research, sketches, ideas, questions

Month: July, 2012

boundaries and borders

by studiojane

“If Entelechy aspired to be a landscape I think maybe it would be a salt marsh; an intertidal zone. The sociologist Richard Sennett makes the distinction between borders and boundaries. He talks of natural ecologies where borders are the zones in a habitat where organisms become more inter-active; places where different species or physical conditions meet. In contrast Boundaries represent an impenetrable edge: no cross-overs, no interactions.”    — Entelechy Arts


Boston sea level rise response

by studiojane

visions of a Harvard GSD grad Michael Wilson, his book

ideas: what if this could happen in Boston?

by studiojane

proposals include lots that deal with coastline, flooding, etc.


by studiojane


quincy bean satellite tower

listening devices

by studiojane

how can we listen to plants? some historical attempts to listen

preliminary musings

by studiojane

our first speculations about what we might be doing:


Harbor Gardens (just a working title)

Harbor Gardens proposes to activate the interconnectedness of humans and plants in our urban port city ecosystem by designing flotants (modular salt marsh habitats) for growing salt marsh plant species.  It offers a practical design solution, public intervention, and platform for considering anew the role plants play in protecting and supporting all life on the planet, as well as the possibilities of our role in maintaining their life and needs.  These “floating skirts,” as they are called, increase biodiversity, improve water quality, and protect the shoreline.

The spirit of the piece, however, is not solely to create an engineering feat and proposal for improved human coastal living.   It is to use this engineering feat as a foundation for growth – of plants, of a whimsical imaginative plant-based adventure story, and of a compassion and empathy-based communication system that brings humans in contact with plant possibilities.   A central piece of the project will be a pirate or community radio station that will offer a voice for communities to speak to the plants and the plants to speak back to us.

We plan to build one to three flotant modules out of recycled materials.  These modules would be built to sustain salt marsh plantlife while floating on the water. In the exhibition, the modules would not contain living plants, and may be models or experiments testing out different design and narrative possibilities.

We will also include a video that narrates the journey and life of the flotants in the harbor.

Alongside the modules and the video will be a series of drawings (taking the form of collage conversations back and forth between Marsching & Sutton) as speculative research-based fictions about  the science, community, narrative, performative, radio, and  ecological interrelationships.

flotants, floating skirts, salt marsh nations

by studiojane

here is an image of some of the UMB work making a floating salt marsh


Ideas… All the many ideas…

by andisutton

Build little flotation devices/life preservers and put them around plants in the Boston landscape;  perhaps marking the high water line/flood line

– This could be a good project with kids or with the Boston Harbor Association: education opportunity.

Build a tall/full-size mock-up housing one to three grass species;   exists as a real flotation device; accommodates low and high tide

– Lifts and lowers in gallery based on tide projections; Requires motor and rigging
– Provides way for people to experience the way tides work;  includes a once per day flood/storm-surge (or once per week? Maybe viewers have to schedule their life to come and see it, inviting them to plan viewings around big tide events similar to what we do in ‘real life’)
– Could include the live marsh grasses; does not have to
– Could include a video projection of tide level: on the wall, or on to the sculpture
– Could be suspended in front of a wall drawing of different tide heights.   No projection; just drawing; where a viewer stands/where the sculpture rises and falls, wall supports calculation of tide height
– No rising and lowering with tides; build with a motor that makes sculpture rock back and forth. Could be analogue – i.e. Sand in an hourglass that affects the rocking; or could be an actual electric motor, pushing or pulling

Floating garden pods (at least 3): plants end up floating in community with one another.  Connected by chains, or something – – promote growth in between each other (maybe chains have hanging things to promote seaweed/barnacle growth, etc.?

– Each one is a complete vertical habitat, targeting at least 3 companion species: sea grass, salt marsh grass, and a mussel breeding bed, for example
– Could include some kind of filtration device; could be a habitat for something (fish?) or become a habitat for something (breeding bed?)
– Design guideline:  balance in low tide and high tide; room for roots
– Ultimately show (in drawing form, or sculpture/video):  these could become an archipelago or a flotant; what does the sea look like populated with many of these islands

Wearable garden flotation devices for humans as well as plants.  (Envision a flotation device that could save humans from a storm surge as well as plants;  something that may be able to sustain a human for quite some time.   Edible plants? Medicinal plants? Water cisterns?   But include humor element – i.e., your legs are still in the water, but you’re inside a garden, with all sustaining needs within arm’s reach.)

– Tall rain-catching bottle, fresh water can be sucked by human or dripped into plants
– Plants that have nutritional content that can be eaten raw and sustain you for some (short/long) amount of time
– Is it survivalist?  i.e. includes a store of other kinds of food packaged food?  High-protein convenience foods, etc.
– Maybe the person & the plants are defecting? Include in it a pair of flippers.
– Is this an apocalyptic vision or a hopeful one? Human-made flotation device that ultimately sacrifices the human for plant/fish food?   Sustenance until there is no more?
– This could become an animated film.   Human taken over in the tending by plants.   Becoming/evolving/morphing into a plant/sea creature?  Story mirrors adaptation/evolution processes?  Maybe the human becomes photosynthetic?

