficient design solution; it’s what nature does.

surface. Constructed termite mounds become seeding grounds for plants and, because they are distributed in a regular pattern, a spacing template for tree-dwelling animal communities.9 In a similar way, scattered trees (keystone structures) enhance landscape heterogeneity between patch edges and the matrix and serve as regeneration nuclei that allow ecosystems to recover following disturbance.10 Using trees in uniform gridded patterns is one way to enhance restoration practices and pollination in agricultural systems.

Disturbance Natural disturbances alter vegetation structure and landscape heterogeneity. For example, gradual and non-catastrophic wind causes forest gaps that maintain multi-aged stands of western hemlock and Sitka spruce, which, if mimicked as scientists suggest, could maintain and generate diversity in planted forests.11 Mesic grasslands, however, require appropriate grazing and/or fire regimes. Urban densities make this more difficult in practice, although mowing may be as effective in removing the requisite biomass. As a management tool, experts agree that mirroring historic disturbances– whether fire, grazing or logging–is a good place to start.

CITIES FOR PEOPLE: ENGINEERING RESILIENCE Enabling diversity–the evolutionary consequence of nature’s catalysts–not only adds complexity to our landscape, both physically and temporally, but is critical for our survival. Complex landscapes activate our senses, to the extent that things and phenomena which may seem everyday and ordinary become legible. We acquire volumes of information and construct mental maps that not only ground us in place but enable us to learn–haptically, tactilely and kinaesthetically.12 “Subtract the subtle physical sensations, and you lose a wealth of problem-solving and lifesaving details.”13 This is what homogenized landscapes do–they “obliterate disorder, decay (and) death by simplifying nature. In a gargantuan cleanup that erases layers of history they leave no trace of mystery.”14 Robbed of complexity, we blame them for our sense of disconnect. In contrast to the negation of decay and disorder in the simplified and tidy, there’s a connection with the mess that is real life. Textured rather than aesthetically ordered, messy rather

than controlled, cities that evolve in haphazard and indeterminate ways may seem chaotic, labyrinthine and unruly in their social and economic networks, but they work.

CONCLUSION To design in hotspots and tight spots, we might start to think more about an aesthetic that embraces ecological as well as experiential richness. Replacing the compressed and homogenized landscape with an immersive quality is our design challenge. Instinctively, we look to landscapes that offer infinite variation and surfaces rich in sensory cues to both connect and move us. Matrices, margins and messiness are nature’s resilience factors. Operating with the same dynamism, they set in motion a chain of events from which living landscapes and biophilic cities emerge. In a world that exists in constant disequilibrium, evolving in endless cycles, order comes not from form or pattern alone, but from incremental forces. Designing for diversity and complexity serves a multiplicity of ecosystem and cultural needs, bringing nature and culture into meaningful alignment. This is how we manage for process and engineer resilience.

1 – TEXTURAL DISCONTINUITY Landscapes vary in their vertical structural complexity and horizontal spatial grain. A matrix of complex and simple landscape textures, for example, supports birds of different sizes and is significant in generating biodiversity pattern. 2 – ECOSYSTEM ENGINEERS Organisms, like the mound-building termite, modulate the physical environment to construct niches that, in turn, support other species. They are important drivers of ecological and evolutionary dynamics. 3 – TOPOGRAPHIC HETEROGENEITY Surface variations, as in hilly landscapes, explain species richness and population stability, for example, in butterflies. 4 – ECOTONES As transitional zones between adjacent ecological systems, ecotones exhibit high biodiversity and rapid rates of change - for example, the sinuous interfaces between different soil types in the Cape Floristic Kingdom. 5 – MICROTOPOGRAPHY Increased surface rockiness is associated with high species richness, for example, in the mesic grasslands of South Africa. 6 – DISTURBANCE Natural disturbances, such as fire, alter the vegetation structure of grasslands and maintain genetic diversity.

REFERENCES 1. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Cities and Biodiversity Outlook (Montreal 2012). 2. M. Rouget, R.M. Cowling, R.L. Pressey and D.M. Richardson. “Identifying Spatial Components of Ecological and Evolutionary Processes For Regional Conservation Planning in the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa,” Diversity and Distributions 9 (2003): 191-210. 3. R.L. Pressley, M. Cabeza, M.E. Watts, R.M. Cowling and K.A. Wilson. “Conservation Planning in a Changing World,” Trends in Ecology and Evolution 22/11(2007): 583-592. —M. Peach and J.B. Zedler. “How Tussocks Structure Sedge Meadow Vegetation,” Wetlands 26/2 (2006): 322-335. —C. Maser, Forest Primeval. (Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, 1989). —B. van Rensburg, N. Levin and S. Kark. “Spatial Congruence Between Ecotones and Range-Restricted Species: Implications For Conservation Biogeography at the Sub-Continental Scale,” Diversity and Distributions 15 (2009): 379-389. 4. D.B. Hoare, Patterns and Determinants of Species Richness in Mesic Temperate Grasslands of South Africa (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, 2009). 5. M.A. Goddard, A.J. Dougill and T.G. Benton. “Scaling Up From Gardens: Biodiversity Conservation in Urban Environments,” Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25/2 (2009): 90-98.


6. J. Fischer, D.B. Lindenmayer and R. Montague-Drake. “The Role of Landscape Texture in Conservation Biogeography: A Case Study on Birds in South-Eastern Australia,” Diversity and Distributions 14(2008): 38-46. 7. K. Hufkens, P. Scheunders and R. Ceulemans. “Ecotones in Vegetation Ecology: Methodologies and Definitions Revisited,” Ecological Research 24 (2009): 977-986. 8. T.B. Smith, R.K. Wayne, D.J. Girman and M.W. Bruford. “A Role For Ecotones in Generating Rainforest Biodiversity,” Science 276 (1997): 1855-1857. 9. N.J. Boogert, D.M. Paterson and K.N. Laland. “The Implications of Niche Construction and Ecosystem Engineering For Conservation Biology,” BioScience 56/7 (2006): 570-578. —R.M Pringle, D.F. Doak, A.K. Brody, R. Jocqué and T.M. Palmer. “Spatial Pattern Enhances Ecosystem Functioning in An African Savanna,” PLoS Biol 8/5 (2010): e1000377. 10. A.D. Manning, J. Fischer and D.B. Lindenmayer. “Scattered Trees Are Keystone Structures – Implications For Conservation,” Biological Conservation 132 (2006): 311-321. 11. C.P. Quine, J.W. Humphrey and R. Ferris. “Should The Wind Disturbance Patterns Observed in Natural Forests Be Mimicked in Planted Forests in the British Uplands?” Forestry 72/4 (1999): 337-358. 12. T. Beatley, Biophilic Cities: Integrating Nature into Urban Design and Planning. (Island Press: Washington, 2010). 13. D. Ackerman. “Are We Living in Sensory Overload Or Sensory Poverty?” Opinionator (The New York Times, 2012), accessed 06/10/12. 14. C. Howett. “Systems, Signs and Sensibilities: Sources For a New Landscape Aesthetic,” Landscape Journal 6/1 (1987): 1-12.



Catherine W. Fennell - Catherine is a strategy and design consultant with a PhD in Botany (University of Natal) and Masters in Landscape Architecture (University of Cape Town). Practicing from her studio - VERGE - she applies scientific research and critical design thinking in growing environmental performance in one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Having previously held a faculty position at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, with an ethnobotanical research focus, she continues to explore the interface between plants and people for sustainable placemaking.


Strata Study 1, Nona Daviata

Sarah Cowles and Erin Lynn Forrest

The coarse course

These drawings interpret the material and aesthetic conditions of the Krivila River gorge in Chiatura, Republic of Georgia. Chiatura was chosen as an investigative site due to the records of change and devastation in the landscape since mining began in 1879. The place and the problems are gritty— socially, aesthetically and ecologically.

production. The first phase of the workshop focused on how land use and social spaces are stratified in relation to elevation. Participants created visual records of their interactions and observations along the vertical spans between the area’s mountaintop mines, city center, villages and river valley.

