Tidal Garden draws inspiration from Maine's vibrant seascape and emphasizes the reciprocal relationship between humans and marine ecology. Similarly to the tides revealing expansive sections along the coastline, this proposal orchestrates the elements of under water Maine. Utilizing treated seaweed sourced from the Gulf of Maine, along with seaweed fabric as a central material, this installation celebrates the diverse aquaculture of Portland while also honoring the rich history of the Wabanaki people.

Functioning as a dynamic platform and gathering space, the installation presents treated seaweed at eye level, allowing its long blades to gracefully sway in the breeze. This presentation of kelp not only showcases the traditional drying methods employed by East Coast Natives but also invites visitors to engage through tactile exploration, scent, and curiosity. Moreover, the installation serves as a communal meeting area for individuals on the Back Cove trail. A labyrinth of benches guides people beneath a shared canopy, creating a Seaweed Living room ambiance where one can sit by the water and become enveloped in contemplation.

This proposal builds upon a 3-year-long research initiative by MIT, focused on the application of seaweed in construction. By incorporating materials that are often discarded as waste, the installation challenges the colonial perspective we hold towards the environment, signaling a shift towards restorative futures for the ocean and our ways of coexisting with it.

Seaweed holds a critical role within our ecosystem, serving as nourishment and shelter for marine species, a natural cleanser for coastal waters, and an absorber of CO2. Historically, seaweed was a food source for the Wabanaki people, who have inhabited the Portland region for generations. Today, Portland thrives as a culturally diverse city, woven together by African American, Asian, Hispanic, and Indigenous communities. Seaweed, a common thread across cultures, has been employed for sustenance, medicinal purposes, and construction materials. This installation establishes a platform for community engagement, fostering public awareness about ocean ecology and diversity.

The vision of this proposal encapsulates elements from Maine's seascape, the heritage of the Wabanaki people, and Portland's cultural mosaic. The result is an immersive encounter that deepens the bond between humanity and nature while promoting an understanding of marine ecology, cultural diversity, and sustainable practices. In the face of climate change, this project also acts as a contemporary response to Baxter's effort to foster a beautiful and sustainable city for all. Within this installation, seaweed assumes the role of both participant and provider, serving as a sensory reminder of our duty to safeguard the oceans.

Location: Portland, Maine
Status: Plan completed in 2023



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