Last week I had the chance to visit the Seneca Army Depot thanks to the Seneca White Deer organization.  The Depot occupies over 10,000 acres by the town of Romulus in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.  It was constructed as part of the national effort to prepare to enter WWII, and the site was selected because of its proximity to the east coast and Great Lakes ports, and relative invulnerability due to its inland location, and the high amount of cloud cover in the Finger Lakes region.  Currently many areas of the Depot are slowly rewilding- the firebreaks are turning in to forest, the steel cages of the igloos are rusting shut.  The Depot was decommissioned in 2001, and while some zones have found new users, the brutalist infrastructure and ammo dumps and “miscellaneous component burning sites” keep the USACE busy and industrial businesses away.

The spatial organization of the Seneca Army Depot was structured along very clear lines; it is a landscape of blast radii, fire breaks, access control, and lines of transportation infrastructure layered on top of glaciated highlands, historical family farms, and the climax forest of upstate New York.  These clear intentions have had some interesting side effects- large osprey nests can be seen throughout the Depot, and the world’s largest concentration of white deer inhabit the depot.  A white coat is evidently a recessive gene, and when the depot was fenced in 1941 with 8-foot high chain link, a number of white deer where captured inside.  Anecdotally, it was the whim of a few controlling officers who decided that no white deer could be hunted, even though brown deer were freely hunted to keep the population down and prevent starvation among the deer.

Today the white deer nearly 200 strong, and are something between a mutant and a cyborg- they exist thanks to a natural but rare genetic mutation, and a very precarious relationship with a now-rusting, 70-year old chain-link fence.  This landscape also provides an extreme example of my evolving definition of landscape– that they are nothing but instruments in dynamic relations within a bounded territory.  I say instruments, instead of objects, because there is always some measure of intentionality present- a landscape is not a natural scene but rather a historical assemblage.  And a landscape like the Depot brings up a point- it is the liminal space between intentionality and reality that is really at issue in landscape design.  It is this space that offers a sort of frontier, demanding new tools and ideas to grapple with it.




There is one other important concept that underlies that seems to underlie the theory of landscape instrumentalism; that of radical difference.  This is built on a foundation of Deleuzian philosophy and the idea of an affirmative definition of difference:

Negation is difference, but difference seen from its underside, seen from below.  Seen the right way up, from top to bottom, difference is affirmation.  This proposition, however, means many things:  that difference is an objects of affirmation, that affirmation itself is multiple… It is not the negative which is the motor.  Rather, there are positive differential elements which determine the genesis of both the affirmation and the difference affirmed.  It is precisely the fact that there is a genesis as such which escapes us every time we leave affirmation in the undetermined, or put determination in the negative. [p 67]

[oyster shell cages near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, acting as erosion control; notice the difference creates between sediment deposition on the land side and the river side]

General applications of Deleuzian philosophy have been explored in landscape practice for a least two decades, although the concept of positive difference has remained relatively unexplored.  Levi Bryant, a Deleuzian object-oriented philosopher, writes at length about an idea called the ontic principle.  This principle makes clear that objects have an effect on the world, and this effect supersedes any intention from another object that they may carry with them.  No mere vehicle for the mep engineer that specified its installation, a silt fence may be installed around a perimeter to reduce off-site sedimentation, but it will always have more effects than intended.  And it is this fact that landscape instrumentalism is attempting to wrestle with.

By theorizing every object in the landscape as an instrument- including people, rats, tennis shoes, silt fences, plane trees, and building facades- landscape instrumentalism works to grapple specifically with the forms and effects of every single specific instrument through the development and application of techniques and conceptual tools.  As a for instance, if a particular textile is imagined as a tensile device for guiding rainwater and stormwater and this textile-instrument is considered in terms of the conceptual triad (form-effect-assemblage), then the actual textile might actually be a range of different materials.  However, the same material applied in a different way- perhaps as a shading device- would be considered a radically different instrument because its effects are radically different.  (Admittedly, this is not a new realization, but theorizing it opens up new possibilities in the design process, and ultimately the creation of new types of landscapes).

