After more than at decade in Charlottesville, Virginia, Julie Bargmann is hanging her shingle in New York, in SoHo to be exact. The move from the bucolic to the urban is a sensible one for Bargmann. “A lot of our collaborators are here, and we wanted to be closer to the post-industrial landscapes that are the focus of our work,” she said on a recent visit to her sun-filled, live/work studio.
Bargmann, principal of D.I.R.T. Studio, was a pioneer in designing for post-industrial settings, including investigations of toxic soils and waterways, reuse of on-site materials, as well as cataloging cultural and social site histories. She also became interested in infrastructure and interrelated urban systems more than a decade ago, a focus that has now become commonplace in both the landscape and architecture fields. Bargmann notes the widespread interest in water management stemming from sources ranging from museums (like MoMA’s Rising Currents exhibition) to city and federal agencies seeking to redress storm-water overflows. “We work on dirty water and dirty dirt,” she said. “People seem to intuitively understand the importance of clean water. Dirty dirt seems to be a bit harder for people to grasp.”
The three-person studio recently completed the third phase of the landscape for the Urban Outfitter campus in Philadelphia, the company which owns Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and the Free People clothing store. They’re also completing the landscape for the Brooklyn Navy Yard visitor’s center and museum, set to open later this fall.
In addition, the firm has been collaborating with Living Machines, a commercial on-site water treatment technology, to help tailor the technology to specific locations as well as make the process more legible to the public. “These systems are essentially site-less,” she said. “They’re basically industrial strength wetlands. We’re trying to make them more integrated into the landscape so people are more aware of their processes.”
Bargmann is fascinated with the urban wilderness developing in depopulating industrial cities. “I think our profession can take a real leadership role in this area,” she said. “It’s city building in reverse.”