Marina Solodova wants to dispel any myths or confusion about what landscape architecture is, and explains that it is not just about beautifying spaces. “As landscape architects, we are fighting for healthier and safer environments for our cities, and the entire Earth,” she says.
Marina’s final project looks at ways to limit the damage in the aftermath of hurricanes, specifically dangerous pollutants from sewage treatment centres that can flood areas of a city. The work is drawn from the example of Hurricane Sandy, which in 2012 brought huge destruction to the Greater Antilles and much of the east coast of the United States. The project focusses on Manhattan, where such a sewage spillage polluted the Hudson River.
“Because of climate change, storms like Hurricane Sandy will come again. It’s unavoidable. And so our response as landscape architects needs to change,” says Marina, “I’m investigating how we can create a resilient environment to avoid these toxic chemicals being released into the bodies of water, because they’re a major threat to human life.”
When the Hudson River was polluted after the hurricane, there was no way to efficiently remove the chemicals, and the only response available was to tell people not to go to certain areas of the city. Marina wants to create a solution that is proactive rather than reactive, and that will prevent or reduce the level of pollutants in the first place. “People lived in these areas. There were schools and hospitals and places of work. How could people not go there?” says Marina, “I thought we could create a system that consumes and resists these chemicals, that cleans and treats.”
After extensive research that included visiting Manhattan with her fellow students and tutors, Marina came up with a solution that lies in the animal and plant kingdoms. The concept was to introduce organisms as a series of “islands” that could consume the toxic material. “I was inspired by the way that nature could deal with this problem,” says Marina, “You can use oysters, reed beds and kelp to clean the water.”
When Marina first started her studies at Edinburgh College of Art, she found it a challenge to work with an open brief on her projects, but later saw the benefit of working in this way. “The tutors support your ideas and give you wonderful literature to read, films to view, and exhibitions to visit, and they totally support you as an individual,” she says, “I think it allowed me to grow the way I wanted and to discover my own voice, which allowed me to create a stronger portfolio to begin applying for jobs.”
And Marina has been getting positive feedback from employers about her portfolio already. “I’ve had a couple of interviews and a job offer,” says Marina, “That wouldn’t have been possible without me doing a project last year on renewable energy. I’m very thankful that this kind of project exists at the University, and that I was pushed to explore wind farms and alternative energy.”
“I’ve become attached to working in this area, in trying to combat climate change and moving away from relying on fossil fuels. On a personal level, I’d like to work in a way that helps people, the planet and future generations, to do something meaningful that people can continue to benefit from after I’m gone.”