Chiatura is the site and subject of a series of workshops introducing techniques of landscape research, analysis, interpretation and design through intensive site exploration and artistic

The second phase, presented here, poetically captures the grit of the site—the physical, material and textural elements that define the aesthetic character of Chiatura. A third phase will synthesize

Jruchrula Fabrika, Sarah Cowles

Workshop participants created drawings interpreting their observations at these sites. Soils, mining surplus, vegetation, architectural and industrial artifacts and water are represented in this visual vocabulary. The drawings serve as reference points that will guide aesthetic and material decision making for continued projects in Chiatura.

Sarah Cowles is a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in the Republic of Georgia and Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at Ohio State University. Erin Lynn Forrest is an interdisciplinary artist from New Mexico, currently collaborating with Ruderal Academy in the Republic of Georgia.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Sarah Cowles and Erin Forrest

In this workshop’s two-day exercise, participants explored Chiatura’s physical and metaphoric grit through its landscapes. On the first day, three sites were investigated: a concrete plant in Darkveti near the start of the gorge, an abandoned ore washing plant and the Itkhvisi-Zodi ropeway. Resilient vines, grasses and ruderal species grew over skeletons of machines and broken walls. A fishing net made from a lace curtain hung near the river. In a grove of trees, men pulled rebar from concrete blocks

with their bare hands to sell for scrap. The rusted ropeway car crossed safely over the gorge.

Strata Study 2, Nona Daviata

Manganese is mined at upper elevations of the Kvirila gorge. The ore is processed and then transferred to railcars at the river bottom. One system of ropeways (cable cars) conveys ore from the mines to processing facilities on each side of the river. A second set transports people from the river bottom to the upper levels of the gorge and from village to village. Black sediments from mining operations foul the Krivila River from Chiatura southward. Half of the operations are in ruin—a linear landscape of black drifts of ore and piles of crumbling concrete. The other half continue to employ nearly 3,000 citizens of Chiatura. In the months between our visits, these workers were on strike for a livable wage, safer working conditions and proper protective clothing, including gloves and boots without holes.


the two previous courses into a design proposal for a remediation program within the city and the Kvirila gorge.


Peeling back the layers, stories, sanctuaries and sweat

65 WHY?

The term “other” describes who we are not, solidifying our status as normal. This fall we designed and built a garden in a large mental hospital for 400 patients on the island of Rab in Croatia. It was a nuanced, strange, painful, redeeming and provoking experience. The wards once housed Italian officers who, in 1942, supervised the torture and killing of inmates at the Rab concentration camp. The complex, laid out by the rules of the golden triangle, exudes order and normalcy. Today, it houses those struggling with addiction, PTSD, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and depression. The juxtaposition of bald, emaciated hopeless inmates in the historic photos, and the bald, drawn and vacuous faces of the current patients dressed in striped pajamas was surreal. Had we been forced to commit atrocities of war or survived years of abuse, it might be us in these pajamas, walking aimlessly under heavy medication looking for Oz.

Why enter this world and plant a garden? Simply put, the greater the need, the greater the benefits. The garden comforts the invisible–those sent away, their existence denied. The grit required to build it wears away deep scars and stories emerge revealing past pains, dislocation and endurance. These stories justify the sweat, exhaustion and long hours of building the garden. J was a young teenager when his hometown Vukovar, was destroyed by brandy swigging “soldiers.” The resistance of the inhabitants angered them, and, after thirty-five days of bombing and door-to-door street fighting, the citizens surrendered, yet many more were then killed or disappeared. This was the first, but not the last genocide of the 1990s Balkan War. After fleeing Vukovar for Bosnia, J, with a Croatian mother and Serbian father, had to choose whom to fight for. He reflected, “I was only seventeen, a kid. What did I know? only to survive.” J was ordered to “cleanse” small rural villages in Bosnia. He looked at me, his beautiful and ghostly eyes wide open, revealing his horror and pain. “We were told to do things. They ordered us. But children aren’t supposed to die. Soldiers, ok, but not the children.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Daniel Winterbottom

Is this grit or foolhardiness I asked, staring at my reflection in the dark sunglasses perched atop a bandana-covered face. The young NGO employee seated next to me started shaking uncontrollably. I now recall the young member of Mara 13, the deadliest gang in Guatemala City, seemed hardened and comfortable as he pointed the gun against the side of my soft head. A bank teller had notified the gang member that we left with a large cash payroll. We were then forced off the highway between Antigua and Guatemala City and the police had blocked the roadway so no cars could pass our truck. Is this normal? On that day, in this place it was, but it stands as a unique—but not isolated—brush with danger in fifteen years of international design/build in environments damaged by violence, poverty, trauma and abandonment where I bring my students to work. Are these new measures of normal?

I didn’t know. I was ordered and it happened. They were kids, just kids.” J was one of the first patients to arrive on the construction site, and he faithfully showed up every day rain or shine. When we were packing up to leave, he came to thank me.” You don’t really know what you have done for me. This project kept me going, kept me sane. In this environment there is little to feel good about. But we created something that matters and will be here for others. A place they can go, to be in nature. It’s beautiful and you were so warm to us. It’s really great, I won’t forget it.” WHAT Nature, the foundation of landscape architecture, conveys healing properties. Will exposure to nature cure cancer, HIV or schizophrenia? No. Can it improve the health and well-being of people suffering from illness, trauma or stress? Yes. There is an expanding body of scientific research documenting the positive benefits of nature that improve human health. These include stress reduction, lessening of sweat release (an indicator of anxiety), heart rate, blood pressure and pain medication. There is a growing interest in using the environment to improve human health, particularly within the public health sector. Gardens are now incorporated into hospital facilities to be used for physical and cognitive rehabilitation, horticultural therapy, physical, occupational and vocational therapies and as sanctuaries for those with traumatic illnesses caused by burns, PTSD and brain injuries. Through our projects, we attempt to bring some of these benefits to populations in great need and with few resources.

Our projects are located where values, realities and dreams collide. They scrape and abrade the social with the ecological, the political with the social, the ecological with the political. The textures are uneven; the sharper and stronger abrades the other; the power shifts and the balance is skewed. We try to mediate these contested terrains, not as conceptual ideas, but as ground level and often ground-breaking attempts to re-establish dignity, hope and self-esteem and reliance. In Bugojno, Bosnia, we built a play garden for disabled children who were being shunned by the villagers, kept at home and forbidden to attend school or have social interactions with other children. Our location at the front of the building abuts a primary lane used by many of the inhabitants. The children are intentionally visible, and neighborhood children can’t resist the lure of entering the garden to play. Mystique, fear and bigotry slowly diminish. Instead of grit scarifying, this process resembles a polishing; the cloud of ignorance was removed, the beauty and strength of these children revealed. The parents now feel cared for and acknowledged, and their modest needs addressed. In Mexico, the rainwater was captured, enabling the women of Santa Ursula to wash their clothes in the new lavandaria—instead of in the frigid stream, polluting a unique ecological corridor and suffering permanent nerve damage while standing for hours in the water. It takes grit to convince the Mayor— who resents these poor, displaced, indigenous immigrants settling near his town—that they have rights. Our program, the Department of Landscape Architecture Design/Build Program at the University of Washington, did not start with a grand plan. Rather it was an odd journey of circumstance, awareness and discovery. In hindsight, grit enabled this program to emerge and endure. The nature of the work is fraught with uncertainties; a model with which academia and students often struggle. The students learn that flexibility, adaptability, creativity and resilience are necessary skills. The result is to cross the political, social and conceptual boundaries that keep us apart. The goals of our program are twofold. First, we expose students to new communities and collaborate on developing a shared vision. In this process, stories and common themes emerge, binding us together, eroding the obstacles of

