Cartographic Imaginations

liquid lands

Investigating the Estuaries of the Salish Sea

LARC 598E + 702 – CAPSTONE STUDIO, AY 2018-19

Instructor: Ken Yocom (

One of the largest estuaries in North America the Salish Sea is fed from the inland waters of many river systems. Environments of convergence, the deltas of these rivers where fresh meets salt water are some of the most biologically rich and diverse habitats of the region. They are also some of the most transformed through human development and habitation, and the ecological integrity of the system is in rapid decline. Recent calls from legislators and public agencies have argued among other actions, a recommitment to public communication to build broad support for planning and conservation to reverse these trends.

Liquid Lands is a project of design, science, and communication that builds on and consolidates emerging methods in design research and representation practices across a broad range of disciplines accessing approaches and epistemological frameworks from landscape architecture, critical cartography, art, geography, and museology. It communicates the complex research of the Salish Sea to the geographic locations of the most substantive inputs into the ecosystem, riverine estuaries. While extensive, the scope is grounded in place, excavating and reassembling the nature of these watery lands to bring new light, perspective, and questions to how we understand nature and our role within it.

Specific questions include: What are the tools, conventions, and scale that we should employ in order to tell the story of these places in relation to the larger ecosystem? How can we build expanded narratives that describe the complexity of these lands to conceptions of culturally specific grounding in the context of dynamic change and transformation? The expected results of the project are both tangible and intangible. They include but are not limited to a video documentary, a print/online document articulating approaches and findings as well as an exhibit of student work. All of these products will be used to engage a broader public in issues related to the management, conservation, and protection of the Salish Sea.