This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Design Open Systems: How Can Middle Branch Harbor in Baltimore be Designed as an Open System?




Deng, Qian

Type of Degree



Landscape Architecture


This thesis researches the potential of an open systems approach to the design of urban coastlines. Open systems are created and informed by the matter- energy that continually flows through them. A crucial feature is their ability to deal with disturbance. Open systems do not just recover well from disturbance (hurricane, pollution, commercial development)but actually integrate it and evolve to more complex levels of operations. An important component is the feedback mechanism that enables new conditions to influence the material and organization structures of the system, thus entrenching resilience. The thesis investigated a series of complex coastal landscapes in Baltimore, MD by design an open system of landscape structures and process through a chain of wetlands, estuaries, river deltas and pebble beaches all of which are either developed or semi developed. These new landscapes are then tested against a range of possible disturbances (flooding, economic decline and inappropriate urban development) to ascertain whether they will exhibit the degree of resilience- openness- necessary to reorganize into novel terrains that increase the potential for human and nonhuman inhabitation. The success of the designed landscapes therefore lies in their ability to exhibit both environmental and social adaptability through the development of new feature by means of bottom- up causation. This research shows that resilience to urban and natural disturbance can be designed into coastal landscape for the betterment of all species and the habitats that support them.