.|  Baltimore Ecosystem Study
Grounding: Ecosystem Science and Urban Design BES Annual Meeting, June 15, 2005


Watershed 263, Group plan, 2003, Manolo Figuerra, Flora Hsiang-I Chen, Justin Moore, Oliver Valle and Camille Han-Tian
On June 15, 2005 the Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES) devoted its quarterly science meeting to the topic of Urban Design. BES is a long term urban ecological research project funded by the National Science Foundation whose three main goals are research, education and community engagement. The common ground found through cross disciplinary presentations and discussions from this meeting creates new opportunities to connect ecosystem science and urban design which is unprecedented and unique to Baltimore.
 
Members of the Baltimore’s design community, scientists from BES the Parks & People Foundation (PPF) and Urban Design faculty and students from the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) at Columbia University met to discuss Baltimore’s potential as a healthy and well-designed city. BES incorporates a watershed framework in order to understand how cities can be structured and function as healthy ecosystems. Students and faculty are using Urban Design as a tool to reorganize space around the heterogeneity of urban geology, topography, water systems, vegetation and historical building patterns. The day long meeting consisted of presentations from the Baltimore design community, students and faculty from Columbia’s GSAPP, and break out sessions where attendees discussed their roles in further developing connections between BES research and Urban Design.
 
Jackie Carrera, Executive Director of Parks & People Foundation welcomed the meetings participants to Brown Center at Maryland Institute College of Art, as great example of contemporary architectural design a fitting place to find common ground between ecosystem science and great design. Ms. Carrera’s introduction was followed by a presentation by Thor Nelson from Baltimore Department of City Planning, followed by a historic overview of the city’s urban design heritage by Walter Schamu. Steward Pickett, Director of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study introduced the second part of the meeting by outlining the importance of Urban Design in achieving the main goals of BES. Brian McGrath, coordinator of BES’s Urban Design Working Group, and Urban Design studio coordinator at GSAPP was joined by his teaching colleagues Sandro Marpillero, urban designer and architect, Victoria Marshall, urban designer and landscape architect, and Petia Morozov, urban designer and architect. The Columbia faculty presented two years of student work under the headings of “water”, “vegetation” and “people”.
 
Graduates of the Masters of Architecture and Urban Design Program at Columbia Phanat Sonemagkhala, Justin Moore, Morana Stipisic presented their designs for incorporating ecosystem frameworks into several West Baltimore neighborhoods. They were joined by visiting students from Aalborg University in Denmark, Dorte Jensen, Kirstine Iversen, Christian Acherman. BES scientists Peter Groffman, Mary Cadenasso, Morgan Grove, and Erika Svendsen responded to the presentations.
 

Watershed 263, Marc Brossa and John Tran, 2002
Sonemagkhala and Marpillero presented the project “Watershed of Fortune” which created an urban nursery in Franklin Square neighborhood alley gardens. These community nurseries incorporated water retention practices as part of a regional effort to reduce nitrogen output in Chesapeake Bay, but also created a new economy for residents who could sell nursery products to suburban gardeners. Morozov and Stipsic presented another project called “More Baltimore”, in which new strategies for tree planting, water collection and mobile programs can be implemented within various school districts of Baltimore.
 
The project called “Point Cloud” aroused great interest for its innovative translation of ecosystem theories to an urban design model. Rather than working with bounded zones such as neighborhoods or land use, this project for West Baltimore is a system of local points and five interlaced strategies; storm water, grey water, debris, vegetation, property ownership and value. It works by aggregating the idiosyncratic, physical, environmental, economic and social conditions of inner-block spaces, to form multi-scalar networks within the watershed.