Title page for ETD etd-09202005-144414

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Barber, Heather K.
URN etd-09202005-144414
Title Questioning Commonplace Ecological Design: a study of waterfront design practices and the ecological well-being of development in the harbor of Oyster, Virginia
Degree Master of Landscape Architecture
Department Landscape Architecture
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Holt, Jaan Committee Chair
Emmons, Paul F. Committee Co-Chair
Foster, Jeremy Committee Member
Frascari, Marco Committee Member
Johnson, Benjamin C. Committee Member
  • estuary
  • tension
  • macro and micro environments
  • event inspired design
  • tidal gauges
  • cyclical
  • threshold between land and water
  • ecotone
  • platforms
  • levees
  • lagoons
Date of Defense 2002-05-30
Availability unrestricted

The purpose of this investigation is to examine how landscape architecture can create a different kind of threshold between land and water without controlling the edge between the two entities, but merely guiding the natural process of exchange. The design of Oyster Harbor on the Eastern Shore of Virginia is in contrast to normative development of waterfront sites. The hard edge of common practices of waterfront development stands in tension to the more natural evolving edge of many harbors.

When creating a dialogue between land and water, the solution has always been to create a sea wall separating the two entities. It becomes the hard dividing line between a solid surface and liquid life. Is there a way to create a threshold that does not divide? How can landscape architecture create an exchange of qualities with land and water? Does the sea wall become the precedent to all concerns of tide and sea usurping lands edge? The edge between land and water is ever changing, so why not celebrate and personify that edge through creating a natural exchange between water and land. In order to create such an exchange, we must first look at the nature of water and land. Water is a free element that is composed of hydrogen and oxygen. It is inclined to motion, reflection, rise and fall. It holds a unique quality independent of man-induced control. Land is a more solid entity created by layers of stone and elements broken down by water. Land capacity is gauged by water, as in the water table. Throughout history, man has maintained a controlling relationship with land. However this is the opposite with water. Man has an inherent fear of water, the representative of both life and death. Though man tries, he cannot control water, he must work within the bounds set by water. How does one understand the evolutionary relationship of land and water without trying to control the elements that allow the relationship to occur? Through research, it is revealed that land actually usurps water through both a push and pull method of tides and water run off from land. Through time and tide, land builds up and infringes upon the natural edge of land and water. The plains move down, the vegetative roll moves forward, the beach ridges reconfigure, and the tidal flats create a shelf that extends out into the ocean floor.

This evolution of land continually cycles on moon and sun paths that dictate the change in light, shade, wind, tides, motion, and human cycles. Whether recognizable or not recognizable, these macro and micro environmental cycles become a dance in the realm of landscape architecture. How does one reveal macro and micro environmental aspects through design with human interaction at the edge between land and water?

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