Pitzer Multi-Species Commons













OVERVIEW

We are pleased to announce the opening of the PITZER MULTI-SPECIES COMMONS, a far reaching ecological initiative that engages and transforms Pitzer College’s thirty-four acre campus. This ambitious community designed landscape extends, for the first time, our Eat Your Sidewalk socio-ecological initiative into large-scale environmental design. Critically, it develops a new way to sense, understand and interact with our urban ecosystems as a multi-species commons — and it creatively rethinks the capacities of landscape design, commons practices, subsistence practices, urbanism, public art, and the ecology of public space. We developed this landscape program over a two year period under the auspices of the Art + Environment Visiting Artist initiative at Pitzer College, a program funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. During our multiple residencies we challenged ourselves and our collaborators to develop a unique set of tools: an innovative ecological pedagogy, a new collaborative and emergent transdisciplinary design methodology, unique consulting and research techniques that work across species, novel urban design typologies, engaged place-making programming, and much else. These have had a profound impact on our practice and foster what we feel are transformative ways to address the critical socio-ecological questions facing us today. We would like to share a few highlights of the project with you:

PITZER MULTI-SPECIES COMMONS Highlights:

This project asks “what does it mean to be of a place?” in a manner that gives all members of a porous ecological community a way to see that they are the co-makers of an astonishingly rich and dynamic urban ecosystem. And in parallel: developing with them a deep, complex and sustained way to transformatively interact as a critical part of this commons. It expands and challenges practices of social responsibility and environmental stewardship by extending the scope of dialog to more than the human (as a virtuous consumer), and in doing so brings the plants and animals that make up the community to the table as necessary partners upon whom we come to depend through direct, hands-on engagement. Finally it actives a new model of world-meeting and making — the which we are calling “the multi-species commons” as a model for the re-animating our collective (damaged and privatized) commons as an alternative ecological practice.The project consists of a campus wide ecological engagement and re-inscription strategy that is activated at several ecological nodes. Here is an overview of  of them:

 

  1. The Multi-Species Negotiation Center: Made from rammed earth, upcycled building materials, local logs and rocks, this hub contains a gathering area designed to encourage usage by multiple species. The hub includes a large map, chalkboard, and an experimental irrigation/planting area designed to help propagate spontaneous migrant plant growth.
  2. The Material Propagation Site: which uses a water remediation zone to highlight the diversity of useful plants for making everything from paper to dyes to baskets.
  3. A general planting strategy to support the spontaneous growth of plant communities that includes new irrigation methods and plant-human engagement practices:
  4. A map of the campus is located at all key public sites to showcase the area as a complex urban ecosystem and designates zones for ongoing community driven experimentation
  5. A Foraging Kitchen with a provisional library to encourage the cooking and experimental uses of local plants that makes use of several planters that filter grey water
  6. An interactive smartphone accessible website that contains detailed notes about the ecology of the campus, foraging recipes and an expansive reading list. Additionally, the website will allow users to tag plants on an interactive map, add notes on what, where, when and how to eat from the campus.
  7. A new urban ecology design pedagogy focused on the development and construction of resilient structures and new social relations that operate outside the traditional logics of Nature and Culture, enclosure, commodification and scarcity by deploying principles of emergent design, collaboration and unique strategies to foster a vibrant commons.
  8. And for the sake of the sheer joy of discovering a fig tree that had found its way to independently colonize a sculptural platform — we made it official by creating a Fig tree “sculpture” that, requiring care and use, will slowly spread its canopy, meeting current and future generations. More can be see at the project’s web site: www.pitzer.edu/forage or by contacting us at SPURSE.

This ambitious community designed landscape extends, for the first time, our Eat Your Sidewalk socio-ecological initiative into large-scale environmental design. Critically, it develops a new way to sense, understand and interact with our urban ecosystems as a multi-species commons -- and it creatively rethinks the capacities of landscape design, commons practices, subsistence practices, urbanism, public art, and the ecology of public space.