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Harvesting East Baltimore’s Waterscape

Engagement of people through water economies Sven Augusteyns

Redrawing the Shrinking City By dedensification and Inclusive Exchange Platforms

The housing market and the socio-economic status of the East Baltimoreans came under pressure with the decline of the manufacturing industry and the loss of low-skilled jobs. Many of the East Baltimoreans could not afford living in the working-class housing built at the turn of the century and had to leave their neighborhood in search of better job opportunities. Who did not have the possibility to leave, was left unemployed in a declining neighborhood. The abandonment struck the once thriving urban community. A city that is deprived of its urban tissue by ghost blocks and in which the inhabitants live in poverty is constantly in search of reviving its real estate market and ways to include ‘the others’ in its economic structure. Unfortunately, urban illnesses, such as crime and drug trafficking, are masking the causes of the problem and make it difficult to reverse the shrinking city syndrome. However, the city of Baltimore came up with the Land Bank, an organization that acquires vacant housing units and lots to bring them back on the market. This piecemeal tactic gives city planners the ability to guide the revitalization process. However, reality shows us that these lots are mostly sold 94

to real estate agents who in their turn do not invest in the properties, to get a hold on the housing prices. Eventually, the urban decay continues. Because there is a growing potential to use these liberated plots for revitalization strategies, Pride, a water service organization, set up for the purpose of this thesis, will work together with the Land Bank. They will install a social and inclusive real estate market, parallel to the regular real estate maket, that provides land to NGOs, churches and inhabitants in order to implement economic water programs that can revive the area block by block. The underused lots and houses in East Baltimore acquired by the Land Bank will be introduced on this social land market and united in different Inclusive Exchange Platforms. These platforms are created by dedensification (demolishment) of the vacant houses in each block and the reuse of underused roads, parking lots and bare land. In each block only one row of inner block housing will be demolished. These houses are mostly located on dead end streets. Moreover, they are smaller and do not significantly change the appearance of the housing block. The Inclusive Exchange Platforms will be completed with economic practices that are powered by water. Water, that is harvested in each block by the residents or so-called rainwater harvesters. It gives them the opportunity to be a benefactor of the profit of the water practices. The goal is to increase the socio-economic status of the inhabitants by installing a rainwater landscape in East Baltimore, while stimulating the private real estate market, turning a shrinking neighborhood into a growing one.



Improving the socio-economic status of the East Baltimore inhabitant



Installing water services

The City’s Landbank acquires as much vacant housing and lots as possible. The lots will be offered on the social real estate market.



28.0000 vacancies


Prides stimulates the creation of Inclusive Exchange platforms on the vacant lots of the Landbank. By means of Water Practices, service jobs will be created.





Maintaining actively the




e nem



Reviving the Real Estate Market







ic erv

1960 1960

1. Shrinking city syndrome vs potentials



2. Location of abandonment in East Baltimore Abandoned housing

Dead End Streets, aligned with highest amount of vacancies


250m 50m


1.Healthy Block

2. Inner block housing are dissapearing: Lowest income groups living in the smaller inner block houses leave due to job loss.

Present Condition: Deteriorated inner block

Future Condition: The Land Bank demolishes one row of houses in the inner block. Pride foresees an Inclusive Exchange Platform.

4. Full extend of crisis: The whole block is neglected from 70s till present day.

5. The Land Bank aqcuires vacant lots and demolishes the inner block housing.

3. Block decline and dedensification strategy

3. Cornershops are moving out the neighborhood, the outer block houses are abandonned.

6. Outer block houses that are in bad condition are demolished. 97

4. Suboptimal use of infrastructure Parkings Abandonned housing


Underused Roads

0m 100m



5. Land provided to the social real estate market Abandonned housing



Land for Inclusive Exchange Platforms

0m 100m



Unveiling Water Economies Tapping into local capacity

A major player in East Baltimore is the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Each day, a workforce of 14.000 men and women drives through the deprived blocks of East Baltimore to the parking lots of Johns Hopkins Hospital. Doctors, nurses, visitors and patients lack the benefits of a thriving urban environment in the vicinity of the hospital where they can buy food, do their laundry, have a beer, go for a stroll, have their car washed,‌ This vacuum is a major opportunity. A water fueled service economy can be installed to employ East Baltimoreans and make the area more attractive to investors. By creating contact points between the employees of Johns Hopkins Hospital and the inhabitants of East Baltimore, socio-economic water fueled programs can be set up on land of the social real estate market. To have an impact on the scale of the urban decay, an extensive rainwater harvesting system, that will feed the water services, is laid out. A revenue generating rainwater harvesting system will stimulate all inhabitants of the block 100

