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U.S. Federal Office Building, Two Stars, U.S. GSA with Atkins Global, Miramar, Florida / SITES

The Sustainable Sites Initiative™ (SITES™) has certified a dozen sustainable landscapes across the country for meeting rigorous standards for environmental design and performance, bringing the total number of SITES-certified projects to nearly 46. These 12 landscapes include a historic Maryland house, a pocket park in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, and a public children’s garden in Austin, Texas.

“Americans can directly address major environmental challenges we face today – diminishing water supplies, climate change, pollution and loss of wildlife habitat – by how they design and manage landscapes where they live, work and play,” said Susan Rieff, executive director of The University of Texas at Austin’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. “The SITES program approach, now increasingly adopted by landscape architects, designers and others, provides a practical blueprint for creating healthy landscapes, and recognizes exemplary projects to inspire others.”

These 12 projects are the last to be certified using a 2009 pilot version of the SITES Rating System. They join 34 others that have achieved certification for voluntarily applying the SITES system to incorporate sustainability into their planning, design, construction and maintenance. Each project received a rating from one to four stars. SITES, which is a collaboration of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), The Wildflower Center, and the United States Botanic Garden, has now certified projects in 20 states.

The pilot program has informed the June 2014 release of the SITES v2 Rating System and Reference Guide. Negotiations are underway with the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) to provide project certification to the requirements of the SITES v2 Rating System and a related professional credentialing program.

The 12 most recently certified projects include:

Anacostia Watershed Society Headquarters, Three Stars, Anacostia Watershed Society, Bladensburg, Maryland. This landscape on .35 acres surrounds the historic George Washington House (circa 1752). The building now serves as headquarters for the Anacostia Watershed Society, which developed a public demonstration of practical, aesthetic ways to address the flow, collection, and management of stormwater runoff from the site. Year of adjacent road realignments that raised the grades of surrounding land had created poor drainage patterns throughout the site. With the help of volunteers, interns, staff, and local business donations, the society was able to install permeable paving, a rainwater cistern, brick and dry-stream channels, and rain gardens. The project demonstrates how sustainable stormwater management can be successfully incorporated within historic sites challenged with a limited budget and very restrictive site constraints.

Evans Parkway Neighborhood Park, Three Stars, OCULUS – Landscape Architecture, Silver Spring, Maryland. The expansion of this neighborhood park with the addition of a vacant lot provided the impetus for developing a more natural treatment of park surfaces and restoring a 300 linear foot section of a concrete-lined stream channel. This rehabilitated stream is a model for future naturalization efforts within Montgomery County. The renovated park also includes an informal play field and lawn areas, playground, a picnic area and shade structure, loop walking trails, a pedestrian bridge with riparian overlook area, contemplative seating areas, interactive public artwork, interpretive displays, connections to regional bikeway and public transit systems, natural meadow areas, and shady woodland areas.

Boeddeker Park, Two Stars, The Trust for Public Land, San Francisco, California. This one-acre park developed by The Trust for Public Land and San Francisco Recreation and Parks provides the largest open space in San Francisco’s poorest, most dense and diverse neighborhood. What had been an undesirable, unsafe area for 50,000 nearby residents has become an inviting space that is open daily. The pocket park includes a state-of-the-art clubhouse, walking path, adult fitness equipment, children’s play area, lawn and plazas for community gatherings and a garden. Sustainable systems were prioritized from the start and are integrated throughout the site. Project partners conducted extensive community outreach at nearby senior and youth centers and elsewhere, and worked closely with local community partners to ensure a safe park that provides programs and activities for all ages. Key design and programming decisions were made through these community forums. The result is a model of civic engagement, inspiration, resource conservation, and adaptability.

Hempstead Plains Interpretive Center, Two Stars, RGR Landscape Architecture & Architecture PLLC, Garden City, New York. This is the only naturally occurring prairie east of the Allegheny Mountains. The design and development of HPIC – a low-impact building and site – in a heavily developed suburban area, secures the integrity of the parcel as a natural preserve and historic landmark. In addition, the Plains are located on the Nassau Community College campus and near several universities, providing classes with a learning lab about native prairie habitats and sustainable techniques and an experience for general visitors interested in experiencing prairie life. An entrance through native plantings leads to the new visitor’s center topped with a green roof; open and closed classrooms are provided. Handicapped-accessible and stabilized-soil trails lead to the natural paths in the native prairie. A cistern helps reduce the need for potable water. Solar energy provides power and the building is completely “off the grid.”

