REINTERPRETING THE POLLOCK’S BRANCH WATERSHED

Reinterpreting the Pollock’s Branch Watershed is an interdisciplinary mapping project undertaken by the University of Virginia’s Center for Cultural Landscapes and led by faculty in the School of Architecture and the Department of Drama. Funded in part by a UVA Faculty Research Grant for the Arts, this project will engage residents within the Pollock’s Branch watershed as creative agents in the collective process 1) to identify and celebrate the unique features and places valued by the community, 2) to reimagine the area’s future use and character as the City continues to plan for change over time, and 3) to create a place-based experience of the watershed to share with the larger Charlottesville community. Through embodied forms of analysis—including movement and sensorial experiences—the project will investigate the complexities of the landscape as it is lived and felt in order to amplify future analysis and urban design initiatives undertaken by the City of Charlottesville for the Strategic Investment Area.

Reinterpreting the Pollock’s Branch Watershed will build on the legacy of Lawrence and Anna Halprin’s innovative public engagement process developed during the 1960s and 1970s and employed in support of their master planning and design work undertaken in downtown Charlottesville. This project will deploy the hybrid techniques and theories of dance, photography, and landscape architecture in support of a series of community-based movement workshops. These workshops will offer alternative ways to “see” the Pollock’s Branch watershed in order to create a crowd-sourced cultural landscape atlas. While grounded in the participatory approach of the Halprins, the project incorporates the most current methods of community mapping and mindfulness practice to create an embodied sense of the visible and less known places and boundaries of the watershed.

Reinterpreting the Pollock’s Branch Watershed joins other public and private initiatives currently underway in the area to engage residents on the practical outcomes of the future Pollock’s Branch Greenway and the larger Strategic Investment Area. It provides an opportunity for community members to identify and communicate the neighborhood assets they value the most and for the broader Charlottesville community to better understand the area’s rich places and stories.

The project process will be to:

  • Collect available information on the area’s history and existing conditions.
  • Facilitate place-based movement workshops throughout the Pollock’s Branch watershed that enliven conversation and reflection.
  • Gather new information about the area through various forms of participant feedback.
  • Utilize the collected feedback to generate a dynamic cultural landscape atlas that will include the area’s history, community input, and the project team’s analysis of collected information.

The outcomes are to:

  • Catalyze new forms of social, cultural, and political agency at individual and collective scales.
  • Encourage ecological imagination through kinesthetic and reflective involvement with public space.
  • Facilitate the re-imagination of the watershed through place-based and embodied experiences.
  • Communicate the area’s value to the City government.

The project team will also investigate the future potential to create a community-voiced audio tour of the Pollock’s Branch watershed. This future phase of the project would likely involve the dissemination of the audio tour to elicit and document further reflections of the project area.