to collect rainwater by means of their roof. Afterwards the water is stored in a cistern in the inner block where, in its turn, the water service can tap into the excess of free rainwater. The water can be used to wash cars or clothes, flush toilets, irrigate switchgrass fields and urban nut tree farms or for recreational services. The profit that is created by the water service will partially be redistributed to the water harvesters. The management of the practice will be in the hands of local NGOs, such as churches and community associations, which are active in the block and the sub watershed. The redistribution of the profit is executed by Pride, who will use a part of the money to invest in rainwater harvesting equipment and workshops. The goals of this process are diverse. The watershed of East Baltimore is actively maintained, fast runoff of rainwater and the transport of pollutants is reduced. The inhabitant gets the opportunity to find a lowskilled job in his or her neighborhood and makes extra money by harvesting water. This eventually, will improve his or her economic status. But also socially, inhabitants and the workforce of Johns Hopkins get into contact with each other. The fractured NGO landscape works together on a joint strategy: namely, a block by block redevelopment structured by the watershed. By negotiation between the NGOs at the location of the Pride market, a complementary water landscape can be unfolded. This will hopefully stimulate, in a bottom-up manner, the urban regeneration of East Baltimore. Johns Hopkins Hospital can profit of the renaissance of the real estate market and the new services provided to its employees and visitors.


Impulsing real estate market

enhancing socio economic status

Improving watershed quality


Redistribution of revenue to waterharvesters


Waterharvester & user



Pride searches Employees for the services

WATER 2. Installing

1. Dedensification

Water based services

New Lots to Social Real Estate market

Inclusive Exchange Platform Water based service Relinking NGO’s by watershed

Creating exchange points

Reviving urban area JH



Commuters of JH Hospital


User of water service


Pride provides water workshops, employees & information to NGOs

NGO Manages the water service

6. Stakeholder Chart 101

UNEMPLOYED/ CARWASH His uncle owns the smallest car wash of EastBaltimore

UNEMPLOYED/ COOK His mother learned him to cook well

Vallet Carwash

SPECIALIST Has to clean his car, but doesn’t have time

UNEMPLOYED/ LAUNDRY MANAGER His new son needs a father with a job

GRADUATED Wants to learn new skills

Kitchen Take-away

MOM Needs prepared food for her and her children

Laundry Service


NEUROCHIRURG Has to dryclean his suits

STUDENT Wants to have a beer after his long day at the hospital

Johns Hopkins Employees

7. Potentials of water related services between Johns Hopkins’ employees and East Baltimoreans 102



SECRETARY Maura needs to find a daycare for her child









8. Urban Fabric Linked to Water Practices. 103










Policy Makers WHO IS WELCOME?




9. Pride Water Market






10. The benefits of rainwater harvesting


Weaving Water in the Urban Landscape Introducing water practices on Inclusive Exchange platforms

The location of the water practices are strongly determined by the nature of the NGO’s, active in the sub watershed, the vicinity of heavily or underused roads, topography, existing green structures and the amount of water that can be harvested within each shed. Therefore, the water harvesting landscape unfolds itself taking into consideration different conditions. Starting with the water harvesters who collect water on the roofs of their houses. A team of Pride has to convince individuals to install a rainwater harvesting system. Without cooperation there will be no large-scale water collection and no block revitalization. In the next phase, the rainwater has to be stored, block by block after which it has to be made ready for use. This comprises natural or chemical cleaning. This system can be found in the inner block, where it can be mixed with recreational facilities. An open or closed water canal connects all the cisterns in the sub watershed and leads to the water services. The sub watershed is the sequential collection of housing blocks that are 106

