Water has historically and metaphorically
been a force behind Baltimore’s image and growth.
The contamination and gentrification of the waterfront
were the generative issues behind the proposal for a
non-native oyster production park. Treating both a blighted
neighborhood and water with mollusks that can filter
heavy metals a clean industry is created where cleansing
contaminated waters is an open and interactive process.
Non-native oysters coupled with native plantings and
recreational spaces create a destination for learning
and a place for enjoyment.
THE MIDDLE BRANCH OF BALTIMORE’S
PATAPSCO RIVER is a quiet basin where layers of industrial
history and ecological blunders are collected and stored.
From the west the Gwynns Falls watershed has fed the
river with decades of discarded waste, iron ore from
18th century mining, sediment from 19th century forest
clearing, and cadmium and fertilizers from 20th century
industry all carried by streams or runoff find themselves
in the Middle Branch.
The Middle Branch presently exists as
a relic of ecological foul-ups, but it is the river
and waterfront that hold the potential for Baltimore’s
social and environmental rejuvenation. Compared to the
bustle of the city’s tourist driven Inner Harbor
or the density of an increasingly privatized waterfront,
the Middle Branch lacks involvement of people and activity
but is capable of hosting both.
The neighborhoods surrounding the middle
branch are separated from the waterfront by highways,
active railroads and expanses of industrial or post-industrial
lots. These neighborhoods transition east of west from
a gentrifying peninsula to an isolated and blighted
stretch of southwest Baltimore. This project proposes
a new clean industry and remediation process that uses
of pearl oysters to filter heavy metals from contaminated
water and create an economy that supports the neighborhoods
both new and existing so people can connect to the water
and to a water cleansing process.
The zooremediation culture reestablishes
a historical connection to Baltimore’s role in
the once thriving oyster business but alters that model
by using non-native pearl oysters that can filter the
heavy metals present in the water that native oysters
simply can not do at. Each element of the remediation
process holds economic potential such as processing
the oyster pearls to extracting cadmium from the waste
for car batteries or developing pharmaceutical uses
for the algae and plankton grown to feed the oysters.
Each step of the process, from growth of oyster spat
to harvesting can be an interactive experience that
connects the community to the cleansing process and
ultimately connects people to the water.
The 85 acre site is accessed by a proposed
light rail stop or by from the Baltimore/Washington
Parkway that runs west of the site. A framework of paths
constructed of bright industrial materials such as yellow
rubber safety tiles and recycled tires, guide visitors
through out the park and to the water’s edge and
expansive views. The paths vary in width to accommodate
combinations of pedestrians, runners or bicyclists.
Within the framework of paths are fields of Chesapeake
Bay watershed grasses or recreational spaces for games
of frisbee, baseball or picnic grounds.
The oyster channels are fed by either newly opened streams
or by the rising tide of the middle branch. They alternate
by water source and create an interlocking cleansing
system of watershed and water body. Each channel is
actually a series of pools that step up or down depending
on how water runs through them, they also safely contain
the non-native species. The heavy-metal contamination
of the water makes breeding or spat survival difficult,
minimizing the threat of pearl oyster invasion. The
ultimate goal of the park is to cleanse the water to
support native habitat and to translate an industry
into a contemporary and sustainable climate. A feeding
network of plankton, algae and water that is cleansed
by the oyster is piped throughout the park. Green pools
of plankton run parallel to the oyster channels. These
large, covered and living pools serve as attractors
or gathering areas of people. The plankton then travel
through pipes into below ground rooms that store and
grow tanks of algae. The algae and plankton are collected,
fed and processed by the oysters. The algae growth rooms
are open to visitors and reached by stairs that descend
from the public level of the park.
New industry, jobs and opportunities bring
a new neighborhood and development (shown in medium/dark
gray block formations). Other than oyster productivity
the park includes a wide water channel (located in the
middle of the oyster channels) for public enjoyment.
A new market looks out onto the wide channel where visitors
can stroll along the water edge, aquatic vegetation
proliferates and kayakers can enjoy the shallow and