By Jackson Plumlee
This project explored Bartram's Garden and its context through routine visits and site-based experiments. Throughout the semester, a guiding question emerged: How to uncover overlapping narratives between people, plants, objects and place?
My initial experiments focused on the contrasts between the garden, its context, and the edges between them. How does a manicured colonial botanic garden remain among warehouses, salvage yards, vacant lots, and oil terminals? I explored that contrast by observing, interacting, and tinkering with the plants and objects that inhabited those environments.
Then I attempted to incorporate stories about people. After all, people - neighbors, families, cowboys, dog walkers, plein air painters, maintenance workers - inhabit these environments too. I tried to observe and link them to their environments through time and occupation. But something felt superficial. Without knowing them, I couldn’t convey their depth; I had reduced them to scale figures in a drawing. I started to see that the binary frame of contrasts I projected on the site was obscuring the complexity and interconnected narratives of people, plants, and place. So I turned back to plants and objects, this time trying to shift from contrasts to blurry overlaps by grafting the two environments together.
I continued to explore overlaps by revisiting mysterious objects I found on site and projecting site photographs and scientific images onto them. This analog process of collaging the known onto the unknown opened up a bridge of ambiguity and contradiction, where new meanings and narratives could emerge.
Through this process, I realized that projection is a powerful tool for uncovering new narratives and potentials. In the future, I hope to apply this as an engagement process to give voice to other people's observations, visions, and experiences.
Jackson Plumlee is a first year Landscape Architecture and City Planning student. His interests lie at the overlaps between people, environmental justice, the built environment, and policy.