linked to each other following the trajectory of the water on the topography. All the canals of the sub watershed are connected to the Water Street that serves as the final cistern. This pedestrianized armature is situated at the lowest point and houses most of the water services. It is an important infrastructure that is located parallel to the railroad and crosses with one the most trafficked roads in the area leading to Johns Hopkins Hospital. Three major NGO’s are active on the crossing of these infrastructures and Water Street: - The Water Square, which bundles car wash and laundry facilities with a microbrewery and a café. - Pride, which revives the partially demolished uphill blocks with urban food farms and manages the switchgrass production. - And HEBCAC, an organization that creates socioeconomic programs such as a food kitchen with shop, linked to local food farms. The strategic location of these services, on a busy intersection and the lowest point of the subsheds, maximizes the amount of economic exchanges and the amount of rain water that can be used. An extra surplus for the redevelopment of East Baltimore is an energy landscape that is linked to the trajectory

of the railway and has branches into the neighborhood. This landscape will produce switchgrass which will be changed into bioethanol. The revenue of the bio-ethanol and the energy generated by wind mills makes the area more energy independent and creates an extra tax income for its inhabitants and extra money for the maintenance of Inclusive Exchange Platforms. The green structure will also create a link between two parks at the border of East Baltimore by weaving in a system of trees and bike and pedestrian networks. This allows for a better accessibility of the railroad area, which is now the backside of the neighborhood. The energy strip will, in comparison to the Water Street, be an open natural structure instead of an urban strip. Two open irrigation canals at each side of the railroad will collect as much rainwater as possible. In times of drought the cisterns of Water Street will fill these irrigation canals. The storage of rainwater along with the careful economical use of the rainwater are of major importance to the success of the East Baltimore Economic Water Landscape. 11. Structures of the economic waterscape 107

12. Most trafficked roads in East Baltimore Parking

Most Trafficked roads

0m 100m



13. Water structure Sub watershed connector

Water Street

Irrigation Canal

Watershed managers: NGO, churches, Johns Hopkins Hospital,...


14. NGOs and practices active in each sub watershed Platforms of Exchange

Subwatershed manager

Sub watershed boundary

Watershed edge

0m 100m



15. Armatures Platforms of Exchange Water Street and sub shedcanals, cisterns Exchange Road Energy strip


0 200m



Exchanging Harvested Water Clustering water practices at the Water Square

The Water Square is the gate to East Baltimore’s water practices. The entry to Water Street unites several water venues such as a Car Wash, LaundromatcafÊ, a Micro Brewery and a Local Meal shop. The main economic focus is situated at the edge of the square, underneath the canopy at the street side. One lane of the frequently used North Washington Street, leading from Johns Hopkins Hospital to the Northern suburbs, is changed into a blue painted drive-in car wash. A workforce of car washers cleans the car while the driver catches its laundry or buys a hot meal at the water square. The water for the car wash is stored underneath the drivein and is collected from the roofs, the parking garage on top of the watershed and the canopy. The rain water is pumped up at several waterspots to refill the car wash mobiles with cleaning water. After washing, the soaped water is absorbed by a vegetated trench and settles down in the tank. The overflow infiltrates in the soil.


16. Section Aa

The Water Square is characterized by its elevated platform that accommodates rain water tanks. It is paved with cobblestone and bundles soft transport modes, like a bike path that leads from East Baltimore to Penn Station. Due to the 1 meter high platform, traffic slows down at the crossing with N.Washington Street. This elevation works as a speed bump, and clearly marks the bus stop underneath the canopy. The inside of the uphill blocks in the sub watershed are completed with a rainwater harvesting system. A system of pipes leads the water from the roofs to a looped canal that is connected to the central cistern. Due to topographic changes, one side of the cistern stands out and serves as a basketball field and a nut tree farm. Another block is developed as an urban food farm. Both blocks are connected to each other by a subterranean sub shed canal.



