by Ernest Haines (MLA I '18) — Recipient of Masters in Landscape Architecture Thesis Prize I
When one thinks of national infrastructure, the interstate highway system immediately comes to mind. Nearly fifty thousand miles in length, planned and constructed for over half a century, it is the largest contiguous landscape in the United States of America. However, in its current state, the highway disproportionately produces the landscape rather than vice versa. This thesis proposes a set of systems and methods that allow the landscape to actively push back upon and define the way infrastructures are developed in the United States by making landscape formation, composition, and metabolism primary drivers.
As the issue of “crumbling infrastructure” continues to become more relevant in the face of global instability, there is a priority to rehabilitate our nation’s infrastructure. A proposed consortium leverages the responsibilities and interests of existing government agencies by locating their operations in research stations across the country. These stations collect data, experiment on the ground, and develop standards and guidelines to be used nationally. Research Station #25, in New Jersey’s Meadowlands, is the primary focus of the thesis. Through this site, Turnpike Metabolism explores the ways an active feedback loop between sensing, design, construction, use, degradation, and replacement redefine infrastructural metabolism both locally and nationally in the United States.