FIELD-STATION is an architectural experiment that explores the spatial practices of environmental sensing, climate action, and forest care. As a hypothesis, this project asks: how can the tools of digital forestry be reoriented away from extraction toward a more open-ended and convivial relationship to the land? The project is situated in the Sam Houston National Forest, a 160,000 acre non-contiguous landscape overseen by the US Department of Agriculture and the National Forest Service. The terrain is a rich assemblage of ecologies that make up the East Texas Pineywoods region including stands of loblolly pines, bottomland hardwoods, deciduous forested wetlands, river swamps, and coastal prairies. While the landscape is ostensibly “wild,” the forest is in fact a highly managed territory: a patchwork of private property and public lands hosting recreation, farming, oil and mineral extraction, and timber harvesting. From archaeological digs and ecological preserves, to test landscapes and extraction sites, the forest is a messy landscape crisscrossed by hiking trails, utility easements, animal habitats, and pipelines.
Within this contested landscape, we propose a field station—an ecological outpost monitoring pollution at active extraction sites, checking air quality, observing habitat health, relaying resource use, and gathering evidence of ecological disturbance. Somewhere between a tent and a building, it serves citizen-scientists, forest defenders, climate activists, and thru-hikers alike, operating as a low-tech laboratory, camp site, mobile classroom, and protest outpost. As easy to construct as it is to dismantle, its operable systems can be adapted to a wide variety of weather shifts, atmospheres, temperatures, and environments. Immersed in a lush understory of ferns and fungi, the field station suggests that the living forest is not only an ecosystem but also a sensuous laboratory: full of sensors and citizens collecting data for future stories. As an architecture with an intimate relationship to the land, FIELD-STATION imagines how we might reorient our environmental encounters—away from extraction toward practices of reciprocity, abundance, and care.
FIELD-STATION is a public art piece on view in the Anabeth and John Weil Hall of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, July 2022 - June 2023. Special thanks to Rice University School of Architecture and the University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design for research and fabrication support.
Project Leads: Daniel Jacobs, Brittany Utting
Design Team: Anna Brancaccio, Jianing Cui