Awards Focus: The Death and Life of Great American Barges

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.

Student Analysis and Planning Honor Award

Weicong Huang

“The rendering shows local wetland restoration, in process and after. In the gray frame, the ship is ejecting stored sediment into the wetland and people are planting native weeds. This program provides jobs for local communities and supports social engagement in this process. After restoration, the levee could serve as a greenway to travel along the river, and the wetland is a habitat to native fish and birds.

Image courtesy Weicong Huang.

“The analysis flow chart shows the mechanism of flood issues in the Yangtze River Basin, and how dams and large-scale farming influence riverine ecosystems, showing the similarity of this kind of challenge people face around the world, not just in the Mississippi River Basin. It provides a global scope to think about how human structures on a river influence both humans and nonhumans, ecologically and economically.”

—Weicong Huang


About The Death and Life of Great American Barges:

As landscape architects work on more restorations and constructed wetlands, Weicong Huang’s proposal answers a question that’s critical, but seldom addressed: How do you move enough soil to build sufficient wetland barriers to make a difference? The answer—along the Mississippi River—is barges, still the cheapest transit method per ton and the one with the lowest carbon emissions, and already headed to where the sediment is needed. Since the implementation of the Mississippi River’s flow-control structures, including 29 locks and myriad dams and levees, sediment has been blocked from the lower river valley or sped along so fast it never gets a chance to drop into the river bottom. This proposal sets the stage for the construction of porous, soft wetland barriers built on sediment, mostly delivered from the Missouri River, a tributary of the Mississippi. Farther downstream, the material makes its way to Louisiana, where rising sea levels are an immediate threat. Beyond these ecological benefits, the project offers a way to give the riverfront back to local communities for fishing, bird-watching, or simply exploring.

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