Rice Center

The Rice Center was an unexpected experience. The history of the land and place was fascinating. It was great to learn about the certified LEED Platinum building that was on site. I found the alternative building materials and different techniques for sourcing materials interesting. Like other classmates, I have some skepticism about how and why certain things were done with the architecture. The history of the native encampments and damming of the river was amazing to think about. I kept thinking about how so much of what we do and see goes unseen or gets buried in history. All of the projects and intentions of the Rice Center seem to have a connection with looking backward to move forward. The tools and studies look at the surroundings and the past to chart progression and change to future predict new events. 

I side with the idea to restore nature to its original form. I thought the demolition of the dam was a great restoration. The planting of native trees and lessening the removal of current trees for construction was also nice to hear. The building of infrastructure so we can benefit from nature in the least invasive way was something that our guide touched on. I found myself unsure how to feel. On the one hand, I was impressed with the technology to create water collection methods, source light, and find sustainable materials, but part of me still wanted more to be done. I found myself questioning is it cheap and sustainable to use blue jeans as wall insulation. Or use sunflower seeds and nuts to create particle board. 

The roof of the building was something that also caught my attention. I think the benefits of a green roof are great. I do wonder how much extra material was needed to create all of the supports and water collection needed to make the roof function properly. Like other parts of the Rice Center, I find myself torn between us trying to harness nature's gifts and us realizing we have constructed something so artificial. We will never be able to revert nature back to its unaltered state. Is doing nothing sometimes better than doing something? What happens if we just leave things alone? Maybe growth and knowledge don't progress and we continue to make the same mistakes. 


reflection on our field trip

I've made several trips back to Reedy Creek during our time spent with this project. The most interesting was the last group visit we had. It was really interesting to view Reedy Creek through the lens of our current discussion. Noticing all of the alterations of the creek was really valuable. I don't think I would have noticed as much if it was such a current topic. Everything from the concrete tunnels, lake dam, bridges, placed rocks and pathways makes me consider how much we've altered these "natural" landscapes. I'm curious to what what we perceive as natural and human-made.

I think an interesting place to observe is the ground we walk on. Often altered by humans in someway or another it tells a story about that specific spot. I'm still very much interested in what we leave behind and our impact of purchasing these disposable materials for short term use. I've found a recent link between the natural landscape and the human made landscape of garbage and trash. These textures mimic the ground in quiet comparable manners. 

I'm further investigating these textures to draw a comparison and ask the question what's natural and what's human-made. I'd like to present these photographs on a large scale and use distance and perception to question what is what.  


collection, information, and updates

Update October 11, 2016

How's this project and process shaping my attitude? This process is continuously making me consider my impact on the environment. I'm also struggling with my execution on whether I should be developing a methodology or if I should be playing the role of an advocate. Wanting to work with materials and do an installation is proving challenging. I've been doing a lot of thinking on how to develop new visuals and ideas to show people who have been subjected to the topic of environmental impact, recycling, reducing waste, etc. 

Today I went back to Reedy Creek to collect trash. After the weekend of rain from the hurricane I was expecting to notice a lot of trash washed into the creek and on the banks. And I did. 

As I continue to work through this project I'm finding some terrifying facts. 

-The U.S. is responsible for more than 30% of the planet’s total waste generation.

-Each American discards an average of more than 1,650 pounds of garbage every year, or approximately 4.6 pounds per person each day, nearly double the 1960 average of 2.7 pounds per day.

-More than 30% of municipal solid waste is packaging, and 40% of that waste is plastic

-Plastics never biodegrade; instead, plastic goes through a process called photodegradation, in which sunlight breaks it down into smaller and smaller pieces until only plastic dust remains. Plastic does not disappear – even as dust it persists for centuries, wreaking havoc in ecosystems.

-American’s receive almost 4.5 million tons of junk mail per year. About 44% of junk mail is never opened.

-80 % of plastic is used once and then goes to landfill sites

http://www.rsc.org/, http://www.toxicsaction.org/problems-and-solutions/waste, http://leachate.co.uk/main/trace-leachate-contaminants/

These are a few of the mass amounts of information I have been combing through. When I revisited Reedy Creek I noticed a majority of the trash was plastic. This is no surprise. I originally was set out to tackle issues based around the leaching of paper dyes, chemicals, inks and other materials. I'm now considering taking a look deeper into plastics. 

The process of photodegredation is really interesting to me. It's also high controversial. Most of the concern is around whether breaking plastic into smaller pieces that will "hopefully" biodegrade is better or leaving containers, packaging and other plastic products mostly intact. 

