• Cultivating Scale: Planting the Desert
    Rosetta Sarah Elkin

Rosetta Sarah Elkin, Cultivating Scale, techniques of dryland afforestation, 2012. Courtesy of the artist.

The global challenge of rapidly declining vegetative cover is being addressed by massive replanting projects that cross territorial, political, and cultural boundaries. The impulse to cultivate arid land is based on the requisite of combating the effects of desertification. Cultivating Scale proposes to reveal the elements that are essential to planting as a defense, to raise awareness of how these projects are transforming the environment. The tension between engineering infrastructure and cultivating healthy ecosystems is at the root of this topic, as projects span continents and range in the tens of millions of hectares. The varying frameworks and techniques that allow new plant cover to be introduced will be studied to form a critical perspective of each project, using historical, current, and future procedures. Because planting is the necessary foundation, Cultivating Scale will telescope across stages that consider the role of individual species from innovative seed mechanics to bionetworks.

Rosetta Sarah Elkin is the Daniel Urban Kiley Fellow in Landscape Architecture at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, where she teaches in the core studio sequence, and leads seminars in representation and photography. Elkin has also taught at Academie Bouwkunst and Gerrit Rietveld Academy, in Amsterdam. She is principal of r.s.e. landscape, a design consultancy based in the Netherlands. Both her professional and academic work aim to reveal vegetative strategies, from small-scale innovation to complex large-scale applications. The studio operates through research and collaboration across disciplines from horticulture to architecture. Elkin received her MLA with distinction from University of Toronto, where she won the Heather Reisman Gold Medal in Design. Her work has been exhibited internationally, receiving numerous grants and recognitions. Current projects include Kaohsiung Port in Taiwan (first-prize award); an ongoing installation at Les Jardins de Metis; and an exhibition and publication at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.