Bloom! A Dynamic Landscape Biological System


Analysis and Planning

Fort Worth, TX, USA | Team: Xiwei Shen, Student ASLA; Jiawen Chen, Student ASLA; Chengzhe Zhang, Student ASLA | Faculty Advisors: Craig Douglas; David Watts, ASLA
Harvard University Graduate School of Design

It delves deeply into a very technical and complex project, and presents it in a very clear, organized way. It’s an extremely thorough piece of work.

- 2018 Awards Jury


  • "Play with Power- A City Park Along the Trinity River". Xiwei Shen. Undergraduate Capstone Project, Louisiana State University. 2017


This project aspires to explore how problematic levels of algae (specifically Bioluminescent Algae, Blue Green Algae and Diatoms Algae) in waterways might be addressed through innovative landscape design strategies that move beyond reductive engineered solutions to productive spatial agents within urban environments. Healthy water bodies generally contain many kinds of algae that balance the ecological system, however, in certain conditions the balance can be disturbed by external environmental activities and weather events causing toxic algae blooms. The most common algal bloom types are the Green Tide and the Red Tide. These phenomena have the potential to be converted to improve Eco-system health and act as design drivers in the sustainable landscape. This study will focus on three case study types: the redundant industrial infrastructure (Site 01), the Gateway Park next to the redundant industrial infrastructure (Site 02) and the urban infrastructure close to I-30 Hwy (Site 03) on the site of Fort Worth, Texas, as a prototype for considering how this approach might be deployed nationally.


In the site, there exists a redundant wastewater treatment plant filled with algae. The polluted water runs into the Trinity River and brings harm to the surrounding natural environment. The Gateway Park (adjacent to the wastewater treatment) also evidences the algae bloom phenomenon in segmented wetland ponds. In total these two sites represent approximately 6.5 Acres of algal bloom pollution effected territories that includes natural ecologies, redundant infrastructure, and recreational facilities. Instead of simply eradicating the naturally occurring algae, this study considers how the dynamic biological algae system might be utilized through innovative design practice to reactivate the site and contribute to the health and well-being of the larger urban environment.

Three key questions that drive this investigation are based the three types of sites:

  1. How might algae be reconsidered as a spatial, material and temporal medium of landscape architecture design?
  2. How might a systems-based solution to algal blooms be approached in a manner that contributes to ecological, social, public service issues and act as an agent to revitalize public space?
  3. How might an algae Eco-system be applied as useful active agents in the urban landscape?

The intention is to create design toolkits that have specific functions in three different prototypes to carefully manage algae species in order to balance the Green Tide and Red Tide and separate the Bioluminescent Algae, Blue Green Algae and Diatoms Algae so that they might be used productively. The two "Algal Bloom" types and three species of algae are the main sources to develop Six dynamic biological systems that address the research questions in different ways in each type of site.

Site 01 Algae Laboratory (Redundant Wastewater Plant)

System 01 Blue Green Algae Economy System (Driven Medium: Blue Green Algae)

At the site scale where the proposed laboratory is located the proposed function is to collect the existing blue green algae and reuse the buildings of the abandoned wastewater treatment to create a Green Tide. The strategy is to create a biological water filtration system to produce and clean the water. It is to include Silver Carp Fish Farms and Algae Eating Insect Tanks to clean the polluted water. To feed more fish and get more fresh water, the existing abandoned setting tanks are reused as Blue Green Algae farms to produce more sources. The fresh water filtered from this system has the potential to supply adjacent needs (eg. irrigation for the Gateway Park, the Adjacent Baseball Field and other recreation sites, and the city), as well as filtering currently polluted water released in to the river.

System 02: Diatom Algae Fertilizer System (Driven Medium: Diatom Algae)

The reported Red Tide described by scientific reports indicates that Diatom Algae and Dinoflagellate Algae are its main components. Diatom Algae is a good resource to be converted into fertilizer. In order to get a mass of Diatom Algae, the proposed aspiration of this toolkit is to re-create the Red Tide manually then separate the Diatom Algae from Red Tide. When Diatom dies, it is converted into Diatom Fertilizer. In the existing abandoned water treatment, the soil in the site has been polluted by toxic water for a long time. The Diatom Fertilizer could be a booster that helps improve the soil quality then grow the native species in the Laboratory. At a later date the fretiizer can be utilized in the maintanace of the adjacent Gateway Park and other parks of the city.

System 03: Bioluminescent Algae Supply System (Driven Medium: Bioluminescent Algae)

Bioluminescent Algae is a special species of Dinoflagellate Algae that has the potential to generate light. The proposed idea is to separate the Dinoflagellate Algae from man-made created Red Tide, then separate Bioluminescence Algae from Dinoflagellate Algae. In Algae Laboratory, the aspiration is to convert the abandoned buildings to generate a host of cultural facilities. Since Bioluminescent Algae has a specific life cycle that needs to grow in dark around 12 hours so that it can produce light during the night. In this type of site, the laboratory is a machine that produces a night landscape of spatial, material , and temporal wonder.

Site 02: Gateway Algae park

System 04: Bioluminescent Alage Lighting System (Driven Medium: Bioluminescent Algae)

Since the Gateway Park does not have an existing lighting system the park is rarely used during the night time. In order to improve this shortage. The proposed system is to input the Bioluminescent Algae from Site 01 Algae Laboratory to proposed Gateway Algae Park. It is a 1.7 miles elevated fountain wall loop that could also output the liquid back to Algae Laboratory. Due to the life cycle of the Bioluminescent Algae, only the fresh water from Algae Laboratory is imported during the day time, while at the night time, Bioluminescent Algae Lighting System will be activated.

System 04: Fresh Water Ponds Filtration System (Driven Medium: Blue Green Algae)

The underutilized Gateway Park adjacent to the Laboratory is proposed to connect the segmented water ponds to reform an ecological hydrology system by using the clean water that is output from Laboratory. The condition of the water would be stable once it both connects to the Trinity River and Laboratory. The flowing water would increase the size of existing segmented ponds. In order to recall the theme to use the dynamic biological system to improve the landscape, the proposed design divided the fresh pond into two parts, the fresh water pond and Blue Green Algae farms. By the walking experience from High point of the earth to the low point, the visitors will see the gradient shift of the ratio of Blue Green Algae and fresh water.

Site 03: I-30 HWY Algae Farms

System 06 Blue Green Algae Loop System (Driven Medium: Blue Green Algae)

In this type of site, the proposed function is to create a "loop" and extend the Blue Green Algae Farms to the side of I-30 HWY. Since CO2 is one of necessary growth conditions of blue green algae, the urban transportation and high density population zones provide great conditions for the algae to grow and simultaneously remove CO2 produced in the urban environment. The structure also acts as a sign to reveal and communicate existing dynamic biological processes and evidence how they might be transformed to contribute to a productive and healthy urban landscape.


The potential exists that algae might be reconsidered as a spatial and temporal material of landscape architectural design utilized in innovative ways to create exciting spatial dynamics, act as a source of production, and actively contribute to the health of an urban ecology. Algae normally exists in nature or constructed water bodies, such as wetlands, ponds, wastewater plants, etc. In this study, we utilize this common natural material as a medium to contribute to the landscape through spatial and productive components, converting the algae to generate power and fertilizer, a spatial organizer and an aesthetic element enhancing the performance of the urban landscape through the design of a dynamic biological system.