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patricia arquette

Patricia Arquette / E! Online

Actress Patricia Arquette spoke passionately about closing the gender pay gap during her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress during the Academy Awards on Sunday night. An uneven playing field exists in a number of professions, including the architecture and engineering occupations—women in these fields earn 82 percent of what men make, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2014 averages, which are based on median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers.

The Wall Street Journal used the 2014 data to show that in only two professions do women match or exceed men’s weekly earnings—health practitioner support technologists and technicians (100 percent) and stock clerks and order fillers (102 percent). A gap exists in every other occupation. Among full-time workers, women earn 82.5 percent of male salaries. Women working in construction earn 91.3 percent of male salaries; women in legal professions earn 56.7 percent, the biggest gap.

Discrimination plays a role in the gender wage gap, according to the National Women’s Law Center. The center cites a 2007 study by labor economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn, which showed that 41 percent of the wage gap remains unexplained even after examining the effects of occupation, industry, work experience, union status, race, and educational attainment. This indicates that discrimination plays a sizable role in the gap.

The 2012 median pay for landscape architects was $64,180, slightly less than the $66,380 earned by architects, surveyors, and cartographers, says the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. No information about possible salary differences between male and female landscape architects was provided by the bureau.

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Commuters at Grand Central Station, NYC / CBS Local

In a reversal of recent trends, job growth is now faster in city centers than outlying suburban areas, according to a new report from City Observatory, a Portland-based think tank. According to their analysis, from 2002 to 2007, “job decentralization” — that is, the growth of jobs in suburbs — was in full force. During that time, city centers, which are defined as the central business district and a three-mile circle around the district, saw annual growth of just 0.1 percent, with growth in outlying areas “10 times as fast.” From 2007 to 2011, that trend was reversed, writes Joe Cortright. “The 41 metropolitan areas for which we have comparable data showed a 0.5 percent per year growth in city center employment and a 0.1 percent decrease in employment in the periphery.”

Cortright says city center job growth isn’t universally higher than in the suburbs but trends are moving in that direction. “While only 7 city centers outperformed their surrounding metros in the 2002-07 period, 21 outperformed the periphery in 2007-11.” Today, there is still sprawling suburban job growth in places like Houston, Kansas City, and Las Vegas, and other metropolitan regions.

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City Report / City Laboratory

The Upshot at The New York Times writes that this kind of analysis adds needed depth to job figures. While we often focus on the total number of new jobs created, “the location of jobs is just as important — including for making decisions about employment, housing and transportation policies.”

It’s also worth noting that “the vast majority of jobs are still outside city centers.” The New York Times writes that jobs have been slowly moving to the suburbs since the beginning of the 20th century. “By the 1950s, most lived in suburbs and commuted to work in cities. In the decades that followed, employers decamped to the suburbs, too. By 1996, only 16 percent of metro area jobs were within a three-mile radius of downtowns, according to the economists Edward Glaeser and Matthew Kahn.”

But a number of trends have been at work to reduce suburban job growth. First, the recession hit the suburbs harder than cities. “Industries based outside cities, like construction and manufacturing, were hit much harder than urban ones like business services. Jobs disappeared everywhere, but more rapidly outside cities.” Second, people are increasingly finding cities attractive places to live again. “People increasingly desire to live, work, shop and play in the same place, and to commute shorter distances — particularly the young and educated, who are the most coveted employees. So in many cities, both policy makers and employers have been trying to make living and working there more attractive.” Third, “cities are also better able to hold on to jobs than they were before.”

Cortright concludes: “Our analysis of the industrial composition of this data suggests that city centers are both benefiting from a continuing shift to the kinds of industries that have historically preferred more centralized locations, and are also more competitive for jobs within industries. All of these changes are masked by the disruption of the Great Recession. While some of this effect is undoubtedly tied to the economic cycle, there are a number of longer-term, structural reasons to be optimistic about city center job growth.”

For example, he writes that young, well-educated adults are increasingly moving to city centers. And there is stronger demand for living near work in city centers. City centers are growing as “centers of consumption” — places for restaurants, nightlife, and entertainment. High-paying jobs in financial and professional services, education and healthcare remain in city centers. Entrepreneurs continue to prefer city center locations. Rising gas prices have meant lower spending in suburbs, where people drive more, and perhaps fewer jobs in those areas as a result.

Still, the worry is that the city center job growth will not benefit everyone equally. As The Upshot writes, “The jobs in the heart of cities tend to be highly skilled and high-paying ones, in industries like finance and tech. Working-class jobs, like retail or construction, are more likely to be suburban. So with the recent growth of downtown jobs, the risk is that cities will continue to become havens for the wealthy and inaccessible to the middle and working classes.”

Read the full report and see a useful table that outlines each metropolitan area’s job growth.

