Mar 26, 2010

The Gowanus as Oyster Farm and Tidal Calming Reef

A little shout-out to super-smart landscape architect Kate Orff of Scape for this fantastic vision of the Gowanus Canal as an Oyster breeding ground as a part of the MoMA's Rising Currents: Projects for New York's Waterfront exhibition. Orff and team uncovered the history of the canal as a source of New York's biggest and juiciest oysters and researched the little mollusc to discover that it's basically a living machine for purifying water, then imagined a watery landscape in New York harbor in which oyster farms serve as tidal attenuation reefs to protect the shoreline against rising water levels.

I'm especially gratified by the payoff image of happy people eating oysters in the end, having complained often about the tendency of landscape architects to imagine the waterfront as a place for unhappy people to push strollers and contemplatively lean over railings as if getting ready to jump. It's also striking how much the thinking behind this project is marked by empirical, research-based processes typical of architects coming out of Harvard GSD, among them Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss, Interboro and all the students of Hashim Sarkis. I love this kind of work for its firm rootedness in everyday practices that can be observed and then extended into larger visions of possible futures.

Curator Barry Bergdoll is particularly excited about the exhibition's blog site and its Respond to the Exhibition link that opens up the Institution to public comments and criticism, though its buried so far from the main MoMA page that it has only received four pointless comments so far. -STEPHEN ZACKS

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