2021 ESALA Student Award Winners

Fangyuan Zheng, MLA (Best Student Award winner)

Under the circumstance of climate change and sea-level rise, low-lying coastal areas around the world will be exposed to varying degrees of vulnerability and coastal risk, and the Cromarty Firth is no exception. This design starts at focusing on the human and non-human coastal risks caused by sea-level rise in the Cromarty region, especially the intertidal eelgrass meadows degradation, saltmarsh shrinkage, and coastal World War II historical heritage disappearing problems.

In this landscape design project, a coastal geopark sequence will be implemented in the future to deal with the problems above. The basic strategy of this project is sediment management. Since sediment is the main driver of creating coastal habitats such as eelgrass meadows and saltmarsh. And the sediment process is a very slow process that is compatible with the speed of sea-level rise. So, with reasonable artificial sediment management, the negative impact of sea-level rise can be greatly reduced.

Managing sediment can be implemented from two sides. One is increasing the amount of sediment that flows into the ocean from land and another is intercept sediments so that they are not washed away by ocean currents. In this project, the purpose of increasing sediment is achieved by transforming the coastal historical heritage landscape into more natural landscape such as water body, artificial saltmarsh to generate and transport sediment. The aim of catching sediments is achieved by designed sediment barrier matrixes in the tidal zone. These sediment barriers will recycle the material from the disused oil rigs in Cromarty Firth, making these ghosts of the Anthropocene reborn in the future. With all these management tools, the intertidal zone will be lifted by the sediment and keep pace with the sea level rising speed so the eelgrass and saltmarsh will always stay in a shallow seawater condition and keep existing.

The transformed coastal historical heritage also plays an important role in the project. It not only helps to generate natural sediments but also helps to keep the specific characters of local historical landmarks. The transforming design aims to conserve the disappearing heritage under threats of sea-level rise. So, with the sediment management tools, these memorial sites find their ways to having eternal life.

Alness Bay is chosen as the detailed design site because of its special geological and historical status. Because it has the largest saltmarsh and intertidal habitat with very rich sediment sources. And the different kinds of World War II historical sites around the Alness Bay coastline are waiting to be conserved. So, it is a potential place to test the strategy of this project. The landscape designed for responding to sea-level rise should find a resilient way to have eternal life.

Anson Tsz Wai Lai, MLA (Best Portfolio Award winner)

In this Anthropocene epoch, landscapes are being harmed by the rapid urbanization. The coastal landscape changed by the expansion of coastal infrastructure to sustain the growth of residential, commercial, industrial, needs. Cromarty Firth is the showcase of how ‘Anthropocene/Capitalocene’ as the new geological epoch effect and transform the global landscape and environment. The socio-economic transformation of the Firth is driven by fossil fuel extraction and industry. This transformation is also causing the fragmentation of coastal landscape of the Cromarty Firth.

From the above context, the project will focus on the area of Nigg Bay, the edge of the Cromarty Firth. By discover the geology and ecological potential of defragmenting the coastal landscape of the Firth, the project is aimed to create a continuous network along the Firth in various forms, a boardwalk, parks, or patches of greenery. To regenerate the natural habitat along the coastline through rejuvenating the watercourse, expanding the natural landscape to the intensive agricultural field. Ultimately using the network to defragment the coastal landscape of the Firth due to the fossil fuel extraction, embracing the natural heritage, and create a green network for the whole Cromarty Firth. Also, using the network to reimagine the afterlife of extraction.

You can see more of Anson’s work at his Instagram. You can keep up with him professionally via LinkedIn

Stanislava Odrljin, EMiLA (Peter Daniel Prize for Best Site Analysis)

Ship-building in Glasgow once required collaboration between many different kinds of people and the river Clyde. This potential of the water to unify was a thread I wanted to hold onto in context of Glasgow’s disconnected communities today.  The project assignment required two steps: a show garden festival during the COP 26, and a larger strategy that would grow from it. The proposed show garden would host a choir to sing along the river, as water surfaces amplify sound. The singers would need to coordinate their voices to the way the landscape filters them back– a way to reclaim connection to it. A song was written for the choir, from the perspective of a crow – a bird that lives on disturbed, polluted and forgotten urban sites, abundant by the river. The song was tried out with friends on site.

The show garden’s materiality is created by a carpet of Scots Pine needles – a tree that crows are able to forage and reforest, and which is able to extract buried toxic chemicals – left by Glasgow’s industrial past. Objects of everyday life along the river would be exhibited on this carpet as valuable items – like fishermen’ camps.  Also on the carpet: a dyed pool of water to expose the problem of polluted groundwater.  After the festival, students from the local school would be invited to keep the action going – to post seed platforms for crows to reforest and remediate toxic sites along the river in this neighborhood. The show garden, therefore, would give people an idea of potential future care of the river system by themselves in interaction with other species.  

When overlapping the Clyde’s tributaries with a historical map, I saw that the entire city used to be industrial. Though the buried waste still stains the ground, many of these abandoned industrial sites are now places of refuge for wildlife that is returning. A few very contaminated tributaries were explored with friends, polluted water samples were collected and used as paint for a map. Each type of chemical was paired with a plant that could extract it. Bird species and existing activism of residents were also mapped on a city scale. Phone interviews were conducted with rowing clubs and other local groups, who were already active in caring for river’s returning wildlife.  The resulting proposal was to enable access and care of the forgotten tributaries of the Clyde River system, for and by all species. Care schemes were proposed, showing how locals could do this though interaction with different plants and animals throughout the year. This strategy would allow residents of different backgrounds to re-establish a common relationship to the Clyde River system, and could once again become a place of their unification.

Fieldwork was done in collaboration with: Catherine Browne, Carla Coromina and Lina Teresa Buitrago.

You can find Stanislava on Instagram and are welcome to look her up on Facebook under the name Stana Odrljin

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