The theory must be further elaborated (at some point) but if for a moment it can be accepted, then the work of the designer is left to two areas:  (1) determining which instruments are actionable, accessible, or otherwise important to model, trace, map, and develop possibilities with, and (2) understanding at which point changes in the assembly of instruments introduces a radical change in the landscape and fundamentally alters the type of landscape itself (the form, the effects, or the assemblage it takes part in).  This brings up the necessity of the concept of radical difference; deciding it, and recognizing when something else decides it. This concept is something which shall be further explored in the future, but for now it is useful to take the example that is the object of this study- the Riachuelo.

[the Riachuelo was once a bathing promenade and resort located on the outskirts of town, promising mid-20th century relief from the bustling industrial core in Buenos Aires]

The Riachuelo was originally a sinuous river, then remade as an ad-hoc industrial thru-way, later fashioned into a full-fledged industrial shipping canal and port facility, then taking the form of a sanitation canal, and finally becoming a remediated site that generates new port economies and park ecologies throughout the river basin.  At what point does it stop becoming the Riachuelo landscape?  This is contingent, based on the project.  Ultimately one could argue that it always persists- the Riachuelo is the riachuelo landscape.  But what if the water course is diverted?  The low part of the city floods?  Or the river dries up completely?

Ultimately this seems to be a topological question, one concerned with processes of continual change over time.  It calls for a reckoning in landscape practice with the fact that all of the various conceptual forms might be actually the same, or relatively irrelevant, but simple changes in maintenance practices, municipal funding, or erosion control regimes can summon an entirely new landscape.  This understanding requires a position, a politics of design, and a realization of the statement by Graham Harman that “you can never go back in space, but you can always go back in time.”  The specificity required by this realization is attempted in this landscape instrumentalism project through the instrument table and the correlation wheel in particular.  In the future I imagine many more and better techniques might be developed.  

The ethical implications of this theory that says everything, even humans, in a landscape is to be understood as an instrument must be addressed, and for this the concept of radical difference must be addressed. Through the theory of instruments it is possible to understand that an instrument is not a dumb receiver of intentions but rather an object with its own agency, that can only be partially perceived at any moment. Landscape instrumentalism is a theory that valorizes the singular.  It is a queer theory that pursues difference instead of seeking normalcy or totalizing concepts.  Landscape instrumentalism is a materialist theory, one that places execution on equal footing with conceptualization.

In recent decades any notion of instrumental theory has generally been ridiculed by critics and thinkers.  Instruments and instrumentalism have been converted to mean a sort of dumb matter completely at the mercy of hegemonic power structures and the nefarious intentions of social beings, such as the omnipresent bourgeois.  While well intentioned, this tendency has rather unimaginatively demonized and diminished the role of instruments and equipment, not only impoverishing the project of Heidegger which pointed us toward a richer understanding of the role of tools in the world, but also stripping instruments of their autonomy and agency, leaving them unable to do anything except fulfill the intentions of the user.

[the geotube manifold system in a dewatering process for consolidation and containment of dredged materials]

One of the major issues that has continually come up in this project as I bore down on the relationship between landscapes and instruments is the seemingly insurmountable gap that is always present between the intention behind any given instrument and the reality.  This gap seems to always be at issue, and is something that has consistently troubled, and animated, the practice of landscape  architecture from the beginning, as we can see here in Olmsted’s 1866 report to the Brooklyn Commissioners:

But to this process of recuperation a condition is necessary, known since the days of Aesop, as the unbending of the faculties which have been tasked, and the unbending of the faculties we find is impossible, except by the occupation of the imagination with objects and reflections of a quite different character from those which are associated with their bent condition.  To secure such a diversion of the imagination, the best possible stimulus is found to be the presentation of a class of object to the perceptive organs, which shall be as agreeable as possible to the taste, and at the same time entirely different from the objects connected with those occupations by which the faculties have been tasked.  And this is what is found by townspeople in a park.

