Deconstructing Hydrologies: Reviving the Memory of Water in Dumbarton Oaks Park
Anderson, Elizabeth (Betsy) Hamblen
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This thesis challenges prevailing guidelines for the treatment of cultural landscapes and their inability to fully engage changing human and ecological systems. These issues are powerfully illustrated by Dumbarton Oaks Park, a unit of the National Park Service in Washington, DC that has experienced extensive degradation due to acute levels of stormwater runoff, encroachment by invasive species, and heavy public use. Originally designed as a naturalistic garden by Beatrix Farrand in the 1920s, the park is a 27-acre stream valley that encompasses a tributary of Rock Creek, including a series of eighteen constructed dams and associated structures. Surrounding urbanization has dramatically altered the park's context and ecological performance, however, threatening the integrity of Farrand-era features and plantings. The National Park Service has struggled to mitigate the damage due to current treatment guidance that favors visual, object-oriented (i.e., static) metrics over dynamic, performance-based measures. This project suggests a new paradigm for cultural landscape preservation that privileges ecological resilience and community interaction, that views stormwater and park users as contributing resources rather than threats, and that advocates the active role of the designer in continually reimagining our best-loved places.