Luci and Ian Family Garden at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Two Stars, W. G. Smith Design, Austin, Texas. This garden showcases Texas native plants and landscapes while offering a unique, beautiful space for children and families to appreciate nature through exploration and to learn about plants, wildlife and water, and sustainable landscape design elements. The 4.5-acre space features more than 180 native Texas plant species and interactive features such as a nectar garden, a wildlife blind and pond, a “stumpery” made for tree climbing, and an area for building structures from natural materials. Sustainable practices are part of the fabric of the garden, and include plants that were salvaged pre-construction and replanted, and a rainwater harvesting system and rain gardens to demonstrate water conservation. Locally-sourced pecan shells and crushed recycled glass are among the mulches. Stone harvested on site is used in features such as two caves, and non-potable water feeds a waterfall flowing into a recirculating creek with fish and tadpoles.

U.S. Federal Office Building, Two Stars, U.S. GSA with Atkins Global, Miramar, Florida. This new building houses a key federal agency on a secure campus that includes a parking garage with a green wall and solar panels, pond and other sustainable features on a site that minimizes impacts and harmonizes the landscape with the nearby Florida Everglades. The site design incorporates wetlands throughout the project and in interior and exterior courtyards. These wetlands are visible from within the building. A jogging path occurs around the reconstructed wetlands and there are locations for gathering and relaxation. Structures are made of locally sourced materials with high-recycled content and FSC-certified wood. Native and adaptive plant species occur site wide, creating a sustainable native plant community on aesthetically appealing grounds. The grounds also provide water-quality treatment for the project area.

Environmental Laboratory for Sustainability and Ecological Education, One Star, Alrie Middlebrook, San Jose, California. This former concrete parking lot in downtown San Jose has become a shared garden space used for educational purposes. The tenants include a sustainable landscaping company, The California Native Garden Foundation and its nursery, and an on-site aquaponics farm. The Environmental Laboratory is used to teach schools how to build a sustainable garden education program and showcases a healthy land-use model. The site demonstrates urban food technologies such as vertical food towers, pallet gardens, composting, and gardening with perennial food plants. Drought-tolerant native plants reduce water use and provide wildlife habitat, restore soils and more. Drip irrigation is used for plantings, and water is reused through greywater systems. Many landscape components are made with recycled or reused material. The goal of ELSEE is to have this type of garden model adopted by 10,000 California schools by 2020.

HELIX Environmental Planning Inc. Headquarters, One Star, HELIX Environmental Planning Inc., La Mesa, California. Landscape conversion of the environmental planning firm’s headquarters entailed the conversion of the landscape to a more regionally appropriate one. The project reduced potable water use for irrigation through rainwater harvesting and the use of native plants, and created a more usable outdoor space for employees, which has increased social interaction and supported healthy activities. The project is unique because it used the expertise of HELIX’s own employees in designing and implementing water-conserving and low-maintenance landscapes.

New Orleans Festival and Recreation Complex, One Star, Torre Design Consortium, New Orleans, Louisiana. A 55-acre abandoned golf course in New Orleans City Park was re-purposed to provide a public space, in conjunction with a Community Development Block Grant. Community input led to opportunities for exercise and outdoor play, and gathering spaces for families, schools, and formal events. The project includes four multi-sport fields, a one-mile walking/biking path, a workout area with adult and child exercise equipment, a large constructed wetland area with meditation paths and a boardwalk, a playground, and a large “Reunion Pavilion” for seating, eating, and socializing. Many oak and cypress trees were retained for shade and enjoyment.

Perot Museum of Nature and Science, One Star, Talley Associates, Dallas, Texas. This 4.7-acre site on a former industrial brownfield is just north of downtown Dallas and west of the Arts District. An elevated freeway determines the site’s southern boundary and is among nearby constraints. The project dovetails with the museum’s primary mission of working to “Inspire minds through nature and science.” To achieve this, the site design was conceived as an abstraction of several native Texas landscape environments that are seamlessly integrated with the building’s architecture that covers much of the space. Starting at the southeast corner of the site, the podium structure of the building was planned to incorporate a vegetated roof system. The roof features plantings that depict different regions of Texas’ ecology: West Texas Caliche, Upland Prairie, Blackland Prairie and East Texas Forests/Wetlands.