HOW GRIT = Gumption, Resolve, Innovation, Tenacity We ensure that the projects are inclusive and interactive by inserting feedback loops at appropriate points in the process that prompt continual dialogue throughout the design and building. We intentionally cross borders, borders defined by culture and a continually shifting terrain. More and more participants have multiple ethnicities or multi global addresses. Culture is formed by place, experience, race or ethnicity. Our focus is on trauma and its redefinition of experience, perception and coping. Many of the mental hospital patients we collaborated with suffered from addiction and/or PTSD. One aspect of treatment was to establish coping mechanisms so the patients can live with their addiction. Memories cannot be erased for PTSD patients, but coping mechanisms enable the survivor to increase their functionality and active participation in life experiences. Understanding these cultural traits is essential when developing responsive designs, and therefore, effective communication methods must be developed. The participants are the experts, we the form givers. We start with the roughest sand paper and graduate to the finest as we refine our process and develop a level of intimacy that enables a free flow of expression. At times the optimal methods elude us, time outruns us and/ or the doors don’t widen; exchange is truncated.


We use a variety of methods, often in tandem, including narratives, photo imaging, drawings, focus groups, mime, letters and notes depending on language or cognitive constraints. Trauma is one cultural informer, but not the only one. We avoid the museumizing of place when inserting our projects, which are often hybrids, a mix of innovation and tradition. Along the Dalmatian coast, dry stone construction is revered as a sacred connection to and expression of this land that has endured for centuries. The wall forms are less important than the materiality, the regional expression and hand-built quality. We incorporated stonewalls into our projects and worked with a local group of volunteers who held a workshop to explain and demonstrate the techniques. While working side-by-side, stories were exchanged, bridges made and friendships developed. These opportunities exist in every project. We can invite a villager hanging out near the site, peering in to participate, or we can collaborate with parents of disabled children in Bosnia who want to create a better life for their children. Each is a window that offers a powerful and unique experience. Up to twenty patients worked with us each day at the Rab Psychiatric Hospital and in their written reflections the majority expressed how therapeutic the actual work was for them. This is a unique property of the design/build model—the work becomes a place of exchange including social, cultural and personal, all of which, for a patient, can be therapeutic and elicit feelings of self-esteem and confidence in an environment where this is often eroded. ”Some say that working makes you free! My experience of working and socializing with the students, Daniel and Carlos, not only made me free, but was therapy for me. I slept better, my mind was concentrated on work so I thought of my problems less. Meeting and working with people from a different culture is a gift in itself. ” — Jasmine Daniel Winterbottom, RLA, FASLA, is a practicing landscape architect and Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington. Daniel holds a BFA from Tufts University and a MLA from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. His research interests include the landscape as a cultural expression, ecological urban design and the role of restorative/healing landscapes in the built environment.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Daniel Winterbottom

ignorance. Second, we create tangible amenities, gardens to improve and enhance the social and environmental health of the community. These gardens offer places of ongoing interchange and discovery. They alleviate the stressors and obstacles to well-being and happiness. Partnerships are forged with marginalized communities with deep needs and few resources, where some problems can be addressed through environmental design. A few examples include a garden for a motherchild program in Bedford Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison for women, a series of gardens for the families and children who live near and work in the largest garbage dumps in Guatemala City, gardens for children with disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and those residing in a foster home with pediatric AIDS/HIV, and a series of gardens for US veterans and for people undergoing cancer treatments.

Collective Strength and Illegal Education in Iran

Despite elaborate precautionary measures, household invasions are routine. Property is frequently confiscated—laptops, notebooks, dvd sets—anything that may be a tool for teaching and learning is considered illegal for Baha’i possession. Professors and students

In all aspects of its administration, the university is held aloft by the Baha’i community and its supporters. Then as now, BIHE faculty and student names are kept secret. For discretion, many courses are conducted via correspondence. Phone calls are clipped and semi-coded. Savvy use of international faculty and servers enables some online classes, but constant technological vigilance is required to remain undetected by government monitors. The “campus” is a network of homes belonging to Baha’i and sympathetic non-Baha’i residents. The whole family unit has adapted to uphold BIHE’s functionality: parents cook meals and give rides back and forth across the city, young children keep quiet while classes are in session and all have become accustomed to raids.

Fast forward to 1987. What began as an ad hoc response to the education ban formalized into an underground university, the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE). In a landscape of vigilant governmental surveillance, BIHE has remained defiant, though peacefully, operational, holding clandestine classes in Tehran basements and living rooms for nearly thirty years, and graduating 50,000 students in that time.

Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the government of Iran systematically restricted educational access to religious minority groups. For students in Iran’s Baha’i community—the country’s largest religious minority—it became illegal to pursue higher education.

“Everyone has the right to education.” -United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Niknaz Aftahi with Kevin Lenhart


GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Niknaz Aftahi with Kevin Lenhart

Yet, throughout her accounts, there is optimism in Aftahi’s tone and a smile across her face. “I think the tipping point is near. While more

Architecture education at the BIHE poses a particular risk, requiring more direct student-teacher interaction to evaluate work. To suppress suspicion, Aftahi and her fellow architecture students followed strict schedules, leaving buildings one-by-one and borrowing keys from architects to study the books in their offices by night. “The hardest part,” Aftahi said, “was never knowing if our classrooms would be there the next day.”

Meet Niknaz Aftahi, BIHE’s first architecture graduate and UC Berkeley’s first Master of Architecture student with a BIHE degree. She credits the opportunities afforded her to the cooperative efforts of the past thirty years. Many individuals sacrificed their lives and careers for the sake of BIHE’s future generations. The professor who signed Aftahi’s diploma is now in jail, where she joins several other instructors sentenced to four- and five-year prison terms. Another professor endured months of solitary confinement. Aftahi herself has been denied access trying to enter a library and undergone multiple interrogations.

It is only in the past few years that international universities have begun to recognize BIHE diplomas. Traditional admission practices default to national accreditation standards, but given the human rights violations in Iran’s higher education system, such standards are clearly unreliable for evaluating the merits of Baha’i students. As global awareness of the education ban in Iran increases, universities around the world are making exceptions. Since 2010, 70 international universities have admitted BIHE students into graduate degree programs. 2

are regularly detained and imprisoned, so much so that prisons have become de facto cultural hubs by virtue of the number of well-educated Baha’i behind bars.


Universities worldwide accepting BIHE diplomas

Year of BIHE’s creation Applicants per year Students admitted per year Total BIHE graduates

Year of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Baha’i leaders killed Baha’i imprisoned for practicing their faith Additional Baha’i facing possible imprisonment Baha’i public employees expelled from jobs Percent of Iran’s current population under 30 years of age

Years ago: Baha’i faith founded Baha’i worldwide today Baha’i in Iran


Baha’i teachings emphasize the unity of mankind and consider education to be spiritually critical. Attendance to the BIHE—whose diploma quixotically guarantees that students will not find employment in Iran—is a matter of principle and hope. Aftahi’s conviction of

professors are in prison today than when I was there, the Iranian public does not support the oppression.” Younger Iranian generations in particular are against Baha’i oppression, and with 60% of Iran’s population under the age of 30, Aftahi’s intuition may prove true. International pressure from the United Nations, Amnesty International, various countries and NGOs has started to make headway.3 Today, Iran must meet quotas for Baha’i undergraduates at public universities; though this system is fraught with tokenism and data manipulation, it’s a start.

