• Ephemeral Material Infrastructures: Expanding Intuitive Knowledge of Hydrological Systems
    Bradley Cantrell & Emma Mendel

Bradley Cantrell and Emma Mendel, Geomorphology modeling table, sediment transport infrastructure prototyping.

Deltaic landscapes, such as the southern Louisiana region, suffer from the abstraction of ecological complexity at the hand of large scale planning doctrines and the exertion of engineered control systems. Both methods have impinged deltas and generalized the complexities of cultural landscapes in relation to ecological systems. Through the understanding of temporal changes in material relationships, this research posits deeper knowledge of intricate material systems that can be translated to the design of entire watersheds. The researchers will document material states of soil and hydrology in fluvial management, to develop a coherent design language that can be applied to micro-infrastructures. This methodology promises to create new forms of emergent infrastructure that are intuitively operated but connected and performing across vast territories. The research will focus on the alteration of material states and examine how these may occur in situ through forms of catalyzation and ossification, highlighting an ongoing reciprocity between material, site, and territory.

Bradley Cantrell is chair and professor at the University of Virginia’s Department of Landscape Architecture and is fellow of the American Academy in Rome and a TED Global Fellow. His research focuses on computation to construct new types of landscape systems and novel ecologies. His work in Southern Louisiana looks closely at the relationship between large-scale delta infrastructure, real-time monitoring (sensing), and ecological fitness. He was previously the director of the MLA Degree, co-director of MDes Technology, and the codirector of the Responsive Environments and Artifacts Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Cantrell has developed physical modeling methods to test and prototype responsive infrastructures that have been recognized within the discipline for their innovation. He is the coauthor of Responsive Landscapes, Digital Drawing for Landscape Architecture, and Modeling the Environment, and has written numerous peer reviewed essays on the role of computation, machine learning, and robotics in landscape architecture.

Emma Mendel is a practicing landscape architect and lecturer at the University of Virginia School of Architecture, researching and writing on topics pertaining to socio-cultural materiality, infrastructure and representation. Mendel's project Access to safe drinking water for First Nations Communities in Ontario was published in the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects Journal which featured her unique analogue modelling methods, showcasing sculptural pieces that captured mutable boundaries between materials. Her design was given an honorable mention in the Canadian wide competition, Future Legacies (Site Magazine), which sought for responses that offered perspectives on the role of legacy as a driving force in the creation of a nation. Mendel earned her MLA degree at the University of Toronto after completing her BFA at the Rhode Island School of Design. Her publications include the Princeton Architectural Journal, Kerb Landscape Architecture Journal, as well as her recent collaboration in the winning project (Coastal Paradox) which was published in University of Pennsylvania’s LA+ (Landscape Architecture Plus) journal.