Lena Reiff

Inverted Ecosystem
Poster depicting the turn over of our Great Lakes ecosystems after the introduction of Asian Carp.

As you look upon any cityscape you see a concrete jungle designed, landscaped, and constructed for the viewer’s best experience. What isn’t as apparent however,  is what is currently happening in the ecosystem around this built environment. As architects we tend to skew our thoughts more towards the design of the space than the actual ecosystem. Edges are shown off, nodes polished and marked, and landmarks made distinct. Land is parceled off and priced according to its proximity to many city attributes. One of the most notable attributes in our world: water. But is there a point in designing world changing architecture on lakefront property if our lakefronts are on the verge of collapsing due to an ever increasing but very unfamiliar fish species?

Chicago is a city immersed in water. From Lake Michigan on the east to the Chicago River that runs through the city, many aspects of city life revolve around what appears to be flat seemingly endless bodies of water. Architecture is built for the human scale viewer, but most rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans are more enticing from the inverted human view; better known as the underwater view. It is here when an endless underwater freeway of fish, crustaceans, and other sub-aquatic species exists. It is also here where a very inconspicuous species that has the power to take down Chicago’s waterways as well as the entire Midwest’s Great Lakes ecosystems lies.

Asian Carp Scaled Model
Scaled model of the installation.

This installation depicts the rise of the Asian Carp species from the year 2000 to what the public now has as current records, as well as their effects on the ecosystem as whole combining both sets of data and putting them on a larger above water human scale. This allows for the viewer to see the unseen of what is happening inside our Midwest water ways. The Asian Carp was introduced into the U.S. in the 1970’s in order for farmers to help decrease algae populations on their waters. Flooding helped cause their release into public streams and waterways. They are best known as the “flying fish” due to their increased jumping motions that occur when motors from boats stir up the water.

LR_model Image

Research with the Illinois Natural Resource Department has provided the data on the numbers of increasing Asian carp in our waters that are headed toward our precious Great Lakes. This data is represented as a concrete three dimensional graph showing that the advancement and increase of Asian carp cannot be changed, it is monolithic and has already occurred in our nation. The second set of data represents research done by Andrew F. Casper on the effects of the Asian carp on their ecosystem specifically on the length to weight ration of fish with who’s waters the Asian carp have invaded. Since the Asian carp currently has no native predator they are slowly changing the way the food chain works in the waters they come into. As noted in the model the fish that live among the Asian carp have experienced large health decreases. This length to weight ration is shown in the glowing three dimensional graph that intersects the concrete to call viewers attention to this matter.

We as individuals and architects have the choice to be conscious of our surroundings and the habitats around our designs. WE need to be aware of the issues that rare happening beneath our most precious landscaped attribute and work to keep the lake and river fronts of our waterways free of the Asian Carp.




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