If now we ask further, what the qualities of a park are which fit it to meet this requirement? we find two circumstances, common to all parks in distinction from other places in town, namely scenery offering the most agreeable contrast to that of the rest of the town; and opportunity for people to come together for the single purpose of enjoyment, unembarrassed by the limitation with which they are surrounded at home, or in the pursuit of their daily avocations, or of such amusements as are elsewhere offered.  [1866 Report to the Commissioners of Brooklyn]

Considered both historically and theoretically it seems that the production of liminal space between intentionality and reality is ontological to landscape practice.  Traditionally we have dealt with this fact through contractor change orders, addenda to construction documents, and other conceptual and practical techniques including the generally agreed upon notion that not everything is going to turn out precisely as we had imagined, which seems to be a fairly reasonable approach.

This condition is not necessarily unacceptable, though it is the root of many lawsuits and much stress and client strife as well as contributing to the death of well-conceived projects that just don’t come off.  The problem, however, is that this space that is created in any landscape project is fertile ground being lost due to our contemporary over-reliance on architectural pedagogy and technique.  And we might grasp this territory as energetically as we have with the other aspects fundamental to landscape practice including setting a bounds or limit, the idea of generative capacity, and the importance of respecting difference.  The fact that we don’t or haven’t recognized this only further confirms my intuition that one project that is needed is the definition of a landscape ontology.

[landscape architect Horace Cleveland’s map for expanding the municipal parks system of Minneapolis and St. Paul, 1883]

However, in this effort to explore an instrumental theory of landscape the work of philosopher Graham Harman is useful.  His work Tool-Being, which offers an illuminating and suprising reading of Heideggerstool-analysis, is helpful to understand the real metaphysical implications of instruments and tools:

Equipment in action operates in an inconspicuous usefulness, doing its work without our noticing it. When the tool fails, its unobtrusive quality is ruined.  There occurs a jarring of reference, so that the tool become visible as what it is… there is thus a double life of equipment- tool in action, tool in disrepair… the visibility of Heidegger’s “broken tool” has nothing to do with equipment not being in top working order.  Even the most masterfully constructed, prize-winning tools have to regarded as “broken” as soon as we consider them directly; the broken/unbroken distinction does not function as an ontic rift between two different sorts of entities.  Thus, as ought to have been expected, Heidegger teaches us not about smashed-up blades and chisels, but only about beings in general… Whether it is “out of order” or not, the visible tool is simply not the tool in its being; in this way, insofar as they are ever encountered, all beings are broken equipment

This is an apparently radical stance to take on, seeming to objectify everything in the world down to the level of a dumb hammer or chain link fencing.  But the opposite is true:

Contrary to the usual view, what we really want is to be objects- not as means to an end like paper or oil, but in the sense that we want to be like the Grand Canyon or a guitar hero or a piece of silver:  distinct forces to be reckoned with.  No one really wants to be a Cartesian subject, but everyone would love to be some version of Isis, Odysseus, Aquaman, Legolas, or Cordelia. [p 140, Guerilla Metaphysics]

As Harman shows it is the traditional philosophical stance that denies any agency or potency to the hammer or the fence, the nighthawk or the kentucky coffee tree to extend beyond the intentions of the designer or the user- the human- and this has been largely true since the adoption of the work of Kant and the resultant linguistic turn. This includes most of the philosophies that have been influential in contemporary landscape design including the phenomenology of Husserl and the writings of Deleuze, though more recently the work of Bruno Latour does point towards a new materialist understanding.  Harman’s philosophy, and that of others working in the contemporary philosophical movement known as Speculative Realism, shows that it is actually all entities that possess this intention, and all have the capacity to supersede, wiggle out of, or come up short of another object’s intention for it.