Swaner EcoCenter, One Star, CRSA, Park City, Utah. The EcoCenter provides visitors a starting point to experience the 1,200-acre Swaner Preserve, both of which are overseen by Utah State University. The preserve and building serve as places for teaching environmental science. Visitors also hike, bird watch and pursue other nature activities on site. The EcoCenter building demonstrates sustainable features such as solar panels and a cistern for rainwater collection that eliminates potable water use for irrigation and for flushing toilets. Visitors can also learn about an innovative boardwalk that minimized disturbance to land around the piers. Rather than using metal helical piers that produce such damage, these are made from salvaged trestle wood preserved by sitting in the Great Salt Lake for decades. Other approaches included selecting sustainable materials for outdoor seating, bike racks, and pathway pavers.

Tuthill Corporate Headquarters Campus, One Star, Conservation Design Forum, Burr Ridge, Illinois.  The campus provides a workplace environment that honors the human psyche and improves the environment. The building was established on a minimal footprint and oriented to allow employees to easily access a pond/wetland and view it while indoors. Rainwater is collected and directed from the roof to the landscape. The entire site, except for the building footprint, pavement and small Buffalo grass turf edge, has been restored to hardy, native plant species obtained locally wherever possible. Locally sourced limestone was used in a terrace and patio that creates an authentic connection of the building to the local landscape. Invasive species have been removed, allowing the restoration of native grassland prairie and wetland fringe. The restored or recreated on-site landscaping and other elements virtually eliminate surface stormwater runoff and localized flooding.

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WATERFRONToronto / Quadrangle Architects, aLLDesign, Janet Rosenburg & Studio

New City Design Can Help Reclaim a Lost Way of Life – China Daily, 3/18/15
“When landscape architect Sean O’Malley finds himself on a site for the first time, he looks for what stands out, what defines the place. This could often mean a mountain, a river, a system of wetlands. Whatever it is that defines the landscape’s character. Case in point: the Shunde New City Plan, located at the Pearl River Delta, and hour-and-a-half ferry ride from Hong Kong and the second-largest bird migration delta and estuary in Southeast Asia”

Give Hong Kong’s New Towns Character, Says Architecture Academic The South China Morning Post, 3/23/15
“A landscape architecture academic has demanded new towns are given ‘character’ to avoid replicating developments from the 1970s. Assistant professor Vincci Mak Wing-sze, of the University of Hong Kong, unveiled alternative designs for the new towns after she asked her final year undergraduate students to come up with more creative ideas.”

5 Proposals Reimagine Toronto Ferry Terminal and Waterfront ParkArch Daily, 3/24/15
“Waterfront Toronto has unveiled five proposals for the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and Harbor Square Park design competition. The finalists were tasked with transforming Toronto’s waterfront by revitalizing the existing ferry terminal and park through an extensive gradually-implemented master plan”

How Good Old American Marketing Saved the National Parks – National Geographic, 3/24/15
“When President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill creating Yellowstone in 1872, he established the first national park anywhere in the world. But 40 years later, the parks that exemplified ‘America’s best idea’ were a mess.”

Landscape Architect Kate Orff Takes the Helm of Columbia’s Urban Design Program – Fast Co. Design, 3/31/15
“Landscape architect Kate Orff, ASLA, has been selected as the next director of Columbia University’s urban design program, within the school’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.”

Each year at the ASLA Annual Meeting, some of the world’s top landscape architects and designers explain themselves in front of an audience of hundreds. These designers give in-depth presentations, explaining the logic behind their designs and their latest projects. Now, ASLA has made these presentations available online for free. From the ASLA 2014 Annual Meeting in Denver, you can watch more than 6 hours of videos by:

Balmori Associates (see above)

This New York-based practice is recognized internationally for designing sustainable master plans, waterfront parks, public spaces, and gardens. The firm’s approach is rooted in the exploration of the boundaries between nature and structure through landscape. BAL / LAB, the incubator office, focuses on green roofs, floating islands, temporary landscapes, forms of representation, and zero-waste cities.

Watch Diana Balmori, FASLA, Javier Campana, Noemie Lafaurie-Debany, and Theodore Hoerr, ASLA, Balmori Associates; moderated by Mario Nievera, ASLA, Nievera Williams Design.

Biohabitats

Landscape architects hold more power than ever to foster biodiversity and resilience and tell a compelling story of the landscape and our place in it. By embracing scientific principles and allowing them to inform our work, Biohabitats aims to create robust, dynamic landscapes that go beyond improving quality of life.

Watch Keith Bowers, FASLA, Claudia Browne, Jennifer Dowdell, ASLA, and Chris Streb, Biohabitats; moderated by Susan Jacobson, FASLA, Morton Arboretum.

Confluence

Since their founding in 1998, Confluence has become one of the largest landscape architecture and planning firms in the Midwest. Principals gave an overview of the firm, its leadership approach, and their strategies behind design-service delivery and client-type diversification. They discuss “Midwest Nice” and the associated challenges.

