Rob Holmes on dredging and landscape generation

The Five Thousand Pound Life: Land, Spatial Logistics (Part 2)

September 26, 2014

In the second part of the Spatial Logistics panel, Rob Holmes details the relationship between landscapes produced by logistics and climate change, yet cautions that the consequences and opportunities of these landscapes are difficult to predict. Using the current expansion of the Panama Canal as a case study on landscape generation through logistics, Holmes demonstrates how the dredging and expansion of the canal — an attempt to reclaim a share of global commerce that has shifted to the Suez Canal and the United States intermodal system — has created an “engineering shockwave.” The need to accommodate so-called “post-Panamax” ships has led to port expansions on the Atlantic and Gulf costs, including the New York Harbor, where the clean sand removed through dredging has created the unexpected opportunity for marsh restoration in Jamaica Bay. Holmes argues that the competition of logistics has created a “zero sum game” with misaligned incentives in which the winners, losers, and reverberations are unclear, and poses the question: How can design constructively enter into this work?

Read more about landscapes produced by logistics on Urban Omnibus in “A City Built on Dredge.”

Rob Holmes, the co-founder of Mammoth, a blog about infrastructures, logistics, landscapes, and architecture, was an assistant professor of landscape Architecture at the University of Florida at the time of this presentation. He now teaches at Auburn University’s School of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture.

The Five Thousand Pound Life: Land was a symposium on rethinking land and its value in light of climate change organized by The Architectural League and co-sponsored by The Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design in September 2014.

The Spatial Logistics panel invited an industrial real estate developer and two designers and academics to unpack the spatial dimensions of the sometimes hidden networks of logistics and debate their consequences — the good, bad, and unknown — for design and society.