Architecture in the Altered Landscape

Advanced Architecture Studio 5

Fall 2012

Marc Tsurumaki, critic, with John Morrison

If Manhattan represents the triumph of the artificial over the natural, then the Meadowlands can be seen as the site of perpetual and unresolved struggle. In contrast to the orderly density of the Manhattan grid where all evidence of previous terrestrial features have been erased–these 20,000 acres of urban wetlands just a few mile to the west, comprise a vast and unruly territory whose apparent vacancy belies its complex vitality. In the Meadowlands, transportation networks and salt marshes, industrial facilities and post-industrial brownfields, subterranean leachate fires and cyanide pools, waterfowl and ecological preserves, landfills and kayaking facilities coexist in surreal juxtaposition. Home to a diverse and persistent ecosystem, it is also one of the twentieth century’s most degraded landscapes–the reservoir of the toxic by-products of the region’s industrial transformation as well as the repository of its discarded remains.

However, if the Meadowlands seem to contradict the rational order of the city, they can nevertheless be understood as equally a product of human manipulation and intervention. Characterized by both the indeterminacy of land and water and by the blurring of industrial, infrastructural, and biotic systems, the Meadowlands present a terra incognita where conventional distinctions between the organic and the artificial are no longer possible or operationally significant.

Jaclyn Jung A/B
Luis Alarcon C
Thomas Heltzel D
Yvonne Demitra Konstantinidis E/F