Watch Brian Clark, ASLA, Lyle Pudwill, ASLA, and Jill Boetger, ASLA, Confluence; moderated by Patrick Coughey, FASLA, Wimmer Yamada and Caughey.

!melk

!melk is a dynamic, internationally-recognized landscape architecture and urban design firm specializing in the creation of highly experiential public spaces as well as large-scale urban interventions. Founder Jerry van Eyck, ASLA, addresses his firm’s growing reputation for a refined focus on context, identity, strong narrative, pragmatism, and detail.

Watch Jerry van Eyck, ASLA, Emily Bauer, Assoc. ASLA, and Ian Hampson, ASLA, !melk; moderated by Mia Lehrer, FASLA, Mia Lehrer + Associates.

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Pollinator Pathway One (Before and After Planting), 2011 / © Sarah Bergmann

EcoDistrict planning and design can accelerate local efforts to improve sustainability. EcoDistricts offer a framework through which communities can discuss, prioritize, and enact initiatives that address climate change — by providing clean energy, conserving wildlife habitat, and encouraging low-impact development — and also social equity. If more neighborhoods begin to adopt the EcoDistrict model — wherein a range of partner organizations work in concert — we could see stronger bottom-up pushes toward city-wide sustainability.

Since 2011, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, which is funded by the Bullitt Foundation and led by Capitol Hill Housing, has sought to improve the sustainability of the community and the equity of its constituents. This EcoDistrict is partnering with the Seattle 2030 District, a high-performance business district in downtown Seattle, that aims to reduce carbon emissions 50 percent by 2030. In 2015, Seattle’s City Council formally passed a resolution recognizing the EcoDistrict.

In the past few years, the EcoDistrict has made progress: Capitol Hill Housing and Seattle City Light started the first community solar project on an affordable housing building in Washington State. Participants in this program can “subscribe” to receive the benefits of solar via the systems built and maintained by Seattle City Light on the rooftop of the new Capitol Hill Housing, the Holiday Apartments, which houses 88 new apartments for low-income families, artist spaces, two theaters, various community organizations, and street-level retail spaces.

Also, innovative building projects are being encouraged to update the city’s outdated land-use code, using a process of design review. As an example, The Bullitt Center helped launch the city’s Living Building pilot program.

The EcoDistrict aims to address urban ecosystem fragmentation and the loss of tree canopy and open space. To do this, Capitol Hill Housing is partnering with interdisciplinary designer Sarah Bergmann to create the second certified Pollinator Pathway in the U.S. Each Pollinator Pathway connects two or more green spaces, following a set of scientific criteria, and is created through commission or partnership.

Bergmann’s first project, Pollinator Pathway One — a mile-long, 12-foot wide landscape first developed seven years ago — connects Seattle University’s campus with Nora’s Woods, a small forested area a mile away, through a series of connected gardens (see image above). The second project, Pollinator Pathway Two, will run through the heart of the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict and will connect two Olmsted-designed parks and Seattle University.

More knowledge sharing among EcoDistricts around the country will help lead to a more replicable model. Already, a few high-profile EcoDistricts are joining together: In 2014, the Portland, Oregon-based EcoDistrict organization launched a program called Target Cities, a two-year partnership with ten projects across eight North American cities.

This guest post is by Katy Scherrer, Student ASLA, master’s of landscape architecture candidate, University of Washington.

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Catherine Park, St. Petersburg, Russia / Asergeev

The International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) and the Association of Landscape Architects of Russia (ALAROS) has launched a design competition that seeks to identify “superior environmental designs” by landscape architecture students worldwide. The competition is open to individuals or teams of students in undergraduate and graduate programs.

According to the organizers, “students are invited to present their ideas for the application of innovative, sustainable solutions in contemporary landscape issues. The competition encourages students to explore both urban and rural green-blue infrastructure and suggest scenarios for the sustainable development of human habitats.” Students can select any site in the world, at any scale.

The top-three winners, which will be announced at the IFLA World Congress in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 10-12, will take home $7,000 in prizes. Winning boards will also be exhibited at the conference.

Submissions are due May 8. Entry fees range from $10 to $50, depending on the country of the educational institution. The fees are calculated based on purchasing power indexes to ensure students are charged an “equitable amount.”

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President Obama signs executive order, “Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade.” / Jacquelyn Martin/AP

On March 19, President Obama signed a new executive order titled “Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade,” which will guide federal agencies toward more sustainable government operations. From planning for resiliency in the face of natural disasters and climate change to implementing more stringent stormwater management practices, the order addresses many aspects of landscape architecture and community planning. Reaching the order’s targets will then require federal agencies to collaborate with thought leaders in both professions, as well as state and local governments, to seek out and implement industry best practices.

