Eco Arts

The Program

Projects that examine the evolving ecosystem at the Carrie Furnaces fall under the heading Eco Arts. These activities meaningfully advance the interpretation of the site’s historical significance and demonstrate the contemporary relevance of the Carrie Furnaces as a place of transformation. Current projects in this field include the Iron Garden Walk and Rick Darke’s Addition by Reduction.

The Iron Garden

Tours and Info

Iron Garden tours focus on the diverse, successional plant communities of the site and how human history shapes our urban environments. They are led by Dr. Anna Johnson, ecological researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, in conjunction with Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area staff.


Upcoming Events

Notable Links

Addition by Reduction Project at Carrie Furnaces

Project Description

rickdarke-garden-1The Addition by Reduction project makes artful, creative use of selective removal (“editing”) techniques to re-shape the spontaneous vegetation of the Carrie Furnaces landscape. This ongoing process will result in a more coherent spatial organization of the site and ultimately enhance the site’s beauty and usefulness to various public programs that interpret the historic, cultural, and environmental elements for the visiting public. The name of the project (addition by reduction) refers to making more with less. The word “reduction” has double meaning, referring to both the reduction of superfluous vegetation and to the reduction process employed in blast furnaces, which eliminates impurities from metallic ores and reduces them to molten iron. In both cases, additional value and utility results from a reduction process.

rickdarke-garden-3The vegetation now covering much of the Carrie Furnaces site has regenerated spontaneously from seed carried by wind, water and animals. It consists of a mix of native (locally indigenous) and non-native (alien) plant species. None of this vegetation has required human resources or introduced natural resources for its establishment: it thrives without planting, soil enhancement, irrigation, herbicides or pesticides. The vegetation is varied and its patterns typically reflect the past uses and current characteristics of the site, which encompasses a range of wet, dry, sunny and shady conditions. The localized occurrence of plant species also reflects the varied chemistry of the site, which ranges from acidic to basic, the latter especially present where lime leaches from mortar or concrete employed in the historic structures. Both the native and non-native vegetation contributes ecosystem services in the form of carbon sequestration, cooling, aid to hydrologic recharge, remediation of soil toxins, and shelter and sustenance for local wildlife.

The quantity of vegetation, both native and non-native, is such that in many instances it must be removed or controlled to reduce or eliminate threat to the structural integrity of the historic architecture. In many other instances, the vegetation presents opportunities to create beautiful, useful pathways and “green rooms” by selective removal. The choreography of these paths and rooms enhances visitor experience and supports a wide variety of history and arts program functions. The selective removal process begins with inventory of vegetative growth followed by assessment of its value and potential utility in respect to the overall site plan and progamming. It continues with the removal of vegetation deemed superfluous and with periodic mowing and trimming necessary to maintain the paths, vistas, rooms, and other landscape elements created by the editing process. The resulting landscape supports a variety of visitor activities and programs and serves as a model of conservation-based sustainable best management practices for post-industrial parkscapes.

Rick Darke Bio

Rick Darke

Rick Darke is President of RICK DARKE LLC a Pennsylvania-based consulting firm focused on landscape ethics, photography, and contextual design. Darke’s work is grounded in an observational ethic which blends art, ecology, and cultural geography in the design and stewardship of livable landscapes. Projects include parks, transportation corridors, corporate and collegiate campuses, conservation developments and botanic gardens. 

After initial forays into mechanical engineering, art, cultural geography and anthropology, Darke graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Plant Science from the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware in 1977. He subsequently completed graduate coursework in plant taxonomy, botanic garden management, and public policy. Awards and honors include the American Horticultural Society’s Scientific Award (1998), an honorary degree from the Conway School of Landscape Design (2009), the University of Delaware’s Distinguished Alumni Award (2011) and the Rutgers University Gardens Distinguished Achievement in Horticulture Award (2012).

Accidental Landscape PDF

Accidental Landscape PDF

Darke is an internationally acclaimed lecturer on sustainable design, planning, conservation, and the ethical underpinnings of these subjects. He has addressed audiences in North America, Canada, England, Ireland, Japan, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Chile. He is a regular co-instructor for the course Plants and Human Culture at the University of Delaware, which fulfills both scientific and multicultural credit requirements.

Darke’s research, writing and photography have been featured on National Public Radio, in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, RHS The Garden, Gardens Illustrated, and elsewhere. Darke is author and photographer of many books including The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest (Timber Press), In Harmony With Nature: Lessons from the Arts & Crafts Garden (Michael Friedman Publishing), The Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable Landscapes (Timber Press), which has been published in German and French language editions, and The Wild Garden: Expanded Edition (Timber Press). His writing and images have been featured in collaborative works including Fallingwater (Rizzoli) and On The High Line: Exploring America’s Most Original Urban Park (Thames & Hudson). Darke’s upcoming book, The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in Home Gardens is a collaboration with wildlife ecologist Doug Tallamy and will be published by Timber Press in June 2014. 

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