by Clementine Jang (MLA ’16),  Michelle Shofet (MLA ’16) and  Jia Joy Hu (MLA ’17)

How can we transform private land through public means? “Airborne“, is an exploration of the capacities of aerially transmissive plants to infiltrate and cross-pollinate beyond bureaucratic boundaries, jurisdictional delimitations, euclidian land-use policies, and easement embankments.

Our team proposed a re-design of the existing easements beneath transmission lines as a way of answering this question. Abiding by the hard constraints of easement design regulations, we re-designed the easement network in Cape Cod to perform as a highway and cultivation ground for airborne plant species.

EASEMENTS NETWORKS Positioned somewhere in between private and public, the easements at times cut through private backyards, through pitch pine forests and through the former Massachusetts Military Reserve. This network casts a web of connectivity across the landscape of the Cape, and our project takes advantage of its breadth. We have created a system of clearings to act as “landing pads” for the wind-dispersed seeds being cultivated in the easement networks. Most clearings are located on post-industrial, polluted or disturbed sites, as well as coastal sites suffering from erosion. Each easement leads to or is in close proximity to a clearing. Each clearing is situated in such a way that either predominant winds, secondary winds or more erratic storm winds will sweep through them, and carry into them a plume of airborne seeds planted in the easements.

WIND AS ENGINE In order to exploit the potential of wind as an engine for the dissemination of airborne seeds, we researched, analyzed and modelled regional wind patterns and storm data, with an emphasis on summer storm events during which seed distribution would be accelerated. We selected two wind-dispersed species that can be indicative of the types of plants we want to be propagated across the Cape. The former species, the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) acts as a sentinel by denoting the presence of CO2 in the ground and air by turning its leaf color to red. Its airborne quality allows for it to be carried for miles and miles by the wind and water. With its capacity to colonize inaccessible areas, the dandelion becomes a visual indicator of land value by making the invisible visible. We selected the latter species, common horsetail (Equisetum arvense), because its extensive rhizomatic root system helps to stabilize sandy soils characteristic of Cape Cod. This plant contains wind-dispersed spores which germinate optimally under moist conditions.

REGIONAL PLANTING METHODOLOGY We are proposing for the same planting methodology to be deployed across the entire easement network. However, this planting registers differently along the ground depending on the topography, wind patterns and easement orientation. The variables that dictate these patterns are as follows: Topography On flat slopes <5%, a typical crisscross movement pattern is used On slopes from 5-15%, a basic lawn stripe movement pattern is used On steep slopes >15%, the pattern of movement will be parallel to the grade Alignment of the easement with predominant wind patterns o The ones most closely aligned with the predominant SW winds will work most efficiently as wind corridors for the seeds Our project engages natural phenomena that we know we can’t control. We are working with winds, storms, the flight of airborne seeds—ephemeral elements of the landscape that are indeterminate and very difficult to model. However, by being extremely prescriptive in designing and setting the stage for atmospheric phenomena to catalyze our project, we are playing an active role as designers. In this sense, our project acknowledges and allows indeterminate and emergent patterns to occur, while at the same time being operationally prescriptive.