Reflections on Scipio Creek
Good design is in part recognizing a project never ends. @Auburn Professor Cheryl Morgan drilled this into our heads in first-year studios at Auburn as did Sambo Mockbee at the rural studio. He would re-visit built projects and sketch alternative design solutions for years afterward.
The lessons learned according to Mockbee were invaluable. In that spirit, I’m re-examining the last project completed before I took a sabbatical from design to serve in government. It is located on Apalachicola Bay in Florida, bordering one of the most biologically diverse estuaries in the hemisphere. Since then a range of technologies have since developed to bring physical and digital media—archival documents, digital data sets, photography, cartography, architectural drawings, graphics, GIS mapping, text, animation, film, and video—into dialogue with each other. One of the failures of the project is a hyper-site-specific response and the lack of integrating those in a broader context.
I could make excuses, at the time I thought I knew the place. Knowing place, the plant palette and aesthetics is very different than an deep understanding of the underlying ecological processes. The site plan and architectural design met the needs of the regulatory agencies and pleased the client. But it ignored the larger ecological function Scipio creek plays in the ecology of the bay. This was never understood beyond what was immediately required to convince agencies of approval of wetland mitigation and zoning variances. As personal time allows I’m going to re-examine this and attempt to understand this site better. What would I have done differently with this knowledge and how it would have changed the design will be documented as an addendum and critique of process. On a craft level, how could the re-use of materials centuries-old reclaimed from the river be better utilized in construction as differentiated than from what I did which was being purely substitutions of typical materials? The final form might be an exhibit for Auburn student or publication, but the most importantly can I learn from a critical reflection? One thing is certain, per the words of my late friend and professor Sambo Mockbee “to do so will make the next project better.”