Scientific endeavor has a long history of entanglement with landscape making. Botanical gardens, sheep farms, battlefields, coal mines, hydrolakes, orchards, conservation estates, zoos, railroad corridors, and many other technological landscapes attest to the contested relations between technical practices and environmental change. Of special interest is the convergence of knowledge production and aesthetic categories.
This studio, which combined second and third year MLA students, investigated the relationship between scientific practices and the construction of local knowledge through the study of the lower Missouri River Valley. This fertile, shifting terrain has been the site of encounter between humans and nonhumans for millennia. But what is the future of the valley? Small farming and wine making are still at the heart of economic production, but this is not enough. Towns along the river are turning to tourism to bring in much-needed revenue, and farms are struggling to survive. The economic recovery that tourism portends is starting to change the face of the valley.
This studio sought alternative land-use practices to both develop destinations and reimagine the valley system as a network of productive opportunities, projects, and ventures that could reformulate the way its people work the land. Students investigated new farming practices, ecological restoration, science gardens, and afforestation projects as catalysts for sustainable development, linking local initiatives to nonprofit organizations and research institutions, among many other possibilities. The Missouri River Valley is well known for its beautiful landscapes. Its scenic values are a product of land-use practices.
Students in this studio affirmed the ongoing production of local knowledge through environmental practices by staging a new kind of encounter between science and aesthetics based on the braided heritage of technical landscape formation, tested through recent innovations in landscape design.