Vassar Quarterly - Spring 2018 - 23
"For those of us
who grew up in the
suburbs, there is
the gritty, urban,
that require less maintenance," Prosky says.
"We're encouraging nature to be a little wild."
At the forefront of that movement is David Seiter
'99, Principal at Future Green Studio, who recently
published a book titled Spontaneous Urban Plants:
Weeds in NYC. Weeds, which colonize areas where
other plants won't grow, are underrated as a
resource for landscape designers, Seiter argues.
"We have done a lot of research to figure out where
they come from and what role they play, to open up
people's eyes to their ecological benefits," he says.
For the Atlantic Plumbing residences in
Washington, DC, Seiter helped to convert an old
plumbing-supply warehouse into 300 condos in
the heart of downtown. To make the space greener,
he conducted an exhaustive survey of more than
100 weeds that were already thriving on the site,
then strategically planted them in 300 foot-long
window boxes throughout the steel frame, creating
an urban jungle that Curbed magazine called "one
of the hippest places to live" in the city. "For those
of us who grew up in the suburbs, there is something very appealing about that kind of gritty,
urban, rusty-steel, and overgrown look," he says.
Landscape architect Matt Donham '97 helped to
create a different kind of urban landscape as a
designer and eventually project manager for the
urban forest at the National 9/11 Memorial on the
former site of the Twin Towers for PWP Landscape
Architecture. To create the forest, he oversaw the
growing of dozens of hearty swamp white oaks in
a temporary nursery in New Jersey, where the trees
spent years adapting to the climate; they were eventually transplanted to Manhattan, where they have
created their own microecology. "Native birds are
starting to build their nests and are bringing life to
these trees," Donham says. "It's a symbol of renewal."
Donham has since become a principal at RAFT
Landscape Architecture, where, among other
projects, he is working with the nonprofit NYC H2O
to create a park from the Ridgewood Reservoir,
Brooklyn's former water supply. Abandoned since
the 1980s, the space has become overgrown with
vegetation that has reclaimed the walking paths,
pumping tubes, and graffiti-covered stone walls.
"There is a whole, novel ecology that has grown up
in these basins," he says. "It's a really compelling
place to see nature regenerating itself in a very
disturbed human site." Eventually, he plans to build
a boardwalk and interpretive path to introduce
urban school children to the wilderness in their
Clockwise from top: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates / Alan Ward / Courtesy FgS / Courtesy Kate Farquhar
-David Seiter '99
Clockwise from left:
Brooklyn Bridge Park has
brought new life to a part
of the waterfront that had
been derelict for decades.
Matt Donham '97 designed
the "urban forest" at the
National 9/11 Memorial. For
the Atlantic Plumbing lofts
in DC, landscape designer
David Seiter '99 planted
weeds in window boxes
along the steel frame of the
building, imparting a "gritty"
look. Kate Farquhar's team
at Roofmeadow gave the
Oaklyn Branch Library in
Evansville, IN, a green
prairie meadow roof that
meets the existing landscape on three sides.
VA S S A r Q U A r T E r LY