Virtual Exhibition

On the Lea Valley and the Thames Gateway

For instance
looking at the Lea Valley watershed
in discourse
with people at Gunpowder Park
it was not difficult
to go in the minds eye
downriver on the Thames
a bit
and see the Gateway planning
for a multitude of housing
understanding that what might be built
from those plans
would be underwater as the oceans rise
so we began imagining
the upward movement of planning

For instance
Imagine a new form of dispersal of people
money and resources
development becomes associated with
the generation of biodiverse habitat
so that the one does not subsume the other
as is now so often the case
Imagine that this development
new and ecologically provident
is spread across
the open areas in the Lea Valley
to the east and north of the Lea River
above the 5-metre mark
which we imagine becoming
a 100-metre wide
trans drain basin park
which in some future
becomes the site for
a dike system defense
if waters rise
over the 5-metre mark

We propose a bold experiment
answering the question
can intense population density
and complex biodiversity
coexist within a unified field
Imagine that ecologically provident
culturally appropriate
high-rise dwellings
some of which are already
being designed for people
in large numbers
behaving as a high rise village
each having its own garden
each garden hanging in the sky

To live in a forest surround
with a bio-diverse edge
where every high-rise form
becomes a figure
in a biodiverse forest field
enacting a new paradigm
where contemporary resettlement
displacing much of
the gateway development planning
restates much of the benefit
inherent in
historic village forms
and the work of the forest
is to sequester carbon
in large amounts
and the work of the forest
is to regenerate the earth
as a carbon sink
and the work of the forest
is to recreate subsoil ecosystems
and the work of the forest
is to reestablish the earth
as a sponge
thereby enhancing
both the well being of the earth itself
and giving advantage to the water system
of London as a whole

On The Upward Movement of People

We were standing at a Liverpool dock
not far from the Tate Gallery
imagining the waters rising
first 5 then 10 then 15 meters
Thinking about
the upward movement of people
and talking about how that
might happen gracefully
To replace the term “development”
with the term “settlement”
For us
it is a metaphorical flip
an aide to thinking
and thereafter to designing

The differences between
settlement and development
are profound
The term “settlement”
has embedded in it
the idea of habitat for ourselves
and of habitat or niches
for other living creatures

Then you said or I said
the metaphorical shift
between development design
and settlement design
becomes visible
at its simplest level
in selecting
an appropriate site
and then
tuning settlement
to the carrying capacity of the terrain

So we
with a small group of people
began looking
first North-East
and then South-East
for a site above Liverpool
yet still within the Mersey River Basin
where human habitation
might be designed
as an interactive figure
within a bio-diverse field
Our group discovered
a place in the Pennines
with 16 watersheds running from
the dark peak moorlands
in the east
through a topographically diverse
and ecologically diverse
with sloping hills
which moved gently
towards the lower Mersey basin
beginning at perhaps 350 metres high and
ending at perhaps 250 metres high

Then somebody said
“I know this place
It’s really composed of many places
It has
Blanken bog peatlands
It has upland moorland and pastureland
with semi-natural woodland
and plantations
including wet and dry meadows
and some urban and rural gardens
And then
of course
again came stone wall ecosystems”

Walking in the terrain
we found aquatic ecosystems
and upland streams
riparian habitat
with little dew ponds
and lakeside
and streamside cosystems

We measured this terrain
and shaped it
Finding that its boundary included
71 square kilometers
or about 42 square miles
with about 4000 people living in Hayfield
or dispersed nearby
This place appeared to us
a quintessentially Pennine place
And thus
we began a process of thinking
of exploring and of designing
what we came to think of
as a new Pennine configuration
a new form
in the British landscape mosaic

On Process

Beginning this process
we became for a while
four groups
thinking about
and a second group
which took on the task
of imagining
an open canopy forest
and meadowland

Then a third group
imagined what a village might look like
Posing the question
“What might we all do
that others had not done?”

And so a fourth group
began the process of
envisioning this place
as a whole system
that was replicable
around the Pennines
as a new form
in the British landscape mosaic

And together as a community
we began a consideration
of what one might harvest from the land
and how such a harvest
could preserve the system
And in the process
we began to imagine
a self-nourishing
system which
would become
our definition of graceful

A Pennine Village

Thinking about a Pennine Village
which respects the life
within the earth
upon which it stands

It is known how to build
energy efficient walls in a house
It is known how to build

energy efficient windows
and doors and roofs
and heating systems

and waste-disposal systems
And by extension
it is known
how to build energy efficient houses
and skyscrapers

It is known
how to draw energy from the sun
although not so efficiently
and energy from the wind

and the ocean waves
although not so efficiently
and heat from the earth

All of these elements
have been individually acted upon
or are being acted upon
and being improved
and re-improved
or may yet simply be
dreamed artifacts
in people’s minds

It is not so well known
how to connect
a house
or a street
or a village
or a water purification system
to the earth
in such a way
that the flow of waters
below the earth’s surface
are uninterrupted
or at least
not so thought about in depth
nor acted upon vigorously

