A spread from "Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America"

A spread from “Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America”

The concept of ‘drosscapes’ was coined by Alan Berger in 2006 in his book, Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America. In his preface, he addresses landscape architecture as a discipline blind to the opportunities that drosscapes represented, an blindspot that still affects us today. Academic programs should adopt and be adapted to other outside-the-box philosophies. For example, the first time I heard about Resilient Urbanism was during the UN-Habitat’s World Urban Forum 7 in Medellin, Colombia. Planners, architects, landscape architects, interior designers, industrial designers, engineers, and other disciplines are coming up with theoretical models as an alternative to challenge our current system and to develop ideas from concept to the object.

Berger’s framework is one of those models encouraging landscape architects to achieve a more holistic, forward-looking planning. A drosscape as Berger defines it is “the creation of a new condition in which vast, wasted, or wasteful land surfaces are modeled in accordance with new programs or new sets of values that remove or replace real or perceived wasteful aspects of geographical space (i.e., redevelopment, toxic waste removal, tax revenues, etc.)”. As a verb, he sees the ‘drosscaping’ as the practice incorporating social programs and activities into the transformed waste landscape. One must not commit the mistake to call an abandoned train station by itself a drosscape, for example. In this instance, a drosscape would be the integration of new horizons onto the unused site, which by itself it is only dross.

In an attempt to understand these urban wastelands according to their perception, Berger proposed classifying a differentiation between waste landscapes (places that store, manage or process urban or industrial waste), wasted landscapes (polluted or abandoned sites), and wasteful landscapes (huge extensions of developed land with virtually no use for the community).

Fashion Island and its surroundings in Newport Beach, CA. Newport center, its parking lots and its surrounding golf clubs may be a good example of a combination of wasteful landscapes. As Berger comments on golf courses, these spaces are the most representative Waste Landscapes of Dwelling (LODs). The city of Newport Beach has around 6 golf courses inland and in its coast, surpassing by far the total acreage by local neighborhood parks and even the Bay Nature Reserve. Besides the beach, there are no urban parks capable of housing big masses recreational activities, most of the recreation areas are located in these residential ‘voids’. Creative Commons Photo by WPPilot

Fashion Island and its surroundings in Newport Beach, CA. Newport center, its parking lots and its surrounding golf clubs may be a good example of a combination of wasteful landscapes. As Berger comments on golf courses, these spaces are the most representative Waste Landscapes of Dwelling (LODs). The city of Newport Beach has around 6 golf courses inland and in its coast, surpassing by far the total acreage by local neighborhood parks and even the Bay Nature Reserve. Besides the beach, there are no urban parks capable of housing big masses recreational activities, most of the recreation areas are located in these residential ‘voids’. Creative Commons Photo by WPPilot

In terms of use, Berger suggests the following classification for these wastelands:

  • Waste Landscapes of Dwelling (LODs).
    In this category we can find amenities that serve nearby residents of housing developments, like trail networks and private golf courses, either open to the public or private facilities. Landscape vegetation areas which serve as reserves or transitions between the infrastructure are also included in this category.
  • Waste Landscapes of Transition (LOTs)
    Here we have those spaces that are victims of real-estate speculation, designed as interstitial land uses: “staging areas, storage yards, parking surfaces, transfer stations, etc.”. One can even say that some of these waste spaces are product of past investment trends, like self-storage facilities, for instance.
  • Waste Landscapes of Infrastructure (LINs)
    In this list we have “easements, setbacks and rights-of-way associated with transportation, electric transmissions, oil and gas pipelines, waterways and railways”. Some of these ROWs have been already explore in the past AHBE Lab posts.
  • Waste Landscapes of Obsolescence (LOOs)
    Places that are built specifically to allocate waste, such as landfills, salvage yards, wastewater treatment facilities and reclamation plants.
  • Waste Landscapes of Exchange (LEXs)
    This category encloses semi-active or non-active urban developments such as decaying shopping centers and vacant regional malls. Supercenters also enter in this category, big individual stores that for one reason or another end up closing to the public.
  • Wasted Landscapes of Contamination (LOCOs)
    Sites here vary a lot more in comparison to the previous categories, since it includes “airports, military bases, ammunition depots and training grounds, and sites used for mining, petroleum and chemical operations”. It entails all those abandoned facilities that are polluted. Most of the sites targeted by the NPL belong to this category.

Have you identified potential sites around you that could be drosscaped? What type of projects would you envision in such places? What would be the impact for the community?

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  1. A “Quommentary” About the Drosscape Manifesto | AHBE LAB

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