Dickinson Research Extension Center


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Roads, Pipes, Crops, and Soil: An Examination of Changes in the Physical Landscape through Environmental Planning and Photography

The Dickinson Research and Extension Center is now hosting an Exhibition by Meghan L. E. Kirkwood titled: Roads, Pipes, Crops, and Soil: An Examination of Changes in the Physical Landscape through Environmental Planning and Photography.

There is a robust amount of publicly available data and research about the Bakken region, but too often it is presented in formats ill-equipped to inform citizens or to ground public discourse: data sets, uncommon file formats, annual reports. The Bakken formation extends over 200,000 sq. miles and the issues affecting this area are as vast as its geography. This collection of boards and photographs seeks to highlight big changes and promote discussion on resultant issues that are difficult to conceptualize.

Roads, Pipes, Crops, and Soil is a collaborative landscape architecture and photography exhibit that looks at physical impacts on environmental and social systems as a result of rapid oil and natural gas development. Physical alterations to the western North Dakota landscape are one aspect of the complex intersection of physical, biological, and social changes resulting from an increase in natural resource extraction activities. The creation of new roads, pipelines, housing, and commercial zones has reshaped parts of the region and these changes will have legacy beyond the boom and bust cycle of oil development on residents. This exhibition aims to describe some of these changes and assist in current reflections by residents over the region’s long-term planning.

Landscape Architecture and Environmental Photography are both process driven disciplines that produce work to represent places and issues in the context of time. Environmental planning is considered “the theory and practice of making good, interrelated decisions about the natural environment (natural resources, wildlife, and natural hazards), working landscapes (farms, forests, and lands from which minerals are extracted), public health (air and water pollution, toxins, and waste disposal), and the built environment.[1] Environmental Photography describes a method of examining the landscape in relation to its use and management. Rather than foreground the individual photographer’s interpretation of a given space, Environmental Photography seeks to explicate the role of biological and engineered inputs in shaping a landscape. Both Environmental Planning and Environmental Photography disciplines employ a holistic approach towards the investigation of landscapes. Through a shared focus on analyzing physical, social, and biological inputs, the two disciplines work to overcome the pull of the picturesque and reveal the landscape as a dynamic system.

This exhibition represents an ongoing collaboration between two North Dakota State University Assistant professors, who both work in the region. Dominic L. Fisher is an Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and a practicing landscape architect. His experience in large-scale land planning helps to engage community input and aid planners and engineers involved in public infrastructure projects. Meghan L.E. Kirkwood is an Assistant Professor Visual Arts. Her research focuses on the representation of landscape, in particular, how landscape images both reflect and reinforce values towards the natural environment.

All photographs were taken by Meghan L. E. Kirkwood and are archival pigment prints, 16 x 20 inches.

[1] Tom Daniels and Katherine Daniels. The environmental planning handbook: for sustainable communities and regions. American Planning Association, 2003.


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