MLA3 Core Studio I, Fall 2015

  • Node G: MLA Core I FA15
  • Node H: MLA Core I FA15
  • Node I: MLA Core I FA15
  • Node J: MLA Core I FA15
  • Node K: MLA Core I FA15
  • Node L: MLA Core I FA15

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The first studio in the MLA3 core studio sequence introduces students to concepts, strategies, and skills that are used in landscape architectural design. Students learn to analyze and describe landscapes, to treat natural and human systems as generators of design, and to develop methods of working with diverse, complex, and indeterminate landscape systems.

Led by senior lecturer Jacqueline Margetts, Core Studio I engages the successful City of St Louis initiative Milkweeds for Monarchs: The St. Louis Butterfly Project, in an effort to transform underdeveloped land in St. Louis into a productive monarch butterfly habitat and functional public open space. Lepidoptera morphology, anatomy, and physiology are explored and employed as a theoretical basis underpinning the design investigations.

The site is a riverfront industrial area located south of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial grounds, behind massive flood protection walls that shield the area from the Mississippi River but also disconnect it both visually and physically. This is a densely constructed but largely abandoned landscape—and a place of intense interest to city planners who see the riverfront's potential for initiating new development and reactivating the city's relationship to the Mississippi. The newly reconstructed Memorial grounds and associated bikeway are part of this initiative.

The studio investigates and critiques the butterfly byway project, asking several questions. What is a 21st-century public space, and can it be founded on the provision of a butterfly habitat? What social and environmental roles should open space play in the city? What resources are required to maintain a wildlife habitat, and how can it be designed in such a way that it becomes a "source" rather than a "sink"? How does the landscape change over time to become more robust and productive, rather than a static, maintenance-hungry entity? Exploration of these questions led to some surprising results.