August 9, 2023 Research Team Assists in Resilience Design in California Community

A team of researchers from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s College of Architecture and Design and Bard College collaborated with a California town to revitalize their community and better prepare for future fires.

UT’s Chad Manley, a fellow and lecturer of landscape architecture, and Jeremy Magner, assistant professor of architecture, worked with Thena Tak, assistant professor of architecture at Bard College, on a community planning and fire management project throughout the summer in Junction City and Trinity County. The research team met with community members, representatives and stakeholders to learn about the town’s need to renovate buildings and its community park after the impacts of a lightning-caused wildfire in 2021. Later named the Monument fire, the wildfire forced the town to evacuate and burned an estimated 223,124 acres across California.

Manley traveled to the city earlier in the spring with a group of graduate landscape architecture students as a part of their design studio. Students visited three study sites, including Trinity County, to learn about the devastation and ecological renewal that fire leaves behind. Once back on campus, students used design tools to learn about reintegrating fire safely into practice.

“With students, we had a chance to meet so many strong people and unique institutions who were creatively organizing to face the challenges of historical injustice, economic collapse, and ecological recovery following massive wildfires. As the summer began, we were met with an invitation to return to Junction City and Weaverville, and headed back there to continue these conversations,” said Manley. “As designers, we asked ourselves how can our skills compliment all of the on-going efforts made by members of these communities?”

Upon arriving in the town, the research team began visiting different events, talking with people and trying to understand the landscape. They learned about grant-funded initiatives, such as the Trinity River restoration project, took part in prescribed burns, and visited nurseries propagating native plants. Throughout this process, the team began developing drawings for what Manley refers to as “nested refugia”, encompassing the town’s park, swimming hole and grange hall.

In late July, they presented a series of concept drawings for the three sites in a series of town halls. The designs offer the town an increased infrastructure for refuge and social events but centered around making the areas safer from a fire perspective.

The researchers will continue working with the community to secure grants and work with local California architects and landscape architects on the design and building of the sites.

“I think we have a role as designers to work with fire in its many forms, and to work with prescribed fire in a way that benefits communities and offers health, refuge, and ecological recovery.” said Manley. “These communities are not giving up, and we shouldn’t either.”