The prominence the new executive order places on the sustainable design and management of federal facilities means the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) — as the civilian government’s primary landlord — has not only the great responsibility, but also the great opportunity to increase its role as a government leader in sustainability.

GSA has previously proven its appetite for innovation in sustainable building technologies through programs such as The Green Proving Ground, which uses the size and variety of the agency’s real estate portfolio to test nascent technologies for large-scale commercial viability. That same size and variety will be valuable as GSA and other federal agencies tackle challenges, such as the following:

  • installing green infrastructure on federal properties to manage stormwater and wastewater;
  • reducing the use of water for irrigation and industrial purposes;
  • ensuring that a percentage of existing federal buildings and all planned federal buildings achieve energy net-zero and strive for water net-zero;
  • promoting sustainable commuting through locating federal facilities near public transit; and
  • incorporating climate change preparedness and resilience into planning for new facilities and renovations of existing facilities, and into facility management practices.

Read the full text of the executive order and GSA Acting Administrator Denise Turner Roth’s response to the order.

This guest post is by Karen Handsfield, AICP, LEED AP, an urban planner and policy analyst with the Urban Development Program for the U.S. General Service Administration’s Office of Chief Architect in Washington, D.C. and Christian Gabriel, ASLA, RLA, National Design Director for Landscape Architecture for the U.S. General Service Administration’s Office of Chief Architect in Washington, D.C.

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Wet Matter / Harvard Graduate School of Design

Wet Matter, Harvard Design Magazine’s latest issue, asks us to reconsider our oceans, which cover the vast majority of our planet. Edited by Pierre Bélanger, ASLA, associate professor of landscape architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, the issue brings together a range of fields and an array of lenses to “unlearn our binary, dichotomous relationship with the ocean,” as the magazine’s editor-in-chief Jennifer Sigler writes in the opening remarks. How?, she asks. With an eye to the oceanic, not defined as “not land” — but a matter to be investigated on its own terms. Below are brief summaries of some of the articles in this rich compendium:

In The Other 71 Percent, Bélanger stares what he considers “the glaring blind spot in the Western imagination” straight in the eye. He urges the reader to take the oceanic turn: recalibrating our attention away from the space race and back to the earth’s oceans to better understand how we are shaping and shaped by this “vast logistical landscape.” By recognizing the oceans, the other 71 percent of the planet, as a key dimension of climate change, Bélanger challenges “the dry, closed, terrestrial frameworks that shape today’s industrial, corporate, and economic patterns” to imagine an alternate and more fluid future.

CUNY professor Catherine Seagitt Nordenson reads the ocean by its flora. She begins her piece, The Bottom of the Bay, Or How to Know the Seaweeds, by claiming “to know the seaweeds is to know the ocean.” Protista, these “brackish-water dwellers,” display no roots, stems, or leaves, present an illuminating, telescopic view of an otherwise elusive, dark territory– the benthic zone. Collecting seaweed for study is a “local enterprise,” requiring “actual immersion into the waters of the littoral ocean.” From the literal bottom up, Nordenson’s article suggests that “benthic thinking rescales the oceanic, reinserting the body.”

In Destination Whatever: Touring the Cruise Industry of the Caribbean, Martin Delgado, Zuanna Koltowska, Félix Madrazo, and Sofia Saavedra with Supersudaca warn us that indulging our delusional expectations of a perfectly familiar yet still “exotic” vacation destination in the very bowels and on the decks of a cruise ship may lead to a “terrorism of tourism.” The cruise industry has transformed piers, “once perceived as extensions of land” into extensions of the ship, a new “fictional territory” that tethers the cruise ship to the port town by only a provisional string. As the “distance between travelers and islanders grows at an alarming rate,” they forewarn us of a grim future in which “floating fantasies” may become “economic albatrosses, en route to somewhere other than paradise.”

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Costa Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico, 2013 / Supersudaca: Martin Delgado, Zuzanna Koltowska, Félix Madrazo & Sofia Saavedra

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Day at sea on the Carnival Valor, 2007 / Supersudaca: Martin Delgado, Zuzanna Koltowska, Félix Madrazo & Sofia Saavedra

Architect Hilary Sample and engineer Bryon Stigge trace both ancient and new approaches for inhabiting coastal regions. Building Soft suggests that by capitalizing on the ebbs and flows rather than resisting environmental dynamics, “these ‘soft’ construction techniques are constantly operating and responding to alternating calendars of climatic and oceanic forces.” Jacking, leaking, weakening, slipping, and swapping make up the “collective lexicon of spatial interventions” emphasizing “slow systems, soft structures, and weak infrastructures.” This photo essay depicts stilts, flotation structures, permeable exteriors, relocation, flexible materials, and wet proofing to reform both architectural and cultural attitudes of “building strong.”

