New Jersey Meadowlands: A Field Guide to Participatory Landscape
City College of New York
In confronting the climate crisis, how can we develop alternative approaches to civic engagement that promote a more complex idea of ecology and advocate for social and environmental equity and inclusion? The New Jersey Meadowlands poses a complex scenario of overlapping, critical ecological and infrastructural systems – and murky, messy cultural histories. This project investigates how we can understand the Meadowlands given current ecological thinking, acknowledging the Meadowlands as a living assemblage of complex relationships. As landscape architects, it is important for us to acknowledge that we construct understandings of landscapes, not just make physical “interventions.” I propose an open field guide for the New Jersey Meadowlands as a mechanism to enable communities to engage in understanding the dynamic and interrelated systems of our everyday ecologies. This open field guide is unlike the traditional “Nature” field guides in which things of the “natural world” are presented as objectively legible for humans to “know” knowable objects. Instead, this “open” field guide provides a framework for seeing the New Jersey Meadowlands and is a way of self-codifying the process of understanding. I envision this open field guide to be a multi-authored, hyper-indexed platform to empower diverse voices to be engaged in shared landscape stewardship. It aims to be a scaffold upon which there can be a collaborative effort and engagement in telling the many stories of a place.