c. amstutz


testing ground

mississippi river basin | usa
00°00’00.0”n  00°00’00.0”w

critic: derek hoeferlin
option studio  
spring 2018

Imagined in an America Post-Trump Administration, “Testing Ground” is a  kit to investigate pollution in the Mississippi River Basin. Hinging on the need for trans-boundary communication between politicians, corporations, and consumers, Testing Ground uses guerrilla architecture tactics to foster discussion.

research & report

a trans-boundary approach

The first month of a semester-long examination of watersheds resulted in a 270 page document produced by the studio. The “trans-boundary report” systematically analyzes 3 river basins - Rhine, Mississippi, and Mekong – through the lens of the prefix “trans.” Students then developed individual proposals with an understanding of watersheds from "source to mouth".

see full report here

TEAM: Caroline Amstutz*, Michele Chen, Jake Deluca, Helen Han, Yin Li, Patrick Murray, Rodrigo Poma, Jimmy Ryoo, Will Sun*, Rita Wang, Joie Zhang, Tiffany Zheng.  [ *  = project lead & editor ]


prototypical sites and typologies

Following the research and report findings, students were prompted to design a “trans-boundary negotiation forum” – a speculative space to engage people in a discussion of the state of watersheds.

To tackle the prompt, I developed  a systematic, rather than purely spatial, approach, which involved researching a series of prototypical sites and typologies, and understanding how one system of architecture could be applied to capture the multiplicities of my assigned river – the Mississippi.

The content was bound into a book including the sites, typologies, and a narrative.

deployable forum

a system in action

The final form of the speculation is a deployable scaffolding system which attaches to various “Americana” typologies  to monitor a range of environmental conditions from soil health to air quality. The scaffolding fits into a single shipping crate ("the box") floating down the Mississippi river until a call for deployment.

With a small team, deployment can happen over night, marking that typology as a site for ecological study. The public is engaged through geocaching; when deployed, the public is invited to the site to learn about the ecological impacts of the typology in question.

common thread

activating a drawing

To create an active experience of the drawing while making a suggestion about the form of the intervention, hybrid methods of sewing and drawing were employed. By sewing a section, the conceptual drawing explores the potential for elasticity in the form of Testing Ground and portrays a key value of the project: participation.

© 2020 caroline amstutz