Territory and Technology: a Case Study and Strategy from the California Delta
THE PLAN Journal (TPJ)
2 November 2017
Photo courtesy of TPJ
Richard Hindle, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at the College of Environmental Design, co-authored a research article with architect and urban designer Neeraj Bhatia investigating the early history of the California Delta, starting with the Swamp Lands Act of 1850, to gain insights into how policy and technology territorialized the vast inland estuary.
Titled “Territory and Technology: a Case Study and Strategy from the California Delta,” the essay reformulates the history of the California Delta as a contemporary strategy for the future design of deltaic landscapes and introduces a pedagogical experiment to test their observations.
Hindle and Bhatia explain that the California Delta provides researchers with a fascinating case study on the transformation of wilderness to territory through technological means. When viewed through the lens of technological innovation, they explain, it becomes clear that the early delta was colonized and transformed by singular technologies, private citizens, and loosely coordinated reclamation companies, not by coordinated top-down government planning. This raises the question if this process might be employed in the re-wilding and restoration of deltas.
“Today, the delta is once again a frontier of the Anthropocene, having been entirely reconfigured by human agency, and now lingering on the verge of ecological collapse,” Hindle and Bhatia write. “Given the convergence of environmental imperatives in the delta, a reverse process of socio-technical innovation could facilitate the renewed productivity, reconstruction, and possible re-wilding of a system essential to the most urbanized state in the nation.”
Hindle and Bhatia go on to conclude that the history of patent innovation inspired by the delta provides a timely case study for a potential future of the region, emerging as a hybrid between ecology, technology, and culture—an agglomerate of discrete inventions that could re-territorialize the edge of the delta into a resilient system.The history of patent innovation inspired by the delta provides a timely case study for a potential future of the region that emerges as a hybrid between ecology, technology, and culture-an agglomerate of discrete inventions that re-territorialize the edge of the delta into a resilient system. They also suggest that design experiments conducted on a smaller scale may impact the larger territory, just as the levee building machines of the late nineteenth century transformed ancestral tule marshes to dry agricultural plots.
You can read Assistant Professor Hindle's article in full here.