[here the hills are instruments for growing grass, for shedding water, for framing views; the river is an instrument of conveyance, of material sustenance, an excavator; the road is an instrument to collect heat, to mark an edge, to propel automobiles]

Considering this we can see that in a landscape the objects and things themselves have their own desires, and intentions.  At times this might be similar to what we’ve attributed to humans- imagining how users might react, gather, or what they might gaze upon- and at other times not.  Harman’s philosophy shows that any perceived object is already the broken tool- any tree, any change in slope, and carousel- that seems to jump out of the background and figure itself in relation to another object (be that a cyclist, a chimney swift, or inanimate objects such as a stormwater drainage).  Much of the most exciting and powerful work in the field in recent years has set out to draw on the agency of things.  This can be seen in the increased interest in material reuse in Brooklyn Bridge Park by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and carpenter Hector Ducci or the mappings of Anu Marthur and DIlip DaCunha that work to highlight the generative agency of specific species or material practices, and in the writings by the Research Dredge Collaborative which look to understand dredging operations and the acceleration of sedimentation processes as a sort of duel between US Army Corps, maritime commercial interests, river hydrology, and clastic sedimentation from the pleistocene.

As landscape architects continue to evolve an authentic landscape practice and to break away from the hegemonic influence of architectural technique, it seems incumbent on us to grapple with the agency of materials and humans, of all classes of objects.  To do this it seems we will need specificity and technique, and ability to realize that just as concrete and steel and compacted earth and platanus occidentalis saplings are not dumb inert matter waiting to be given meaning by the intentions of people, they are also not the same as people, or each other, and cannot be treated as such.  As designers we need methods of representation, modeling, and experimentation that can deal with specificity, an understanding of the topological aspect of any landscape.

The development of new drawing techniques, building on the work of those mentioned above as well as people such as Bradley Cantrell, seems necessary for the next step in developing an instrumental theory of landscape.  It seems possible to understand that indeed everything in the landscape is an instrument, a tool/broken-tool as Graham Harman puts it.  If a space is a landscape, and not some other type of space, then all of its objects and their changing relations are instruments; but not dumb inanimate drills, retaining walls, and land use policies, but rather objects receiving the intentions and being acted upon by other objects while simultaneously asserting their own autonomy and agency, even if only for a moment.


I’ve recently uploaded a bunch of new work over on the tumblr site.  Right now the majority of the work will continue over there, given that the bulk of the production is currently being done through drawing and modeling as a way to test the ideas explored here.  

I do intend to get up some writing here in the next few weeks further working out the theory of landscape instrumentalism, especially considering some of the works of Harman, Delanda, and Bennett, and Latour.  In the mean time, please head over to the tumblr; feedback enthusiastically welcome.

satellite image of the Rio de la Plata; the large amounts of freshwater pouring from the Parana and Uruguay Rivers mean that the water contains almost no salt at Buenos Aires; strong, sustained winds out of the south east over the atlantic ocean can push a wall of water up the estuary, backing up the flow of the Parana and Uruguay- flooding the delta- and backing up smaller rivers such as the Riachuelo, resulting in floods in the low-lying areas of Buenos Aires

Sudestada events are meteorological phenomena particular to the Rio de la Plata estuary.  They occur when sustained winds out of the southeast push ocean water up the estuary.  When combined with high tide these events can raise water levels in the estuary 13 feet or more.  These events can cause flooding in low-lying urban areas, especially the densely populated zones around the Riachuelo, and when combined with heavy rains they effects can be devastating as the stormwater has no outlet.  When these floods occur inhabitants are in danger from the overtopping of bulkheads and levees by the disgusting and highly contaminated waters of the Riachuelo, as well as sewers backing up into the streets and basements of homes.  Personal damage to property and long-term health effects are proving devastating to residents.

A 2004 report in the Journal of Climatology classifies a sudestada as an event that raises the water level 8.25 feet or more for longer than 24 hours.  In the fifty year study period from 1950-2000, these occurred an average of six times per year, with a slight uptick in recent years.  At 10.25 feet the protective bulkheads and levees along the canal are overtopped in some vulnerable places in the lower portion of the Riachuelo basin.  These events occurred on average more than once per year during the study period and seem likely to increase given effects of possible sea level rise on the estuary in the future.

