Borderfield, evolving landscape transformation


Borderfield project aims to convert the Jordan Riverbed from a dangerous landmine zone into an evolving landscape. The proposal begins with demining process, continues with reshaping the landform through water filtration, and evolves as it facilitates ecological and cultural regeneration. 

The enlarged ecosystem can further invite a trans-boundary approach to address the issues of pollution and water diversion that have been threatening the valley.

Water Urbanism Studio, Columbia University GSAPP | Spring, 2017

Professors: Kate Orff, Laura Kurgan, Nora Akawi, Mohamad Ziad Jamaleddine, Petra Kempf

Collaborative Work: Huai-kuan Chung, Bridgett Ivanova Cruz, Jiahong Lu, Shuman Wu



The border between Jordan, on the east and Israel and Palestine’s West Bank, on the west, is defined by the Jordan River - a border that is demarcated as a militarized zone. To prevent border crossings, landmines have been arranged in large bands on either side with military posts positioned strategically. This enforces the borderline and allows only those with a permit to access the river. The threat of the landmines has deterred investments in the valley inhibiting economic growth and harming local communities.


The superimposition of political boundaries has diverted freshwater resources from the larger ecosystem of the Jordan River Valley and divided it among different competing states. All of these entities extract natural resources but are not held accountable for the consequences of these actions. This has resulted in the river becoming a thin stream of pollution, thus turning the lush valley into a deteriorating fragmented ecosystem.



 Both sides of the Jordan River are diverting fresh water away through national carrier and canals, leaving little water in the riverbed.

 Although there are natural wadis and streams supplying water, they carry waste and garbage as they flow through urban areas and farmland, causing pollution problems in the Jordan River.

 But the ongoing projects are based on collaboration, whereas the hardest part to realize a proposal in this region is to get people from both sides to collaborate.

 In our project, to address the current failing system, a widening of the border through the reshaping of the riverbed is proposed. In this way, the Jordan River itself, and the border that traces it can be transformed from a divisive tool to a shared, productive resource benefiting all sides. By demining the border we can facilitate ecological and cultural regeneration. 

 To do this, we propose our agenda with 2 necessary phases:


National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation will remove the remaining 20% of landmines that were leftover from the original demining initiative from 1993 to 2008. The landmines remain in the valley because their exact location was not known. Lack of knowledge about original placement, and repositioning due to flooding, erosion, and growth of vegetation has made their location hard to predict.

In unfarmed pockets where landmines are suspected, a swarm of drones will plant Thale-Cress seeds, spray fertilizer, and water growing plants. The engineered plant reacts to the nitrogen dioxide emitted from unexploded landmines causing a change in color from green to red signifying the location of landmines. Over the course of three to five weeks, the drones will be used to monitor color changes and help the Jordanian Army plan safe demining paths. The landmines will be detonated and with their explosive elimination, a new cratered landscape will emerge.


Using the water flow analysis, grey water from the local town will be channeled to the river pockets for purification.This influx of water will help to reshape the riverbed by naturally connecting craters to the river. The greywater path will be planted with several water filtration species that will help to densify the fragmented biotic components of the riverbed ecology. The purified water will be used to irrigate the agricultural lands that run adjacent to the river, eliminating the need to truck water from far distances.

Borderfield, visualization of waterflow and landform change
Borderfield, rendering of lanform changes

With a nationwide approach towards a decentralized water infrastructure system [ie: local waste water recycling, rainwater capture, and fog harvesting] less water will be diverted from the Jordan River Basin allowing for the increase of water to flow in the river and to the Dead Sea.
The increase of water will help dilute existing pollutants and help the river to naturally re-meander in the cratered pockets which are outfitted to help further purify water.

As the process of demining is happening, the Jordan Valley Authority will monitor the quality of the abiotic components of the Jordan River Valley. Jordan Universities will work with local farmers to establish experimental agricultural greenhouse laboratories within the newly created ecology that researches water-reduction techniques in crops types, farming, and irrigation. The new techniques will be shared with the local farmers. Implementation will result in the lower dependency of water, increase of profitability and significant reduction of pollution in the river creating a more holistic and sustainable farming culture.

Within the net of the river, natural meanders, and water craters, the rehabilitation of fragmented ecosystem will be forefronted as essential in the support of the new water purification ecology. The densification of native plants and the fortification of bird habitats will ensure birds assist in the rehabilitation by spreading seeds.This will strengthen the threatened ecology of the Jordan River Valley. Eco Park, a not-for-profit organization will work with local environmental activists to monitor the biotic components of the Jordan River Valley.

By appropriating the landmine we invert the tool that was used to crystallize the border into a tool to expand it, giving it an instinctive and unpredictable width, thus creating a new lens from which to understand the existing condition.