Renegotiating the Edge: Creating an Inspired Reality in the Potomac River Watershed

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Virginia Tech


Water edge communities are portals to terra firma. Their role as negotiators between land and water is more important now than ever before due to increasing fluctuations in water height from storm surges and sea level rise. To understand the future of these edge conditions, my research looks to the past at a 1967 report entitled; The Potomac: A Report on Its Imperiled Future and a Guide for Its Orderly Development, authored by pioneers Stewart Udall, Ian McHarg and others. The report approached the ecology and culture of the Potomac River basin through the lens of the 1960s, a time of unprecedented growth. Emerging at the semi-centennial of the original report, my thesis is both an homage and critique, challenging its concepts of order and development, and redefining four of the original eleven principles in the report's concept of the ideal region. The thesis investigation also works within a more actionable scale of intervention, a tributary to the Potomac River. The project develops a transferable approach for other tributaries, exploring Quantico Creek and the town of Dumfries, Virginia, a historic seaport in Prince William County, as a case study for design intervention, and analyzes the historic and ecological conditions that led to the marginalization of the community in the wake of siltation and urban sprawl. The resulting proposal reconnects the community with the creek, and fulfills an intention of the original Potomac Report: to spark inspired realities along the river's 400-mile course.



landscape architecture, waterfront, urban planning, Potomac River