The fossil fuel industry has done more than emit nearly 500 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide over the last half century—it has also spilled, buried, and otherwise introduced an almost incomprehensible volume of criteria pollutants and other toxic materials into landscapes now classified as brownfields and Superfund sites.

This collection of projects illustrates the variety of ways that designers are attempting to meet a central mandate of H.R.109: to clean up every hazardous material and brownfield site in the U.S. by the end of the century.

Back to Curated Projects

Re-Energizing America: Green New Futures for Coal Power Plants

Focusing on the vacant industrial sites that result from the shift towards renewables, this project looks at the opportunities for design in decommissioned coal power plants, specifically at the Arapahoe Generating Plant in Denver. Incorporating both the industrial past and green energy future, the proposal calls for a Green Innovation Campus that will house programs and job training in fields including clean energy production, carbon emissions reduction, and environmental restoration.

Author: Lauren Butts

Renew Calumet
Northwest Indiana

Utilizing the framework of a just transition, this project calls for numerous initiatives across multiple timescales, including immediate change and longer-term, comprehensive change. Proposing the establishment of a new civilian conservation corps to provide job training and work experience while completing restoration and the maintenance of parks, trails, and natural areas in Calumet, this project proposes initiatives like natural resource conservation, recreational landscapes, heritage tourism, and educational programs.

Authors: Maddie Clark, Adam Deheer, Adriana Hernández, Olivia Pinner, Adam Scott, Nick Zurlini
Group: LAF Olmsted Scholars

Post-Refinery Futures
Philadelphia, PA

Located on the site of Philadelphia’s PES Refinery - in operation from 1860 until 2019 - this project focuses on the future of the refinery as a site for economic development, ecological remediation, access to nature, and as a place for remembering. Situating the Philadelphia refinery within a larger national context of similar sites, the project asks what a meaningful way to engage with the past, present, and future of the refinery is in a post-refinery world.

Authors: Marni Burns, Selina Cheah, Andrew Dobshinsky, Kate Farquhar, Jonathan Franklin, Sarah Leaskey, Hangxing Liu, Michael Miller, Lucinda Sanders, Nate Wooten
Firm: OLIN

UNEARTHED: Agency for Soils
in West Oakland

Oakland, CA

Centered on the projected catastrophic topsoil loss over the next 60 years, this project calls for the establishment of an urban soil agency that builds on the historic grassroots activism of Oakland. With a goal of remediating soils while also fostering equitable resource management, educational outreach, economic development, and environmental justice, this project imagines the creation of an advocacy framework to fuel social infrastructure and support local urban soils and ecologies.

Authors: Roberto Astudillo, Karla Damken, Jinhee Ha, Kapp Singer, Dan Affleck, Jonah Susskind
Firm: SWA

Situated on heavily industrial and contaminated land in Houston’s Fifth Ward, this project develops new methods for land remediation through experimentation with ecological methodologies and social frameworks. Structured as a research institute, the project aims to form new relationships between land, species, and humans, experimenting with transient, dynamic architectures and ownership structures. Collectively operated by residents, the project offers participants a unique view of the quilted network between humans and non-humans.

Authors: Edwin Barajas, Mariana Galvan, Ferdous Kabir
Institution: University of Houston
Instructor: Daniel Jacobs

Projecting to the year 2050, this project uses a waterfront post-industrial site in Cleveland to imagine the possibilities of land transformations in rust belt cities. Through a framework of reviewing, rethinking, reviving, and restarting, this project calls for the development of urban woods and prairies, riparian zones, and de-channelization, among others, to imagine systematic ways that industrial zones and brownfields might become sanctuary spaces for both humans and nature.

Authors: Zhelin Li
Institution: University of Michigan
Instructor: Lisa DuRussel

Calling for a fundamental shift in the way that we interact with water - imagining water as life instead of water as infrastructure - this project advocates for the opening of the channelized Black Creek, allowing for flood protection, providing river access, and sustaining a healthy ecological landscape. The designers also propose community amenities and expanded wetlands and woodlands, reimagining our relationship to nature as being mutual and interdependent.

Authors: Alex Sheinbaum, Evelyn Babalis, Agatha Molendowski, Natasha Raseta
Institution: University of Toronto
Instructors: Fadi Masoud, Megan Esopenko
: Fadi Masoud, Michael Piper, Mason White

Researching the history of material extraction in the city of Dallas, this project looks to transition the heavily-polluting and carbon intensive cement and concrete manufacturing industry into a green, low-carbon industry. The project calls for the reconnection of a disjointed neighborhood fabric through zoning, land-swaps, and the reintroduction of a native eco-region. Focusing on environmental justice and histories of exploitation and extraction, this project looks at reclaiming and investing in community health and livelihoods.

Author: Kristin Witte
Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Instructor: Maggie Hansen

Responding to the increasing risk of flooding along the Mississippi River Basin due to historic industrialization of the river, this project calls for the transportation of sediment and restoration of riverine wetlands to create a resilient flood buffer zone along river banks. Designed for a gradual, phased restoration, this project imagines the ecological, economic, systematic, industrial, and cultural possibilities of a revitalized Mississippi River Basin.

Author: Weicong Huang
Institution: Washington University in St. Louis
Instructor: Derek Hoeferlin

After Stopping Fossil Fuels
Mississippi Watershed

With a focus on the Mississippi watershed’s energy landscape, this project looks at the repairing and rebuilding work that will need to be done on landscapes once fossil fuel extraction ends. Proposing three distinct transformations - post-extractive land to remediated natural landscapes, to industrial landscape parks, and to renewable power plants - this project calls for the creation of numerous jobs, the transformation of landscapes, and the transition of energy in a fossil-fuel free world.

Author: Shuya Zhang
Institution: Washington University in St. Louis
Instructor: Derek Hoeferlin

Take Action Center
San Francisco Bay Area

Designed as a gathering space for environmental justice activism in a historically disinvested neighborhood in San Francisco, the Activist Research Center is both a building and a lab. Organized in a structural grid, the building contains a green roof and solar panels, as well as a constructed wetland. Through developing stewardship, research, and education, the center acts as a multi-generational community, focused on finding solutions to the climate crisis.

Author: Maria Ramirez Perez, Valeriya Velyka
Institution: California College of the Arts
Instructors: Evan Jones and Margaret Ikeda