In Situ Experimentation

In Situ Experimentation (work in progress)

The construction of urban environments and the affects of climate change are occurring faster than the acquisition of scientific knowledge.  Therefore it is important that designs double as sites for experimentation that inform the development of future urban spatial strategies.  A meaningful aesthetic will invite experimentation in the pursuit of pertinent knowledge for the development of adaptable urban environments.

In Urban Design and Urban Water Ecosystems, Kristina Hill effectively argues that innovative designs “must be supported by an integrative framework for analysis and application in order to significantly change overall urban hydrologic performance.” (Hill, Urban Design and Urban Water Ecosystems 2009)The lack of up to date dataset about immediate problems in urban development poses one of the biggest obstacles to developing sustainable designs. Building sustainable communities requires designers to increase their knowledge about the function of the environment in an urban context through the design process and to monitor the effect of the design choices in post construction.

To further compound the information gap, much of the ecological knowledge that exists comes from studies that were conducted outside urban environments. Scientific knowledge has simply been translated and implemented in urban environments.  In the translation of scientific studies from non-urban to urban setting it is possible that the most effective solutions are not being explored.  If more empirical data existed about the performance of urban ecologies then there would be a better foundation for developing future design choices. As Felson and Pollak,  argue in Situation Urban Ecological Experiments in Public Space, the public realm should become a place for experimentation with the intention of furthering empirical data on effective urban ecologies.  They emphasize the importance of including human dynamics into ecological experiments, arguing that it “requires working within and across social boundaries, inventing strategies for grasping qualitative as well as quantitative data at a nexus of human, biological and physical activities.”(Mostafavi 2010, 358) Embedding scientific experiments with in the public realm will add another layer of function into retrofitting urban systems.  The additional layer will provide space for developing datasets about urban ecological systems. Sustainable design should promote partnerships and collaborations between scientists and designers to utilize the strengths of each discipline.

The intersection of human habitation, ecological function and sustainable design, and their impact on each other is not well documented.  In Conserving Biodiversity in Metropolitan Landscapes James Miller argues that the cumulative potential of small scale sustainable design interventions in relation to fostering and promoting biodiversity has not been adequately researched. (Miller 2008)The fragmented network of public land found in shrinking cities like New Orleans providesa valuable opportunity for experimenting to further explore the questions of functional trait diversityand water systems in a fragmented ecological matrix.


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