“BIGGER DARBY” is a land-use proposal for the 218 square kilometer territory governed by Big Darby Accord in Central Ohio. The Big Darby Accord, adopted in the mid-2000s, unites public and private interests to improve watershed protection and provides a framework for future development. Developed by Sarah Cowles, Nick Glase of Unknown Studio, the participants of the fourth-year landscape architecture studio at the Knowlton School, “Bigger Darby” is an alternative, landscape-based approach to contemporary watershed planning that enhances the vernacular landscapes of the Big Darby region, improves the health of the watershed, and provides new development opportunities.

Watershed planning addresses environmental issues such as flooding, habitat degradation, and water quality. Until recently, the adoption of watershed planning has been hampered by the fact that watersheds span multiple jurisdictions with conflicting regulations. Despite these challenges, today, more regions and municipalities are adopting watershed planning models to shape development and environmental goals. The Big Darby Accord watershed master plan, in typical fashion, advocates for tiered conservation strategies, acquisition of sensitive areas, enhancement of ecological zones, and the implementation of Best Management Practices, or BMPs. Critical to the economic feasibility of the plan is the development of Big Darby Town Center, a 5,000 unit mixed-use urban-core that will generate required revenue to assist with habitat land acquisition. The Accord should be lauded for its progress; however, as a regional plan, it proposes only generalized solutions and may overlook opportunities to build within the region’s rich context of landscape, where elements such as hedgerows, fields, woodlots, and drainage systems have defined the texture, scale, and organization of the region.

Bigger Darby investigates complementary solutions for the Accord by more deeply examining the context of the site’s rich land-use patterns. Beginning with the simple act of creating ‘bigger’ edges between existing land uses, “Bigger Darby” speculates how small scale practices, such as rebuilding a ditch or country road, might lead to a broader spectrum of improvements such as improved water quality, habitat for wildlife, more productive farms, welcoming landscapes, a stronger sense of place, and a more cohesive regional identity.

Link to article about Big Darby Accord Watershed Planning

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