The Penn State undergraduate Matthew Moffitt won the 2013 ASLA Student Award of Excellence in General Design by showing that not all dredge is created equal. Moffitt’s project, Dredge City: Sediment Catalysis, uses dredged material from the Maumee River, a tributary of Lake Erie, to restore a brownfield site, reestablish migratory bird stopovers, and connect urban and ecological systems, all in the context of an elegantly detailed park. By processing the material dredged from a shipping channel on the Maumee, Moffitt looked at Toledo, Ohio, the most heavily dredged port in the Great Lakes, and asked how one of the lake’s greatest polluters—the Maumee dumps a considerable amount of phosphorous into Lake Erie, causing algae blooms among other problems—can become a source of lifeblood for the city. We talked with Moffitt, who now works at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, about how he conceived the project and how dredge is becoming a hot research topic.
How did you become interested in dredging as a source of remediation?
The project originally began as a studio project during my senior year at Penn State. The studio origins were in Toledo, Ohio, so that’s how it all began. My professor, Sean Burkholder, is very knowledgeable about dredge and is often working in the greater Ohio region. There are several postindustrial sites in Toledo along the Maumee River, and the river feeds into the Western Basin of Lake Erie. We were given one of several sites along the river, and the site I chose was Edison Park. The challenges of the site included [combined sewer] outfall, dumping postindustrial material, and adjacency to one of the newer bridges and the downtown skyline.
His studio prompt was very inspiring, and from there I started making the connections between dredged material and the sediment itself, and from there it blossomed. The general goal for the studio was to use dredge or sediment from the shipping channel for a park design. The assignment was pretty broad, so we had a lot of room to use our imaginations.