Sediment Pipeline

The field research trip to the Bayou Dupont long distance sediment pipeline for marsh creation was part of the Advanced Research in Coastal Ecological Design Seminar, “Objects of Coastal Restoration” taught by Justine Holzman in the Spring of 2015, as a collaboration among upper division Landscape Architecture students and the LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio to capitalize on the critical mass forming around local coastal issues and the built environment to take a stance and position on design’s relationship to coastal restoration. Complementing the overarching theme, the course is composed of two major components addressing specific research agendas within the LSU CSS. First, the development of content for the Expanded Small Scale Physical Model Exhibition Space. And second, continue to research and test methodologies for transdisciplinary collaboration between science and design fields by addressing the importance and agency of visualization and communication across disciplines.

The course received additional funding and support from the Coastal Sustainability Studio and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Realities and Realms


The Realities and Realms colloquium focuses on the role of computation and robotics in landscape architecture and the expanding sensorial field of the built environment. These hybrid grounds of operation merge anthropogenic perception and technological mediation. As sensing networks expand, data grows exponentially in quantity and ubiquity, building an increasingly abstract landscape of information. How such data is elucidated, curated, and augmented forms new realities for design. This colloquium will explore design methodologies that address concurrent physical and virtual realms and the realities in which they operate.

In this context, a realm is a lens through which we sense an environment and a reality is place within which we take action. The Realities and Realms colloquium engages select practitioners, theorists, and academics for an afternoon to explore the future of responsive technologies to interpret and modify environment. Panelists will posit trajectories that frame the role of responsive technologies to imagine, choreograph, and evolve cyborg landscapes and synthetic ecologies.

The colloquium will be organized in two panel sessions followed by open discussions, exploring the tools, practice, theories, and futures of responsive technologies in landscape architecture.



Opening Remarks and Panel Introductions
Bradley Cantrell, Associate Professor of Landscape Architectural Technology, Harvard GSD
Justine Holzman, Assistant Professor, John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, University of Toronto

Session 1: Realities

Justine Holzman
Sara Dean, Assistant Professor of Graduate Design, California College of the Arts
Alexander Robinson, Assistant Professor, University of Southern California
David J. Klein, Director of AI, Conservation Metrics, Inc.
Nataly Gattegno, Co-founder Future Cities Lab, Chair of Graduate Architecture, California College of the Arts

“Perhaps all boundaries are illusory, whether erected by ourselves through our lack of information about the nature of things, or by the choice of an oversimplified (or even over-complicated) model of reality?” —John D. Barrow, Impossibility: The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits, 1998

Advances in sensing technologies have fundamentally altered the methods in which the landscape is known and modified, ranging from oil exploration and precision agriculture to interplanetary autonomous rovers. The ability to sense, virtualize, and simulate environmental phenomena has resulted in a variety of composite physical and digital realities that often exist simultaneously across multiple temporal moments and scales. While responsive technologies further the blurring between physical and digital space, this mode of understanding the landscape by means of measurement and modeling requires a turn to the landscape, which has always been the principal practice of landscape architecture.

With the increasing accessibility of responsive technologies and open data acquired from sensing networks, what realities emerge? How can architects and designers craft new realms to engage this liminal space between the physical and the digital? How have sensing technologies shaped contemporary discourse, and how might we engage directly with their design and deployment? What models are necessary to engage real-time feedback in landscape systems?


Session 2: Realms

moderator: Erle Ellis, Professor, Geography & Environmental Systems, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Rob Holmes, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, Auburn University
Kathy Velikov, Associate Professor, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban planning, University of Michigan; co-founder, RVTR
Liam Young, Fiction and Entertainment Coordinator, SCI-Arc

“What landscape futures might we explore when entire terrains are internally mechanized, given partial sentience, and able to interact with one another wirelessly, over great distances of time and space?” —Geoff Manaugh, Landscape Futures, 2013

Responsive technologies, altered biology, and cybernetic ecologies are already influencing and shaping the landscape at various scales and velocities. Examples are seen at the planetary scale through the domestication of flora and fauna, at the continental scale through infrastructure and ecological maintenance, and at the territorial scale through contemporary agriculture. There is a complexity to the anthropogenic influence on ecological systems that ranges far beyond the scale of human interaction or intent. New fields of innovation and application are emerging which present strategies for synthetic biology, robotic ecology, and geo-engineering. For instance, technological advances have been made in precision agriculture to optimize agricultural production while implementing a framework for large-scale water resource conservation.

