Design Concept
DGC 01 - 16 - 2010

The principal concept in the development of my individual design concept lies in the desire to change the fabric of the constructed landscape (a landscape not being limited to the outdoors) from something shaped by the placement of buildings, both big and small, to that defined by existing or introduced "natural" systems. I would consider a system in this particular case to be a built or existing set of elements which utilize natural principals and materials, such as natural filtration properties of soil and plants, to replace the fabricated infrastructure of the recent past. "Nature" in the context of the urban environment often has to deal solely with channelized bodies of water or rolling lawns with sporadic tree placement meant to represent the ideal nature of Olmsted and the landscape designers of yesteryear. In large part, with the exception of such places as Olmsted's Emerald Necklace in Boston, landscapes have been designed as aesthetic trophy pieces rather than functional systematic elements in the built fabric. Although they are not meant to specifically provide natural benefits to landscapes, greenspace in all environments, especially those urban, are invaluable in their capacity to reduce urban heat island effect as well as other functions. Social and cultural functions are undoubtedly the most important aspect of many of these spaces. Although city environments are the most vivid examples of the use of "nature" as a showpiece rather than functional environment, this idea continues throughout the American landscape. I'm going somewhere with this, and that is that my intent is to focus on the development of landscape as the principal system of development rather than arbitrarily placing greenspace in between trophy buildings. In an essay written in the 19th century on westward expansion, the author uses the phrase "the wilderness masters the pioneer." Although the idea of wilderness as a dark and deadly unexplored frontier is impossible to fathom in the age of Google Earth, nature (along with Native Americans) was the most deadly foe that American pioneers faced. However, the complete reversal of that trend has seen the rape of the natural landscape of a vast portion of the country and the world, making man (the pioneer) the hopeful master of nature (the wilderness). Although still in an entirely conceptual stage of development, my idea is to develop a site along Trail Creek in Michigan City, Indiana by first developing a functional, educational, and beautiful set of systems inside which built elements will be placed and designed to work in concert with the existing site and present systems in a stylized manner. Although the site is of course intended to have significant cultural and social value in the community, I also hope for it to be a flagship of the development of ecologically and socially sustainable design and a hopeful integration of architecture and the site on which it lies and from which it can gain its identity and purpose. [Caption 001: Traditional built environments of the last century typically utilize natural elements such as trees or parks as pretty add-ons to the already built urban fabric, whereas simultaneous integration of natural and built systems, and the fusion thereof, allows for a design that responds more effectively to place and performs much more efficiently.] [Caption 002: Many medieval streetscape designs, such as that of the Alhambra, incorporate channels to guide water into drains or other elements. Instead of sending water directly into a drain on the side of the road, an important visual element is established (even if inadvertently) showcasing water as an invaluable resource and even an amenity instead of a liability.]