EcoNet is led by architect and designer Jason Vigneri-Beane, a partner in Planetary One, self-described as “pioneers in progressive urbanism through design, ecology and technology.” Others onboard include landscape architect, Walter Meyer, also a Planetary One partner, and architect and software specialist Robert Cervellione. They will work with young people through project learning in one, and ideally two, Title 1 public high schools in the outer boroughs of New York City. EcoNet is designed to take the students through the process of decontaminating water through plants. But that is only one part of it. These operations, which continually take place in nature, are invisible to us. EcoNet makes this ecology visible through a computer network, then displays the results in an electronic art installation.
EcoNet begins in the school’s yard where one student team builds mini-wetlands and another fills them with plants recommended by the landscape architect for best in filtering and cleansing water. Working with a specialist, another team applies sensors to the vegetation to target specific types of contaminants; once that information is converted into digital data, many more teams are involved with: research into the contaminants revealed in the data; design of the exhibition space for the art installation with its the monitors, LED and robotic devices; programming of the data visualizations to be understood by visitors; graphics and text for the exhibit; public relations; plans for panels and other means to educate students and community visitors about water and climate change and show them what can be done. Implicit in EcoNet’s project learning process are teams for botany and horticulture, hydrology, one focused on global water scarcity and stress, economics, history, urban planning and ecology, community building and social and climate justice.
Working with EcoNet staff and mentors, as well as school faculty, students will be expected to draw up democratic procedures for communicating with each other’s teams in order to share knowledge with all. Integrating learning and experience will lead to new knowledge. Cooperation can forge discoveries and solve problems. With EcoNet in two high schools, each in a different borough, teens, who would otherwise never meet, will have an opportunity to share information and ideas, first by computer, then in person by visiting one another’s installation. Later on, some may also decide to work on new projects together remotely on computer.
With two schools involved, each can share the other’s data and compare it side by side in their installations. EcoNet may also include data visualization on water from other parts of the city, state and elsewhere.
Curator Regina Cornwell conceived and is organizing inClimate under the auspices of Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc.