An early, artistic rendering from the Cornell-led Upstate Archipelago team aims to create public landscapes along the Erie Canal that can improve flood resiliency, offer public recreation and improve wildlife habitat.

Two Cornell-related teams chosen as ‘Reimagine the Canals’ finalists

Two Cornell-related groups are among seven finalists in the Reimagine the Canals competition, a $2.5 million contest – run by the New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation – that aspires to return the 200-year-old, 524-mile Erie Canal into an economic catalyst and tourism hotspot.

The Cornell-led group, Upstate Archipelago, hopes to create designs for public landscapes along the canal that can improve flood resiliency, offer public recreation and wildlife habitat.

“I led a design studio on the Erie Canal three years ago with Cornell landscape architecture students under the topic ‘infrastructure as landscape’ and it became clear to us the canal’s hybrid condition: a striking heritage piece with an immense environmental potential,” said Maria Goula, associate professor of landscape architecture, who leads Upstate Archipelago, with Jamie Vannuchi, assistant professor of landscape architecture.

“Our work will be focusing on the canal as a device for structure and connectivity in all senses for the region, revealing the full potential of a cultural landscape through new visualizations of data and local partnerships,” said Goula.

The seven finalists were drawn from 145 entries. Each of the remaining teams will receive $50,000 to develop their entries for the next stage. The contest’s next deadline is July 9 for final presentations; the winners – who will get between $200,000 and $1.5 million to implement their visions – will be announced in the fall.

“This competition to bring new life into the historic canal system is occurring in the same year as the system’s centennial, and it’s clear from the creativity in these entries that the future for the next century is very bright,” New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said when the finalists were announced. “With the contributions from these finalists, our canals will continue to serve a transformative role in helping the upstate economy thrive.”

With Goula and Vanucchi, the Upstate Archipelago group includes assistant professor Brian Davis, Veronica Chan, MLA ’18; Thackston Crandall, MLA ’18 and Pilar Llop, architect and landscape architect, Spain; Sandi Bastedo, Cornell Cooperative Extension’s (CCE) Neighborhood Health Improvement program coordinator, Wayne County; Ricard Pié, emeritus professor of planning from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, and expert in responsible tourism; and Frank Talsma, senior associate, H+N+S, a leading landscape architecture firm in the Netherlands.

Also among the finalists is the Western New York Irrigation team, which hopes to build upon the canal's infrastructure to expand irrigation. The team is led by Stephen Shaw of the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and it includes Darcy Telenko of CCE’s Vegetable Program and Craig Kahlke of CCE’s Lake Ontario Fruit Team.

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Lindsey Knewstub