RA006 | AN ECOLOGICAL PROSTHESIS
RA006 | AN ECOLOGICAL PROSTHESIS focused on creating proposals to retrofit the Hoosic river from a pragmatic concrete structure to greenway with new social, ecological and material possibilities. Analytical drawings, a field guide, and design proposals were featured in Bureau for Open Culture’s exhibition entitled I Am Searching for Field Character at MASSMoCA in July of 2012. RA006 was hosted by the Knowlton School of Architecture at The Ohio State University.
Site Location: North Adams, Massachusetts
I Am Searching for Field Character at MASSMoCA, July 2012.
North Adams, once an industrial center in New England is a Fordist city being re-tooled for the 21st century. The city’s mills have been re-purposed for cultural uses, such as the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), as artist lofts and light manufacturing facilities. The Hoosic river that runs through North Adams and alongside MASS MoCA has a troubled history. Channelized in the early 20th century to prevent flooding the city and its mills and to flush waste, the Hoosic is currently a dead zone in the city. The profile of the channel is foreboding: comprised of a confection of damaged chain link fences and rusting guardrails, it resembles an open sewer. Aside from flood control, the river provides no social, ecological or cultural benefits to the citizen or visitors to the city. During Hurricane Irene in Fall of 2012, the floodways were filled to capacity.
Provocation: What is an ecological prosthetic? How does it work, and what does it look like?
Site Study Program
- Lecture on riparian ecosystems by ecologist Elena Traister
- Analytical field drawing workshop
- Docent-led tour of MASS MoCA
- History presentations with Bennington College architecture students
Participants first created a field guide to the North and South branches of the Hoosic River in North Adams. Next, they interpreted the work of process artists such as Robert Smithson, Eva Hesse, Barry LeVa, and Heringa/Van Kalsbeek to build a catalog of formal and conceptual references for the design of the ecological prosthetic. The Ecological Prosthetic is a life-supporting implant that fits within existing Hoosic River channel. This prosthesis is comprised of both hard and soft structures and armatures that provide sites for self-organizing ecosystems to emerge within this landscape corridor. The intent of the multi-layered ecological prosthesis is to increase surface area within the channel, slowing and cooling the water to provide habitat for fish, invertebrates, birds and mammals. Proposals included a synthetic greenway: systems of catwalks and public ways to re-connect the city to the river that integrated armatures for ruderal plant life and animal habitat, a series of mixed-material “pylons” within the river channel, a geotextile tapestry made of a variety of fabrics lining the channel to help catch sediment and organic materials.
The summer program engaged social aspects of the river and featured a lemonade stand and picnic, a “ditch-in” theatre night, and public tour of the “Monuments of the Hoosic”.
Sarah Von Lehman