1987 1,000 450 50,000 70

1979 200 over 200 Hundreds 10,000 over 60

170 7,000,000 nearly 400,000





Top page: 1. BIHE professors reviewing student work 2. Class discussion 3. Students working in the classroom 4, 5. BIHE house after raid by government officials 6. Field trip class photo Bottom page: Study and construction of body-conscious furniture



GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Niknaz Aftahi with Kevin Lenhart


Kevin Lenhart is a student in UC Berkeley’s Master of Landscape Architecture program. He holds a B.A. in English from UCLA and has worked for over a decade as a professional musician.

Niknaz Aftahi holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Architecture from BIHE. She is currently earning her Masters of Architecture at UC Berkeley.

4. International Programs, United States Census Bureau (2013).

3. Ibid.

2. International Website of the Baha’I Faith (2013).

1. Statistics sourced from: —Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (2013),, accessed 3/23/2012. —International Programs, United States Census Bureau (2013),, accessed 3/21/13. —International Website of the Baha’I Faith (2013), boom.html, accessed 3/23/2012. —UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (2013),, accessed 3/21/2013. —U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Report (2012),, accessed 3/21/2013. —U.S. Senator Mark Kirk. “Kirk, Durbin Introduce Resolution Condemning Iran’s Continued Persecution of Baha’i Minority, Mark 5 Year Anniversary of Baha’i Leader Imprisonment.“ (2013), accessed 3/21/2012.


When asked if her experiences with oppression have informed her design approach, Aftahi paused, then smiled. “My Baha’i community has shown me that no obstacle is insurmountable and there are always multiple solutions to a problem. Through cooperation and creative problem-solving, Baha’is are doing the impossible. Our community is everything. The same goes for design. I think this is why I love the team design process. So many skill-sets and opinions can be overwhelming. But when locked on a common goal, design teams are capable of resolving the stickiest of constraints and challenges.”

this point is clear in her demeanor—she has that rare ability to rattle off terrible truths with a hopeful twinkle in her eye—as do her colleagues’ in their resolute acceptance of imprisonment. Students and faculty at the BIHE remain in Iran to confront injustice through peaceful defiance, prioritizing the Baha’i community above their immediate self-interest. After earning her masters degree, Aftahi herself plans to return to teach architecture.

Spoonbill Loves Glocal Gritty’s Landscape Magic Glocal Gritty was a student in UC Berkeley’s LA 205 design studio. She learned only eight secret rules for radical design but was ever after dazzlingly successful at fighting crime and/or evil with these powers of the landscape. She learned that landscape activists are powerful only after their eyes are dotted white with eight elements: resourceful courage, daring difficulty, animating force, geologic fortitude, indomitable optimism, gizzard science, principled nimble and embracing oppositions. Then she makes herself small as a frog’s egg or large as a watershed. She hides in wetland waters and emerges fierce as a dragon to save the Black-faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor) from extinction. In this article Glocal Gritty will share the eight secrets.

Resourceful Courage!


In 1993, two consortiums with Taiwanese government support announced plans for the Bin-nan Petrochemical Industrial Complex, a project that would require filling Chiku Lagoon. Yet something unforeseen happened. A lone congressman from Tainan County, Su Huan-Chi, shaved his head and led a county-wide march in opposition. In 1996 he contacted Professor John K.C. Liu at National Taiwan University (NTU). John invited Randy to the site of the controversy. After meeting with the fishermen worried about filling the lagoon, Randy and John agreed to run simultaneous studio projects on Bin-nan. John’s students generated design-build ecotourism projects; Randy’s evaluated the environmental issues associated with locating heavy industry in the lagoon. LA 205 students uncovered serious anticipated impacts on the local way of life. Fisheries that employed 16,000 people and generated annual revenues of $122 million US would be lost. The fishermen said they needed clean air and water, not promises of new jobs: “We prefer this life; it is not about prosperity.”

Randy Hester and Marcia McNally


The spoonbills also depended on the lagoon. Destroying it would create an extinction vortex for the 550 birds that remained. Our NTU-Berkeley teams developed an alternative strategy based on symbiotic resources we discovered—fishing, ecotourism and high technology. At first, powerful Bin-nan supporters ridiculed and threatened our supporters. Su’s courage bolstered our own. Our plan emboldened him and a few ornithologists. One remarked how much he benefitted from working with us, “If you waited for ornithologists to make a habitat plan, all endangered species would be extinct.” Our plan was ultimately adopted. It sustained a diverse economy and protected natural resources; expanding value-added aquaculture products, health foods and health-related industries. The wildly popular plan caused entrepreneurs to open local tour companies and restaurants. Bin-nan was never built. Today the National Scenic Area (NSA) we proposed attracts four million tourists annually.

Confronting overwhelming power usually triggers panic, hysteria and flight, prompting the designer to retreat to predictable safety. Replicating some known order never works against monstrous powers like Bin-nan; designers must be most daring when the impulse is otherwise. Shrinking violets are ill-suited if Venus flytraps are needed. When confronted with comparable situations in his three-year-old world, our grandson screams out, “This is no time for hysteria!” That is the first step to daring difficulty and taking advantage of uncertainty to create previouslyunimagined futures. Time and time again the spoonbills have called on Berkeley students to do this, usually when everyone else is debilitated in panic. By 2003 it became clear that the spoonbill’s winter habitat near Chiku Lagoon was inadequate for a sustainable population. Seven percent of the population died when overcrowding led to a botulism outbreak. While the best scientists in the world were franticly trying to sanitize the existing habitat, Shay Boutillier Navarro (MLA 2004) dared difficulty. Informed by conservation biology she developed an audacious proposal to create stepping stone habitats so the spoonbills could expand their range all along the southwest

coast of Taiwan, forming small meta-populations resistant to catastrophic events. LA 205 students discovered that the most suitable stepping stone wetlands were publically-owned, abandoned salt pans within the NSA. Our outrageous proposal for stepping stones challenged conventional thinking at a time of crisis forcing the NSA administrators to negotiate with SAVE International (Spoonbill Action Voluntary Echo). The expanded habitat saved the spoonbill from extinction and enriched the diversity of wildbirds attracted to the area, stimulating new economies and revitalizing cities throughout the region. Each stepping stone has become the nexus between spoonbills, tourism and high technology industries. The spoonbill population has expanded to 2,693. Daring difficulty is a skill to learn. Be curious. Develop a storehouse of concepts from multiple fields related to land decision making. Like a bittern facing panic, learn to become perfectly still, breathe deeply and think clearly and decisively. Learn from Eleanor Roosevelt how to practice facing hysteria with adventuresome design, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” The spoonbills, by the way, have colonized every stepping stone Shay proposed and designed.

Animating Force!


How does the designer as a cultural outsider capture the gestalt of a community’s relationship to landscape? Saving a species from extinction is dependent on local community design that can never be rushed. Get to know the people and the place intimately. Mapping daily life patterns and sacred places, participating in local rituals, eating and worshipping together help to cross cultural divides. Study every map you can find. Even under intense political pressure, sketch, paint and read the local literature. Seek like-minded local partners. Know the right questions to ask. Search for people with unusual native wisdom and attachment to place. Communicate with them by drawing in any and every language.

As an insider-outsider, find local resources that others have overlooked and show them how to reuse them. Many of the Taiwanese designs are simple, freehand sketches from which local people construct bird watching stations, illegal restaurants and environmental centers, family-owned bed-andbreakfasts and boat launches for fishermen to take visitors out to do real work. Our designs include: load-bearing walls of oyster shells to create a store, a school with windmill power, homemade telescopes for bird research, walkways using broken tiles from salt drying ponds and a salt mountain that looks like a ski slope carved from a derelict salt factory. These are inventive, delightful designs grown from the spirit of this place.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Randy Hester and Marcia McNally



daring difficulty!