To combat the most serious flooding issues- caused by a sudestada combined with overland rain- ACUMAR is developing a macro/micro drainage strategic plan.  This plan calls for the creation of 10 large reservoirs in the upper basin of the Riachuelo (macro-drainage) and for new urbanization patterns to focus on minimizing damage to property, health, and habitat in the urban areas.  This is opposed to the historic strategy of simply trying to flush the water away as quickly as possible, which often causes issues downstream, especially when the water cannot go further downstream because of a 10 foot wall of water being pushed up the Rio de la Plata.  Under this strategy stormwater in urban areas (micro-drainage) should be retained and allowed to percolate into the soil or small-scale surface or subterranean reservoirs where possible.

a map showing ACUMARs macro-drainage strategy for the Riachuelo watershed; the metropolis of Buenos Aires is in grey, the watershed of the Riachuelo the irregular red line, the macro-drainage reservoirs are in blue positioned outside of the city; this strategy will reduce flooding pressures on the Tierra Plastica site near the mouth of the Riachuelo during events when a sudestada combines with overland rain


Given the frequency and severity of these events the design strategies for Tierra Plastica must be aimed toward the objective of retention and percolation.  In addition, while the bulkheads and levees in the lower basin prevent all but the most severe flooding, and there is a tradition of private adaptation (building the first floor higher) in the neighborhood of La Boca, the long term strategy of Tierra Plastica must take in to account more severe and frequent sudestada events as indicated by the trends of the last 30 years, as well as the effects of possible sea level rise on the estuary.  Lastly, while damage to health and property must be limited, the phenomenon of flooding itself is an important cyclical aspect of the hybrid ecology of the Riachuelo.  The salt water intrusion and elevated water levels bring seeds, sediments, salt, and organisms to the ecosystems as necessary nutrients and provide a sort of inadvertent locomotion for certain residues and organisms in the landscape.  These annual cyclical events should be leveraged as power- as work- for their instrumental effects, a moment when humans retreat inside from the weather, and a new world is created.

sections through the Tierra Plastica portion of the Riachuelo; the text on the left side of the channel in the sections indicates the historical depths of the channel and the white layer is newly accumulated sediment since dredging ceased; on the right side of the channel in the sections are the water levels along the floodwall of during specific events such as daily tidal fluctuations, an average sudestada, a major sudestada, and the highest ever recorded

Dock Sud; to the left is the Exolgan container port, to the right is the Shell and YPF petrochemical facility; in the middle is the Canal Sur; to the far right on the edge of the Rio de la Plata is the Yarara confinement area for contaminated sediments; a tiny but noticeable breach is visible in the southern containment dike in the new cell; it is unclear if this cell is in use yet

While the fecund Reserva Ecologica is located on the northern side at the mouth of the Riachuelo, the southern side is seemingly its opposite.  Both, however, are the result of a major industrial city pushing into a silt laden estuary; the two faces of Janus.  The south side is known as Dock Sud.  It is the main petrochemical port and largest port in Argentina by operated tons.  In addition to gas and oil it supports containerized shipping as well as sand mining operations.  The port began in 1888 as a swampy, low-lying terminus to the Southern Railway which was British owned and operated until nationalization by Juan Peron in 1948.  The port was constructed as a public entity which it remains today- its shipping channels and bulkheads are maintained by the provincial port authority while the storage, unloading, and manufacturing facilities are constructed by the tenant companies.

There is pressure on the port to expand in the future, especially its container and petrochemical operations.  In addition, sediment dredging and the disposal of contaminated sediment is a significant cost to the port and a major area of concern for the residents in the densely populated surrounding area.  Each year the port must dredge approximately 1,100,000 cubic meters to maintain their facilities at the required 10.4 meter depth.  Fully one third of this is considered heavily contaminated, coming from the Riachuelo.  The other two-thirds (740,000 cubic meters) is dredged from the exterior of the port, mainly the entrance channel (Canal Sud) which connects Dock Sud to the trunk line in the middle of the Rio de la Plata.  While the clean sediment can be disposed of at sea, the contaminated sediment dredged from the Riachuelo and interior of the port must now be either treated or confined.  The issue is one of murky jurisdictions- the federal constitutional amendment mandates that the environment must be protected, the port is part of the Province of Buenos Aires, and much of the pollution in the port comes from the autonomous district of the city of Buenos Aires.

