Danica Liongson


Soil as Commons, Soil as Resource

Advised by Montserrat Bonhevi Rosich and Alex Wall

Soil is the medium in which landscape architects work. Healthy soil is replete with organic matter, microorganisms, minerals, and nutrients. These components ingrain soil with the ability to grow plants and food, filter water, process elements, store carbon, and more. Without living soil, we do not have the means to support ecological and urban systems. Yet, according to the UN, human pressures on soil are approaching dire limits, with 24 billion tons of fertile land lost each year. Climate change will further accelerate ongoing land degradation processes. How can we reframe soil as an asset that necessitates an economy of effort and a philosophy of care? This thesis will claim soil as a resource through a commons that demonstrates soil protection, management, and regeneration. The commons has an enduring legacy, but its application to urbanism, landscape architecture, and soil management is still nascent. This investigation will situate itself within this developing field of study and explore the imaginaries of living soil. While the work of soil scientists is limited to appraisal, landscape architects are uniquely poised for stewardship with the tools to build awareness, ecological integrity, and cultural practices. As such, principles for a framework will draw on both literature review of the commons as well as the case study method for landscape architecture. Ultimately, the final result will be a field guide that underscores the importance of a land ethic and the collective social responsibility landscape architects have to the edaphic realm.

Danica Liongson, MDes. Soil profile comparing a depleted soil with a complex, living soil.
Danica Liongson, MDes. Collage compiling different associations with soil.
Danica Liongson, MDes. Collage showing two people digging into the ground.
Danica Liongson, MDes. Collage showing people sitting in a circle with agricultural fields in the background.
Danica Liongson, MDes. Collage showing components of the environmental commons: air, forests, and water.