bad land good. Avila Beach Tank Farm. 2010

design proposal

This 90 acre site located in Central Calfifornia, sacred to the Native Chumashan, has gone through a number of vicissitudes. The owner, a major oil company, had started to involve the local native community in a development process already on its way.

Bad land good challenges our understanding of what is a »bad« Iandscape and what is a »good« landscape. It challenges the notion of brownfield and greenfield, of disturbed and healed, of ugly and beautiful. Traditionally, contested or disturbed land is dubbed as bad, in order to imply that it needs to be made better, enhanced or simply re-made into a condition that allows for starting at zero, as if nothing has ever happened on it. With the notion »bad land good« we seek to declare that bad land is good, and the idea of trying to turn back time and create a tabula rasa over and over again does not address change over time.

The proposal is to be seen as a set of suggestions, which are descriptive rather prescriptive. Ultimately, the aim was to present a suggestive manual of how to approach any future of the Avila Beach Tank Farm to the stakeholders. Our proposal is tightly connected to the precedent analysis and site inventory. We cannot imagine a design process without immersion, without interpretations drawn from first hand experiences, and a specific site’s social and ecological histories, as a conceptual beginning for a design response. The design is about seeing the good in conceived badness. Through this we challenge our own profession to overcome the unquestioned production of naturalistic, pastoral beauty. We challenge citizens to think about their role in contemporary society and toward the environment. We investigate and demarcate the specificity of the tank farm through identifying existing qualities. Seven sub-areas are described as particular historic and ecological zones, each providing an intrinsic atmosphere as well as unique qualities, soil conditions, habitat, animals and plant materials. We establish spectra of varied typologies to make recommendations for each zone, demonstrating how they could be implemented, based on an introduced value system.

Aim of this real-scale project was not to come up with a ready-made design solution, but finding other approaches to help the project move into the next development phase. lt was our intention that the stakeholders in this project would use these typologies and recommendations as a catalyst for thinking about design in their own terms.

010. lthaca, NY I Avila Beach, CA, San Luis Obispo County.
Nicole Th. King + Rachel Kunreuther.
Supervisors: Deni Ruggeri [Cornell University], Uta Birkmayer [X-sense]

courtesy Nico King
concept map/s
site zoning [arid zones, invasice zones, chapparal zones, marsh zones, pine zones, live oak zones, industrial zones ]
visualization examples
historical images [Geomorphic Provinces: information/PublishingImages/Provinces.jpg]