Marsh Radio Island is a project that activates the interconnectedness of humans and plants in the urban port city ecosystem of Boston by deploying designed flotants (modular salt marsh habitats) for growing salt marsh plant species of the future.  It offers a practical design solution to flood-risk neighborhoods that incorporates performance, public intervention, and community engagement that considers anew the role plants play in protecting and supporting all life on the planet. These flotants – connected by hand crocheted lace, made of recycled clothes and bedding donated from and made by the very communities they will protect – increase biodiversity, improve water quality, and protect the shoreline. Built out of recycled materials, these structures will maintain salt marsh plant life from the Northeast and those from southeastern states like North and South Carolina, zones whose current climate reflects annual temperatures that could occur in Boston by the year 2050.

As a soft engineering solution, the goal of the piece is to serve as a foundation for personal, botanical, and imaginative growth through a compassion and empathy-based communication system.  Each flotant includes a community supported media campaign – a radio transmitter that sends and receives communication by plants and people, a plant-focused mail system, and maintenance events that engage community members in the tending and transportation of the flotants to critical flood sites along the coast.  One key maintenance event is the ‘stitch and bitch’ sessions.  These participatory crochet events invite members of the public to expand and connect the flotants, using this care-taking activity to talk with each other and with science and policy specialists about coastal healing and preservation needs, techniques, and opportunities for action and engagement. Building a relationship with the plants in this way allows communities to formulate a more intimate and immediate connection to the abstract complexities of largescale climate change and geoengineering solutions.

While designed for flood-risked neighborhoods in Boston, MA, the current Marsh Radio Island prototype is being built to adapt to any coastal ecosystem.  Our current prototype presentation:

–       3 designed salt marsh flotants with crocheted lace connections

–       A double-channel video poetically describing the eco-industrial coastline of Boston from the perspective of a floating section of salt marsh cordgrass (Spartina patens)

–       Programming for Marsh Island Radio, the pirate radio station broadcast from the salt marsh flotants and participatory radio content building events for children and adults

–       A wall-sized mural detailing potential salt marsh installation sites and the neighborhood-specific crocheted lace designs and patterns

The prototype is currently in development and slated for completion and initial presentation at the upcoming gallery show at Boston University, “Alternative Visions/Sustainable Futures”, January – April, 2013.