It seems like a majority of people I've asked aren't really aware of the process at all. Maybe some portion of awareness needs addressed with this process. It's apparent that our oceans are becoming heavily impacted from this process. 

More images from my trip to multiple spots of Reedy Creek

Working Proposal for Project 2

 I plan to develop a context around disposable goods and their immediate impact. Disposable products or the concept of the ‘single use’ product was developed for ease, convenience and sanitary reasons. These materials originally intended and marketed to keep us safe and promote a higher quality of life are beginning to have detrimental effects. Throughout the 20th century these products began being integrated into everyday life. We often don’t think twice about the use of these items. Lots get recycled, but many do not. These items end up contaminating public spaces, water and cause a threat of infection if interacted with them.


In the case of Reedy Creek, storm water often carries trash and debris displaced by humans or other acts. This has a direct relation to water quality issues. From my observation, a lot of this waste is single use material.


To bring awareness to this issue of single use items I propose a part clean up initiative, part micro experiment, part installation investigating what happens to these products when they end up in our water systems. My plan is to combine these materials into permeable bags, after collection, for a prolonged period of time (2 weeks) and perform a simulated rain when a natural rain occurs. This would entail me pouring water onto these bags. The water that passes through the material will be collected and visually represent the contaminants in the water. By hosting these bags in a public space I invite bystanders to interact with them and recognize the redundancy of materials we toss away. These materials leach chemicals into our streams and act as breeding grounds for contamination and disease. The exact opposite for what they were intended to do.


Additional material would be supplied relating to the topics of production of these materials, impact on the environment and ways to reduce the usage of these materials.


I’m asking people to consider what you purchase and how you use it and if theirs a better alternative. 

direction for next project

As I think through this next project I'm trying to be aware of my messaging. Trying to balance experimental exercises with qualitative thought. My first thoughts are to collect trash and debris coming into Reedy Creek and analyze them. I’d like to take a stance on the effects our waste have on the environment and how we look at disposable packaging and ephemera. I decided to take a quick trip to the concrete canal to observe the area and collect any information I could. As I suspected I noticed a lot of from run off drainage. 

Lots of plastic was present as I guessed. It was interesting to see how nature was depicting it's runoff channels into the canal. Countless times I noticed scenes like this where water would rush through the fence during storms and what was left would be remanence like the image above. I encountered a lot of purpose built runoff channels through my walk.  

I managed to walk to one edge of where the natural creek stops and the concrete infrastructure begins. This area was especially odd. It was polar opposites from one side of the dividing line to the other. I heard birds, saw insects and even fish were swimming right up to where the concrete began. It was amazing to notice the sensory differences. The canal up until this point was a desert. 

valuable information from reedy creek

The field trip to Reedy Creek clarified the concern local residence have about the proposed project. This trip was valuable in understanding the watershed, its history and the current issues. During the field trip I found myself constantly thinking about creating an installation in or around the creek. As our guide continued to talk (forgot his name) about the impact humans have had on this creek I kept thinking of our wasteful society and what we dispose of. I am no supreme being when it comes to recycling, reclaiming materials, nor do I hold the answer to fix the problem of waste in our society. I'd like to think I'm conscious of it more than most people. 

A LOT of what we throw away never makes it to a designated 'okay' space to discard waste material. Garbage bags break, the wind blows waste out of the back of a truck, people miss the trash can when tossing something away. I'd be curious to see how much trash gets deposited into Reedy Creek and possibly try to figure out where that material is coming from. Initially I thought of trying to create some type of trash collection mechanism to collect pieces without disrupting wildlife. I'm not sure what form that could take. 

I doubt anybody comes to 'properly' dispose of the waste that accumulates in this hidden trashcan. 

I'm still culminating ideas and how to move forward. I'd like to focus on the waste after consumption in some respects. I think the possibilities are endless with this topic. I'd like to chart reoccurring materials that I see to either find a solution, or draw attention to these materials and their waste and the impact they're having locally. 

Foam lodged in between a two trees in the distance. 

Foam lodged in between a two trees in the distance. 

paper out of trash- adding this idea here so I don't forget.

Response to Reedy Creek Project

Initially being introduced to this project I took the side of the advocates in favor of opposing this project, and still do. After reading some of the information posed by both the organizations in favor of the project and those opposing it I think efforts and money could be put to better use in other areas. It's unfortunate that it really comes down to a financial issue. The city has x amount of time to complete a project that was mandated to help the Chesapeake Bay and if it's not completed on time money and other things will be lost. That's how I see it. 

