Shifting Baselines

Project Type: Wetland Park

Date: 2019 Spring​​​​​​

Site: West Warwick, Rhode Island

Client: West Warwick Wastewater Treatment Facility

 

Professor: Robert Mohr

Objective: utilizing an abandoned wastewater treatment facility, create a space for conversation that engages people with the topic of climate change.

Approach: Inspired by the site's original landscape, the proposal reverts the site back to its original state of wetlands, as a method to reconnect the people nearby with the nature here.

Result: A wetland park that connects the surrounding regions with a looped bike trail, as well as a communal hub that serves the residential areas nearby.

Concept

“The shifting baseline syndrome is the situation in which over time knowledge is lost about the state of the natural world, because people don’t perceive changes that are actually taking place. In this way, people’s perceptions of change are out of kilter with the actual changes taking place in the environment,” said Dr. E.J. Milner-Gulland in Conservation Letters.

Humans have a poor conception of how we have caused nature to degrade overtime. We only perceive things within our own generations, whereas our natural environment changes for every generation. Furthermore, with industrialization and urbanization happening rapidly, we are also slowly losing touch with nature. The role nature plays in our daily lives is gradually fading. This creates a major obstacle when spreading awareness for climate change to the general public.

To address the lack of understanding we have of our own natural environments, this proposal aims to restore, regenerate, and elevate our collective experience and connection to nature in an urban environment.

The site is returned to its natural state, turning the function of cleansing water from a man-made industrial one to a natural wastewater filter system -- wetlands. Instead of being an infrastructure that is hidden to the people, it invites people to reconnect with this site and redefine our relationship with nature.

The intervention includes 3 layers of exploration paths: cycling, walking, and canoeing. The site provides a wide range of spaces for activities to happen, including a communal hub. This is a potential way to shift our “baseline” for this generation to reinterpret our relationship with nature.

Site Plan
Site Plan
View from Bike Trail
View from Kayak
Communal Hub
Floor plan: Rooftop
Floor plan: Mezzanine
Floor plan: Ground Floor
Floor plan: Basement
Longitudinal Section
Cross Section
Interior Perspectives

View from stairs to the grand hall;

View in a dining hall, on mezzanine level.

Iteration Models

1/1