UTDesignLabRUrban Walkshop at DesignLab: Connecting Culture and Ecology Through Green Infrastructure

RUrban Walkshop at DesignLab: Connecting Culture and Ecology Through Green Infrastructure

On the 30th of November, amidst a serene snowy backdrop, the DesignLab hosted the concluding event of the Urban Green Infrastructure walkshop series organized by the UT Climate Centre. This initiative aimed to delve into our relationship with infrastructure and the environment, sparking imaginative reinterpretations of human-managed landscapes. Led by Assistant Professors Corelia Baibarac-Duignon and Dr. Alexandria Poole, the walkshop sought to explore the role of urban green infrastructure in addressing climate change through participatory experiences. In collaboration with the RUrban Futures Collective at BMS, the focus of the final walkshop was on reconnecting culture and ecology within 'RUrban' (rural-urban) landscapes.

Artist Merel Zwarts from the Travelling Farm Museum of Forgotten Skills led the walkshop, guiding participants in a playful exploration of the campus. Employing arts-based methods developed by the collective, the group engaged in sensorial experiments, co-design techniques, and futuring exercises. The goal was to re-imagine the campus landscape, recovering ecological knowledge through immersive experiences. Participants questioned how human-made landscapes influence their relationships with living entities and contemplated the impact of these interactions on their values and visions. The unexpected snowy conditions added a magical element to the experience.

Participants, organized into groups, were assigned distinct roles, and tasked with collecting multisensory experiences using various tools and objects. Encouraged to engage with nature elements, they used instant cameras to capture moments and collected tangible elements from the environment. This hands-on approach allowed for a deeper connection with the surroundings, fostering a greater appreciation for the intricate relationships between people and nature.

Following their field trip, each group mapped their experiences using the collected tools, elements, and pictures. This mapping exercise served as a visual representation of their collective journey. Groups then focused on specific experiences, sharing reflections, and even composing "love letters" to elements that played a crucial role during their walk. This unique approach to referencing locations fostered a sense of unity within the group, creating a shared narrative that transcended conventional landmarks.

The walkshop culminated in the synthesis of participants' experiences and observations into an imaginative co-designed patchwork of propositions for the future landscape of the campus. By weaving together their diverse encounters, the group created a collaborative vision that went beyond traditional perceptions of the campus.

The artist, Merel Zwarts, will utilize the wealth of experiences and perspectives gathered during the walkshop as inspiration for her next project. This ensures that the transformative impact of the RUrban walkshop series extends beyond the event itself, contributing to ongoing dialogues about the intersection of culture, ecology, and green infrastructure.

The RUrban walkshop at DesignLab not only provided a platform for exploring the intricate connections between urban green infrastructure and climate change but also fostered a collective reimagination of the campus landscape. Through artistic guidance, multisensory experiences, and collaborative co-design, participants engaged deeply with their surroundings, resulting in a shared vision for the future. This event stands as a testament to the power of participatory experiences in reshaping our perspectives on the environments we inhabit.