17. Zoom on Water Square’s subshed 113

18. View on the canopy, marking the beginning of Water Street, covering the car wash and buslane.

Vegetated Filter

Purifies and evacuates car wash runoff

Water pump

Tap to recharge the car wash carts


Collects purified rain water for the car wash service

19. Jessy, a car wash employee just washed the car of Marlene, a nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Marlene bought in the mean time a local fresh meal and got her laundry which she dropped this morning at the laundromat cafĂŠ. 114

Vegetated Trench

Cleans, slows and absorbs street runoff

Gravel Cistern

Purifies & stores rainwater

Loop canal

Collects the rain water from roofs

Water pipe

Transports the rainwater to water fueled serivces

20. The inner courtyard of the housing block is transformed into a basketball field and rainwater cistern.

Stormwater Quality Filter

with oil seperator, cleans street runoff

Gravel Cistern

Collects, as lowest cistern, the rainwater which is harvested in the uphill sub watersheds. Afterwards, the water will be distributed to the water practices on the Water Square

21. The Water Square’s elevated soft transport platform with cistern, paved with cobblestone and alligned by service roads for the water practices. 115

Uniting East Baltimore’s watersheds


Reviving Pride: The Water Market

The square in front of Pride Water Market is divided by the border of two watersheds. Hereby it lays on one of the highest points in east-west direction and on the lowest point in north-south direction, simultaneously evacuating and collecting water. This condition is symbolically important as Pride tries to unite all NGOs and inhabitants in East Baltimore into a joint water system. The square in front of the building , which lays on the highest point, absorbs and evacuates rain water by means of two different urban layouts. The left water shed is covered with grind and pinched with small hills that grow urban trees which will provide for extra tree canopy to the streetscape. In this area, the rain water infiltrates into the soil or it runs immediately into the open sub shed canal. The right water shed of the square is covered with a mix of cobblestone and grass to allow water recreation, events or parking space. The open sub shed canals at both ends of the square evacuate the water to the lowest point, at the side of Pride facing the railroad. Inhere, an irrigation canal for the production of switchgrass is located.


22. Birds Eye view Pride


Open Sub Shed Canal

23. Left watershed

25. Right watershed

24. Section Aa

drains water to the irrigation canal at the railroad

Closed Sub ShedCanal


Harvesting the Energy Landscape Reviving the railway corridor

Nut trees

Wind Mills

The railroad was once the main economic strip of East Baltimore, booming due to dozens of manufacturing plants, but has now become the back street of the area. Turning the decay can be done by restructuring the vacant lots and reusing the factories. A biomass landscape is introduced by stitching sufficiently large lots into a patchwork that will reallocate them to grow switchgrass. Switchgrass is an indigenous species used for energy production. It is well suited for phytoremediation of heavily polluted soils such as the ones in East Baltimore. Switchgrass grows from spring till mid-summer and will be irrigated by rain water, provided by water harvesters of the different sub watersheds. The hay that is harvested will be stored and processed to energy pallets in the newly opened factories, providing local jobs, or it will be transported to a bio-ethanol plant. Water harvesters can count on a part of the profit of the practice that will be redistributed by Pride. The railroad armature will also be used to start planting two kinds of trees into the blocks and streets of East Baltimore. Namely, canopy trees in the streetscape, which absorb rain water and provide shade and nut tree farms that will take over bare soil in the inside of housing blocks. The nut tree will be nurtured in each block. Later on it will be planted on the remediated soil of Water Street. 118


Nut trees 26. Bird Eye view on Energy Strip

Shade trees

Processing Unit for Nuts

sub watershed connector

Watershed edge

Bike Path

Urban Food Farm


Switch grass

Railway Irrigation Canal 119

Irrigation Canal used for the irrigation of Switchgrass and nut tree production.

27. Section Aa over the Energy Landscape Open Irrigation Canal

Switchgrass Production Cycle Water harvester

Irrigation Canal




Energy Production


Harvests roofwater

Located on the lowest point in the watershed Provides rainwater for irrigation.

On marginal, polluted soil next to the railroad


Manual system or with an automatic harvester

A part of the hay is processed into energy pallets.The other part is stored and transported to a Bio-Ethanol plant.