the action chart for the Tierra Plastic project shows the relationship of the Riachuelo to the port through sediment; in this case, the contaminated sediments are the instrumental aspect of the landscape, organizing the entire network around itself; the future Camalote disposal facility is indicated; capital dredging is shown in thicker lighter grey arrows, maintenance remedial dredging in darker with a darker arrow; the black boxes alongside the names of objects indicate their depth in relation to mean sea level


The sediments of the Riachuelo-port complex offer a fascinating and terrible situation.  The objective of this project related to the port will be the disposal of contaminated sediments.  The Riachuelo and Dock Sud are inextricably linked by geography, hydrology, the shared industrial history, and they share in the ambiguous and contentious jurisdictional morass.  This situation can be read through the common link that ties all of these themes together- sediment. Sediment pours down the Riachuelo, 640,000 cubic meters per year, half of which is dropped out in the port, the other half of which continues down out in to the Rio de la Plata.  All of it is considered heavily contaminated, affecting the lives of people nearby and the port’s operational costs.

The industries and urban settlements polluting upstream raise the sediment disposal costs of the port considerably.  Additionally, the pollutants from the port itself are flushed back in to low-lying neighborhoods during storm events and floods.  Given the projected expansion of the port within the next 20 years, deeper channels will be needed.  This will in turn require more dredging each year, a fact which projects future dredging of contaminated sediments to increase to 500,000 cubic meters annually.  Currently no dredging is done in the Riachuelo until it reaches the port zone that begins at the Exolgan logistics center.  This fact is evident in aerial photos and geo-soundings of the Vuelta de Rocha turning basin; it is no longer used and currently holds approximately 16 feet of contaminated sediments.  This sediment is then dredged and disposed of in the Yarara disposal facility on the eastern edge of the port next to the Rio de la Plata.  The facility is poorly constructed and filling up quickly.  It’s protection dike of 3 meters is subject to overtopping and wave battering and needs to be reinforced and safely closed.

The 2009 report on stormwater drainage for the Riachuelo basin noted that due to the high levels of contamination in the sediments, which would be dislocated and possibly released by dredging, a 1995 report recommended that no dredging occur.  However, this is being reconsidered due to necessities of using the canal for navigation and recreation (p. 134).


diagram above illustrates dredge volumes in Dock Sud port by year; diagram series below just above illustrates different disposal structures considered for the new Camalote site; a near-shore confined disposal site is chose as it offers the best combination of secure containment, reduced costs, and fill for new port facilities

actual and projected increases in shipping, by tons operated; though Dock Sud is currently Argentina's busiest port, it is expected to triple the number of tons moved in the next twenty years; most of that growth will come in containerized shipping, though petrochemicals will continue to grow as well

The cost of the treating the 320,000 cubic meters of contaminated sediments is approximately ten times that of confining it (50 million to 6 million).  This cost would increase with additional dredging needed for channel deepening.  In addition, it is possible to reuse contaminated sediments as fill material for new port constructions if the disposal facilities are properly constructed.  For Tierra Plastica I am proposing a constructed near-shore disposal facility (see diagram above) to be constructed for confinement and use for new port facilities.  This proposal draws from and adapts the conclusions of the “Sustainable Management of Contaminated Sediment in Puerto Dock Sud” report by Kay Croonen of TU Delft/U of Buenos Aires.

This construction, named “Camalote” on the map below, will allow for the Yarara facility to be properly reinforced, protected from storm events, and closed, and for 90 hectares of territory to be reclaimed for port expansion.  The construction may be created from geotubes filled with mined sand, lined with local “tosca” clay, and reinforced with rip rap of construction and demolition rubble.  By providing a place for the contaminated sediments and logistical support in their transport, and allowing ACUMAR to concentrate funds on prevention of further contamination and the installation of sewer and industrial infrastructure, the port will limit the amount of time they need to pay for the disposal of contaminated sediment.

