ARC 606-4

ARC 606-4– Ecological Practices Studio: Recovering The Coast: Design and Resilience along Freshwater Shores

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Course Details

Course No.: 16361

Department: Architecture

Semester: 2018 Spring

Location: Hayes Hall – 205A

Meeting Day(s): Tuesday & Thursday

Meeting Time: 1:00PM - 6:50PM

Faculty: Burkholder

Faculty: Burkholder

While our marine shores are battered by storm surges and the associated design initiatives associated with them (e.g. Rebuild by Design or Resilient by Design), many of our freshwater coasts appear devoid of interest. Typically understood as safe and stable, the shorelines of the Great Lakes basin are seldom seen as the battleground for planning with and around dynamic systems. This position is however superficial at best, and in many cases completely false. Many of these misconceptions are predicated upon a poor understanding of the fluctuating conditions of the natural systems around us.  Contextually probing this misconception will set the foundation of the studio. Significant time will be spent attempting to unpack and understand the dynamic nature of the Great Lakes shore, both scientifically and experientially. The studio is founded on a set of assumptions.  The first of these is that the Great Lakes region in general, and the littoral coasts in particular, are locations of significant change.  The second assumption is that novel or creative methods of contextual questioning (probing) lead to novel insight and thusly to innovative propositions. However, this assumption does not establish proposition as the final or ultimate goal of the design process, but instead acknowledges the role of probing as the true foundation of design, with or without accompanying proposition.  The third and final assumption is that while foundational, the future of the basin is not tied to ecology in the traditional sense, but instead to regimes coalescing around urbanization, resource extraction and recreation, all in the face of a rapidly changing environment. This studio will conceptually, systemically, and physically explore the Great Lakes coast, and will produce both novel insight and highly calibrated propositions as outcomes that have efficacy at multiple scales.  It will explore new methods of understanding places and evaluate a range of approaches for systemically engaging these places.


In a climate of ever-decreasing federal funding, myopic and near-sighted planning efforts and exacerbated environmental feedback, our Great Lakes shores are a limited and dwindling resource. Yet, it is here, where the largest freshwater resource on Earth intermingles with the land it drains, that is the true front line and proving ground for environmental design explorations of regional impact and importance.