TAX invested in Inclusive Exchange platforms on $ Return water harvested

28. Switchgrass Production Cycle 120


Switchgrass Productive Landscape Energy Crop Indigenous crop used for:


3-5 years


Urban Nut Tree farms

Provides extra energy independance to East Baltimore.

Nut trees, nurtured in innerhousing blocks. Full grown trees are planted on the street.


Phytoremediation The soil will be prepared for future use while installing a switchgrass landscape



Processing nuts in an East Baltimore factory. Providing locally grown food.

29. Urban Nut Tree Farm 121

In search of a defenition Urbanisms of Inclusion: Notion of the ‘Others’

The perception of the others in the poor areas of East Baltimore is far-reaching. The process that creates the others can be explained by the theory of Henri Lefebvre who describes that ‘space is commanded by a hegemonic class as a tool to reproduce its dominance.’ (Lefebvre, 1991) This process driven by dominance and protection of space formed the notion of East Baltimore: “Land of the Others”. It is historically maintained and as well in present time by the frame through which ‘power structures’ in Baltimore look towards this area of the city. The proof of this frame can be seen in a multiplicity of maps and development plans. One of the most clear examples is the redlining map made in the 1950s which excluded African Americans from buying property in wealthier, white, neighborhoods and prevented them to get loans to invest in their own areas of living. Equally important is the typology map, which was recently updated and warns developers not to invest in distressed housing zones. The omnipresence of repressive blue lights created to diminish drug trafficking, stigmatizes a big area of the city. A more 122

latent, but important exclusionary zoning practice is the school district map, who has not been published but can be consulted by telephone. It informs families looking for a house to what school their child has to go. It creates a lack of investment in housing in certain areas in the city as some of the schools are part of a census area with a low tax base, which is important for the funding and the quality of the schools. All these zoning practices enforce the notion of East Baltimore being underdeveloped. The notion of the underdeveloped, firstly coined by President Truman in 1949 in his inauguration speech, ‘creates a new perception of one’s own developed self, and of the other. Since then development has connoted at least one thing: to escape from the undignified condition called underdevelopment.’ (Esteva, 1992) As Esteva refers to in his essay on Development, ‘(development) has been linked to a merely economic development, where the economic man is created.’ A man that, like in East Baltimore, is being housed at the turn of the century by the biggest industrial employers in a low income working-class neighborhood and who has lost his job after the economic restructuring in the 7Os. The crisis that hits East Baltimore has created a new common. A common that is a reaction to the so-called economic man whose past collection of commons, communities and habits was destroyed by industrial and

economic processes. ‘The common man who wants to liberate himself from the economic chains.’(Estava,1992) This has created informally based social and economic practices in Baltimore, such as pop-up car washes, informal gardening and construction work, drug trafficking and a network of religious and non-profit organizations. ‘For people on the margins disengaging from the economic logic of the market or the plan has become the very condition of survival.’(Estava, 1992) They are living in a scarcity of jobs, housing and food, and try to cope with the damage that has been done by the temporary inability to escape from the damaging economic interactions they still have to maintain. The effect of being the ‘other’ has an immediate impact on the possibilities of progress in East Baltimore. Progress that could be allowed by freeing space for the new commons, like Inclusive Exchange Platforms, allowing local capacity to grow. Instead, development, is superimposed by the joint development practices of big institutions, such as Johns Hopkins Hospital and the East Baltimore Development Organization, (EBDI) that wants to safeguarde its position by using a top-down development strategy in the neighboring distressed areas. The production of space to protect and stimulate the position of Johns Hopkins Hospital to be a leading university and hospital in the USA has created a development practice in which all

