Arch + Eng, Design, Social Impact

Comprehensive Design + Science in St. Louis – Recap

BFI was recently in St. Louis, Missouri as a Program Partner in Marfa Dialogues/STL, a collaborative examination of artistic practice, climate change science and civic engagement hosted by The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, Ballroom Marfa and The Public Concern Foundation. Our half-day symposia called Comprehensive Design + Science: Visions for St. Louis and the Great Lakes Region explored multiple approaches to build resilience at the intersection of art, architecture, design and science that all propose anticipatory strategies for critical urban challenges.

To contextualize our program within the legacy of Fuller and the need for grand visions at the scale of the issues we face, we revisited Fuller’s legendary collaboration with architect and famed Washington University professor James Fitzgibbon—an innovative design for East St. Louis titled Old Man River City. The Old Man River City project proposed a state-of-the art urban dwelling that would house upwards of 125,000 people in an optimized structure including an aerodynamic form, materials efficiencies, active and passive energy systems, and water collection and purification. This lecture was presented by architect and BFI board member Jonathan Marvel.

Our program then shifted to explore the contemporary eco-system context – specifically the fresh water basin critical to St. Louis and other major mid-western cities. The Great Cities, Great Lakes, Great Basin project—an initiative envisioned by Philip Enquist, partner in charge of urban design and planning for the renowned architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill—was presented. Enquist guided our program participants through a survey of the entire Great Lakes watershed in the context of population growth, development, and climate change and detailed SOM’s proposed solution for its stewardship.

The third component of our program was framed within the context of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge. The Fuller Challenge is the world’s only prize program celebrating comprehensive, whole-systems solutions to the social, economic, and ecological crises that we face on a planetary scale. The two projects highlighted in this program section—each semi-finalists in the Challenge—were presented by Blayne Greiner of The Plant, a Chicago-based closed-loop social enterprise incorporating sustainable food production and economic development in a converted industrial space, and Shannon Dosemagen, the Executive Director of Public Lab, a non-profit community network that develops and applies open-source tools for citizen-led environmental exploration and investigation. This component of our program provided an inspiring counterbalance to the grand visions of Old Man River City and Great Lakes, Great Cities, Great Basin. The practical, on the ground strategies fed a dynamic panel including all of the presenters and led by Derek Hoeferlin, a Washington University professor.

Couldn’t make it to St. Louis? Check out the video below!