June Kim has been awarded the 2010 Steedman Summer Travel Fellowship, which will support her proposed five-week study of floating settlements in Cambodia this summer.
The focus of her study will be to develop a better understanding of traditional architecture, development patterns, and landscape strategies employed along the Mekong Delta and Tonle Sap Lake, areas that are subject to substantial regional flooding. Unlike many cities in Western civilization, which focus on "resilient water management strategies" such as levees, pumping stations, and dredging technology to control water, the floating settlements in Cambodia take a different approach.
"These areas have accepted and embraced the river's influx and responded with natural strategies that better utilize the surrounding landscape," Kim wrote in her proposal. "I appreciate this vernacular response and am looking forward to discussing alternative options for urbanism in relation to water."
Kim, who is pursuing a dual Master of Architecture/Master of Urban Design degree in the Sam Fox School, said she has become progressively more aware of and interested in man's relationship to water in an urban context, starting with one prominent example close to campus.
"St. Louis, like many cities, has disregarded the Mississippi River as a natural amenity and landscape attraction in order to protect the city from flooding with a 20-foot concrete flood wall," Kim noted. "The intention to 'protect the city' has created a severe barrier between men and water and has divided cityscape from riverscape. This is just now being identified as a problem, as St. Louis redirects efforts to revitalize the riverfronts after many years of neglect."
During her Spring 2010 urban design studio in New Orleans, Kim learned about the infrastructure and planning strategies employed by the city and surrounding region. She also gained a broader perspective about worldwide water management strategies by working with Dutch Dialogues, an advocacy group that has brought together Dutch and American experts from several disciplines to investigate how southern Louisiana, like the Netherlands, might adapt to the inherent threats of living in a subsiding delta.
Now Kim will have the opportunity to extend her breadth of understanding to the strategies employed on a third continent. In preparation for her trip, she has already begun to develop relationships with various researchers and experts in the Mekong Delta area. She will share her research findings with members of the Sam Fox School as part of an exhibition in Spring 2011.
"This issue is particularly timely as we become more aware of the impact of global climate change," said Bill Wischmeyer, senior lecturer in architecture and chair of the Steedman Fellowship Governing Committee.
The annual Steedman Summer Travel Fellowship is given to a current architecture student at the 400-level or above, to support travel and the investigation of an architectural topic of the student's choosing. The winner is selected by the Steedman Fellowship Governing Committee on the basis of the student's proposed study outline, portfolio of work, and academic achievement.