Slow fortitude is essential for design activism. Learn not just to risk failure but also to endure the pain of continuing defeats Understanding the perils of the long haul, we formed SAVE International which gave us stability over what seems like geologic time. The battle to grow a sustainable spoonbill population has never been easy, seldom immediately successful. We take our licks, particularly in Korea. Yoonju Chang Kametani (MLA 2004) initiated SAVE’s effort to support local activists trying to protect habitat on Ganghwa Island, the most important known breeding area for spoonbills. No one in government listened. Our work went for naught for ten years. Asked to give testimony regarding Korea’s 4-Rivers project in 2009, we called into question the underlying engineering assumptions and the disregard of public due process procedures, testimony that fell on deaf ears. Billed as river “restoration,” 4-Rivers was a country-wide dam building project that used greenwashing public relations to convince the United Nations Environmental Program, among others, that 4-Rivers was exemplary. Leaders of high profile environmental organizations were arrested. A Buddhist monk burned himself to death in protest. Ultimately-unsuccessful lawsuits were filed in November 2009 by university professors, 10,000 citizens, and 420 citizen groups. In 2010, Science published a damning article on 4-Rivers. Despite our efforts, Korea’s rivers have been engineered to death.

Fortunately, two members of SAVE kept the debate of what is green in Korea at the fore: Derek Schubert (MLA 2002) and Yekang Ko (PhD EP 2012) called out the distinction between “green development” and “habitat preservation” in academic and trade journals. Their persistence has yielded the single major success in Korea where the government planned gated sea walls to produce tidal power with questionable technology and caused irrefutable damage to the endangered mudflats around Ganghwa and Incheon Bay. Critical to a number of species including the spoonbill, the tidal dams would destroy a natural heritage site and the Jangbongdo Wetland Preservation Area as well as violate Korea’s Ramsar agreements. LA 205 students did case studies on the costs and benefits of tidal plants elsewhere in the world, compressing their findings into “killer” diagrams which SAVE took to Korean NGOs who were waging the anti-tidalpower campaign. Derek and Yekang estimated the costs by conducting an exhaustive literature review on mudflats and carbon reduction. When the project’s backers, in a sleight of hand, applied for certification as a Clean Development Mechanism under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Derek, Yekang and the environmental coalition submitted multiple rebuttals. At the end of 2012, plans for the Incheon plant were rejected and the Ganghwa project proposal withdrawn. Only persistence kept the Korea campaign alive to see this victory.


Indomitable optimism!

This is the case of SAVE which was formed in August 1997. Our Taiwan colleagues came to Berkeley to ask us to raise funds ($100,000 US!) and to garner international support so they could continue the anti-Bin-nan fight. We knew little about fund raising and less about international boycotts, but we thought we could do it. The LA 205 studio group gave a slide show to recruit more students. David Brower a promnent environmentalist, agreed to serve as co-chair of SAVE and sponsor our application to become an Earth Island Institute project. Randy gave the first of ten ED1 “Last Great Spoonbill Migration” assignments to build life-size birds to express the future of Taiwan’s landscape, predicting the fate of the spoonbill. On a warm day in October over 100 constructed birds were displayed on the lawn close to Wurster Hall, home of Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. Thousands of people stopped to look at the birds, many of whom came

to the makeshift information table SAVE erected to pass out literature and raise money. SAVE was officially debuted. Jeff Hou (PhD EP 2001) and Sheng-lin Chang (PhD EP 2000) made fund raising presentations to Bay Area-based Taiwanese audiences. Others met with Lori Pottinger (MLA 1989) at International Rivers who coached us on a campaign to get endorsements from environmental, human rights and green industry groups worldwide to stop Bin-nan. In less than a month we received 108 endorsements from groups located in Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Africa, Europe, South and Central America, Canada and the United States, appealing to organizations as diverse as Rainforest Action Network, Rocky Mountain Institute, Audubon Society, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Taiwan Women, Urban Ecology and the Formosan Association for Human Rights. Our work did not go unrecognized. Within a few years we were awarded UC Berkeley’s University and Community Chancellor’s Award and the Goodthings’ Little Engine That Could Award. In its recognition, the magazine said, “SAVE confirms late anthropologist Margaret Mead’s prescient words: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.’”

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Randy Hester and Marcia McNally


UC Berkeley’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning boasts an impressive number of graduates who create and lead advocacy organizations with electrifying effect on discourse and politics. They often begin with nothing more than an optimistic vision.



There are hundreds of scientific articles on spoonbill ecology. Most never influence site design because the findings are seldom expressed spatially. We have translated research findings into spatial geometries that can be applied to design. This is like processing raw data in a bird’s gizzard. The diagrams we have made of scare distance (400-500 meters in the best wintering grounds, 200 meters or less when feeding in preyrich waters during migration, and 100 meters when gathering food for newborn chicks), water depths for foraging (4-20 centimeters), maximum distance to foraging areas from roost (no more than 5-9 km

ideally) and area of fishponds needed for foraging (200 ha/100 birds although this varies seasonally) are used throughout the flyway to design habitat and ecotourism facilities. These geometries are the basis for the policy that set aside the stepping stones in Taiwan, the design of a wildbird park in Japan, and the hypothesis for an experiment on Chongming Island, China. At every scale, from region to site, we are convinced, “If we draw it, they will use it.” This is a skill every designer cherishes.



SAVE is adept at recognizing political opportunities and walking through the doors that result. Witness a recent moment in Fukuoka. The Landscape Architecture and Community Design laboratory at Fukuoka University, directed by Dr. Hisashi Shibata (a UC Berkeley post-doc 2009-2010) formed a partnership with the Fukuoka Wetland Forum and invited SAVE to join in preparing new designs for a wildbird park on an artificial island in Hakata Bay. During the winter of 2011 students in the Fukuoka laboratory and LA 205 developed plans. SAVE and three students (Molly Franson, Darryl Jones and Kelly Janes, all MLA 2012) evaluated the proposals and created three summary alternatives that were sent in advance to Fukuoka for translation. A SAVE delegation went in November to push the politics. On the first day, the SAVE delegation met with Port officials and a vice mayor who had been sent in the mayor’s stead as he was supposedly out of town on business. We later learned that he was in the building but ignoring us. Watanabe asserted that the City had already done a lot of habitat preservation when it built Island City, implying that it could have been worse. This was a poor start to the trip.

Yet during a site visit a door opened. We saw that the area intended for the wildbird park was under construction—a big grading and drainage project. This was the perfect moment to introduce a counter plan. That night Randy drew an alternative grading and planting plan for a 16 hectare area where construction was underway. The logic: move the earth only once to accomplish the soil stabilization goals of the Port, achieve habitat for the birds and save the city a lot of money! Within 24 hours Yoonju’s refined grading plan and Fiona Cundy’s (MLA 2011) concept diagram of umbrella species were put forward at a public workshop which was attended by another vice mayor, Motoki Yamazaki, a highly unusual appearance for someone in his position. A sympathetic reporter took charge of Randy at the meeting making sure he talked with strategically influential players. She ran a piece twice on the TV news the next morning advocating for SAVE’s suggested area of 16 hectares for the wildbird park. These positive political moments caused a new round of wildbird park planning workshops currently underway in Fukuoka.