What regions and scales of influence are implicated in the re-shaping and the modification of the environment through responsive technologies? What role does design play in large-scale environmental management? How can we identify areas of innovation and engage the territorial scale without determining future scenarios?

4:15 p.m.

Closing Remarks
Bradley Cantrell
Justine Holzman
Erle Ellis

Data Clay Exhibition

January 17, 2015 – April 19, 2015

“Data Clay: Digital Strategies for Parsing the Earth is the first public exhibition to present the growing movement of architects, artists, and designers exploring the medium of ceramics coupled with digital technologies. Current interest in the potential transformation of basic materials like clay into complex hybrid systems has pushed ceramics to the forefront of innovation in the allied design fields. Data Clay: Digital Strategies for Parsing the Earth presents work by leading researchers and practitioners associated with the digital ceramic field through a range of diverse products and sculptural forms.”

Participating Artists: Maura Biava, Andy Brayman, David Celento, Emerging Objects, Gladding McBean, Neil Forrest, Foreign Office Architects, Future Cities Lab & MACHINIC, Del Harrow, Justine Holzman, Brian Peters, John Roloff, Specific Objects, Jenny Sabin, Joshua G. Stein, and UNFOLD Studio, plus objects from The Porcelain Study Room at the Legion of Honor.

This exhibit was accompanied by a concurrent symposium at CCA to discuss the future of these processes and technologies.

More information can be found here:

Curated by Joshua G. Stein and Del Harrow. Mr. Stein is Principal at Radical Craft, and Associate Professor of Architecture at Woodbury University. Mr. Harrow is Associate Professor of Art at Colorado State University.

Exhibit design: Ted Cohen
Registrar & Curatorial assistant: Ariel Zaccheo

Data Clay: Digital Strategies for Parsing the Earth was generously supported in part by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. This research was supported by a Craft Research Fund grant from The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design, Inc. The Museum of Craft and Design’s exhibitions and programs are generously supported by the Windgate Charitable Foundation and Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund.

2015 CELA Conference

Excited to have presented a paper with Rob Holmes at the 2015 CELA Conference, Incite Change, Change Insight.

Paper: “Material Failure and Entropy in the Salton Sink”

The Salton Sea is a saline lake and the largest inland body of water in southern California, formed by a geologic depression below sea level at the bottom of an isolated basin similarly titled the Salton Sink. Once an outlet for the Colorado River to the Gulf of California, the depression was isolated over time through the deposition of sediments. The current volume of the Salton Sea originated in the first decade of the 20th century with the failure of infrastructures built to redirect the Colorado River for irrigation. The Salton Sea now functions both as an agricultural infrastructure, albeit one increasingly degraded by nutrients and contaminants present in the agricultural run-off irrigating the Imperial and Coachella Valleys, and as an ecological resource. This paper argues that the example of the Salton Sea demonstrates the capacity of material failure and entropy to generate novel landscape conditions that have properties which are valued.

The theoretical work of this paper ties together three distinct but related strands of contemporary theory impacting the field of landscape architecture: emergence and indeterminacy, new materialist thinking in philosophy, and discourse related to the concept of the Anthropocene. Theoretical arguments that engage these strands and a selective environmental history of the Salton Sea work together to advance our case for the generative capacity of failure and entropy. This case develops concepts for understanding how failure and entropy operate, applying a discourse that, within landscape architectural theory, has primarily focused on ecological phenomena and discrete sites to the behavior of geological, hydrological, sedimentary, and infrastructural assemblages at very large scales. Ultimately, the paper argues that there will be an important role for landscape architectural design that understands how to operate within the context of very large scale landscapes experiencing failure and entropy.

Citation: Holmes, Rob and Justine Holzman. “Material Failure and Entropy in the Salton Sink.” CELA Conference Proceedings, Incite Change, Change Insight 2015.

Synthetic Urban Ecologies

Studio, Fall 2011, Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture, LSU

Justine Holzman, Adjunct, Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture (at the time)
Bradley Cantrell, Associate Professor, Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture (at the time)

Collaborators: Urban Biofilter, a non-profit ecological design firm based in Oakland, California

The interface between the constructed environment and ecological systems is slowly blurring new strategies in urbanism, biological engineering, and technological interfaces. Homogeneous, detrimental impacts within the constructed environment demand a synthesis of new relationships between industry, settlement, and evolving biological systems that frame the landscape as a synthesizer of biotic and abiotic processes. The interstices of these new relationships become the medium in which the course will examine new potentials for sensing, monitoring, automation, and robotics within the design of synthetic ecologies.

