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Landscape Thesis 2014 Student Profiles

MLA Thesis Students

The aim of Thesis Studio within Auburn’s Graduate Landscape Architecture Program is to facilitate students’ development of a theoretically sophisticated understanding of the discipline of landscape architecture through engagement in research by design. Students develop this understanding by undertaking a research project that involves creating a new body of work within a theoretical context. Research by design is an open-ended investigation, with blind alleys, slow stretches, and periods of uncertainty, but if the explorations are nurtured with care and rigor, the ups and downs will be understood as necessary episodes in an exhilarating and rewarding process.

Although the thesis instructor provides an overall structure for the studio and a schedule of significant milestones, each thesis project has its own shape and unfolds in its own way. Each students’ individual investigation occurs at multiple scales, locations, and timeframes. Despite the tremendous diversity among each investigation, the studio is collectively testing their topics within the dynamic political, ecological, hydrological, social, and economic condition that makes up the State of Alabama. As with any delineated boundary, the perimeter of this jurisdiction feels absurd at times, but offers the opportunity to engage in shared conversations and related investigations across the studio.

The MLA thesis spotlight of 2014 shines on two recent graduates of the program: Felipe Palacios and Maria Hines. Both Felipe and Maria graduated with a Masters of Landscape Architecture in May, and both have accrued abundant recognition for their work. In 2014, Felipe received the Alabama Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architecture’s Student Award of Honor, the Architectural Research Center Consortium’s King Medal, as well as being selected as APLA’s representative for the Archiprix International in Madrid. In 2014, Maria was selected as the MLA Graduate Student of the Year and presented her thesis work at the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture’s Annual Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. Below are descriptions of each of the thesis projects by Felipe and Maria.

Fluxity: The In-Between Terrain by Felipe Palacios

Linear, static, and monofunctional methods of design have historically resulted in landscapes of permanence, fixity, and immutability, even though they work within dynamic systems. This thesis emerges from the interest of things that move and things that appear to be still; and attempts to unfold their relationship. In other words, this thesis investigates the relationship between form and flow, permanence and impermanence, an in-between zone that is inhabited by a condition coined as fluxity, a hybrid of flux and fixity. Landscape is defined by process and change as a base-line condition. The concept of fluxity introduces a framework of rates or speeds of flux, which allows the differentiation of changes in condition, composition or substance at different temporal scales. For instance, succession of plant communities or the changing of seasons occurs at a much-higher rate contrasted to geological events like the collision of tectonic plates. Fluxity engages the dynamic conditions of the landscape, living material that changes over time. The reference to living material is not limited to plant matter, water, soil, biota, and other components typically understood as landscape but includes media, information, knowledge, memories, and cultural phenomena. In this thesis, the town of Tallassee, Alabama offers a collection of existing conditions to explore. Tallassee itself is a coagulation of fluctuating systems; as Tallassee’s story continues, so do the town’s changes. Through a series of design-based investigations within this context, the adoption of fluxity provides a framework for a systematic response to gradual, cyclical, immediate or violent rates of flux. Tallassee Community Library is reconfigured into a malleable, landscape-based infrastructural system and research station. The result is a hybridized cultural, technological, and ecological field that promotes fresh configurations of elements emphasizing processes of formation, dynamics of information, and the poetics of becoming.

Top Ten Images from Fluxity

PDF of Fluxity by Felipe Palacios


Deadland: A Cemetery Design in Columbus, Georgia by Maria Hines

Cemeteries are sacred spaces that have the ability to evoke awareness, fear, awe, reverence, memory and other high emotions that transcend the spatial. When one thinks about a cemetery, it is often a mystifying space embedded with the eternal promise of death, an endpoint of life, “a final resting place.” However, these landscapes exist among the abiding city that is very much alive, creating a tension among recording death, the landscape, and the organisms of the city. Still, these spaces are permanent green spaces within the urban environment that occupy substantial community space. For this reason, they pose public issues—burial has social, cultural, political, and environmental concerns. When ignored, the tension of the cemetery among the didactic, evolving, and fluid nature of the city can create a landscape that is static and forgotten. This thesis challenges existing cemetery models wherein the significance of designed elements have been forgotten, rituals rewritten, and a barrier created between Americans and their dead. Instead, a hybrid approach is explored, through research by design, to elevate the cemetery to a complexity that is accessible and apart of the urban realm. A series of design explorations are tested at the intersection of three historic cemeteries in a parking lot in Columbus, Georgia. The aim of this thesis is to illustrate that cemeteries can act as an element of community design, while sensitive to remembrance and the psychological necessity for grief. This thesis seeks to reanimate community into the cemetery through an encounter with difference, suggesting the cemetery is a landscape is as much for the living as it is for the dead.

Top Ten Images Extracted from Deadland

PDF of Deadland by Maria Hines