Can Parkitecture Heal? A Green New Deal Superstudio [M1]

This studio proposes to translate and spatialize the core goals of the Green New Deal into a new park architecture for Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), the most visited national park in the United States and a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site.

Often referred to as “America’s best idea,” the U.S. national parks are sites of exemplary ecology and beauty, as well as emotional and physical healing. While these places and their beneficial qualities are intended to be accessible to everyone, the parks continue to struggle with inclusivity and their histories of racism, including displacement of Native peoples and segregation. Today a renewed movement is underway to address these issues and make all visitors feel safe and welcome across race, gender, class, and ability. We will examine this unfolding evolution at GSMNP through researching its history and analyzing its architecture, which includes historic buildings, rustic “parkitecture,” and a modern Brutalist observation tower. The program for the studio will be a base that facilitates and expands the use of the park for everyone and builds on its capacity for healing that is so needed today.

In 1930s America, the economic struggles of the Great Depression combined with environmental devastation to forests and crop land due to logging and mining, bringing suffering to seemingly every aspect of life. The federal government sought to address these intertwined challenges with New Deal programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which provided jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources and the construction of public works projects. One of the largest federal work and land restoration programs was carried out in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a heavily forested portion of the Appalachian Mountains that straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. Here, the New Deal’s economic recovery policies were made visible in the park’s forests, infrastructure, and architecture, providing enduring legacies. In the spirit of that massive federal program, the proposed Green New Deal (2019) sets out to ensure a healthy future for the U.S. by enacting the core goals of decarbonization, jobs, and justice. This studio asks if and how critical and creative design work and construction concepts can help the park evolve to facilitate these contemporary priorities, making it a place that fosters inclusivity and equality in addition to ecology, recreation, and tourism.

The course is offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and is open to Architecture and Landscape Architecture students who will work in pairs of their own selection. A specific design and/or research assignment will be given each week, the result of which will advance the design toward the final project. Grading will be based on quality of work and participation. 

Our option studio course will be affiliated with the Green New Deal Superstudio that will take place around the country from Fall 2020 to Spring 2021, culminating in an exhibition and summit in Fall 2021.