Check out this excerpt from a Places interview one of our favorite “kick-a**” landscape designers.
(Team Stoss at work on Streamlines, 2010)
Interview: Quilian Riano
Landscape Optimism: An Interview with Chris Reed
Earlier this year I interviewed Chris Reed at his office at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard, where he is an Adjunct Associate Professor. We focused on the evolution of his design ideas.
Quilian Riano: You were recently one of four finalists in the Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition. How has this large-scale project allowed you to develop your thinking about landscape urbanism?
Chris Reed: The competition called for remaking 5.5 miles of the Mississippi riverfront in Minneapolis, running from the center of the city to its northern border. Notably, the RFP emphasized parks as a catalyst for new development – yet it was clear from the start that a traditional park, bordered by the kind of mixed-use waterfront development that’s become typical, wouldn’t be possible here. The territory is too large, the economy wouldn’t support that much development, and there weren’t any funds available to build conventional single-use – that is, recreational – parks. There were also questions about whether it was wise to displace existing industrial uses, and the jobs they provided.
Our proposal is as much about bringing the river and river-life into the city as it is about bringing the city’s inhabitants to the river. To this end we imagine not just one or two green strands – essentially, linear parks along the river, but a whole series of new landscape and infrastructure strands that weave around and across the river, and permeate the urban fabric, both existing and new. It was this concept that gave our proposal its name: Streamlines.
It’s important to emphasize that what we are calling strands are not simply parks. They are designed to be catalysts for change that sponsor new social, cultural, ecological and economic life in the city and along the river. The goal here is to render landscape – and large-scale landscape processes like ecological succession and adaptation – as a new type of infrastructure and a new framework for retrofitted and diversified urban neighborhoods. More importantly, Streamlines focuses not just on the elements we proposed but also on the processes by which those elements would be created. How to reclaim the river as civic space in a part of the city where it has been severed and forgotten? How to build public interest and political support for the conversion of complex (and in part contaminated) industrial sites? How to develop financing strategies for hybrid landscape-infrastructure-development projects, and how to plan for long-term management and administration? These are the elements that make Streamlines truly a project of landscape urbanism.
Update: Abridged, 9/21/11.