Synthetic Urban Ecologies Studio will build upon the work completed in Responsive Systems Studio Fall 2011, with an emphasis on site-specific urban and industrial influenced ecological systems. The studio will develop divisive interventions for the Port of Oakland, Oakland Army Base and Neighboring West Oakland Communities, a site whose environmental conditions have presented severe health risks, environmental impacts, as well as social and environmental injustice due to the concentration of air pollution in the form of particulate matter. Using the innovative work that Urban Biofilter is pursuing through Adapt Oakland, a project that develops standards and policy recommendations for green urban infill at both city and state levels, the studio will take advantage of the unique opportunities this site presents for adaptive design within a working urban and industrial landscape. This noxious output of particulate matter can be envisioned as a signifier for a critical opportunity for intervention within this complex system, for undesirable outputs to be metabolized. Elevated outputs associated with industry and constructed environments require synthetic ecological systems to become hyper-productive and hyper-performative.

The concept that ecological systems reach and desire stasis/climax has long been refuted. The design of synthetic ecologies requires the ability for adaptation and adaptive management informed by real-time sensing and monitoring of site phenomena. Adjustments to the system allow for an approach to environmental remediation that is preemptive, opening up new territory in active industrial sites, not just post-industrial landscapes. This view of ecological systems, through the lens of responsive technologies, posits that the designer is responsible for the creation and implementation of processes that curate, manage, and sculpt landscape systems. The role of responsive technologies focuses on the development of active methods for management of biological systems. This methodology spans a range of scales from micro adjustments of processes to regional management and monitoring. Primarily, responsive technologies create a new recursive or iterative relationship between computation and biology.

The studio will begin the semester with a site visit to Oakland, CA and will have access to the developing library of resources Urban Biofilter has been collecting and potential on-site remote sensing capabilities. This will facilitate a laboratory studio setting for immersion in building working site models with performative interventions. The studio will engage prototyping, virtual models, and physical models as the primary modes of exploration. Studio participants will be exposed to a range of tools for the prototyping of responsive systems and environmental simulations that will be required to develop proposals for the site. Participants will use this knowledge to develop expertise through multiple iterations and rigorous research and documentation.

The studio will focus on relationship between urbanity, industry, ecological fitness, habitat, and infrastructure. An essential question must be explored as we develop ecologically rich cities, a question surrounding the definition of humanity. The interaction between our cities and the ecological systems that we are slowly integrating into them will question our perception of ecological systems as we understand the aesthetic, performative, and systemic qualities of ecology as a curated medium. The view of the city as a nexus, utilizing resources from surrounding systems traditionally creates a relationship of opposition and scarcity. How does the site function as node within a large network? If we are examining a robust ecology how does urbanity interrupt larger systems? How can it contribute?

2014 ACADIA Conference

Excited to have presented a paper with Bradley Cantrell at the 2014 ACADIA Conference, Design Agency, at the University of Southern California.

Paper: “Synthetic Ecologies: Protocols, Simulation, and Manipulation for Indeterminate Landscapes.”

The finite methods of design and engineering have created static counterpoints to systems that are continually in fluctuation. There is a necessity to engage dynamic environmental phenomena through methods that mimic an indeterminate control framework as a means of developing infrastructures and settlements that are more tightly entwined with complex ecologies. The work outlined in this paper positions the design and curation of synthetic ecologies through the lens of simulation and monitoring as a way to develop logics of interaction.

Advances in computational design research, engineering simulation, and computational fluid dynamics are providing designers with the tools to challenge the determinacy of systems engineering with informed dynamic solutions. Synthetic ecologies describes a conceptual methodology for autonomous landscape manipulation guided by protocols that are informed through multiple physical and temporal scales of data, learning from past and future scenarios. This methodology, developed as a response to landscape indeterminacy, expresses a computational approach to designing complex and evolving ecologies.

Citation: Cantrell, Bradley and Justine Holzman. “Synthetic Ecologies: Protocols, Simulation, and Manipulation for Indeterminate Landscapes.” ACADIA Conference Proceedings, Design Agency 2014.