Landscape Architecture Alumna Wins ASLA Award of Excellence

Though easily forgotten and often misunderstood, the infrastructures of wastewater treatment are closely tied to our everyday lives.

Bridget Ayers Looby (M.L.A. ’16) explores this relationship in her capstone project Invisible Works: A public introduction to the dynamic life of wastewater treatment for which she was awarded the American Society of Landscape Architects’ (ASLA) highly coveted Student Award of Excellence in the category of general design. Selected from 295 entries representing 52 schools, ASLA’s student awards honor the top work of landscape architecture students in the U.S. and around the world. In this interview Ayers Looby talks about her project, and what’s next for her research.

How would you explain your research to individuals outside of your field?
“The main idea is to bring the public realm into the public works. We use wastewater treatment infrastructure nearly every hour of every day (that’s every flush, every turn of the faucet); it supports the metabolism of the modern city and it makes our lives within those cities possible. Yet we don’t really know where these systems are or how they work. In order for us to really value this infrastructure and make sure it will be supported and resilient in future climatic and/or political conditions, we need to first understand it in a personal, experiential, and ultimately fun way.”

Invisible Works

Where do you plan to take your research next?
“One area that I have been pushing forward in the last year is a deeper dive into the unintended byproducts of odor treatment. Specifically, in what ways might a surplus of mushrooms and mycelium be used? I recently completed an internal Perkins+Will innovation incubator grant focused on answering that question. The project, Tactical Mycelium, focuses on mushroom mycelium as ephemeral building material and how it could be deployed within a tactical urbanist approach. The final book and video can be found here. In terms of wastewater treatment and Invisible Works, I would love to bring some of these ideas to the Metropolitan Council and see where they might lead!”

What’s one thing you wish the public knew about wastewater infrastructure?
“It’s fascinating, and honestly, it’s extremely beautiful! Seeing this is the first step in rethinking the relationship we have with our infrastructure.”Invisible Works

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