Awards Focus: After Plastics

LAM is highlighting student and professional winners from the 2021 ASLA Awards by asking designers to share an outtake that tells an important part of their project’s narrative.

After Plastics: The Gardens of the Glacial Foreland

Student Research Honor Award

Image courtesy Andreea Vasile-Hoxha, Associate ASLA.

“Plastic particle x is currently sunbathing between the sharp peaks of the Swiss Alps. It is reflecting on the journey that had brought it here, while discovering the essence of its new identity—it is now called a microplastic particle. What that truly means, particle x has yet to understand, but for now, it begins to feel trapped under the snow, slowly freezing…

The genesis of the gardens of the Aletsch Glacier has begun. Thousands of plastic particles are rapidly accumulating in the retreating mass of ice, creating the first blueprints of the garden designs. Using remote sensing techniques, the researchers at the Glacial Foreland Institute are documenting the microplastics atmospheric dispersal and accumulation patterns for prototyping the gardens of the future. By the year 164 A.P., the glacial site 46°26’29.2″N, 8°05’06.8″E, pictured above, will be inoculated with arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi and Allium seeds and bulbs, in rows following the crevasses and scars of what once used to be a glacier.”


                                                                                       —Andreea Vasile-Hoxha, Associate ASLA


About After Plastics:

This project is set two centuries in the future when the glaciers have melted and microplastics are not just ubiquitous but fully integrated into the foundation of the world’s most remote landscapes. Glacial environments are disappearing; Switzerland’s Aletsch Glacier is projected to disappear almost entirely by 2100. At the same time, these same environments have become repositories of unusually high concentrations of microplastics, deposited there by wind and other atmospheric forces. This research project imagines a fictional alpine Glacial Foreland Institute and investigates the role of microplastics in the formation of an emergent ecology, acknowledging these parallel geological and biological timescales. Building on scientific research that points to potentially symbiotic relationships between microplastics, mycorrhizal fungi, and Allium species, a “garden” of spring onions, mycelium, slime mold, and “ancient lichens awakened from their dormant state” is envisioned for the ever-growing glacial foreland of the Swiss Alps. Close observation of slime mold and mycelium under different environmental conditions informed a final scheme in which each biological material serves a unique metabolic function in a landscape-scale inoculation, pointing the way to future research in material flows and ecologies.

Leave a Reply