Disturboretum: Nashua as Novel Urban Ecosystem

Urban Wilds, consisting of novel ecosystems with spontaneous vegetation and their associated species relations, are a complex palimpsest of human landscape interventions and ecosystem adaptations. They are also at the center of the native-invasive species debate, seen as inauthentic within the cultural history of New England. Responses range from legislation banning the intentional planting of post-1492 species to an inability to internalize these “natural” species into providing value to humans through an affirming “cultural” history. This failure to adapt, exploit and hybridize these ecosystems productively into human culture is highly costly, with subtle xenophobic undertones and excessive municipal maintenance budgets to preserve notions of landscape (and cultural) purity.

The Disturboretum challenges these assumptions in Nashua, NH by developing representations and techniques to flatten value judgments placed on vegetation. We use infrared measurement and 3D point cloud-based visualizations to re-present Nashua’s habitats as resulting from a long history of human disturbances in the region. This site’s specific segment of the Nashua River includes a multitude of site disturbances and ecological gradients supporting novel disturbance-adapted ecosystems, from a wetland within concrete drainage basins to calcium-seeking fence-hugging grasses at the edges of property lines.

The second phase of this projects aims to develop narratives by which a re-wilding by these novel ecosystems can be internalized and contextualized into the cultural history of the Nashua River landscape. We work between the abandoned mills district and the preserved Mills Falls Park to intensify existing cut and fill, flood, and calcification sites as an arboretum of disturbances.

Nashua, NH, USA

Vineet Diwadkar
Hector Tarrido-Picart

Peter Beard
Peter del Tredici