Working Within Nested Scales.
Project versus Practice.
Most work as a designer or planner is defined by projects. A paying client’s ownership boundaries determine the project scope and focus until contract terms are met. This is how things get built; a result of land management by parcelization, commodification, and owned liability.
Emerging Terrain’s first self-initiated “project,” Stored Potential, quickly taught us that boundaries continually shift in proactive practice. Since we define what we will act on, the terms of service are different than typical design work. Our “clients” are those who are part of the process by choice or circumstance. Collaborators are clients through engagement, rather than purchase of a service. The terms of research are different than academia, because our research connects multiple scales of inquiry, exposing where we need to act next. A project has a definitive start and end, whereas practice is responsively ongoing. We know we are on the right track when one initiative leads to others at different, nested, scales of inquiry. We like this way of operating because it reflects how landscapes actually function, regardless of legal boundaries inscribed by humans.
Intercepting excess with public parks. Fifteen thousand years ago, the final surge of a giant sheet of glacial ice heaved into North America. As it moved at record speed, it carried rich, black sediment and leveled the land flat and easy to...
Diversifying the post-agrarian landscape. The monarch butterfly population has decreased by 90% in the last 20 years. Their decline is caused by land use and management decisions on both ends of the butterfly’s annual migration route. In Mexico, logging has...
Investigating the relationships among people, land, ownership, and development at the city’s edge. Shifting Thresholds was a multi-faceted approach to understand the unique landscapes comprising the suburban/ rural edges in the Great Plains. With few natural boundaries (mountains, ocean, forests, etc.)...
Adapting yesterday’s infrastructure to today’s needs. The Omaha Belt Line was built in 1885 to connect the industries of the city to main rail lines. Outpaced by the growth in long-distance trucking from the 1960’s, the Belt Line was...
Realigning a Region
Exploring inherent potential in Omaha’s Belt Line. The Belt Line connected early Omaha’s centers of industry. Its removal thirty years ago signified a turn away from the city and contributed to crisis in many of the neighborhoods surrounding it....
Critiquing contemporary urbanism through obsoletion. Stored Potential began as a desire to do something with a grain elevator that had become visual white noise to 76,000 daily passing commuters on I-80. After interstate expansion removed a direct off-ramp, it became...
Elevating Perspective and Collaboration. We learned with the Harvest Dinner that large-scale, site-specific, community focused events are great for community development. If done right, they can focus on developing new collaborations, reinterpreting a place, and expanding the potentials a community. Whereas the Harvest Dinner forged...
Performing at the scale of infrastructure. While preparing to install 20×80-foot banners on a grain elevator for Stored Potential, we quickly became familiar with the adjacent abandoned rail track, a vestige of the industrial networks once supporting the grain...
Activating streets through experimental modeling. Trugs were brought to life through a public-private partnership among community stakeholders in the Park East and Columbus Park neighborhoods, the City of Omaha, Emerging Terrain, and the Greater Omaha Chamber. The first season...