Everyone is debilitated by the oppositions; everyone that is but Glocal Gritty. She puffs dragon breaths and throws herself into the mutually exclusive fray. She unleashes cautious science and impulsive action as a single lightning bolt, creating continuous fulgurite beaches where the spoonbill dwells. She double-handedly bewilders contentious grassroots design which long have belittled the macro flyway, recasting the little and big in mutually supporting roles of contrariness. Then she turns her eight dotted eyes to city form where her colleagues dutifully follow the standard practice of pampering nature with token and useless buffers from urbanity. Staring directly into the listless eyes of the corporate fiduciaries, she shouts, “NO!” and smashes nature and city together in a juxtaposition that creates benefits to both. She does this with the confidence that only gizzard science and animating force provide. Well, the city isn’t exactly smashed, but the fierce proximity of opponents side-by-side looks like overgrown modernism. This shocks the post-post-modern landscape architects, especially the nihilists. Now, the urban real estate that sits next to the preserve is more beloved and valuable; the habitat is better stewarded with a live-in constituency nearby. Eco-illiteracy is in decline. Thinking in oppositions requires a mindset that thrives on conflict as well as settlement, a nearly impossible task for most designers today. But if you pay attention, Glocal Gritty may be willing to train you. “So why do you have your eyes closed,” she asks, “Are you sleeping or are you fearful of the eight dots and their combative powers?” It was spring. Glocal Gritty disappeared. Where she stood was a mist-covered reflection, a glassy mass of frog eggs. Randy Hester and Marcia McNally are emerita Professors in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. Hester is considered the senior ‘social conscience’ of the profession and one of the founders of the practice of community participation in landscape architecture. McNally is an award-winning landscape planner whose teaching, professional practice, public service and research have centered on three issues: the form of the ecological city; actions the public sector, individuals and organized constituencies can take to achieve sustainable outcomes; and the tools that enable participants to make informed decisions. Their current office, Center for Ecological Democracy and The Neighborhood Laboratory, is located in Durham, NC.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Randy Hester and Marcia McNally

Conflict over complex habitat design is no different than any high stakes political impasse. Usually there is a negotiated compromise. Another approach is more satisfying: try to maximize the benefits of each opposition. The paradox of not only simultaneously embracing what seem to be irreconcilable differences but also achieving the primary goals of each creates our best radical design.

Suzanne Harris-Brandts

seeping boundaries

Unearthing potential from dirt, demolition debris and sewage in the West Bank

Seeping Boundaries explores the social, environmental and political potential of grit in a paradoxical environment of productive destruction; a place where newly constructed buildings are purposefully destroyed for nationalistic advancement and where areas ridden with demolition debris can become lucrative real estate sites of infrastructure. Within such an environment, sewage streams aid the local population’s agriculture and concrete rubble reasserts the territorial claims of an indigenous population living under military occupation. Seeping Boundaries explores the contested Palestinian West Bank, as well as architecture and landscape’s role within it.

GEOPOLITICAL ALCHEMY On any given day in the West Bank, those curious to see the territorial transformations of the IsraeliPalestinian conflict being played out in real-time can travel to one of the numerous expanding sites of Israeli settlement construction in Area C.1 Here, in a process of geopolitical alchemy, truckload after truckload of cement and steel are being brought from the Palestinian hillsides to their neighbouring Israeli settlements, poured into concrete frameworks and magically transformed into Israeli land annexation gold–emerging as the new defacto definitions of Israel’s ever-increasing national borderlines. Since the beginning of the Israeli military occupation in 1967, 124 settlements housing some 500,000 Israeli Jewish settlers have been constructed on occupied Palestinian land.2 Along the course of this process, architecture has been transformed into another means of war.

As these ever-expanding settlements rise upward and outward from the arid hills and desert sands of the West Bank, a second form of territorial transformation has emerged in their shadows: the reverse transformation of newly constructed Palestinian buildings back into their raw aggregate form via demolition. In the rural Palestinian towns and villages of Area C, houses and water infrastructure projects constructed on privatelyowned Palestinian land are being systematically targeted and bulldozed by the Israeli military.3 When considered collectively, these two processes of transformation exist as opposite sides of the same coin, linking urbanism to warfare in this conflicted region. Demolitions serve a pre-emptive role in ensuring that the West Bank’s most valuable real estate remains undeveloped and available to future Israeli settlement use. The expansion of Israeli settlements has therefore become

79 Regional map of the Middle East showing the location of Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and their surrounding countries.

This spatial fragmentation reaches even greater levels of complexity when new construction approaches the outer peripheries of these Palestinian A/B enclaves. Since the map locating Areas A, B, C on the landscape exists only at a scale of 1:20,000 (from when it was hand drawn by both parties at the Oslo peace negotiations), when zoomed in at 1:1 scale its lines cut through cities, villages, towns and even individual houses with an 18 foot zone of liminal ambiguity. Properties constructed at the fringes are therefore quite literally pushing the boundaries of de-facto control, moving the line of Palestinian jurisdiction outward and incrementally reclaiming portions of occupied territory in Area C.4 Many of these same properties, however, undergo Israeli demolition as a result of their location, negating their potential territorial transformations, unless they are rebuilt once again. In the face of this perpetual cycle of construction and destruction what might we as designers also Project rendering showing how wastewater is passed through a site of demolition debris, cleaning the water and preparing it to become a much needed source of plant irrigation.

Breakdown of the jurisdictional divisions resulting from the negotiations of the 1995 Oslo Interim Accords.

harness from the materiality of these sites to inform our own processes of geopolitical alchemy? How might the strategic usurpation of their mounds of aggregate, rubble and concrete unearth new systems of self-empowerment for the Palestinians, particularly in rural communities most vulnerable to land seizures and the ongoing hardships of the occupation?

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Suzanne Harris-Brandts

dependent upon the destruction of the Palestinian built environment of the same area (Area C). More specifically, Palestinian construction has been overwhelmingly confined to the already-dense enclaves of Areas A/B.

ascertained. Is it in the pouring of a foundation slab—or in the simple clearing of an area, in the construction of a stone retaining wall—or in the simple stacking of field stones? To date, the Israeli Civil Administration has provided no legal clarity and has instead issued demolition orders on those properties which it unilaterally deems a concern. Rather than attempting to force legal clarity within the occupation’s chaotic and imbalanced legal framework, the following design tactic bypasses this relentless build/destroy cycle by further conflating the definitions of construction and demolition in Area C. It does so by reconceiving of the usage for such sites in a manner which simultaneously, yet paradoxically, engages the existence of both conditions. To accomplish

Israeli demolitions in Area C frequently target unauthorized Palestinian water infrastructure projects for not receiving an Israeli building permit. Shown here, a rainwater reservoir in the village of Al Baqa’a is bulldozed, north of Hebron. (Image credit: ISM Palestine)

CONSTRUCTION VS. DESTRUCTION: WASTE AS RESOURCE Unleashing political power from within the materiality of demolition debris first relies upon a much broader consideration and contestation of the term construction itself as it is utilized within the framework of the occupation. With bureaucratic delays and the requirement of strict forms of proven land ownership, many Palestinians view construction approval as prohibitively expensive and biasedly pre-determined and therefore avoid attaining building permits altogether. Defining when such permits are actually required therefore becomes directly tied to the on-the-ground geopolitical developments. Problematically, this powerful semantic threshold is centered on a false assumption of what exactly construction is and entails the line between built and unbuilt is presumed overtly clear and the two conditions diametrically opposed with one another. Yet, in reality, such distinctions are never so easily

Comparison of the West Bank’s sewage-producing areas (built-up Palestinian and Israeli areas) relative to local rivers and streams, showing the vulnerability of these natural water bodies to contamination.


this, the design utilizes as its starting point for construction the very waste left behind after demolition. It then overlays the site with one of the West Bank’s other most problematic, politicized and undesirable raw substances: sewage.

SEWAGE MEETS DEBRIS: WASTE REMEDIATES WASTE In its intrinsically slippery and fluid nature, sewage is wreaking geopolitical havoc on the landscape of the West Bank. Dumped into streets, irrigation tunnels, storm sewers, valleys and landfills, its unruly and diverging streams travel both above ground and subterraneously, slinking its way into almost every inch of contested space. Along its course, this sewage damages the local population’s health, kills agricultural crops and causes a whirlwind of political fury.