German sociologist Ulrich Beck, who just died in January, makes a compelling argument in How Climate Change Might Save the World: Metamorphosis. He turns the question of whether climate change has “the potential to alter the political order of the world” around by claiming that “climate has already altered our ‘being’ in the world–the way we think about the world and engage in politics.” Through seven theses, Beck explains why we should focus on “what is now emerging–future structures, norms, and new beginnings” rather than be tempted by “a supermarkets of apocalyptic scenarios,” falling back on an old “nation-state perspective” that separates the decision makers from those most affected. Beck urges us to break out of this imperialistic structure and to instead adopt a “cosmopolitan perspective,” which recognizes “the world city” as “becoming the main cosmopolitan actor” in addressing global issues.

University of Pennsylvania landscape architecture professor Anuradha Mathur, ASLA, and her design partner Dilip da Cunha call into question the line between land and sea. Through both historical references and a contemporary case study, Sundarbans: A Space of Imagination addresses the “chasm between the incommensurable natures of earth and ocean.” Tracing the term “ocean” back the ancients, Mathur and da Cunha discover Oceanus, “the watery element that escapes the disciplines of geometry.” A lyrical description of the source of all rivers and seas is replaced by a map, an arrangement of points and lines. Using the Sundarbans at the mouth of the Ganges as an example, with its “field-like condition being far too complex to mark and hold with points and lines of geometry,” the authors create a new design approach that considers “a temporal and material appreciation of ocean,” including all the “states and cycles of hydrology.”

In Interplay, Yale University architecture professor Keller Easterling, author of the ingenious book Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space, proposes a radically new approach to coastal planning. Calling on urban planners, landscape architects, and environmentalists to use site analysis as a way of rating properties for their more qualitative indicators, Easterling imagines an index to supplement the “bureaucratic layers of jargon” of banks, insurance companies, and real estate firms in which the “many of the physical, volumetric, and climatic attributes of a property are ironically called ‘intangibles.’” Recovering from hurricanes may necessitate a more innovative approach, “a parallel market of spatial variables could offer more tangible risks and rewards.”

Ballast Water follows “alien, invasive stowaways” into the hidden compartments of cargo ships. Author Rose George explains the practice of filling compartments around the hull of ships mostly empty of cargo as a necessary defense. To stay afloat, cargo ship’s bowels are filled like a Trojan horse, carrying along seawater, species, and bacteria (“7,000 alien invasive species are also imported every hour”), disrupting local habitat, and occasionally causing pathogenic effects or infectious disease. Adequate testing standards and ballast water management systems lag behind the “mobility and fluidity” of the sea’s organisms.

For University of Florida architecture professor Charlie Hailey, “‘Inland’ is a multivalent term.” In Camps, Corridors, and Clouds: Inland Ways to the Ocean, he addresses how Internet access can pave a “way to the ocean” for Somali refugees at Dadaab, an “archipelago of five camps, constituting the world’s largest refugee settlement.” For a place defined by as “geographically landlocked, politically adrift, and economically blockaded,” a new network cloud and telecommunications corridor enables new digital interactivity, “allowing it to become not just a surrogate state but an inland camp with its own inherent possibilities for livelihood.”

Rebecca Gomperts, founder of Women on Waves and Women on Web, shows how to use international waters and the Internet to provide safe abortions to women around the world in Bodies, Boats, and Borders. “The idea of the ship was the basis of the organization.” Furthermore, “the ocean is a space of solidarity,” enabling the organization to exploit international law in their efforts to provide “life-saving treatment” to women in countries where abortion is illegal.

In Oan Bubbles: Fact or Fiction?, <smythsmuths 22012143> surprises the reader as a small booklet inserted into the center of the magazine. An excerpt from Sundogz by Mark von Schlegell, forthcoming from Semiotext(e) 2015, this piece of science fiction tells of a future astro-marine world, “an artificial anti-bubble of Earthside Ocean,” “a hydro-ecology” realized by an international panel of scientists, “spacer amateurs,” and fishing unions.

