Transformative Materiality: Theory Development and Application in Sand, Wind, and Water

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Virginia Tech


This thesis offers a preliminary argument for materiality as the primary medium through which landscape architecture is experienced. An original theory, Transformative Materiality, posits that landscape experience may be heightened, making people more aware of and engaged with their surroundings, if design encourages the changing of materials over time through temporal landscape processes (such as erosion and deposition). Resulting landscape phenomena may translate into passive education about the effects of naturalistic material transformation. And any gained experiential knowledge of the landscape, might, in turn, become a source of meaningful, personal connection to the landscape, potentially inspiring appreciation and stewardship. The theoretical development and argumentation for Transformative Materiality is preceded by its application in the final thesis design project, to provide a basis for common reference. The Beach Outfalls Challenge competition serves to provide a site and problem: the Mississippi commercial beach system, and stormwater management through the immediate beach environment. Three materials, sand, wind, and water, are studied in relation to landscape processes that are purposefully employed to encourage change in the landscape’s material form over time. The final design is a landscape technology that harnesses material processes in order to perform environmental services of cleaning stormwater and creating new habitat, while allowing such processes to diversify material form for a range of phenomena and consequent opportunities for experiential education that may lead to a holistic understanding of the landscape as a dynamic, responsive system.



Landscape Architecture, Climate Change, Material, Materiality, Transform, Process, Phenomena, Experience, Beach, Ecology