First, Let us Look Together. through forests, trees, wood, and building 

Wood construction has grown out of the relationship between people and the landscapes they inhabit. Small diameter timber is a material that was once a key component of vernacular building around the world but is now problematized as a low-value byproduct of forest management. This thesis studies the material’s prevalence in Korean and Coast Salish architecture as a dimension of their respective traditional ecological knowledges. Their stories provide lessons that prompt us to question our contemporary relationships to materials and the landscapes that create them. To further explore this, I imagine Swan Creek Park in Tacoma, WA as a productive forest shaped over time by community memory, stewardship, and building.

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.

 

 

Nourishing Neighborhoods: Cultivating Local Food Connections in the Urban Environment

Have you ever walked by fruit trees in your neighborhood and wondered what kind of fruit they were producing and whether you could pick it?

By tracing the history of food in Seattle, from the native plants that have long fed Coast Salish people to the globally sourced food imported today, this design research examines local food production systems in Seattle’s neighborhoods and how they can be enhanced for the future. How can urban food that is cultivated on public land nourish neighborhoods while providing opportunities for education and engagement? This exploration demonstrates how app technology, mapping, and recipes can connect communities to urban nature and food history.

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

 

 

Exploring the Potentials of Interdisciplinary Studios in the University of Washington College of Built Environments

Interdisciplinary collaboration has become a key strategy in the fields of the built environment to understand and address complex environmental and societal issues. The College of Built Environments at the University of Washington has applied the idea of interdisciplinarity to education, offering a series of college-wide interdisciplinary studios since 2009. This study conducts a qualitative review of the interdisciplinary studios at the College of Built Environments from 2009-2019. Through fifteen in-depth interviews with previous studio instructors, this study explores how studio instructors understand the idea of interdisciplinarity, how their understandings are reflected in the studio pedagogy, and what are the future potentials for the interdisciplinary studio in the University of Washington College of Built Environments.

Marking Risk and Response: Design Interventions to Support Citizen Science Monitoring of the Trans Mountain Pipelines

How can community-based monitoring create much needed visibility and oversight of buried tar sands pipelines that traverse human and non-human communities? The Trans Mountain Pipeline conveys up to 12.6 million gallons of diluted bitumen per day from the Athabasca tar sands of Alberta to ports in Vancouver (British Columbia) and Washington State, with construction underway on a second, paralleling pipeline that triples capacity. Meanwhile, the communities through which these pipelines invisibly pass possess little knowledge about how these pipelines are monitored or the results of that monitoring, despite an extensive history of spills. This thesis imagines a landscape architecture practice that contributes to citizen science monitoring through systems thinking, community engagement, and physical design. An adaptable design framework is proposed, where a network of citizen scientists insert site-responsive interventions into the landscape, which mark pipeline, social network, monitoring activity, and data. The result is greater legibility of physical interactions between pipeline, ecologies, and human communities. This mode of landscape architecture contributes to a growing community-based movement that challenges dominant paradigms of opaque infrastructure monitoring, whereby corporate data is shrouded within what Science and Technology Studies scholar Sara Ann Wylie calls “regimes of imperceptibility.”1

See the project issuu page.

1. Sara Ann Wylie, Fractivism: Corporate Bodies and Chemical Bonds (Durham: Duke University Press, 2018), 36.

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.

Navigating Extractive Entanglements through the Synthesis of Infrastructure and Ecological Function in Iquitos, Peru

Urban landscapes have become characterized by static, impervious systems, disconnected from nature. In Iquitos, a city of half-a-million in the Peruvian Amazon, attempts to replace natural systems with engineered infrastructure have yielded unhealthy conditions for both the human residents and the surrounding ecology. As Peru unrolls a national initiative to build commemorative Bicentennial parks, we envision this as an opportunity to revive an economy that has suffered from boom and bust cycles of extractive industries. This thesis explores the relationship between conventional city infrastructure and natural systems in the Amazon region across spatial and time scales to answer the question; how can urban parks serve as critical infrastructure to support the local economy, address human and ecological health, and celebrate cultural identities?

 

Reimagining the amphibious city: From health data to ecological design in an Amazonian informal community

Water circumnavigates the Amazon River Basin’s urban centers, blurring lines between city and river. As Amazonian cities swell, growing populations inhabit the seasonally flooding edges of the urban landscape. These amphibious communities, which are adapted to both high and low river seasons, are often informal and are disproportionately vulnerable to health risks tied to socioeconomic inequality, climate change, and urban systems. Though Indigenous architecture has designed with Amazonian hydrology for millennia, colonial ideas of the form that urbanization should take eschew amphibiousness. This design research focuses on the amphibious informal community of Claverito, in Iquitos, Peru to examine the built environment as a social determinant of health and to ask: What is the role of evidence-based ecological design in informal community upgrading? How can health data center people in informal community redevelopment to align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals? How can a landscape systems approach to built environment design mitigate risk of exposure to water-related infectious diseases while contributing to city-wide resilience?