With the assistance of Jean and John Comaroff, both anthropology professors at Harvard University, Bélanger identifies man-made tidal swimming pools along the shores of the KwaZulu-Natal coast in South Africa as democratic structures in a place otherwise governed by the 1947 Law of Apartheid. Between the Tides of Apartheid recognizes the intertidal pools as “marginal spaces constantly in flux…attracting a cultural diversity rarely seen in South African cities or the interior hinterlands.” Bélanger explains how through informality and low-tech infrastructure, “beaches and pools edified a non-state, or extra-state, manifest as spaces of political others.”

Wet Matter concludes with Flotsam: A Visualization of Swimmers, Sinkers, and Spills in the Urban Ocean, a contribution from Colombian architect Luis Callejas with Martin Pavlinic, a designer at MASS Studio. Each of the 35 silhouetted items in the I Spy-arrangement corresponds to an index of oceanic items, characters, terms, and stories. From Mobro 4000, a notorious waste-loaded barge, to Laura Dekker, the youngest sailor to circumnavigate the world on her own, the index juxtaposes the unlikely bedfellows of an urban ocean.

Purchase a copy of Wet Matter. 

This guest post is by Lara Mehling, Student ASLA, Master’s of Landscape Architecture candidate, Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Under the Dome, a Chinese documentary film that exposes the truth about pollution in China, has been watched by more than 200 million viewers there. It was just shown in Washington, D.C. at the Woodrow Wilson Center, at an event sponsored by the Kissinger Institute on China and the China Environmental Forum, as part of the D.C. Environmental Film Festival.

While the film’s release was first supported by the new Chinese environmental minister, it has since been removed from public view by Chinese government censors. This is because the film, which has the feel of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, has sparked a national outcry. Several of the speakers at this event suggested the impact of Under the Dome may be similar to that of Rachel Carson’s famous book Silent Spring in America, which documented the impact of pesticides in the environment in the early 60’s and is credited with starting the U.S. environmental movement.

The film is one of the first presentations of scientific data to the Chinese public by an individual citizen, Chai Jing, a former investigative reporter at CCTV, rather than through an official agency of government. Much of the data concerning the pollutants PM 2.5 (fine respirable particles) and PM10 (coarse particles) were obtained from the U.S. Embassies in China, which collect and disseminate accurate numbers on air pollution, much to the chagrin of local authorities. Chai’s film may help Chinese citizens take on the powerful coal and steel industries, limiting their ability to unlawfully pollute.

It’s estimated some 500,000 Chinese die prematurely from cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory disease brought on by air pollution each year.

Learn more about Under the Dome in an op-ed in The New York Times.

This guest post is by Laurence E. Coffin, FASLA.

A runner crosses the Rosemont Bridge as the sun rises over downtown in Buffalo Bayou Park in Houston / The Dallas Morning News

Buffalo Bayou Park in Houston / The Dallas Morning News

What Dallas Can Learn From Houston’s Buffalo Bayou for the Trinity River ProjectThe Dallas Morning News, 3/1/15
“How do you transform the flood plain of a neglected urban waterway into a grand public park and metropolitan gateway? Dallas has been struggling with this challenge for more than 20 years, making incremental progress on the Trinity River corridor while debating whether to burden it with a toll road. Houston has spent that same time successfully remaking a 10-mile stretch of the Buffalo Bayou into precisely the kind of urban amenity Dallasites have long imagined for themselves.”

Stunningly Beautiful Private Gardens of Paris  – Fox News, 3/5/15
“Paris has many famous, beautiful public gardens and even more exquisite private ones tucked behind the walls of its private houses and on the terraces and rooftops of its apartment buildings. A selection of these come beautifully to light in In & Out of Paris: Gardens of Secret Delights, a new book written by Zahid Sardar and photographed by Marion Brenner.”

A Plan to Turn Melbourne’s Elizabeth Street into a Rainforest Canal WA Today, 3/7/15
“The man who turned Melbourne’s neglected and decrepit laneways into a globally renowned attraction has another radical idea to improve the city. His proposal: rip up Elizabeth Street, currently a pretty tired and uninspiring CBD thoroughfare, and incorporate and revitalize the hidden waterway under it that runs down to the Yarra River.”

Google Plan for Mountain View Campus Shuns Walls, Roofs, Reality The San Francisco Chronicle, 3/7/15
“Google’s proposal comes with a laudable list of proposed community and environmental benefits. The design team is earnest, with a strong contingent of local firms who know the terrain, such as landscape architect CMG and Sherwood Design Engineers.”

