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Into the Urban Wilds: Urban Landscape Groundwork Review

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Sustainable Urban Site Design, the first in a sequence of studios in the schools’s Urban Landscape Program, often referred to as the “Urban Wilds” studio, takes an interdisciplinary approach to the mapping and analysis of remnant ecological habitat.  Vast salt marsh and meadow, pristine stream, and verdant forest once dominated the landscape of Boston.  Although almost all significant portions of these original ecosystems have disappeared due to extensive human-induced manipulation of land and water, they still provide essential services for the city such as storm water filtration, storage and habitat.

Throughout the course of the semester, students take several field trips where they survey, record and then represent the morphology of the terrain via topographical, successional, and occupational transformation.  Students begin with a series of movement and landscape drawings at Bussey Brook Meadow, a marginal terrain, designated as an urban wild, located next to the Forest Hills Train Station, just 4 stops from Northeastern University.  There they quickly realize that the bucolic nature and appearance of Bussey Brook Meadow, in comparison with the manicured esplanade and rolling lawn of Boston Common, is in fact a highly unnatural and equally contrived/designed landscape.  This notion of disturbance and transformation is useful as a means of “seeing” landscape and is a seminal concept of systems analysis and contemporary landscape design.

Urban Wild/Arnold Arboretum

During the Groundwork Review, the first of three critiques during the semester, students discuss landscape as a constant state of flux.  Their studio instructor Brad Goetz asks them to conduct site reconnaissance and investigation through hand drawing exercises with charcoal, staining, and graphite.  Successful projects convey the diverse biology and temporal nature of the site as well as evoke the nature of disturbance, the relationship of topography and vegetation, and spectacle of social and ecological convergence.

Groundwork Review


In the first semester, students devise their own research agenda and retrieve artifacts, vegetation and soil samples, photographic evidence and conduct on site experiments.  This reconnaissance work is then translated via low and high tech representation techniques such as charcoal perspectives of landscape, and the use of 3D visualization and printing.

Student Work: Sam Packer

 

Student Work: Lena Smart

 

Click here for more examples of LARC student work.