Sarah Cowles will discuss three landscape sites that provoke questions about how designers engage with ecological disturbance. All are degraded sites, where the disturbance has occurred at a range of temporal and spatial scales. The sites include a state park that suffered a catastrophic flood in 2006 (S​cour: The Taum Sauk Incident)​; a former rail yard (T​he Salt Mountain Disturbance)​; and a recently shuttered aggregate quarry (​Marble Cliff)​. For Cowles, each site troubles normative theories of ecological restoration and landscape design practices. Her research into the sites intertwines ecology, contemporary art, and landscape architecture.

Sarah Cowles is an assistant professor of landscape architecture at the Knowlton School of Architecture. Cowles’ current landscape research is focused on the aesthetic and instrumental possibilities of ruderal vegetation, and the sculptural and performative aspects of erosion control materials and techniques. She leads Ruderal Academy, a site-specific interdisciplinary program that provides instruction on techniques of landscape analysis, interpretation, and design in places such as Chiatura, Republic of Georgia, and the US-Mexico border. She has lectured and exhibited internationally, including MASS MoCA and the Center for Contemporary Art in Tbilisi, Georgia.