Explorations of the Colorado River #4: The Design Studio
June 15, 2012 § 2 Comments
Done with our touring of the Colorado River (1, 2, 3) and speed-reading about its issues, my 2nd year graduate landscape architecture design studio dove into planning and design solutions for the river. In the analysis phase, over and over, it was observed that the river ecosystem needed to regain its flooding and sediment dynamics. And over and over, it was observed that the political, human dimension would almost certainly never allow that to happen -regardless of the ecological desert created at the river’s mouth, and regardless of the obvious and dire future of the watershed due to climate change, population growth, and accumulating pollutants (including radioactive spoils behind reservoirs ya’ll!)
Clearly designing for what humans want usually comes at an environmental cost. The ecosystem loses! Even when it’s billed as sustainable, it’s more likely the design is about incrementally less harm to the ecosystem. So in this studio, designers were challenged with having the Colorado River as their Client. How do you work to meet human needs within that mandate? It becomes a much different conversation. Since many students don’t wish to explore “visionary” projects (visionary of course being the polite synonym for politically impossible, er, unrealistic), the studio was structured so that students could also provide concepts that inch us toward’s the River’s restored state, accommodating more of contemporary human uses while weaning us from an unhealthy allocation system. This combination of visionary plotting (mwaahaha) and phased steps towards rehabilitation put together make for a nice master plan.
You can read more about the studio and download most of the studio’s presentations at When the River is Client: Design Explorations of the Lower Colorado River. I hope you will! There’s some great ideas the students came up with.