Master of Landscape Architecture student receives honor award for design

NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION, Oct. 28, 2009 – "Reconciling Purity and Nature: A Bathing Pool for Daingerfield Island" has won Allison Thurmond of Alexandria, Va., a senior Master of Landscape Architecture student, a National Student Honor Award in the General Design Category from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

Thurmond's design, which reinterprets a swimming hole using ecological processes and ancient hydrologic techniques, emerged as a response to a studio program for an aquatic center, led by Associate Professor Paul Kelsch at the Virginia Tech Washington Alexandria Architecture Center.

Thurmond accepted the award at a recent ceremony which she and Kelsh attended during the ASLA annual meeting in Chicago. Associate Professor Paul Emmons was also part of the studio at the center in the National Capital Region.

In selecting Thurmond for the award, the 2009 student awards jury cited the design as "one of the most intriguing and thoughtful site-specific projects we saw" and stated further that "the research was remarkable." Her winning design will be featured in a forthcoming issue of Landscape Architecture magazine.

"Reconciling Purity and Nature: A Bathing Pool for Daingerfield Island" reinterprets an outdoor swimming hole. It uses ecological processes coupled with an elegant use of ancient, low-tech hydraulics to purify the polluted water of the Potomac River for use in a bathing pool set amidst a restored natural forest. This project demonstrates the potential for restoring a degraded landscape for use by urban dwellers without overly civilizing nature and thereby destroying that which attracts us to it in the first place.

"I wanted to reinterpret the idea of the way we recreationally use water. I studied old ideas of mud baths and bathing pools, bathing to soothe the body and the mind, not necessarily to get cleaner," Thurmond explained. "I wanted to integrate those ideas into a wild place, a restored forest that maintained the feeling of 'other' that the forest on Daingerfield Island had while restoring its health ecologically.

"The hydrologics of the project came from a wish to keep the project off the sewer grid, to avoid cutting through the site with piping to get water to a waterlogged river site," she said.

A complete description of Thurmond's design project with illustrations can be found on the ASLA website.

Read other stories related to Virginia Tech’s Landscape Architecture program in the National Capital Region: