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Memorializing Landscape with Vegetative Solutions

Fall 2018 - EAS 587 - Making Place - Taught by Bob GreseThis project focused on an ecological redesign of the southwest corner of Veteran's Park, in Ann Arbor, MI.

The southwest corner of Veteran's park is currently used for occasional memorial gatherings by veterans, yet it doesn't provide an accommodating experience for these activities. Historically, St. Joseph Indian trail crossed through this area of the park, acting as a major highway for indigenous people passing through the formerly-oak barren habitat where the park now sits. People previously played a major role in the now-rare existence of oak barren habitats with regular managed fires across the landscape. In the early 1900s, Veteran's park was used as the county fairgrounds, and was a place of celebration, play, and gathering. Veteran's Park is rich in ecological and human history and continues to have a strong, yet ever-changing cultural use today. There seems to be an obvious direction forward to uplifting and redesigning Veteran's Park: To serve veterans, indigenous people, public park-goers, and the local ecological history, Veteran's Park ought to become a memorialized landscape, using vegetation as its medium. 

Using native plant communities unique to the black oak barrens which once flourished on this landscape, paths guide visitors through a variety of singing colorful habitats. People can weave in and out of the expanded vertical vegetative layers of the oak barrens, whether it be down the native oak barren prairie, or visiting the quieter sumac cove, or looking for birds on the elevated canopy boardwalk through the restored oak hickory forest. For memorial or social gatherings, people can enjoy the black oak council ring, while looking down the prairie to the "ant mound" sand box - a playful and educational nod to the plentiful ant colonies which are characteristic of healthy oak barren habitats. Through a series of more hidden or more social paths, with occasional overlooks and council rings, people are able to seek out the experience they need, whether contemplative, adventurous, or curious to learn more about the ecological heritage of this shared land.

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