Bigger Darby is a planning proposal for the territory within the Big Darby Creek watershed. Conceived as an exhibition studio, the proposal examines the scenic and ecologically intact Big Darby Creek in Central Ohio and investigates the ways in the skills and design tactics of landscape architects can contribute to a conventional watershed planning project.
The Big Darby Creek watershed is 25 kilometers west of Columbus, Ohio. Here the westernmost suburbs of Columbus interface with the dominant agricultural texture of western Ohio. Landscape typologies within the boundary include row crops, restored prairie, oak savannah, woodlots, old field succession, strip development, residential cluster development, wetlands and riparian corridors.
The Big Darby Accord, adopted in the mid 2000s, unites public and private interests to guide current land use and future development to protect the Big Darby Creek and its tributaries from non-point source pollution. The area defined in the Accord covers about 30 km on the north-south axis and 10 km on the east-west axis.
The Big Darby Accord planning documents, include land use, hydrology, and geology and soils data. These documents also specify development guidelines and best management practices (BMPs) for agricultural, suburban, and conservation lands within the watershed. Specific plant palettes, watercourse setbacks, river restorations, and earthwork and drainage tactics all result in material, spatial, and subsequently aesthetic changes to the landscape. In time, a de facto and de jure landscape identity will define the lands within the Big Darby Accord boundaries, as BMPs, codes and design guidelines are physically implemented. Our charge as designers is to disentangle this landscape from the banality of due diligence, and tease out loopholes within the time and territory allotted to bring forth a rich and legible new landscape.
The first project focused on the amplification of the existing landscape to invent a new intermediate landscape, between agriculture and public space, within the territories governed by the Big Darby Accord. This intermediate landscape will perform the function of improving water quality in the Darby Creek Watershed, provide a public space network, and imbue the region with an original landscape character.
We integrated the mark-making experiments with the lexicon studies by creating models depicting borders between land uses within the Big Darby watershed: between residential development and creeks; agricultural fields and woodlots; wetlands and recreation areas. A small group created a series of analytical models depicting stages historic agricultural patterns of development.
At times, these tactile artifacts began to overwhelm the space of the studio. However, their physical presence was invaluable -one could reach for a study model to quickly communicate a concept to an individual or group.
The atmosphere was joyous, open and experimental. We rearranged the studio with large worktables and large stockpiles of modeling materials; the tables were places to work, converse, experiment, and gossip. Design iteration and gallery production in the studio was visible, tactile and collaborative, unlike many environments where participants work individually at workstations.
These models detail enhancements to surplus landscape edges and in-field treatments of fallow lands. Dubbed Bigger Management Practices (BIG-MPs), these management practices include the added requirement of reinforcing landscape character in addition to solving for ecological, watershed, or farming issues. Using diverse implementation strategies that could be realized through a range of public-private partnerships, they tested the BIG-MPs at 1:200 scale for their potential to shape and define the greater landscape and addressed the priorities beyond those specified in the BDAWMP, including (1) riparian reinforcement, (2) preserving the open fields, (3) enclosing development with forestry, (4) providing recreational access, and (5) developing a stronger sense of place. We addressed multiple scales including the neighborhood / farm (1:1000), transect (1:3000), and regional (1:10,000), physical modeling tested possible outcomes of specific BIG-MPs combinations when inserted into the landscape. From strategic over-planting along a rural road to encourage reforestation of subdivisions, widening of hedgerows to include bike paths, or the creation of riparian wetlands, we saw that small practices could “scale up” to accomplish larger aims of regional coherence.
To expedite production of models and drawings the exhibition, one team created standardized mark-making tools. These tool makers taught the mark makers how to create textures at a range of scales. The “tool makers” made stencils for spray-painting the models using a laser cutter. The “mark makers” rotated and combined the stencils to create richly-layered patterns
Co Instructor: Nick Glase
Senior Landscape Studio: