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Reviewed by:
  • Dredgefest Great Lakes Symposium
  • Justine Holzman (bio)
Dredgefest Great Lakes Symposium
14–16 August 2015
University of Minnesota College of Design

DredgeFest is a roving symposium, field expedition, and workshop series that brings together government agencies, designers, theorists, academics, corporate practitioners, industry experts, students, and the public around the subject of dredging—defined by the Dredge Research Collaborative (DRC) as “the linear industrial activity of uplifting sediments and transporting them to new locations” (see Figure 1).1 As humans become Earth’s “preeminent geomorphic agents,”2 the practice of dredging is a significant action within the spectrum of anthropogenic influences which “accelerate, decelerate, transport, and materially alter sediments.”3 To the DRC, the technologies, practices, and organizations associated with acts of dredging “constitute a landscape architecture at continental scales.”4

DredgeFest Great Lakes is the third in a series of four festivals sited along the four coasts of the United States. The first was held in New York City (2012), the second in Louisiana (2014), and the fourth will land in California’s San Joaquin Delta (2016). The founding members of the DRC are Stephen Becker, Project Manager at Gardiner & Theobald LLP, Rob Holmes, Assistant Professor of landscape architecture at the University of Florida, Brett Milligan, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at UC Davis, and Tim Maly, writer and fellow at MIT’s MetaLAB. Gena Wirth, Design Principal at SCAPE, joined the collaborative after the NYC DredgeFest.5 The most recent additions are Brian Davis, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at Cornell, and Sean Burkholder, Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University at Buffalo. The symposium included tours of the St. Anthony Falls Hydraulic Lab and of the Liquid Waste Technology Plant of Ellicott Dredge Technologies in New Richmond, Wisconsin.

DredgeFest Great Lakes was funded by University of Minnesota’s Imagine Chair in the Arts, Design, and Humanities, Imagine Special Events Fund, College of Design, Landscape Architecture Magazine, The Bush Foundation, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, Bay West, City of Duluth, and Duluth Seaway Port Authority, with promotional support from the ASLA Minnesota chapter, and organizational help from Minnesota faculty members Ozayr Saloojee and Vincent deBritto. With this support, the festival was able to offer a tour of Duluth and a series of speculative design workshops led by Mark Smout, Kristi Cheramie, Matthew Spremulli, and Fionn Byrne.

The theme of the symposium, “Shifting Baselines,” was devised as a strategic lens to consider landscape change. This term has roots in McHarg’s Design with Nature, in which he recalls “that virgin continent of America accumulating in age and wealth, inordinately stable, rich beyond the dreams of avarice and everything that man could desire” as a “land which we can never see again.”6 Popularized by Daniel Pauly, the shifting baseline syndrome—as a product of the short-lived memory of generations—is especially important in an era of widespread urbanization exhibiting a different assemblage of species.7 As preconceptions of baselines in ecology shift to open questions, the symposium asks: “What conceptual and instrumental value do baselines have with respect to choice, design, and indeterminate landscape futures?” If the first DredgeFest in New [End Page 140] York introduced dredge as an interesting and exigent design problem, and the second in Coastal Louisiana revealed the tremendous impact and interconnectedness of dredging processes to systems of local and global importance, then DredgeFest Great Lakes has solidified the need not only to engage dredge in design, but the need to shift the cultural identity of dredge praxis.

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Figure 1.

DredgeFest Great Lakes Symposium and Exhibit at the University of Minnesota (Matt Spremulli 2015).

Peter Annin, journalist and author of Great Lakes Water Wars, explained the significance of The Great Lakes Compact as it relates to the regional environmental history, the current continental water tensions surrounding water diversions, and the projected water migration to the Great Lakes region as freshwater resources deplete.8 He referred to Chicago in 1900, on the cusp of polluting its own water intake, diverting its sewage into the Mississippi River Basin, prompting a century of litigation. As we enter the “century of water literacy” it is more important than ever to...


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