Adaptation strategy and design for a changing Captiva.

Adaptation strategy and design for changing Captiva.

Adaptation strategy and design for a changing Captiva.


Practice Landscape worked in collaboration with WXY Architects and EDD hydrologists to refine the long-term adaptation strategy for the Robert Rauschenberg estate and residence on Captiva Island, Florida. Captiva is a barrier island that has been slowly concretized and leveled through settlement, which raises important questions of how mobile, itinerant landscapes can provoke a dialogue between fixed development and augmented risk. The challenge is found in differing responses to climate transformation.

Working with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, the rse team provided a cohesive island-wide analysis that elucidates the temporal aspects of the barrier condition, including the progressive layers of human settlement which will help to contextualize our current role as agents of environmental change. The final landscape strategy is a living document that is defined by the site boundaries but takes the broader influences into account. Thus, the landscape strategy replaces the fixity of a masterplan by providing scenarios that vary over time and prioritize the particular dynamics caught between the cultural and ecological landscape.

Plant Inventory

The Jungle

Covering 4.5 acres west of Captiva Drive, the Jungle, named by Rauschenberg, is defined by its lack of buildings, concentration of plant life, and "the walk", a 900-foot meander defined by decades of travel back and forth across the site. Years of deferred maintenance has led to an abundance of aggressive species, an overcrowded canopy, and an open perimeter. The design restored the lush tropical density once associated with the Jungle while increasing diversity within and across biomes. 

High to Low Walk
Perimeter Protocols
FEB 2020_RE RRF – 184

Australian pines have become an indelible part of the Sanibel and Captiva landscape and Bob loved to look out at the Gulf from his chair on the cool, breazy dune beneath the pines.

The Environmental Reference Handbook for Sanibel, A Barrier Island Sanctuary states "The Australian pine (Casuarina sp.) is designated as a non-native invasive species by the State of Florida and may not be planted anywhere in the state." It continues, "Shallow-rooted Australian pines seed themselves readily on disturbed land and beaches, creating a monoculture that significantly limits and stunts the growth of healthy native vegetation."

Setting aside the pines closer to the dune and beach, it is clear that those pines within the central and eastern Jungle have had a detrimental effect on the surrounding vegetation. The lack of plant diversity leaves the soil vulnerable to further compaction, erosion, and intensified flooding.

Jungle_009 20210209
Flatwood Planting

Once removed, Austalian pine branches can be used to form living walls, line paths, and stake materials. Small debris and large trunks become excellent mulch and stumps can be left to host a number of plants and insects. 

04_Looking north

The Meadow

The Meadow refers to an area of mowed grass that is bordered by a compacted roadway loop. Sitting alongside the Mangroves on the Bay side of the site, this field is consistently wet and salinated due to the regularity of standing water and a growing salt wedge caused by a boat channel cut by the resort to the north.

The planting design address the perennial challenges of standing water and compaction by removing sections of the existing sod or grass layer, which currently acts as a barrier to water penetration and percolation, and replacing these with a selection of adaptable grasses, wildflowers, and sedges.

The design anticipates the migration of wetlands and mangroves and aims to increase plant and animal diversity. A plant-based solution transforms low diversity to high diversity, as roots alleviate compaction and young plants adapt to standing water.

Photo Jan 08, 3 21 45 PM
Photo Jan 08, 3 24 30 PM
Meadow Management

INTENSIVE MANAGEMENT                                                                                 MODERATE MANAGEMENT                                                                             LIMITED MANAGEMENT