Post-suburb – Nashua NH – New Landscape Territories

The old mill buildings of northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire are striking both in their scale and number. An extended sequence of mills stretches along the Nashua and Merrimack rivers taking in the cities of Manchester, Nashua, Lowell, Lawrence and Haverhill, a distance of some fifty miles. The vast brick buildings are set within a highly engineered fluvial landscape of weirs and sluices, holding ponds, channels and canals overlaid on the natural river course. The industries which originally created this landscape are long gone, replaced by new industrial suburbs remote from the river. The resulting fallow urban-landscape condition has only partially been resettled in the intervening years.

Addressing scales ranging from hand and pace, to yard, lot, mill and field, the studio will develop design proposals for the post-industrial riverine landscape of Nashua NH. A sequence of new open grounds will transform the loosely structured landscape territories close to the city’s core, challenging common assumptions around use, proximity, scale and settlement. Programmatic themes will be developed in response to the found conditions of relict industrial infrastructures, wild nature, and the everyday life of the city, to include: re-wilding – the support of territories of slack nature as a substitution of former industrial lots; a new urbanism of the trail – the re-calibration of local movement networks and modes in response to needs and imagination; a re-validation of the civic – a new public realm designed around events and temporary uses; and, new productive landscapes – alternative forms of food and non-food agriculture considering a range of scales from the individual to the collective. The work of the studio will be underpinned by a situated, syncretic, understanding of place, in respect of both physical conditions and social narrative.

Nashua NH is readily accessible from Cambridge and there will be several opportunities to visit the project site over the course of the semester, allowing for developing proposals to be tested against a detailed register of found conditions. The studio program will also include a funded study visit to the Harvard Forest in Petersham MA.

Peter Beard will hold studio the following dates: August 29, September 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, October 2, 3, 16, 17, 23, 24, November 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21. In addition Peter, will be available for desk crits the mornings of September 4, 11, 18, October 2, 16, 23, November 6, 13, 20, and all day on December 4 and 5. Peter will lead two site visits; the first on Saturday, August 30 and the second on September 6. Students must join one of these. Three further site visits should be planned by students around their schedules. Field trip to Harvard Forest October 14-15.