A Conditional Preservation for Ephemeral Sites | Ursula Emery McClure

A Conditional Preservation for Ephemeral Sites | Ursula Emery McClure


The ephemerality of the built environment exists through a multitude of lenses and questions the presumed need for traditional trajectories of preservation and longevity. Established processes tend to focus on ephemerality in terms of growth and decay, responsiveness and interaction, or as visual or phenomenological qualities. The concept of ephemerality is directly confronted in the duality of two media decaying or evolving at varied rates within the environment and is particularly evident along the Louisiana Gulf Coast as land loss, settlement, and culture overlap in a continuous tête-à-tête between biotic processes and the built environment. New methodologies of representation, analysis, and preservation must be developed to address issues of ephemerality within sites of cultural heritage and/or ecological significance. This need is hastened as global climate change identifies coastal edges dramatically altering in the present and near future.

To investigate these methodologies, we selected a test site, Fort Proctor, a National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) site at extreme environmental risk. Fort Proctor is one of several forts built along Lake Borgne in Southeastern Louisiana following the War of 1812. The fort was designed and construction commenced in 1856, but was soon halted in 1859, due to a hurricane and events associated with the beginning of the American Civil War. Since then, Fort Proctor has remained an ephemeral landscape of dramatic change as a static marker or datum, recording major ecological changes within the dynamic coastal environment.


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