University of Puerto Rico Botanical Garden showing light rail and new plantings, paths, and fence (rendering), 2005

Field Operations

Location: New York, New York
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Since its founding in 1998, Field Operations has shaped a hybrid practice that, much like the projects it pursues, integrates landscape, ecology, art, architecture, economic development, and city life. The studio develops a diverse network of creative affiliations to bring unique resources and expertise to each project. Field Operations embraces design challenges at many different levels and scales, ranging from intimate garden designs to the reinvention of vast tracts of postindustrial land.

The studio’s master plan for the Fresh Kills site in Staten Island, New York, is to revive a landscape of decay and detritus, turning the enormous landfill into a “lifescape” comprising 890 hectares of public parkland. The ambitious, complex project is phased over thirty years, with new park territory scheduled to open every five years during this period. Together with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Field Operations will transform Manhattan’s abandoned High Line from an abandoned industrial relic into an elevated pathless landscape that will preserve its original character while creating a new zone of nature and urban activity for the city.

The master plan for the University of Puerto Rico Botanical Garden offered Field Operations the opportunity to rethink the botanical garden as a cultural type relevant for the twenty-first century. The design solution combines the garden—which traditionally opens a window into other cultures through diverse collections of exotic plants—with contemporary constructs of ecology and urbanism to give it a meaningful new identity for the city of San Juan. Since the Botanical Garden is located along the protected preserve of the city’s Ecological Corridor, it has the potential to become an important new center for both leisure and research activities. Field Operations developed a hybrid graft of three organizational systems to govern the formal and material fabric of the entire site: The Botanical Forest activates the larger corridor by linking streams, open spaces, and ecological systems to create a vast, self-sustaining ecosystem.

The Botanical Park maximizes the aesthetic and formal properties of plants to shape spaces and provide settings for events. Lastly, the Botanical System intensifies the urban edges of the site and embeds pedestrian and vehicular circulation alongside horticultural and nursery production and research. The three systems work together to provide a new kind of social space that places nature, education, and recreation in an exotic vegetal environment. Across the range of its projects, Field Operations has recast landscape architecture as an active, cultural practice operating in an expanded field.