Other Order Invites Exploration of Urban Wild

October 1, 2014

Other Order Invites Exploration of Urban Wild


Brimming with history and seasonal delight offered by 15,000 spectacular plants collected from around the world, the Arnold Arboretum has many remarkable stories to share. With the introduction of a new mobile application visitors can tap into the plant diversity, ecology, and rather unnatural history of one the institution’s most enigmatic spaces–Bussey Brook Meadow. Launching with a free public event at the Arboretum on October 18, Other Order offers a new way to explore the past, present, and future of this “urban wild” and its evolving role in both science and recreation.

Created by media artist Teri Rueb, Other Order (2014) is a sound walk set in Bussey Brook Meadow’s spontaneous landscape. Presenting a blend of recorded interviews and sounds drawn from and inspired by the landscape itself, the sound experience is a GPS-enhanced software application that senses the participant’s movement and location in the landscape and in response, plays back sounds at specific points through the landscape. Visitors are encouraged to download the app from the App Store or Google Play in advance of their visit and wear headphones for optimal listening. Offered from 1:00-3:00pm at Bussey Brook Meadow, the launch event will include remarks by the artist and participants and an introduction to the sound walk.

At an institution renowned for diverse plantings and landscapes, Bussey Brook Meadow at the Arnold Arboretum stands out as truly unique. Managed as a living laboratory for urban ecology, the 24-acre tract bounded by South Street and Forest Hills Station is a site where human interventions and biological processes are allowed to run their “natural” course. As such, the meadow serves as a site where Arboretum scientists and visiting scholars can document long-term changes in plant succession and measure ecosystem functions including vegetation structure, wildlife abundance, phenology, and biogeochemical cycling. Chief among the voices employed by the app is retired Arboretum Senior Research Scientist Peter Del Tredici, a botanist and professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design who has used the meadow extensively for teaching and his own research in urban ecology and emergent vegetation.

In 1996, the Arnold Arboretum partnered with the City of Boston and the Arboretum Park Conservancy to preserve Bussey Brook Meadow, which was assembled from parcels of land that formerly belonged to the MBTA, the City of Boston, and Harvard University. Under the current management regimen, In addition, the Arboretum continues to maintain the Blackwell Path which crosses the parcel as a pedestrian link from the Forest Hills subway station to the historic landscape. The meadow can be reached via the Washington Street Gate near Forest Hills Station, or from the Arboretum’s historical landscape via the South Street Gate at the foot of Hemlock Hill. Street parking is available on Bussey Street.

Learn more in Silva: “Sounds of an Evolving Landscape: A Virtual Installation Illuminates Bussey Brook Meadow” [pdf] (Spring/Summer 2014)

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