American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2007 Student Awards
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Wild Urbanism
Anna Hook, Student ASLA and Heather Rusch
University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
Faculty Advisors: Brook Muller and Ron Lovinger, ASLA

"A refreshing look at how to create a neighborhood. The collaboration seems really strong, the synthesis and analysis are particularly good. The presentation gave an excellent explanation of team members' roles and interaction."

— 2007 Student Awards Jury Comments

Project Narrative
Wild Urbanism is about architecture and ecology. It is about function and form. It is about balance. The project is a mixed-use development adjacent to a riparian ecosystem located in SE Portland, Oregon. The site is bordered by Johnson Creek, a tributary of the Willamette River, Interstate 205, and a mixed upland forest. It is an intersection of human and non-human habitats. Prior to the construction of I-205, the site was an important habitat corridor for wildlife. The creek’s associated riparian forest provided essential foraging and nesting sites for mammals, birds, and invertebrates. The creek itself provided spawning areas for salmon. After the construction of the interstate, much of the habitat’s integrity was lost. Johnson Creek was channelized and much of the site was buried in urban fill, including a wetland and perennial branch of the creek.

Wild Urbanism seeks to incorporate the site’s potential ecological function into an urban community. Residential, commercial, and community areas reside adjacent to and within natural areas. Habitat patches and corridors as well as stream health are integrated into the design and provide an additional means of site form and organization. This integration was effectively realized because of the partnership of landscape architect and architect. The landscape architect student shared an understanding of the ecological foundations and site analysis. The architecture student shared an understanding of spatial composition and site hierarchy. Together the students then experimented with urban and natural forms to create a final design scheme.

The collaboration between landscape architect and architect was paramount to the success of Wild Urbanism. It involved effective communication and compromise. The design work was realized through an integrative and responsive process of merging each other’s ideas and skills. Every layer of information in every drawing was passed through two sets of hands. Both students relinquished their own geniuses and listened to one another.

Six primary principles drove the design of Wild Urbanism. The principles were conceived from the site’s location, scale, and ecology. They were also a response to the programmatic elements seeking to create an ecological and urban community that was also a great home. The following briefly describes each. The images on the subsequent pages provide further explanation of the principles.

1. Reconstruct: Site within Context:
The site lies in flux in both space and time. Located on the edge of Portland’s city limits, adjacent to Interstate 205, and along a main tributary of the Willamette River, the site has historically witnessed high habitat value followed by extreme urban fill and stream channelization. The design seeks to find a balance while also integrating itself into the regional urban, water, and habitat context.

2. Superimpose: Urban Form and Ecological Framework
To instigate the design process, the focus was quantity with the intention for quality to follow. Through diagramming and sketch models, we tested many formal, conceptual, and metaphorical schemes around both urban and natural forms . Dominant themes of landscape ecology’s corridor and patch as well as the urban grid developed through the process.

3. Intersect: Human and Natural Ecologies
The planting plan seeks to establish ecological function and structure. The design’s ecological framework is defined as including all site inhabitants, non-human and human. A riparian forest and two corridors (the primary corridor is a upland mixed forest and the secondary is a stormwater filtration swale set within an allee) are comprised of native plants that are common to Portland and northwestern Oregon. The native vegetation fluctuates between random patch planting and formal forest archetypal plantings (specifically a long allee and bosque). The street trees were chosen based on vitality, form, and the aesthetic appeal. The nursery is intended to supply the site with a variety of trees.

4. Water Spine: Stormwater
To preserve pre-development run-off rates, the design incorporates a bioswale collection and filtration system. The system is strategically placed in the site’s existing low areas and runs through the middle of the development between a reestablished wetland to the west and a recovered perennial stream to the east. The water collection and filtration design is then celebrated rather than concealed. Water falling from roofs and moving towards the centrally located stormwater bioswale is dramatized. The dull rhythm of Oregon rains is exploited and enlivened.

5. Overlap: Dynamic Experiential Spaces
Through overlapping various programmatic elements, there are multiple opportunities for unique experiences. For example: people on streets, streets through trees, paths over water, habitat on roofs. The metaphor of a plaid – elements running parallel and perpendicular to each other to create interesting and evocative moments – was a strong diagram throughout project development.

6. Share: an outdoor space for everybody
Open space is spread throughout the site to ensure equal access and use. Living streets allow the street to also be a playground and serve people on foot, on bike and in car. Community outdoor areas are located nearby all residences and are flexible to the inhabitant’s whims: community gardens, open lawns, maybe a sculpture gallery. Soft pathways run throughout the site’s habitat areas and provide quiet solitude. A large park-like open space is designed to provide a community gathering area as well as a place for spontaneous frisbee games.



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