The remediation dredging will be carried out by multiple proposed tram dredges (number to be determined) and will continue for 5 years.  Further remedial dredging will likely be needed in the future due to the high number of industries and neighborhoods throughout the Riachuelo basin.  A system of monitoring will be needed to ensure the sediments are not contaminated beyond acceptable levels- if they can be maintained in a state clean enough to allow future interior port dredge spoils to be disposed of at sea then port operational costs could be reduced by up to 10 million dollars a year.

The Math

The Yarara site has an estimated capacity of 2,460,000 cubic meters.  It was estimated in 2008 to have only 200,000 cubic meters left and is likely now full or close to capacity, even with compaction due to dewatering.  The Camalote site will provide an estimated 10,000,000 cubic meters of capacity.  This will allow for storage of 1,000,000 cubic meters of dredge spoils from capital dredging in the Riachuelo, and provide capacity for confinement of contaminated spoils for the next twenty years.  At that point, institutional controls instigated by municipalities, agencies, and businesses through ACUMAR should be fully operational allowing for source control of pollutants.

However, given the dispersed nature, both temporally (spread over 200 years) and spatially (throughout the basin and spanning multiple jurisdictions) of the pollution sources, including residences, businesses, and industry, any future design should prove robust enough to mediate common pollutants.

geotubes may be filled, lined with local clay, and reinforced with rip rap including construction rubble to create a secure confinement dike fo the Camalote site


After the contaminated sediment is dredged and confined in the Camalote- or confined in place within the Riachuelo- and the new design depth obtained for the Riachuelo, maintenance dredging will be needed.  By confining the contaminated sediments so that they don’t contaminate groundwater or get flushed in to the city with sudestada floodwaters the health of the residents of the surrounding area will be greatly improved.  In addition, many plants and animals that currently suffer ill effects from the heavy metals and volatile organic compounds will have more space to grow and establish healthy ecological communities.

Regarding the future channel of the Riachuelo itself, the idea of “design depth” and “channel” needs to be rethought, considering that the future use primary uses of the Riachuelo will not be heavy industrial shipping but municipal transit, remediation, recreation, and light industry such as composting.  A monitoring system and catchment system must be developed to ensure that future remediation- likely to become necessary as hundreds of years of contaminated sediment make their way downstream- can be undertaken as part of a functioning industrial/recreational ecology within the city.

+ Where will the sediments be transferred from the tram dredge to the Port Authority?

+ How long will the remedial dredging take place?

+ What kind of ongoing dredging will occur after remedial dredging is finished?

+ How will the sediment monitoring system function?

+ How will the sediment catchment system function?

aerial showing context and limits of dredging program and creation of publicly accessible Camino de Sirga along the embankments of the Rio de la Plata; for scale the highlighted portion of the Riachuelo canal is almost exactly 1.5 miles long

Tierra Plastica is understood to be taking place under the purview of ACUMAR, the river basin authority of the Riachuelo.  ACUMAR (Autoridad de la CUenca MAtanza Riachuelo) is a decentralized interjurisdictional governmental agency with capital funds.  River basin authorities have developed into a relatively common device for dealing with the issues of pollution, economics, and politics in watersheds that span jurisdictional boundaries (as most do).  ACUMAR is unique in that it has capital funds to implement its decisions and recommendations thanks to a billion dollar loan from the World Bank.

One of the few precedents for this type of organization is the Tennessee Valley Authority which built dams, reforested hillsides, and constructed roads throughout the Tennessee Valley during the New Deal years of the United States (it still maintains a capital budget today, albeit a much less ambitious one).  ACUMAR differs from the TVA in that it is not a centralized planning organization accountable to an executive office and built according to the engineering/systems model as detailed by technological historians David Noble and Thomas P. Hughes.  Rather, ACUMAR is both part of and made of a network of administrative and technical experts, with its executive council consisting of local, state, and federal officials who work closely with the heads of state agencies such as Environmental Agency and Education Agency.

