Summer Field Station
The Summer Field Station allows for close and concentrated study of one site, program, and community/client in a remote location. The Lower Embudo Valley of New Mexico, a traditional agricultural landscape in transition, serves as the base of operations for ALI's Summer Field Station through Summer 2012.
SInce 2007, Woodbury students have worked collaboratively with the people of Embudo/Dixon to map and analyze the social, economic, topographic, and infrastructural landscape as the community works to address the challenges of urbanization (changing land uses), globalization (limited local economies), and climate change (a reallocated hydrologic cycle).
Drawing on field work and research into contemporary discourse on distributed energy, local economies, slow food, and integrated watershed management, students develop infrastructure proposals that employ the basic principles of sustainable, low-impact design, and extend the design principles + methods of landscape urbanism.
Ongoing design work focuses on a suite of architectural, infrastructural, and public space interventions within a community-generated watershed management plan. Research and design proposals are informed by a multi-week survey of arid lands architecture and infrastructure conducted during the Summer Field Station's Desert Road Trip.
Funded by a substantial HUD/Hispanic Serving Instituions Assistng Communities (HSIAC) grant, ALI works during the school year with the City of Burbank, and in the summer term with communities in the Lower Embudo Valley of New Mexico to provide no-cost planning and design assistance to low-income communities working to devise sustainable water and energy strategies in the face of climate change. Community partners in both locations contribute technical assistance from planners, engineers, and water commissioners. The grant also funds public education programs on water- and energy-smart design in both locations, and funds publications resulting from work in both locations.
The Desert Road Trip is designed to introduce students to the magnitude of an extreme environment—the arid West. Students and faculty travel together for approximately 15 days to survey architectures and infrastructures people have devised over time to adapt their cultures to the arid lands, and to adapt the arid lands to their cultures.
The itinerary, which varies each year, includes architectural innovations and infrastructural approaches from multiple eras and cultures—pre-contact indigenous empires; European colonials; contemporary Native American dry-land farms; modern industrialists; utopic and dystopic experiments; and thriving hybrids—each with a building and irrigation system designed to minimize the extremes of the climate and maximize the yields of the land. All were designed for “sustaining” culture; all contain the seeds of their own obsolescence. Emphasis is placed on exploring how each engineering feat, archeological artifact, and settlement pattern examined is both a functional and ideological tool: a carefully devised instrument that negotiates the relationship between a cultural ideal and an environmental reality.
Students are asked to read each case study site critically: What are the forms of robust fluorescence? What are the forms of empire over-reaching? Is dispersion necessarily symptomatic of collapse? What are the strategies for adaptation in the face of change? What are the seeds of resilience?
FieldWork includes extensive GIS/GPS mapping, photography, and sketching, in tandem with a rigorous bibliography and outdoor seminars. Students record observations in a field book throughout the trip, and routinely present their responses to readings and sites in the field.
Students design, fabricate, and occupy desert shelters of their own design, and work as teams to produce nightly dinners that celebrate food from the landscapes of their origins.