Make floating gardens that are wearable:  create video of person riding bike with floating garden & riding it into the ocean, until water and garden are over the person’s head and the garden habitat floats away.

– Could happen in a salt marsh/landscape where there’s a kind of camouflage; the bike rides through the landscape making the landscape itself look like it’s moving;  the landscape & rider moving away from the (seaside bluffs) or other area with the humor of seeing the landscape taken away from where it ‘should’ be.  Maybe it’s ridden down a road or cityscape?  Maybe it’s ridden through the sand right into the water, and then floats away?
– Begin with a storyboard

Build the mythology: an independent nation for plants

– Why is the salt marsh defecting from it’s home habitat?  Where is it going/where does it want to go?
– Is it anticipating being washed ashore and seeding a new marsh in another area?  i.e. immigration story or a message in a bottle?
– Or, is it just the experience of being lost at sea?  The salt marsh does not defect, rather it was ripped away by a storm surge, built/evolved/colonized an architectural platform also washed away by storm surge, to create habitable environment. (Therefore, the flotation device should look very architectural and haphazard – looking like how the Sargasso sea/things washed up ashore would look.   Bottles tied together messily by twine, etc. etc.)
– Who is it communicating to?   Is it calling to fellow species?  Projecting birdcalls to welcome birds to a new nesting habitat?  Projecting fish sounds or mussel sounds underwater?    Inviting seeds blowing in the wind, etc?
– Mount speakers in it as well as a pirate radio station.  Pirate radio is for humans; speakers are for animals/plants
– Flag; manifesto; instructions for care; note of defection
– Imagine the kind of goodbye note/note of activism/action the Brookline bear would have had if found.   This little guy left his home territory for Brookline/Boston TWICE, traveling several hundred miles both times!  Something meant it wanted to be there, not where it was.  (What’s enticing about the human landscape?  What does it want that it’s missing?  So what would the plants want that they’re missing?

Design/watercolor/paint on top of large-scale maps: colonization dreams of plants

–  Perhaps refer to border mapping/remapping & intersection with colonization issue/dominance, etc.  (I.e. what would it look like if Kudzu mapped out it’s planned dominance of the southern landscape before dominating it?    With language of occupation, etc.?
– Research: look at old maps of the ‘new world’; maps of western expansion; colonization; maps of the west bank?

Are we trying to remove the human hand entirely?  The trouble with the complete defection idea on a floating island is that whatever it’s built on, it will look human-made.

Is this project about defecting/escape or immigration?  Both have to do with an unsuitable environment or climate, and a certain kind of migration.  But do these islands want to be independent?  Or do they somehow somewhere want to find new land to colonize?

– How are floating docks built?   Any resources for using plastic bottles as/for flotation devices?
– What do mussel-breeding beds look like?
– What are companion species for salt marshes or for shellfish breeding?
– What are species that survive and occupy the underwater areas of salt marshes?
– Does it make sense for Boston to have a Flotant, ecologically speaking?
– What do human made structures that plants are intended to grow around or attach to look like? What are others: mushroom logs, etc.

Test balance/ballast using small-scale structures – – what shape is most stable?  Where does the weight need to be/can be?   What needs a flotation device and what does not?  (test in fish tank?)

– Boston Building Supply
– Recycling Center (Dorchester/Roxbury)
– Some institution that can donate plastic bottles/old foam

Belle Island Salt Marsh: June 2012 Site Visit

by andisutton

Belle Island Salt Marsh

A site visit in June, to investigate flora and fauna

Jane presses seaweed
Jane gathers seaweed and presses it in her field notebook.

Low tide at the marsh
In our visit at 8 AM, it was clear we had come at low tide. We found one freshwater stream here that fed the muddy tidal flat.

Tidal beds and sky
Another view of sea grasses, tidal beds, and shrubbery

what is a salt marsh anyways?

by klmitchell

Salt marshes serve as the transition from the ocean to the land, where fresh and salt water mix. (footnote) [They are] one of the most productive natural ecosystems on Earth, and support a rich diversity of plants and animals that are uniquely adapted to inhabit wetlands that constantly change with the ebb and flow of the tide. Today, salt marshes are treasured for the biodiversity they support, their contribution to marine productivity and commercial fisheries, their ability to anchor sediments and protect shorelines from erosion and flood damage, and their capacity to improve water quality….In the last 350 years, humans have converted countless acres of salt marshes to roads, farms, parking lots, neighborhoods, and even cities. (more here)

Time Lapsed Video