TACTICAL PROCESS: DEMOLITION REORGANIZATION The following design tactic explores the use of demolition debris to challenge the severe construction restrictions on Palestinian property in Area C. Activating such sites after their desertion, it re-arranges the material remnants to produce a new method of wastewater treatment. This process of demolition reorganization exploits the

Tactical procedure for the step-by-step transformation of an abandoned site of Israeli demolition into a new one of communal Palestinian wastewater bioremediation infrastructure.

natural topography of the West Bank by allowing the rubble to be segmented and organized onto individual terraces. The largest demolition boulders are positioned on the topmost terraces to act as a first-line of filtration for the sewage’s more solid debris. Medium-sized demolition rocks are then placed on the next progressive terrace to provide further filtration for particulate matter. Small rocks and gravel filter out even smaller particulate matter in the subsequent terraces. A final series of bioremediation ponds are located on the bottommost levels with phytoremediation plants to remove harmful metals and chemicals. The process works similarly to more traditional landscape bio-swales and vegetative buffer systems. The treated water is ultimately channelled into the valley to serve as a source of irrigation.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Suzanne Harris-Brandts

Sewage mismanagement in the Occupied Territories has by now become endemic. Its mass production culminates in some 91 million cubic meters (mcm) every year.5 On the Palestinian side, 90-95% will not be treated at all.6 Beyond environmental implications, the pools and streams of this wastewater signal Israel’s greater failing to provide adequate infrastructure for the health of its occupied population. Only 20% of Palestinians are connected to some form of wastewater infrastructure in the West Bank and the remaining 80% instead utilize poorly constructed cesspits which have deteriorated from age and commonly leak.7 Consequently, makeshift measures have resulted in wastewater frequently being dumped into exposed valleys and waterways en masse, where it seeps into neighbouring agricultural terraces and threatens the quality of local water sources.8 In the face of non-functioning, deteriorated and missing infrastructure, devising a local approach to dealing with sewage has become imperative in the West Bank.

An Israeli demolished house and its adjacent affected agricultural terraces are tactically reorganized to produce a new site of ad hoc wastewater bioremediation infrastructure.

Re-choreographing rubble, the culmination of this paradoxical build/destroy process, is the production of a new local bio and phytoremediation wastewater treatment and management site. If built using conventional construction, such infrastructure would be victim to the infinite processes of restrictive bureaucracy imposed by Israel’s military occupation and would be threatened with Israeli demolition if a permit could not be attained.

Re-envisioning the social, environmental and political potential hidden inside demolition rubble and sewage, this tactic seizes opportunity from the West Bank’s current imbalanced conditions by using one form of waste to remediate another.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Suzanne Harris-Brandts

Back and forth manipulations and blurring of the boundary line differentiating Israeli and Palestinian areas of control as a result of Palestinian construction and Israeli demolition of properties along the boundary’s periphery. Palestinian construction which extends beyond the Area C boundary and is not demolished de-facto ‘stretches’ that line outward, redefining it. Whereas, properties which are demolished contract the boundary backward to its original position.


85 Project rendering showing how new ecologies emerge around the site of a house demolition being used for sewage management. Plants and debris serve as remediating agents, filtering the wastewater and turning it into a source for animal fodder agricultural irrigation. REFERENCES 1. Under the provisions of the 1990’s Oslo Interim Accords, the West Bank was temporarily divided into three areas of split jurisdiction; namely Areas A, B and C. Ideally, these divisions would incrementally transfer control over to the Palestinians for their future state, beginning with the most populated cities. As such, urban Palestinian centers fell under the designation of Area A and comprised roughly 18% of West Bank land (placed under Palestinian civil and security control). A second clustering of areas, predominantly made up of the lands bordering these built-up cores of Area A, were designated as Area B (22%) and fell under the civil control of the Palestinian Authority, yet had security control maintained by Israel. The remaining contiguous territory, comprising roughly 60% of the total West Bank and the key rural areas desired for a future Palestinian state, was placed under the complete control of the Israeli military and its Civil Administration branch. See: Alon Cohen-Lifshitz and Nir Shalevl, “Prohibited Zone: Israeli Planning Policy in the Palestinian Villages in Area C”, Bimkom, (2008): 17. edZoneAbstract.pdf 2. Including 190,425 in neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, not including those Israeli’s living in the West Bank’s ‘outposts’ (figures from the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies at the end of 2010) and 311,41 in the rest of the West Bank (figures from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics for the end of 2010). 3. Demolition occurs due to a lack of Israeli building permit. From 20002011, there was a total of 1,856 demolitions for lack of a permit. There still remains over 3,000 demolitions pending across the West Bank. See: A. Cohen-Lifshitz and N. Shalevl, “Prohibited Zone: Israeli Planning Policy in the Palestinian Villages in Area C”, 8; Statistics for 2008-2011; B’Tselem, “Planning & Building,” accessed on February 4, 2012, and OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs), “Special Focus: ‘Lack of Permit’ Demolitions and Resultant Displacement in Area C,” May 2008, accessed November 15, 2011. 4. It should be noted that the Oslo Interim Accords were meant to expire five years after their signing, therefore rendering them obsolete as of 1999. They have, however, de-facto continued in the absence of any new peace agreement. For this reason, many feel the demolition of Palestinian houses in Area C for is all the more inhumane and unjustifiable.

6. Ariel Cohen, Yuval Sever, Avi Tzipori, and Dina Fiman, West Bank Streams Monitoring—Stream Pollution Evaluation Based on Sampling during the Year 2007 (Environmental Unit, Israel Nature and Parks Authority, August 2008):12 (in Hebrew); from Hareuveni, “Foul Play: Neglect of Wastewater Treatment in the West Bank.” 7. Hareuveni, “Foul Play: Neglect of Wastewater Treatment in the West Bank,” 9. 8. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Monitoring Program, Water for Life. The Dilemma of Development under Occupation: The Obstacles of Achieving the Millennium Development Goals and Water Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, (2006), 33.

Suzanne Harris-Brandts received her M.Arch from the University of Waterloo where her thesis work investigated the role of architecture and landscape in the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories. In 2010/11 she worked with Decolonizing Architecture (DA/AR) in Beit Sahour, Palestine. Her work has been featured in a number of exhibitions and was recently published in [bracket] Goes Soft.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Suzanne Harris-Brandts

5. Eyal Hareuveni, “Foul Play: Neglect of Wastewater Treatment in the West Bank,” (B’Tselem, June 2009): 7, accessed July 15, 2011, http://www.

Monica Way sat down with Brent Bucknum, Founding Principal of Oakland-based Hyphae Design Laboratory, a firm renowned for its innovative bridge between landscape architecture, architecture and applied biological science. Bucknum has dedicated his career to ecological rectification and environmental justice. His work has established new venues of community engagement, economic development and design activism.

Hyphae is regarded for reviving the ecological life cycle at the industrial scale. How have you structured your team to do that?

