Architectures of the trophic cascade

An interdisciplinary design studio taught by Frank Burridge in collaboration with the inhabitants of Yan Yan Gurt West Farm, human and non.

On this farm there are two dams.

Sheep love to cool their hooves in the unfenced dam. Their faeces causes a biological process called eutrophication — the abundance of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus encourage dense blooms of noxious algae, decreasing water quality and starving all other life in the dam of sunlight and oxygen.

The other dam was fenced a decade ago. Native freshwater mussels, an important food source for the Gadubanud peoples, were introduced to the dam, filtering tens of litres of water per day each. The dam now supports fish, frogs, snakes, birds, myriad grasses, banksia, bees. Healthy surface algaes reduce evaporation. Cleaner water makes for healthier livestock and more effective irrigation. Banksia flowers and eventually honey provide an income stream for the farm.

This is a trophic cascade — a tiny change that propogates and multiplies through food chains, causing an abrupt but persistent shift in the functioning of an ecosystem.

If the introduction of a thoughtfully placed fence can cause a regime shift in the dam ecosystem, what could a building do?

In this studio we will carefully study the landscape, species and systems of these two dams, located on a regenerative farm in Deans Marsh.

Your studies will be guided by a series of lectures and workshops provided by your tutor and the farmers, including an overnight visit to the farm for field observations and a farm tour.

We will design buildings that, on the one hand, support the farm’s growing role in agricultural education, tourism and advocacy, and on the other hand that aim to nudge ecosystems toward trophic cascades, increasing biodiversity and resilience.