And it is not known
the distribution of trees
that would be required
to enhance the percolation
of waters
that run from hard surfaces
and enable
the ability of earth
to absorb and
to purify water
in a way that is uninterrupted

Above all
it is not known
how to create forms
on the earth
that respect the life-web
within the earth itself
and leave it only minimally interrupted

So we have begun
but by no means finished
a consideration
as to how a Pennine village
might interface
with the Earth

Thus all foundations of structures
big and small
and all roads and pathways
and all service enterprises
such as
electric systems
and water purification systems
and waste storage systems
sit on the earth
connect with the earth
and penetrate the earth
in a way
that the waters
that flow through the earth
and eco-systems
that have evolved there
and matured there
may continue to be felicitous to all

On Carbon

Understanding this Pennine place
to be 71 square km or 7,100 hectare
the potential for
the passive sequestration of carbon here
became obvious
Then we made the decision
to conceive an open-canopy forest
that was 40% forested (2840 hectare)
and 60% meadowland (4260 hectare)
Since meadows sequester
1 tonne of carbon per year
and forests sequester 2 tonnes per year
this new landscape we calculated will pull
about 10,000 tonnes of carbon
from the air every year
with the approximately 4,000 people
living here now
Then imagining a village
of another 4,000 people coming
and moving upward
that the domestic carbon footprint
of each person is 3 tonnes per year
an open-canopy forest grassland
of the kind we are imagining
could passively sequester
about 40%
of each of the 8,000 person’s
carbon footprint
some of us
began thinking
about how those living here
might remove and sequester
the other 60% of the carbon used

On The Meadows

Given the terrain
Given the way in which the sun falls
and the watersheds distribute themselves
and the forest shapes itself
a great diversity of grasslands
wants to happen
with dryer and wet grasslands
with species-rich pastures
harvested by many birds
such as the gray partridge and the skylark
the waders and the red shanks
among others
There were hay-meadows
again species-rich and attractive to
a rich array of invertebrates
including butterflies
such as the meadow brown
and the common blue
Then there were the heathlands
both wet and dry
with heather
and cross-leaved heath
and research was done
about who might live on the meadows
So the Welsh Black cattle
were selected
for hardiness adaptability longevity
and fertility
And the Highland Scots breed
although sometimes aggressive
survive well
and like the Welsh Black
and live off the land
and eat what other cattle refuse
Then we chose the European Bison
the Wisant
which like the others
lives well off the land
liking open areas within forests
The red deer would come
and the mountain hare would come
as would those who hunt them
And assuming
that the total area of 50 square km
could handle about 1000 head
in 3 different herds
the question of management emerged
It began with simple ideas such as
The harvest will preserve the system and
The different herd cultures will be respected
It became clear
that a management system
needed to be invented
more from hunter/gatherer behaviours
than from mono-cultural behaviours
That is to say
we imagine a place
where species are dispersed
and harvested throughout the year
Wherein transaction between the parts
is precisely the opposite
of the mono-cultural productivity
that dominates
almost all behaviour now
where food production is concerned
and where land management
as a whole is concerned
And we wondered
if such a bold experiment
might represent a graceful outcome of
or response to
the rising of waters

On The Forests

Then others of us
began to think about
what this open-canopy forest
could in fact become
This is a place where fragments
of old secession such as
Upland Oak and Ashwood grew
and where wet woodland
mainly Alder
Cottonwood and Willow exist
and where ancient plantations
Scots Pine Norwegian Spruce
and the odd Broadleaf plantation
of Beech and Sycamore were placed
Our thinking centered around harvesting
we saw Apples and Pears
Plum and Cherry trees
planted at the boundaries
With Gooseberries and Redberries
growing in the gaps
of the Oaklands
Again with the idea
that time was a form-determinant
We saw yearly harvests
of fruits
and hundred-year harvests
of Softwoods
and several hundred-year harvests
of Hardwoods
Always harvesting
with the idea
that the act of harvesting itself
becomes a contributor
to the bio-diversity of the whole

On the Pennine Ring

thinking about big numbers
Finding that the Pennine Ring
had the lowest population
and the greatest open space
on the island
We began to think about the Pennines
as a whole place
with a length of 215 km
With the area
of the High Pennines
over 300 metres
under 3,000 square miles
the area
of a 5 km downward perimeter
equaling about 3,600 square miles
Then we did the obvious
and imagined repeating our model
around this ring
80 times
theme and variations
adding 4,000 people
to each new 42 square mile shape
Thus we discovered
that 320,000 new people
might live
and to some extent work
in a harmonious

open-canopy forest
which by its very nature
dramatically reduced
the carbon footprint of all
and everybody living there

about still bigger numbers
as the oceans rise 5 metres
about 2.2 million people
will be displaced
and 6,000 square miles of land
and in this circumstance
this Pennine Ring
becomes an invitation to
15% of these people displaced
to move into
a new world
a world that is marvelous

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