"A key characteristic of landscape architecture as a pattern of thought is its propensity for understanding linkages between diverse and seemingly-unrelated phenomena at differing scales of time and space" -James Corner
Next month, Commonstudio Founders Kim and Daniel in collaboration with Firat Erdim, will be facilitating a three day workshop with 80 undergraduate architecture students at Iowa State University’s College of Design. Drawing upon insights from an ongoing experimental intervention currently in development in the periphery of Rome, the workshop is entitled Depaving Des Moines: Catalysts for Landscape Change in the Urban Watershed. Over the course of three days, students will be introduced to various landscape methodologies and have a unique opportunity to get their hands dirty in the field with a live de-paving demonstration project within the Fourmile Creek watershed of Des Moines.
For better or for worse, the slow creep of impervious surfaces—the pouring of concrete, the laying of asphalt and other forms of pavement, remains one of the most basic patterns and processes which define the growth and development of the urban environments we inhabit. The horizontal expansion of concrete paving now progresses at a rate of 5 tons per person per year, rendering it among the most ubiquitous landscape materials the modern world has ever known. The utility of impervious surfaces in human-dominated ecosystems is self-evident, as it transforms the muddy and untamed landscapes below into smooth, predictable, hygienic surfaces. Yet its toll on ecological health and quality of life--from the urban heat island effect to the urban stream syndrome--is also becoming more clear with time. If the incremental addition of pavement underlies many of the wicked challenges currently faced by cities, this crash course will consider the implications for its intentional and incremental removal by design.
This three day workshop will take the form of rapid fire design charrette, drawing from an understanding of real-world long-term planning agendas within Des Moines, as well as the principles of the depaving movement as a point of departure. It will provide a broad introduction to the language of landscape architecture and ecological design as a lens to consider and (collaborate with) pavement as a dynamic process within the Fourmile Creek watershed. The creative process will shift intentionally between the strategic and tactical, the comprehensive and the incremental. Students will collaborate in small teams, deploying various modes of inquiry to:
1) Understand the patterns of imperviousness city-wide and identify suitable sites within the watershed for depaving interventions. This will include a basic introductory exercise using digital analysis and visualization tools such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing data to conduct Multi-Criteria Evaluation (MCE) in relation to larger-scale landscape phenomena in the city.
2) Participate in direct modes of depaving at a small-scale demonstration site in the field. This will invite students to get their hands dirty and understand the feeling of pavement, the formal vocabularies of material subtraction, modes of human and mechanical labor, economies of scale, tools, and processes which might drive tactical depaving efforts at the intimate site scale.
3) Develop a series of schematic, speculative depaving strategies deployed at a hypothetical site within the watershed, with a consideration of social and ecological intentions. Resulting designs will be compiled and shared with the intention of demonstrating possible transitional strategies which align with larger goals of the Fourmile creek masterplan.
We look forward to working with faculty and students at ISU to explore these complex issues through creative intervention.