OTTAWA COUNTY REMADE: Toxic Transformations in the Tri-State Lead and Zinc District, Oklahoma

OTTAWA COUNTY REMADE is the second in a series of design studios based in North-East Oklahoma that explores toxic land regeneration, indigenous ecologies and their combined agency in creating environmental and social equity using critical practices of landscape design and making. The study site is Ottawa County, OK. at the edge of the Ozark Highlands and eastern boundary of the Tallgrass Prairie. This site is the largest and most dangerous polluted landscape of former mining works in the United States, it is part of the Neosho/ Spring River riparian corridor, and is home to tribal and non-tribal communities based around former mining centers including the abandoned ‘ghost towns’ of Picher and Cardin. The land and riparian ecology of the region has been devastated by acid mine drainage, land settlement and waste ‘mountains’ of mining spoil and the riverway systems in the larger County area are compromised by pollution, flooding and continued damming of the Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees to the south.
The intellectual question of the studio is– how does a tribal and non-tribal culture express itself through design in environmental form in a time of devastation, repair, recovery and transformation? The studio will imagine alternative design futures working with the local Quapaw Nation as well as non-tribal communities. A field trip (subject to approval by GSD Administration) will take place where the class will be hosted by tribal leaders and the non-profit LEAD Agency Inc. of Miami, OK.

Working in groups or individually, and importantly with tribal organizations and local experts and researchers, class members will give spatial organization and advance detail design proposals for the transformation of, for example – the mining waste mountains and the intense pollution of local riverways, while reimagining at the same time, the future form of the larger County area with regard to local infrastructure, agriculture, cultural programs and identity. Class members will first investigate a range of superfund sites located on tribal lands and then learn and test out core and advanced techniques of abandoned land reclamation and the indigenous understanding of ecology set within this intense cultural and ecological setting.  The studio is open to students in all GSD degree programs.