• Wicked Ecologies
    Rob Holmes & Brett Milligan

NASA Earth Observatory, false-color satellite image of the Bay Delta, 2007.

California's Bay Delta and the Florida Everglades share much in common. Both these vast wetlands have been transformed by earthworks that control flooding, regulate hydrology, support urbanization, and permit agriculture. Both are imperiled by their infrastructures' unintended consequences, including subsidence, contamination, insufficient water flows, and ecological collapse. Both are sites for massive restoration efforts, whose implementation has been stymied by seemingly irresolvable political battles. Amid this alteration, degradation, and stagnation, Wicked Ecologies investigates how design might operate where engineering, science, and politics are failing. Can the envisioning techniques of scenario design, first developed by futures studies, illuminate new potential trajectories for the Everglades and the Bay Delta? Refining those methodologies, can architecture open up fresh possibilities within a paralyzed public conversation? What useful parallels can be drawn between these territories of crisis? Ultimately, what can architecture learn about conducting large-scale design in the context of uncertainty, environmental flux, and political paralysis?

Rob Holmes is assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of Florida. His research focuses on designed responses to reciprocal relationships between urbanization, infrastructural networks, and large-scale anthropogenic landscape change. Currently, the primary loci for these investigations are the Four Coasts project, an examination of the anthropogenic manipulation of sediments in four coastal regions of North America with the Dredge Research Collaborative (cofounded by Holmes), and hydrological control infrastructures in south Florida. His work has been published in various magazines, journals, and books, including Landscape Futures, Bracket, Kerb, MONU, Urban Design Review, Landscape Architecture, Fulcrum, and Scenario Journal. He has been recognized with awards in competitions including the Arid Land Institute's Drylands Design and the Van Alen Institute's Envisioning Gateway. Recent venues for public appearances include the Sonic Acts Festival, the Architectural League of New York, and the Storefront for Art and Architecture.

Brett Milligan is assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of California, Davis. He is a founding member of the Dredge Research Collaborative, which curates and designs symposiums, exhibitions, design workshops, and public tours exploring the human manipulation of coastal and sedimentary processes. Milligan is the author of Free Association Design and director of Metamorphic Landscapes. His writings have appeared in many publications and his design work has been exhibited internationally. Milligan's research is focused on the interface between land and water, such as rivers, deltas, canals, ports, and urban waterfronts, where he explores ways to meld ecological and infrastructural performance metrics with aesthetics and augmented forms of social and political engagement. Current projects include a comparative Four Coasts project with the Dredge Research Collaborative, Feral Recreation: The Human Use and Occupation of Restored and Naturalized Lands in California's Delta, and investigations of California's water infrastructure.