There are larger problems with this. For one, the location of this restoration seems to chosen for the sake of ease. The city owns the land that restoration will be done on. This expedites the approval process for land. In return, it shifts the focus of where the problem may lay. I agree with statements in the Reedy Creek Coalition article about the site being a high risk area. To me, it doesn't make sense to start a restoration 2/3 of the way down a waterway. On top of that it's directly below a concrete channel section of Reedy Creek that will eventually cause issues during the project. It's impossible to determine the weather and other environmental scenarios that could arise during this project, which could have detrimental effects to humans and wildlife. 

I believe that almost all of the areas other than the proposed area would be more beneficial to focus on. This again goes back to the ease of the city to get the project done quickly and cheaply. Focusing on stormwater collection and dispersion seems to be talked about throughout all of the articles. In my opinion the concrete canal needs to be addressed to find a solution to slow down or minimize the water flow during storms. This would help reduce erosion of the creek that eventually flows into the Hill Park Lake that flows into the James and into the Chesapeake Bay. It's apparent the city doesn't want to intervene with the canal because they would have to get permission from land owners and it would take too long to draft a proposal and execute a plan. One idea brought up was the dredging of the Hill Park Lake. This lake seems to be a catchall for the sediment flowing down Reedy Creek. Cleaning the lake would lessen the sediment flowing into the river. 

It seems like a large risk with little reward to me after viewing all the information. Clear cutting natural forest to make way for a flood plain and attempting to regenerate a more natural state on the banks by adding a wider plant species brings concern. As one article stated what's not to say a large storm could ruin all of the newly formed land and habitat. I'm all in favor of restoring things back to a more "natural" state. This just project just seems to be shoehorned into the requirements of the larger governments. If the overall purpose is the help clean the James River and Chesapeake Bay area of phosphorous and nitrogen run off  then I think we need to focus on direct issues. Trying to restore a convenient section of a creek isn't the way to go about this problem. 

Privacy & Boundaries

Humans are constantly trying to be private, maybe more so in todays world. Whether we are building fences, putting up privacy glass, using passwords or screen protectors on our smartphones. This raises a question. Does this interfere with the natural environment? In a simple answer, yes. On many levels this interaction effects the natural environment. For example, we build walls that stop wildlife from roaming. We do this to ourselves as well. We build fences to obstruct our views and claim private spaces. 

to be continued.

Examining My Two Images

On first glance it looks obvious that someone tied an extending limb to what can be considered the main trunk of this small tree. With this human interference of a natural organism we question why it was done in the first place. One of the first reasons I can think a person would do this is to better the trees life. Someone obviously planted this tree here and wanted it to survive. Maybe they thought by supporting a main branch from the trunk it would lesson the burden on the tree. The choice of material suggest the owner didn't want to harm the tree, only aid it in growth.

Another stance on the subject would be to make it more aesthetically pleasing. The owner of this tree wasn't happy with how the tree was growing and wanted to change the natural direction of the tree to make it more pleasing to humans. It's possible that the tree was infringing on the territory of another shrub or plant. I find it odd that we plant trees for their natural beauty, only to reshape them into our vision. In my opinion shaping a tree shows power and authority. Not only to the tree that's shaped but to pedestrians. Having a manicured lawn designed in a specific way shows that the owners have somewhat disposable time and or money.  

This image is doubled-sided when discussing human interference with the natural environment. The probability of humans placing the once existent tree in this spot is high. It served a purpose to shade and beautify the landscape where it was put, from what I gathered at the site. As time went on the tree grew and became less manageable for us to maintain. A human decided the tree had interfered too much with the surroundings that we consider crucial to human life. From what I can tell these power lines are still in use. They intersect and junction from house to house along the street. What I find captivating in this image is the fight back the tree exerted. I can only guess the reason for this situation is that it was too dangerous to remove this remaining limb that had gotten lodged in the wires. The possibility of breaking these powerful wires or hurting ones self was probably too great. I find it counter productive that all this effort was spent to remove this tree but yet the task wasn't fully completed. 

Other circumstances may have called for the tree to be removed, not jus the power lines. It seemed as if the tree was placed very close to house. Foundational damages may have been occurring from the root system of the tree. It's possible that the tree was shading the side of the house and causing excess moisture that was ruining the brick or paint. All of these factors added up and eventually gave way to the elimination of a mature tree.