The thesis operates within the material technology genre of landscape architecture and proceeds from the premise that an exhaustive understanding of materials and material making (techne) are the necessary foundation for the design of any living system. The research approaches landscape as a field of cross-species encounters in which human and nonhuman matters are understood as having equal agency and thus the power to perform equally innovative acts of design. The dual aim of the thesis is the development of bioluminescent algae as an innovative design material and the innovation of a refugium wall—a living system that is both aquacultural and representational, in which encounters between species and materials become highly perceptible and reproducible.
The research is comprised of six phases that cumulatively lead toward two major endeavors: 1) an exploration of bioluminescent algae, both as a cultivated material and at the site of its highest concentration—Mosquito Bay, Puerto Rico—in which a dynamic of glowing, a symbiosis with mangrove roots, and its near extinction are revealed; and 2) the introduction of a refugium wall as a materially informed living system that functions in the context of landscape architecture as an aquaculturing apparatus applicable to numerous sites and as a mobile representational model that can be configured in many different ways. The refugium wall opens the possibility of an alternative understanding of material technology in which materials no longer exist as the passive and subservient media of design but are its condition, its event, the source of all newness and innovation.
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