Unsettling Prairies: A Critical Reimagining of Fire Management in Cities

Climate projections for 2050 expect Puget Sound regional temperatures will likely increase by 2.9-5.4 degrees Fahrenheit, temperatures more suitable for a mosaic of fire-resilient landscapes such as prairies, grasslands and oak savannas. Through fire, Indigenous people of this region have stewarded these landscapes since time immemorial. But because of settler colonialism and its legacy, these ecocultural landscapes are increasingly disappearing. This thesis argues that landscape designers must decolonize our methods by asking two questions in order to actively engage in prairie revitalization and Tribal co-generation surrounding prairie revitalization. First, how can a decolonizing design framework support the subsequent fire management of prairies in both wildland and urban areas? Second, how can a decolonizing design framework disrupt then deepen landscape architecture to support fire-dependent prairie habitat revitalization within the Pacific West? I propose the Decolonizing Design Framework (DDF) which includes five practices that can potentially integrate within existing landscape design methods (site analysis, conceptual design, participatory design, design-build and landscape management). The five practices are: (1) to honor Tribal sovereignty, 2) to respect the personhoods of biotic and abiotic life that exist on any given site, 3) to co-generate with a Tribe on shared climate adaptation goals, 4) to center long-term care of the land, and 5) to value multispecies epistemologies. I then implement and analyze the DDF in two case studies, the Camas Monitoring Project on the University of Washington – Seattle campus and the UW-Karuk Klamath Project, and present the findings through an autoethnographic method.

Design with Diploria: Coral Infrastructure for a New Coastal Future

The growing stressors of global climate change and urbanization have brought about the decline of one of our planet’s most critical biomes – coral reefs. As coral reefs vanish, we lose not only their surrounding ecologies and economics, but also their structural complexity, which allows them to efficiently serve as natural breakwaters that protect coastlines from flooding and erosion. Design with Diploria showcases a multi-site exploration of these entanglements within Miami’s urban context by working to restore an enigmatic, but diminished, local ecosystem as an infrastructural and social resilience strategy. This proposal aims to both foster coral resilience in tandem with urban resilience and to reconcile urban activity with coral ecosystem health in a way that creates equity and kinship across species lines.

Learn about Matt’s work at mattgrosser.design.

 

 

Pier Pressure: Addressing Ecological Opportunities of Nearshore Infrastructure in Lake Washington’s Union Bay

Along much of Seattle’s freshwater shorelines, seemingly isolated problems like erosion and shading are compounded and repeated by docks, piers, and houseboats.

This results in a much bigger ecological problem: the erasure of the critical nearshore habitat that supports all life in the lake. What innovations in nearshore infrastructure design can provide multifunctional benefits for people and the environment?

This design thesis considers the existing conditions of five representative zones along the University of Washington’s waterfront. Insights from restoration ecologists, engineers, local experts, and trends in aquatic infrastructure inform the design of this urban site. Pier Pressure proposes holistic solutions through a systems approach that enhances built interventions through ecological design.

Voices of Impact: Assessing the Felt Impacts of Open-Pit Gold and Copper Mining in British Columbia

Northern British Columbia is rapidly becoming one of the largest open-pit gold and copper mining regions in the world. Salmon bearing river systems connect communities of Southeast Alaska and British Columbia, supporting rich ecological diversity. Subsistence lifestyles that have supported First Nations people for over 10,000 years are in jeopardy as a result of irresponsible mining practices and inadequate public consultation. The rapid growth of this extraction industry has compromised downstream fishing economies, cultural traditions and identities that depend on healthy rivers and landscapes. This project uses story mapping as a tool to analyze the impacts experienced by people in the watershed and highlight the need for bringing more human experience into environmental impact assessments.

View the project website

 

 

A Bouquet of Benefits: Floriculture and Ecosystem Gifts in an Urban Industrial Zone

The floral industry is at once global and personal. Although ephemeral and impractical, humans have smiled at a simple gift of a cut-flower for thousands of years and spent countless hours cultivating and cherishing the color and form of this essential plant part. Regional floriculture in the western United States is robust, with floral farms all along the west coast, yet the US still imports over 75% of cut-flowers from South America. This contributes to global carbon emissions and landscape contamination.  Local-based solutions can reduce environmental impact, provide an experience of place, and connect consumers to local flora. Many flowering plants possess the ability to filter pollutants out of contaminated soil (phytoremediation), and there are a possible few that could continue their lives as cut-flowers or waste by-products. Urban farmers faced with contaminated urban soil may find a solution in this industrial, ecological proposal.

This landscape architecture design research thesis proposes suitable floral species for a “phyto-to-market system” and an urban floral farm and phytoremediation demonstration garden. This design is situated within an existing industrial “Flower District” network in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. If implemented, it could be a testing bed for phytoremediation, provide a new relationship to bouquets, provide safer routes for pedestrians between the park and bus routes, and provide an opportunity for urban farmers to remediate their soil while making a profit at the local farmers market. I invite you to learn more about my project in this PDF presentation or in the linked two-minute video walk through.

Read more about Elizabeth’s work at ourfutureenvironment.org.