L ARCH 504
Application of landscape ecological theory to the design of urban environments. Focuses on the strategic design of urban infrastructure, including underground drainage systems, roads, parks, transit systems, and on understanding the cumulative performance of urban sites.
This studio is focused on the re-design of urban infrastructure systems to improve the ecological performance of cities. The basic idea is that this process of change requires both new prototypes and new policies that encourage those prototypes to be replicated throughout an urban system. Ideally, the prototypes should be both ecologically effective and cost effective in order to set a lasting standard. They must also be effective vehicles to convey cultural meaning, using a wide variety of design vocabularies suited to different contexts. In a nutshell, that’s what defines sustainable urban systems.
From a landscape ecological perspective, the urban landscape is a landscape of flows. Rain, wind, heat energy, sewage, trash, dust, migratory birds, coyotes, containers full of trade goods, cars, trains, and pedestrians are all part of this ecosystem of flows. As urban designers, we need to understand these flows enough to influence them, and employ (or invent) a language of meaningful forms and materials to make these flows legible as elements of civic space and public life. This notion of the city refigures it as something that crosses the imaginary boundaries of our skin to engage our bodies as well as our minds, something that both changes our culture and reflects it. Sustainability is fundamentally about desire.
This year our project will be to examine four urban districts for their potential to restructure the flow of rain water. Today, rain water in these areas produces “combined sewer overflow” events, or CSO’s, into Elliott Bay. Our question is, can new drainage system prototypes like green roofs and bioswales detain enough water to prevent some of these events? And, can new public policies combine with design language to create a desire to implement these prototypes on private land, as well as public land?
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