The organization itself is ultimately responsible to a federal court in nearby Quilmes, province of Buenos Aires, Argentina and works in concert with various local and municipal groups, non-governmental organizations, and municipal governments.  The nation of Argentina is responsible to the World Bank for showing progress according to the approved environmental remediation plan that was used to secure the loan.

inside the norris dam, built by the tennessee valley authority; at the norris dam the river basin authority created a landscape that is a massive piece of energy infrastructure and a publicly accessible recreation area; people come to walk through the forest and swim in the lakes, as well as to enjoy the technological sublime aspects of the landscape

a TVA shovel at work on a roadway at the Norris Dam site; note the "TVA" inscription on the shovel; as a river basin authority with capital funds ACUMAR like the TVA has the ability not only to pay contractors to build infrastructure, but also has the ability to buy its own instruments and undertake long-term projects and implement maintenance regimes

ACUMAR is responsible for executing the Integrated Plan for Environmental Remediation (PISA, by its Spanish Acronym), which it does by operating along four lines of action:  institutional, remedation, industry, planning and infrastructure.  There are certain aspects of both the plan and the institutional structure that are instructive and will ultimately be internalized as assumed parameters for the project.

1.  Efforts are being made to control the pollution point-sources upstream, including the construction of new sewage treatment plants, fining businesses disposing of chemicals and objects in the river, and controlling stormwater runoff.  Nonetheless, a robust and local system is needed for containing and cleaning the detritus and refuse carried downstream in the water column

2.  The system of levees and bulkheads that protect the urbanized area from floodwaters needs to be enlarged and reinforced, especially to withstand the sudestada storm events that occur several times per year and when combined with rain upstream and high tide lead to widespread flooding in the basin.

3.  As of April 2011 57 sunken or inoperable boats have been extracted from the river between the Pueyrredon Bridge and the Avellaneda Bridge.  In addition over 70 vehicles have been excavated from the canal bottom and there are no more in this zone.

4.  The Camino de Sirga (35 meter wide towpath) has been cleared of obstruction and structures in a first phase up to Dean Funes Street, with a second phase underway to clear up to Pueyrredon Bridge.  It is being cleared and designated as public space.  Sections further upstream are also being cleared with the final intent to unify a 35 meter wide swath on either side of the canal for public access.

5.  Dredging is being considered by ACUMAR in coordination with Port Authority at Dock Sud.  There are still some working port operations near the mouth of the canal and the section from the Vuelta de Rocha to the Canal Sur is still maintained and dredged by the Port Authority.  Any material that is dredged from the RIachuelo would have to be treated as contaminated and a treatment and disposal site would be needed.

6.  Two non-governmental organizations are currently advocating for the dredging of the canal; one in the interest of cleaning the watercourse, the other in the interest of making it navigable for a system of municipal transit boats.

2011, ACUMAR removes one of the 57 boats sunken and abandoned in the Riachuelo

Conclusions for the design of the Camino de Sirga

+ The physical limits of the site are defined as the outer edge of the Camino de Sirga on either side of the canal and all the space between, beginning at the new Avellaneda Bridge and going to the Pueyrredon Bridge, as this is the section where ACUMAR has worked to clear the Camino de Sirga of obstructions.  From there to the Victorino de la Plaza Bridge the project scope will be limited solely to the watercourse of the canal, as this area is desired for navigation but it is unknown when the Camino de Sirga may be cleared here.

+ Any design must include a strategy for dealing with the floodwaters of the Rio de la Plata, especially those occurring due to sudestada weather events.

+ The design should include a system that allows for constant monitoring of water level, sediment elevations, and enable the intermittent sampling of water and sediment chemistry.

+ Retention and filtration of stormwater along the banks of the canal in the urbanized area is necessary to reduce flooding in the basin.

+ Any design needs to provide a system for the filtration of contaminants and objects.  Major infrastructural and institutional investments by ACUMAR will help alleviate the situation.  However, given the heavily urbanized context the design of the canal should not suppose that all objects and contaminants will be removed.

+ For the purposes of this thesis project it will be assumed that ACUMAR has decided in favor of some type of dredging for the Riachuelo Canal.  A treatment and containment site is needed and should be coordinated with the Dock Sud Port at the mouth of the canal.  Creating a canal that is navigable for both recreation and municipal-scale transportation is desired by community groups and being considered by ACUMAR.  For Tierra Plastica it will be considered a necessary and ongoing process.