Sunday, August 29, 2010

Stepping Back into My Other Life

Fall classes resumed last Monday and now I can scratch off Week One of my last year in the LA graduate program. I am taking a community design studio and our project for the semester will evaluate and offer alternative design scenarios that address the Lake Delhi dam breach that occurred July 24, 2010. The implications of that disaster are all over the map both figuratively and literally. The earthen spillway blew out after unprecedented rainfall in the Maquoketa River watershed and now there is once again a visible river flowing in its channel where, for the last 80 years, there was a 9-mile long lake.

This past Friday three vehicles headed down the road carrying my studio-mates, two professors, me, and a trailerful of bikes to the project site to experience this altered landscape. We listened to stories, attended a formal presentation, and wandered the backroads searching for clues that might inform a design solution to offer these folks who are lost without their landmark waterbody, Lake Delhi.

Having taken several classes in hydrology and stream study, I found the natural course claimed by the water of the Maquoketa River fascinating, aside from the devastating loss of home and property. Water knows where it wants to be and it goes there. This truism was never more obvious to me as when I stood on the bridge that looked out over the newly formed sandbars dotted with broken boats, their twisted hoists, and other floodwater debris half-buried along and in the now visible river channel.

It was a long day with lots to take in. I was tired when we arrived back at the College of Design...not only physically, but in a world-weary way. I wonder when we as a society will learn to live with the forces of Mother Nature, to become more adaptable to her ways, and be done with this thinking that building bigger, taller, and stronger will dominate and tame. We only end up with a larger pile of debris to clear and a more expensive tab. Enough said.

I am also taking a construction class which should prove interesting. A failed attempt to install AutoCAD on my laptop brought it to its knees. The operating system crashed and I was without a computer for several days. Aside from that technical glitch, the content of the course will be an overview of materials...wood, concrete, stone, and metals. I love the idea of color, texture, and finish, so this should be a fun class.

I am taking a graduate seminar in preservation...a sister course to the one offered last semester. I enjoyed that class, so I am looking forward to our study site of Pella, IA and the Dutch heritage museum grounds there.

I will be backing off the thesis research and writing this next semester....only 1 credit to keep my toe in the water. I am thankful that I did the road trips this past summer so I could get that experience on the ground to better understand the turn-of-the-century Midwestern rural cemetery. Also, I stayed on top of my readings, so that has taken off the pressure this semester. I look forward to the actual writing of the cultural landscape report and treatment plan for Oak Hill Cemetery in Cedar Rapids, IA, which will happen over the next year. : |

So, today I clear the drafting table of the piles of books and papers from this past summer's research. I will work with pen and colored pencils to create a concept plan with both graphics and narrative to begin my process for the Lake Delhi project.

No comments:

Post a Comment