Succession Trench


Connor Budd

LARC 502

SUCCESSION TRENCH is a response to signs of drastic, climate change-related ecological upheaval in the park, including western red cedar dieback, hemlock looper and bigleaf maple decline. It is an incision into a hillside of ailing Coastal Western Hemlock forest, just off Stanley Park's seawall near Prospect Point. This space is intended to allow visitors to confront and contemplate ecological grief up close, in a space that both encloses and provides hope. It serves as a pre-funeral for the fading CWH forest, while also offering encouragement; these forests, with their deaths, will become the foundations for future ones. Plantings offer a speculative glimpse of what those new compositions might be, suggesting that, with some help, forests in Vancouver can transition into new forms and continue. Travel through the site is one-directional, providing physical, as well as ecosystemic progression, with this speculative transition demonstrated on an expedited scale. The trench is entered in current CWH forest, in a state of dubious health, but snags and deadfall gradually become more abundant. At the apex of the trench, components of potential forest compositions under future climatic conditions begin to spill into view. The structure of the trench is a physical manifestation of grief, as well as succession and transformation. Bigleaf maple, western hemlock and western red cedar logs salvaged from hazard removals in the park line each side of the trench. They initially tip outwards, gradually folding in as one reaches the apex. These posts literally support the structure, but also ecologically and metaphorically support the suggested transition. These formerly live, above ground trees have descended into this subterranean space of reincarnation. Succession Trench is not intended to be long lived. Instead, it breaks down, before almost entirely disappearing into the earth after ~25 years, reflecting the processes embodied in the design. Though it is "destroyed", the site experience somewhat continues as novel plantings mature and further establish themselves. Ideally, the change in the mindset of a visitor reflects the decay-reincarnation transition suggested by the trench; the decomposition of one outlook, and the growth of another. Where the experience becomes most enclosed, looming and dark (the peak of overwhelming ecological grief), a second illuminating trench casts light on the apex of transition within the main trench. Beyond, new plant communities spill into sight from over the walls, a reassuring suggestion of a possible future. Framed within the exit is a sulphur plant across Burrard Inlet, prompting reflection on the systems that made this transition necessary, and also what systems must come next.