The Festival of Dredge in New York was a symposium about the human acceleration of sediments, and the technologies and techniques we’ve invented which manage it.
The techniques of dredging—and the galaxy of technologies that surround it—constitute perhaps the greatest unrecognized landscape architecture project in the world. Dredge shapes our beaches and waterways, it is driven by what we do to distant upstream forests and fields, it plays a key role in global shipping networks, and in coastal real estate.
Moreover, dredging—the mechanized transport of underwater sediments—is a key moment in a wider cycle of linked activities through which humans act as intentional and unintentional geologic agents, accelerating and decelerating the movement of silts, sands, and clays. If we are living, as many scientists contend, in the Anthropocene, a new geologic era characterized by human action, then understanding dredge is essential to understanding the world we are making for ourselves.
Why New York?
New York is a city built on dredge. Its waterfront is made up of miles of in-fill shore and deepened channels, all products of moving thousands of tonnes of silt, sand and clay against the forces of nature and the consequences of our own prior practices. And its future is being shaped by dredge: as you read this, toxic landscapes in New Jersey are being capped and remediated using soil dredged in the Harbor; an abandoned coal mine in Central Pennsylvania is receiving railroad cars full of dredge from the Harbor; and islands in Jamaica Bay, which have nearly disappeared as a result of erosion accelerated by human actions, are being rebuilt with dredge, restoring an endangered ecology.
What was covered?
DredgeFest was a heady mixture of scientific knowledge, technical expertise, architectural theory and heavy machinery, intended for anyone who is interested in the functional and generative role of dredging and other sediment-handling techniques in the life of an estuarine metropolis like New York City. It was an encounter between corporate practitioners, government agencies, designers, theorists, industry experts, and the public.
We are interested in dredging methods, the beneficial uses of dredged material, dredge as a resource, soil remediation, habitat restoration, geotextiles, the implications of Post-Panamax shipping and channel deepening, erosion control, island building, the design of littoral landscapes.
We think more people should be interested in these things, so we put on a festival, open to the public.
The first video, which contains an introduction to the event delivered by Brett Milligan and Rob Holmes, is embedded immediately below this paragraph. Below the first video, you’ll find the schedule as a list of talks and panels, with links to the video for each presentation or panel. (A full list of the videos can be found here, in Studio-X NYC’s own video archive.)
Dredge and the Anthropocene We introduced the idea of dredge as a process that is interconnected with a much larger regime of human sediment handling practices, and examined ways that humans act as geologic agents.
Circularity and Feedback
We examined the current evolution of the handling of sedimentary resources from 20th-century linear industrial models towards 21st-century methods that create cycles, positive feedback loops, and resilience in the face of contemporary environmental challenges. This section featured leading practitioners who explained how their work participates in and even accelerates this paradigm shift.
Regeneration and Public Participation
We examined the emergence of dredge as a resource for environmental regeneration, like the current restoration of island wetlands within Jamaica Bay using dredged material from channel deepening projects. This section also highlighted the grass roots of dredge, with a panel of practitioners who enable public participation through their work.
For questions or media enquiries, contact Tim Maly.
DredgeFest NYC was hosted by Columbia University GSAPP’s Studio-X NYC — Nicola Twilley, Geoff Manaugh, and Carlos Solis. We were supported by the generous sponsorship of Arcadis, TenCate, and TWFM Ferry/American Princess (the last of which was the boat that took us out into the harbor — we can’t recommend Tom Palladino and the crew highly enough), making the event financially plausible for us as organizers. Alex Chohlas-Wood and Ben Mendelsohn put together the event trailer that we posted in early September, and are working on a longer follow-up that is sure to be fantastic. Seth Denizen and Gena Wirth contributed original maps and drawings to the exhibition that greeted attendees at the door.