Coming from the perspective of a landscape architect, I view research as a design tool to help the public better understand the ever-changing dynamics in their own cities. Therefore, my goal this summer has been to relate and condense the different aspects and qualities of a Wild Washington into a form or concept that can be more easily understood to people living in and visiting DC. This involves the making of several key graphics. My ultimate goal, as a (budding) landscape architect, is to raise awareness and affect behavior by influencing the design of public space.
The first step in explaining a Wild Washington is to define the urban wild. Here, I’ve attempted to break down the various components and aspects of the urban wild into multiple scales, measured from “smallest, less visible” to “largest, more visible, assumed.” As evident in the graphic, the urban wild is not only represented by flora and fauna, but also by hydrology, infrastructure, and social activities. Instead of isolating and separating the wild from human appropriation and our constructed environment, how can we foster a stronger relationship between the urban wild and these aspects from our everyday lives?
I’ve also been developing a material palette that describes the ever-changing, cyclical characteristic of the urban wild. Inherent in this wild is the idea that nothing is stagnant and a climax stage does not exist. Instead, everything is part of an ever-evolving landscape, fluxing between tame and wild, back and forth. Particularly interesting to this palette (and arguably the most controversial) are the invasive and native species, which alternate in dominance depending on various external influences. Considering this natural flux, are invasive species as detrimental to native environments as people argue? The answer, of course, depends on the location, but perhaps invasive species are just one necessary part to the larger cycle evident in this palette.
Given the varying scales, components, and changing palette of the urban wild, I’m in the process of creating a map of a Wild Washington. Large and small corridors and patches form a wild matrix that highlights the movement and locations of plants, animals, water, infrastructure, and social activities. Selected layers of history, infrastructure, and vegetation help give shape to this vision of a Wild Washington, and scaled pullouts of the map highlight just a few of the existing spaces in this wild network.
Finally, Dumbarton Oaks’ relationship to corridors, topography, and water, as well as its proximity and integration with Rock Creek Park, make it an interesting case study within a “Wild Washington.” As a hybrid at the edge of a social and ecological spectrum and lying in the middle of this wild spectrum, Dumbarton Oaks is an integral part of this wild network. In particular, Dumbarton Oaks Park, with Farrand’s cascading water features, has a unique opportunity to hybridize design, experience, and the urban wild.
In addition to my research, I have continued to work in the gardens – planting, clipping, watering, hauling and testing my plant identification skills (to the point where Rigo, Mark, and Luis are probably tired of hearing me ask, “What plant is this?,” for the 100th time that day!). Below is a sketch of one genus I can now confidently identify: a hibiscus, which is currently in full bloom in the Cutting Garden.