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Rhoads Pond: Before, During and After

ekthorp's picture

Our discussion last Wednesday about responding to Hurricane Sandy in an eco-literate way seemed highly relevant to my spot. We talked a lot about restoring damaged property once the storm was done- whether doing so is worthwhile venture or if we need to take preventative measures instead. Why did this seem so relevant to me and my location? Well, here’s a picture of the pond, taken from exactly where I sit to record my presence there, during the storm:

I didn’t take this picture. It was taken by one of my good friends, Lee McClennon, just as the storm was beginning to hit. To contrast, here’s a picture I took of the exact same location at the beginning of the year:

Between the two, the first thing I noticed was not the high tide, but how much the surrounding shrubbery had been pushed back by the wind and runoff water, revealing much more of the surface of the pond.  When I went to visit the pond the weekend, although the water level had receded, much of the vegetation along the banks was still suppressed. The small island in the right of the photograph had completely changed shape from what it originally looked like- it is much smaller and more compact now. The actual pond seems bigger, more stretched out, but the presence of the pond, its entire existence, seems smaller. 

This weekend, when my family came up to visit for Parents' Weekend, we played hookey on all the official family events that are supposedly designed for our beenfit. Instead, we visited the home and studio of Wharton Esherick, a deceased designer, artist, carpenter, crafter, and architecht who lived just outside Paoli. Esherick had a very interesting, architechturally eco-sustainable idea when it came to building houses. His policy was not that structures should necessarily begin as pre-supposedly prepared for the nature's effect, or that we should build things with the intention f rebuilding them later after nature has taken its toll. Instead, he designed with the effect natural forces would have in mind. Take for example, the roof line of his house, as seen below:

// roof line was originally straight, but it was built to sag. The house is not on the verge of collapse, as it might appear, but approaching its final intent. It is intended to flow into the surrouding area, creating a continuous line bewteen the trees surrouding it and the actual structure itself. And this is all done through clever design that incorporates gravitational pull into the mainframe of the home. So it's not about creating homes that take preventative measures against nature, or restoring damage done if those measures are not taken. It's about using nature to our advantage to create something absolutely new and beautiful. Something that is both aesthetically pleasing and perfectly fitting to the surrouding enviornment. 

Another example of Esherick's design theory of combinging man-made structures with naturalistic elements is apparent in his garage.

In this building, he was able to build a stucture that worked with the slope of the hill it was built on in order to create a roof that was concave on one side and convex on the other. This type of roof prevents damge to the entire building, and makes it seem more organic, as if it is supposed to be there. If we could only apply this theory to all types of building, not just small, artisinal homes, I feel like we could not only prevent a lot of damage done by natural disasters, but really begin to marvel at the effects nature has on our environments. When the structures we deem ourselves safe in fail us, we typically respond in defensive ways, either attacking the environment back, or building up a strong reserve of fortified buildings for the next time disaster strikes. If we could just incorporate our buildings into our landscapes, maybe we wouldn't worry so much about the effect nature will have on our buildings, and actually enjoy it. 

How are we supposed to create spaces like this in nature, though? Around Rhoads pond, a lot of damage was done, but all of it was done to non-human elements, such as the banks and plants surrounding the water. How are we supposed to rectify this damage, especially because it is not damage to anykind of man-made material, but enacted upon natural elements? Do we plant different plants, do we try to engineer nature in that way? Is that a safe thing to do?

first Esherick image taken from

second Esherick image taken from