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We ♥ Wetland Machines
Pontine Systemic Design


Of course, we have to return for a third time back to P-REX, this time to single out one of their projects, the Pontine Systemic Design.

The result of Alan Berger's year as the Prince Charitable Trust Rome Prize recipient in Landscape Architecture, at the American Academy in Rome, in collaboration with Case Brown, this project proposes to “re-introduce a gigantic new wetland machine” to cleanse and adaptively reuse one of the highly polluted zones of Italy's Lazio region, the drained Pontine Marshes. It is both a productive filtration system and a regional recreation area.

Quoting the project summary at length:

Choosing a gigantic, consolidated wetland site will likely be more viable in the complex patchwork of land ownership. Given Latina’s situation distributed treatment areas would be both enormously complex to purchase and ineffective to manage. The Wetland Machine’s dimensions are directly related to the amount of wetland area needed to treat the amount of water in the Canale Aque Alte—the major collector for this highly polluted zone. At 220 l/s, with a load around 50+ mg/l of N, at least 2 square kilometers of treatment wetland will be required. The design retro-fits and widens existing canals to serve as flow distributors. Furthermore, soil cut/fill operations are used for terraforming shallow ridges and valleys to hold/treat water and make raised areas for new public space and program. At 2.3 sq. km., the new wetland machine will drastically improve the regional water supply and provide needed open space for recreation. At only 6 km from Latina, the site could house programs and environments almost completely lacking in the region—large open landscapes with diverse vegetation. Extensive edge habitat diversity or programs—shallow shoals for juvenile fish and swimming, starker edges for fishing and water storage.


Early this summer, the President of Latina Province launched a feasibility study to evaluate the potential of this wetland machine.

Pontine Systemic Design

Pontine Systemic Design

Pontine Systemic Design

Pontine Systemic Design


Pontine Systemic Design


There are more fascinating projects at P-REX. If you are at all interested in how to adapt entropic landscapes — such as abandoned mine pits mountains of slag and pools of cyanice, vacant urban lands, landfills and former military installations — in a holistic, multi-layered strategy for future productive use and more sustainable outcomes, let Alan Berger and his colleagues show you how.


POSTSCRIPT #1: The New York Times on Alan Berger and the Pontine project. ““The solution has to be as artificial as the place. We are trying to invent an ecosystem in the midst of an entirely engineered, polluted landscape,” says Berger.

POSTSCRIPT #2: Much earlier, The New York Times tagged along with the landscape architect and his class to a severely polluted mining area in Colorado.


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