Landscape Architecture III: Third Semester Core Studio

From Episode to Adaptation: Design for a Littoral Landscape

This studio explores climate change, adaptation, and risk as fundamental to the design of the built environment. Utilizing the Boston Harbor as a case study, the studio will investigate the broad spectrum of possibilities in conceptualizing the interface between water, climate patterns, land, and urbanization processes. Further, Boston Harbor exemplifies risk, as understood through a history of renegotiations between land and water. For instance, the transition from marsh to upland represents a semicontinuous condition that functions on a horizontal spectrum that is continuously intercepted by impervious development. Marshes have been repeatedly filled or drained in the Boston estuary, leaving terrestrial ecology inert. Yet forces such as longshore current, outflow, prevailing wind, and overwash are agents of littoral transformation that offer a form of disturbance critical to a changing coastline.  

In the current context of increased urbanization, unprecedented species mixing, explosive population statistics, and an unpredictable climate, this studio attends to risk as a fundamental feature of the physical environment. The studio is therefore framed by a commitment to materialism. Thus conceived, this studio argues that the task of landscape architecture necessarily contributes to escalating risk by emphasizing research that highlights the connection between social contexts and their grounded, tangible contexts. Students will pursue this commitment both analytically and synthetically: analytically, they will explore how policy, and its associated paperwork, is ultimately grounded in physical interventions in the landscape. Synthetically, they will propose strategies using the core materials of our discipline: water dynamics, living organisms, and the slow pace of geologic formation as expressed in land form and soils. Students will explore the frictions that emerge between abstract and grounded proposals, fixed and dynamic settlement, biotic and abiotic processes, entrenched and mobile territory. We will concern ourselves equally with the built and the living environment, as well as their interrelationships and differences. We will study littoral risk as the most imminent threat to coastal cities in order to reveal what scales make design legible, meaningful, and desirable—and for whom. Together, we will reflect on how changes in both the human and nonhuman environment produce and are produced by risk, and we will frame this larger discourse through the lens of design theory and practice. 

Prerequisites: Enrollment in MLA Program.