Rennie Tang, an assistant professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture, was recently selected as one of 10 finalists for the Mojdeh Baratloo Urban Urge Awards, an international competition sponsored by Columbia University.
Tang’s project proposal, “Porosity Play: Schoolyard Watershed Learning Game,” involves having schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District work together to address watershed management on school grounds in a fun, game-like atmosphere.
The school district has a significant impact on the watershed, because it is the second-largest landowner in Los Angeles. Several landscape architects have considered ways that the school district could help reduce pollution, but Tang’s proposal would make this effort part of the curriculum.
“Many of the schools operate individually to address environmental issues, but when schools position themselves within a watershed or sub-watershed, they are immediately made aware that they are part of a large regional system,” Tang says. “This project is about re-framing the school district as a massive urban bio-filtration system.”
The watershed game involves students marking the physical watershed diagram on their school’s grounds using tube markers. They would then measure existing and new porosity, map porosity zones, create a bio-filtration plan, and construct a schoolyard bio-filtration system, according to Tang’s proposal.
The tube markers, which would be about two feet in diameter and two feet high, would act as game pieces and placed to follow the water flow on the schoolyard. To represent the downward flow of water, the tube markers would get lower in height and allow faculty, staff and students to get a clear understanding of where the water goes. On flat schoolyards water flow is virtually invisible.
“You could mark chalk where the water is flowing, but this process makes it more interactive and visual,” Tang says. “It would be in the school yards for a week or so and serve as an engagement tool.”
An iPad application would help students gauge how their school stacks up against others throughout the district.
“The project is most important because schools are 80 percent asphalt, so when it rains or when the asphalt is hosed down, it runs off very dirty water that goes through the storm-water system and pollutes the ocean,” Tang says.
The Urban Urge Awards are designed to help fund urban and design ideas that would have an impact in urban communities. The awards are named after the late Mojdeh Baratloo, one of Tang’s former professors at Columbia University and a licensed architect and an award-winning educator. She passed away in 2013.
For more information on Tang’s project presentation, visit www.rennietang.com and click on Projects/Porosity Play. Landscape architecture student Paulina Forgette assisted Tang with the presentation’s digital graphics.