Brent BucknUm in conversation with Monica Way


When we opened our doors in 2008, we began doing ecological architecture and design for exciting high-end residential, some gritty affordable housing projects and several iconic landscape projects. At a certain point, however, I realized how much time we really have, and all we have is our time. So, we took a marked shift to focus on industrial infrastructure. Industry has far more economic incentive to make their systems efficient and green. Industrial infrastructure is taxed on their water quality rather than just their water quantity. For us, that was really exciting because we could start integrating our ecological treatment systems into industrial processes, and our clients had far more economic incentive to invest. In our current water economy, where water is highly undervalued, water treatment is one of the most economical and impactful places to make systems more efficient. On our staff, we have a diversity of engineers, landscape architects, architects and researchers. Similarly, when we bring in interns, we pull them from diverse disciplines. By getting those different people in the room together, we’re doing more and more research, and the research is changing our approach to projects. We now like to frontload with analysis and research and then stay on through the building process to work with the contractors on the back end. Our challenge has been to convince clients to fund that model. You’ve been shifting client expectations to fund research? Yes. Innovative design requires research, and it’s very difficult to convince clients to fund it for a design project. Longer design phases allow us to do this. For example, we’re working on a living wall

for the SFMOMA right now. There, we have the capacity to do research for two years before the actual wall is built. We’re doing some of the first testing of a cooling tower and recycled water on living walls. And, we’re pushing the envelope for the wall to recycle its own water, so we’ve developed a nutrient-pH balancing system. All of this requires significant research. And yes, it’s hard to convince project teams and clients to do that kind of thing. But we’re not alone; more and more designers want to incorporate innovative ecological elements on a project. We’re in the midst of an exciting evolution. Typically, the mass of billed work by the designer and the engineer is time spent doing construction drawings. We reshape the project to have more research time. We put together a minimal amount of detailed drawings and materials lists, and we include more time to work directly with the contractors to explain our designs. Right now, we’re doing a project with Webcor Builders. Even if we, as the designers, hand them a full Revit model, they’re contracted to do their own Revit model as part of the construction. So for us, we see an opening in that redundancy. It’s far smarter to do ecological research, upfront analysis and design, and then work with the contracting firms directly, sitting side-by-side while one of their automation control experts for the building works to integrate all the living wall controls into the building’s control system. Still, everyone here claims I’m an over-researcher; I always have 300 tabs open on my browser. Likewise, as a team, we’re highly research-driven. In the beginning, that was a labor of love that we had to roll into our overhead. We even put most of our profit back to research on paid projects. But recently, we’ve started to figure out that there’s a niche to doing applied research, and that shift has helped us figure out how to get this incredibly cool ecological stuff actually built.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Brent Bucknum


Hyperaccumulator, San Francisco (Hyphae Design Lab)

That’s the ultimate question: how do you get this stuff built? Roughly 80% of our projects are built, and almost all of them go through significant compromises to be built. A big part of that is that we’re not egodriven in our designs; we’re responsive to budget, and we try to convince the client of deferred life-cycle costs. Ecological decisions, even good ones, are linked to economic impacts, so we try not to wildly propose systems because they sound like a good idea. We test if it makes sense for the project and try to save money wherever we can. At UC San Diego we were able to convince the developers of a six-hundred-room dormitory project to do a greywater system. They ended up putting in a far more high-tech, automated, energy-intensive system than we were advocating for, but to get that through the red tape was an awesome first step. It’s about understanding which battles to pick. Sometimes the ideas we’re pushing are too far out there and we don’t get the job. For example, we were working on a proposal for the Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association (BASMAA) to do PCB and mercury pilot treatment projects near a PG&E substation in Richmond and San Carlos, California. We presented them with sixty journal articles about PCB degradation and dechlorination and showed how you need a series of anaerobic followed by aerobic treatment cells to break it down. Our solution created a treatment train based on the best science. We also told them we didn’t know if it was going to work, but based on the leading science, we recommended this as the best concept. In the end, they said no. They thought it was going to be far too expensive to monitor and maintain, and they went with the other bidder who proposed a standard bioswale soil mix with Bay-friendly landscape plants. We were dismayed, mostly for the project itself, because you can’t guarantee PCB removal with just a standard bioswale. In any event, just a few weeks ago I was presenting at a Water Research Consortium through UC Berkeley/Stanford University, and I presented our PCB removal concept. There, it was really well-received. So, the challenge is taking the science from the lab scale, and testing if we can scale it up and have it work for years with no maintenance. Again, that’s where we see our niche.

In addition to research, Hyphae is also recognized for innovative community planning. What’s your approach? We recently won a grant from the State of California to do an Urban Forest Plan for the Port of Oakland, and our community planning process for that project is following three innovative approaches. First, we’ve decided not to hold monthly community meetings. Instead, we’ve consolidated the process into two or three major sessions that are going to be similar to all-day think tank conferences, and we’re providing stipends for community members who want to attend but need to get out of work to do that. Secondly, we’re simply paying community members and technical advisers a stipend equally. Often, there will be a planning process with a technical committee full of agency employees getting paid, and a community committee that’s expected to show up for no compensation. It makes no sense. Finally, to lead our community outreach, we’ve hired our neighbor who owns the barber shop next door, and also happens to own a promotional company called The Marketing Kings. The Marketing Kings do promotion for the Fox Theater, Era and Liege—all very popular venues, clubs and bars in Oakland and the East Bay. The scene that gathers at the barber shop is the iconic emblem of barber-shop-as-communitycenter. It’s a constant hub of activity all day long, seven days a week. We figured why not take the money that would otherwise go to a community outreach process—that would result in the same twenty people that always go to the community meetings in West Oakland—and instead put it towards promotion. It’s a risk, but we’re hoping to attract more people. So, in order to legitimize our work as landscape architects, we need to radically change the way we talk about our work. Is the field of landscape architecture undergoing a redefinition of itself and its modes of practice? I feel like the revitalization of ecology and ecosystems services has retaught the landscape architect to own ecology and integrate it with the other disciplines. That’s why I bring on many landscape architects here at our firm. I hope that it really pushes the landscape trade to be far

Can software algorithms solve our ecological problems?

I first translate grit into taboo. In a lot of our projects, we’re confronted with a lot of gritty, biological waste matter and bacteria, and a lot of our work strives to embrace that. But, then there’s a certain level of discomfort that we’re provoking. For example, most people enjoy the idea of water reuse systems and beautiful living walls that are lush and fully green, but when you start to suggest that we irrigate the wall with urine or drip irrigate feces water to it, it starts to become a taboo. There’s a very fine line on a project when we bring up waste treatment. It can be a real buzz kill on the green infrastructure conversation. It’s a complicated psychological issue. Obviously, there are certain intelligent human responses that are innately grown in our brains to separate us from our waste and wastewater. But that confrontation is coming back, and for us, in our work, that’s an interesting place where grit really becomes an issue. When you get into the smells and the aromas and the death of functioning ecological systems, then you know things are getting real.

GROUND UP ISSUE 02 Brent Bucknum

I think our company will probably become as much of a software company as it is a design firm. We have to ask ourselves, [how much of our work is building anew as opposed to making systems more efficient by working within existing infrastructure?] Software is part of that answer. Take geodesign, for example, where we can use geospatial technologies to arrive at the best and most sustainable design solutions. In so many projects now, designers—including ourselves—are overwhelmed with how much data we have. We don’t have the human capacity to manually process it, manage it and turn it into good decisions for a project. Most of our bigger projects are hampered by incredible complexity and options. So, we’ll make far better stuff if we enlist the robots. Also, we’re so limited by our time. The capacity of software to fuse innovative workflows is one way to sustain and maintain our projects long after we’ve left.

What does grit mean to you?


more scientific, to be that bridge between formal design and functional systems. Though, people are saying that sooner or later, 90% of what we do as designers is going to become software algorithms that are automated based on your site constraints, with permutations based on the client’s interest. In that situation the client becomes the designer. Is that scary, or is that amazing? I can’t tell.

Tenderloin public toilet, San Francisco (Hyphae Design Lab)

Port of Oakland Urban Forest Plan, Oakland Calif. (Hyphae Design Lab)

Brent Bucknum, the 32-year old designer, went to a farming high school. He worked for bioremediation and green roof firms before joining Rana Creek, where he worked on the California Academy of Sciences’ living roof. He became that company’s first Director of Design before moving on to create Hyphae Design Laboratory in 2008. Brent sees his company bringing site-specific, community & ecologically-driven solutions to urban infrastructure challenges.

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


Grit is from the ground, abrasive and coarse. Grit erodes and accrues. Like sandpaper, Grit refines. Like the grain of sand that creates a p...

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