The New Jersey Meadowlands: Inhabiting an Urban Wilderness

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The New Jersey Meadowlands is a thirty square mile industrial wetland between New York City and the commercial district of East Rutherford, NJ. The place is both strange and fascinating; many mysteries are hidden between the reed grasses and scattered garbage. Often exposed to subjectivity, the Meadowlands is commonly perceived as a weird, polluted, industrial, and even an other-worldly space; few know its beauty. These differing perceptions create a challenge when thinking of a cohesive identity and sense of place in the marsh. Over time, the once pure landscape has suffered from infrastructural slices, illegal dumping, and environmental abuse, resulting in fragmented land areas along the Hackensack River’s edge. This thesis explores how to inhabit an ecologically devalued and residual landscape through ideas of place-making and re-connecting communities. Investigating the paradox of this massive urban landscape and capitalizing on the ecological and educational potential of the site, lends also to a challenge of converging modern and forgotten life. Designing a place-based ecological research community within this currently placeless environment, will engage the public, re-connect lost communities, and bring a sense of renewal to the marsh.