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Using Phytotechnology to Redesign Abandoned Gas Stations

Hazardous pollutants that exist in contaminated soils represent a threat to human, animal, and environmental health if left unmanaged. Phytoremediation in the U.S. was generally named and formally established in the 1980s and applied as an alternative method using plants to cleanse contaminated soils on site in a more economically and environmentally friendly way than removing contaminated soils off site. High expectations and mixed performances with failures outnumbering successes led to a crash of phytoremediation with a decline in environmental research funding by the early 2000s. “Phyto”, a book by landscape architects Kennen and Kirkwood (2015) recently reintroduces the subject with a more approachable set of planning, engineering and design tools. One commonly occurring site with a history of perpetuating contaminated land is the abandoned gas station. Abandoned gas stations are highly visible in the landscape and if soils are contaminated then remediation costs can hinder redevelopment. The focus of this project is the redesign of abandoned gas stations through phytotechnologies by applying and expanding Kennen and Kirkwood’s (2015) framework. Phytotechnology as a means for remediating small sites polluted with organic chemicals is a step in promoting this technology and proving its worth for other, larger and more complicated brownfield. While this study explores one possibility of redesigning an abandoned gas station on a highway corridor in Hadley, Massachusetts (USA) it is necessary to expand design possibilities on other abandoned gas stations with different contexts and conditions. The results should also be extended to gas stations in operation to apply phytotechnologies as a preventive method. This design study is relevant for the profession of landscape architecture because it merges design aesthetics with science-related technologies. There are still aspects that have been overlooked or need more exploration: process-oriented strategies especially public participation. Implementing and promoting this type of remediation will require community support and involvement, of which can be directed and associated with an experiential transformation of such abandoned and contaminated sites. These findings may be accompanied within a regional process of identifying and networking potential sites while considering them within an established city greenspace or greenway plan.