the abandoned housing in the vicinity are demolished and will be replaced by a biotech campus and middle income housing. This oppressing urban development practice could find its way due to the constant neglect of the housing stock and inhabitants’ interest, stimulated by exclusive zoning plans and supraregional influences. Such as the housing crises, the shift in the economy in the 70s, and a lack of investments in the area for 30 years, which stands in contrast with the massive investments made in the inner harbor area of Baltimore. The manner in which the EBDI unfolds its top-down development practices is subtle. To temper their critics they insist on participatory development. A strategy suggested by Jimoh Omo-Fadka and cited by Esteva in the essay on Development, based on the failure of topdown development. (Esteva, 1992) But in the case of the EBDI, it converts participation into a manipulative trick to involve people in its struggle for getting what it wants to impose on them. The superimposition of space to define the future path of East Baltimore is in contrast with the process that creates activity in the city, namely the new common. David Harvey, cited by James Corner in Terra Fluxus, wrote that both ‘new urbanism’ and ‘modernist urban planning’ fails because of their presumption that spatial 123

order can control history and process. Harvey argues that ‘the struggle’ for designers and planners lies not with the spatial form and aesthetic appearances alone but with the advancement of more “socially just, politically emancipatory, and ecologically sane mixes of sociotemporal production processes”. (James Corner,2008) In this regard I recognize the comment of Graham Shane on the jury in New York on Urbanisms of Inclusion that deals with East Baltimore, to find that one minute positive social practice that can allow East Baltimore to change within a socio-temporal production process that already exists. Rather than the imposition of capital and political power such as the developments of the EBDI in East Baltimore. Designing with time rather than space defines a totally different perception of East Baltimore. The act of seeing, the cultural and temporal appropriation of space, allows designers to perceive the “otherness” as an emerging field of intervention. Designing perFORM rather than form allows us to accentuate social, economic and ecological practices and address their interlinked problems.


With this preface, we can begin to imagine how the concept of Urbanisms of Inclusion suggests a more promising, more human-centered and more empowering form of practice. It suggests the shifting away from the object qualities of space to the systems that condition the distribution and density of urban form, namely the inhabitants itself. (James Corner, 2006) The empowering of the others in a politically-economically generated space, forces us to draw the underperceived. Such as the informal economic practices, like a car wash or networks of NGOs, the abandonments in the area but also watersheds, topography, educational systems and traffic flows. The unveiling of the landscape is recognizable in landscape urbanism. Landscape Urbanism, as been coined by Charles Waldheim, describes a disciplinary realignment currently underway, in which landscape replaces architecture as the basic building block of contemporary urbanism. For many, across a range of disciplines, landscape has become both the lens through which the contemporary city is represented and the medium through which it is constructed. (Charles Waldheim, 2006) Urbanisms of Inclusions adds an extra reality on the landscape representated in landscape Urbanism, namely the representation of the others.

Space, and more importantly the representation of the use of the landscape over time, becomes increasingly important. It is a very important tool to convince stakeholders and the public who inhabits the landscape into a development program. It also shows a more realistic and fine-grained reality. This new visualization method, which is a combination of interviews, renders, sections and maps who represent the underperceived, replaces the (zoning) map . This manner of representation empowers the others and include them into the development debate of the neighborhood. Urbanisms of Inclusion is driven by the complex social inhabitation and use of the landscape, representing the ‘other’ man differently as in landscape urbanism and hopefully socially more correct. Therefore Urbanisms of inclusion uses a hybrid set of design and representation tools used in landscape urbanism, collaborative development and everyday urbanisms.

References Henri Lefebvre,”The Production of Space,” (Blackwell, 1991) Gustavo Esteva, “Development,” in The Development Dictionary: A guide to knowledge as power, ed. Wolfgang Sachs (ZED Books, 1992) James Corner, “Terra Fluxus”, in The landscape Urbanism Reader ,ed. Charles Waldheim (Princeton Architectural press, 2006) Charles Waldheim, “Preface” in The landscape Urbanism Reader, ( Princeton Architectural press, 2006) Graham Shane, “The Emergence of Landscape Urbanism”, in The landscape Urbanism Reader, ed. Charles Waldheim( Princeton Architectural press, 2006)

Images All the images are produced by author.


Harvesting East Baltimore’s Waterscape  

Design Part of Sven Augusteyns in the thesis of urbanisms of Inclusion: Baltimore. Written and designed at Parsons The New School for Design...