What the New Memorial Park Could Look Like The Houston Business Journal, 3/11/15
“The master plan for Memorial Park is complete, and, if approved, Houston’s largest park will get a major makeover. The project would potentially cost $200 million over the next two decades, Sarah Newbery, project manager for the Uptown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, told the Houston Business Journal.”

Q&A with Landscape Architect Martha SchwartzNewsweek, 3/11/15
“The profession has grown immensely. It is the fastest-growing design profession in the U.S. Many schools of landscape architecture have opened. The field is booming.”

raleigh

A drone’s view of Raleigh, North Carolina / Jordan Petersen

“The conscious remolding of the large-scale physical environmental imageability is a new one. We can now make completely new landscapes in a brief time…Designers are already at grips with the question of how to form the total scene so that it is easy for the human observer to identify its parts and to structure the whole.” – Kevin Lynch, Image of the City, 1959.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently released long-awaited guidelines for commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or drones. Despite many skeptics’ earlier expectations of stringent laws that would essentially ground the drone industry in the United States, these proposed regulations, which include height restrictions and licensing requirements, are pragmatic and will undoubtedly lead to growth and innovation. The announcement has unleashed a wave of predictions about the future of the technology, which has already proven valuable in agriculture, environmental conservation, retail, 3-D surveying, search-and-rescue, and law enforcement. It’s clear drones will soon become ubiquitous. As critical as drones will become to contemporary life, there has been little discussion about their potential to impact on landscape architecture and urban planning.

These small but complex machines will increasingly become a vital part of the landscape architect and planner’s toolkit; they will re-shape the “imageability” of our cities, enabling a higher level of legibility in visual communication. Much of this will be accomplished by the most familiar tool carried by civilian drones: the camera. Aerial imagery is, of course, nothing new. Innovative minds invented camera-equipped kites and balloons as far back as the late 1800s. Manned aircraft have used strategic aerial photography since the first World War, and satellites have been capturing views of Earth and beyond since the 1940s. However, the recent introduction of widespread UAV technology is important to landscape architects because it provides increased accessibility and versatility. While the technology was nearly unattainable a few years ago, anyone can now purchase a ready-to-fly, GPS-stabilized, camera-equipped drone for the price of a cheap TV, effectively leveling the playing field in aerial imagery. Furthermore, the dexterity of the aircraft allows for a nearly infinite number of angles, scales, and elevations, all in real time, often capturing video or still-imagery that has been previously elusive.

Tinkerers, DIYers, and hobbyists have already obtained stunning footage that displays the engaging power of the technology. Drones can be seen cruising above the tree canopy of Manhattan’s streets, surveying the urban tundra of snowy Chicago, and even unearthing the beauty of Chernobyl’s decay. The first New York City Drone Film Festival, sponsored by NBC, displayed a range of spectacular entries to a mass audience. The United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Drones for Good competition recently featured many innovative uses for drones that may soon benefit the environmental and urban planning sectors.

UAV technology enables landscape architects and planners to examine the existing social and environmental conditions of sites. We can document accurate circulation through transit corridors and shifting urban and demographic patterns, as well as topographical and hydrologic changes and environmental degradation.

Perhaps the most powerful use of the technology will be as a tool for both city and community governments and design and planning firms to aid in the public participation process. Used in conjunction with more traditional forms of media for community engagement, UAV imagery can help bridge the gap between two-dimensional, temporally-devoid satellite imagery and the more prosaic ground-based conventional camera.

A simple 5-minute fly-over video of an urban neighborhood at multiple elevations (displayed through an analog or digital forum), may reveal both empirical and experiential observations – the diversity of housing types, the voids of underutilized open space, the buzz of traffic patterns, the flow of natural systems, the nodes of community activity, or the light cast over the neighborhood at sunset.

Conceptual overlays of proposed conditions or site analysis can then be integrated into the three-dimensional aerial video, adding a new level of spatial and temporal dynamics to the design process. Drones equipped with LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) scanners are producing three-dimensional representations of natural and built environments with amazing accuracy, while software such as Autodesk’s 123D Catch allows drone imagery to be stitched together to create a photo-realistic 3D model.

These techniques will make complex problems more understandable to the public and thus evoke more comprehensive feedback. This will, as Kevin Lynch stated more than a half-century ago, help “form the total scene, so that it’s easy for the human observer to identify its parts and structure the whole.”

Landscape architects and urban planners should applaud the new FAA regulations. They are a milestone in encouraging the innovation of a tool that will lead to a more democratic era of public participation in landscape and urban design.

This guest post is by Jordan M. Petersen, ASLA, designer, ColeJenest & Stone, and founder and CEO, Lift Aerial Marketing, LLC.

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