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Chinampas / lilianausvat.blogspot.com

Mexican landscape architect, architect, and urban designer Mario Schjetnan, FASLA, who recently spoke at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, is recognized for his built works that are fueled by a deep concern for the cities of his native Mexico. GSD landscape architecture department chair Charles Waldheim, Affiliate ASLA, introduced Schjetnan as one of today’s foremost landscape architects, and said the new appreciation of landscape architecture in Mexico can be greatly attributed to the efforts of Schjetnan and his firm, Grupo de Diseño Urbano.

The majority of Schjetnan’s work is in Mexico and Latin America, where he has grown awareness of the field by demonstrating the many ways it serves growing urban centers, while also reaching beyond the discipline to do the work cities need. He has an unusual profile: he is Mexico’s leading landscape architect but also internationally-recognized.

Schjetnan outlined a set of principles that “establish the condition to immerse ourselves in the profession.” Along with “nature of place, collaboration, sustainability, and culture/history/precedent,” he lists “inter-disciplinarity” and the “conceptual continuum.” For an example of inter-disciplinarity, he points to innovation in the sciences, which often comes out a mix of different disciplines. “Inter-disciplinarity creates these new hybrids we are working in.” He acknowledges that no project addresses just one principle in isolation.

Schjetnan used his work at Parque Ecológico Xochimilco in Xochimilco, Mexico to talk about the nature of place. For Schjetnan, any project on a historical or natural site requires finding the “deep meaning of place,” the “starting point” from which to begin a project. “It encompasses the aesthetic, ecological, and the poetic…” This approach has particular relevance in a country with so many archeological sites. (At one point that evening Schjetnan even relates a bit of a joke: Once asked how many archeological sites Mexico had, “one of the best anthropologists” answered quite beautifully with a simple “only one; it’s called Mexico.”)

Xochimilco, one of Mexico’s historic sites, required Schjetnan to really immerse himself. It led him to discover the deep tradition of Mexico’s “chinampas,” an agricultural system based on raised plots of fertile land within the lake beds of the Valley of Mexico (see image above). Drawing on this tradition, which Schjetnan calls “the best technological invention of pre-hispanic Americas,” the new park design at Xochimilco reimagines their original use within contemporary water infrastructure, using the forms of these “marvelous islands created by man” to filter and pump water back into the lake. Schjetnan is making traditions visible and viable.

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“Chinampas” at Parque Ecológico Xochimilco / Grupo de Diseño Urbano

In the case of Parque Eco-Arqueológica Copalita in Huatulco, Mexico, the team, on its journey to discover the nature of place, created a new park along with an entirely new understanding of the relationship between archeology and environmental history. The archeological eco-park marries the two and no longer sees vegetation as being destructive. In practice, this new understanding has meant training the staff not to remove old growth trees from the precious pyramids.

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Parque Eco-Arqueológica Copalita / Grupo de Diseño Urbano

While not removing trees may be the “right” thing to do in one scenario, in another circumstance it may be the wrong thing. Take the firm’s work in the forest of Chapultepec Park in Mexico City. Schjetnan tells a fascinating story or how thinning the forest for health — yes, that means removing trees in this case — had to be done first on a nearly invisible demonstration plot in order to gain public support. Otherwise, he might once more risk being accused of cutting down trees. Schjetnan has the wisdom to let the vegetation be the agent of design.

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Rehabilitation of the Chapultepec Forest, before / Grupo de Diseño Urbano

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Rehabilitation of the Chapultepec Forest, after / Grupo de Diseño Urbano

A more recent project is his firm’s first large-scale contaminated, post-industrial site: Jardín Natura Parque Bicentenario in Ciudad de México. With a slab foundation dominating the site, the garden’s topography is entirely shaped by the bio-regions’ soil profiles. The more soil a tree needs, the higher the ground. Schjetnan excitedly walked the auditorium through a detailed longitudinal section that cuts through each of the distinct bio-regions of the garden. His garden demonstrates not only where but also how trees grow. What a novel way to refresh the role of a botanical garden in a city where not only the buildings but also the ground are rising up to the sky.

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“Natural” topography at Jardín Natura Parque Bicentenario, section / Grupo de Diseño Urbano

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Chinampa at Jardín Natura Parque Bicentenario / Grupo de Diseño Urbano

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

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Fourth annual Vortex competition / UVA

Hundreds of students walked down Ivy Road in the middle of January, marking the kickoff of the fourth annual Vortex competition at the University of Virginia. Undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines at the School of Architecture gathered together for a week-long design workshop to envision a new academic commons along the Ivy Road corridor, an underused entry to the university. Focusing on improving connectivity to new student and faculty housing, the workshop examined how to bring academic and residential culture together in a new urban environment.

Thirty student teams, each advised by a faculty member, developed innovative approaches to the design problems: how to improve accessibility, connectivity, and sustainability. Using university founder Thomas Jefferson’s “academical village” concept — which called for deep interactions between students and scholars — as the basis for dialogue, teams also focused on how to further this relationship and extend it city-wide.

This year Sylvia Karres, founder of Karres en Brands Landscape Architects, which is based in the Netherlands, led the design workshop and served as the primary critic. With her expertise in campus planning, Karres called for using sustainable campus design approaches, wherein a balance between learning and living conditions is produced, enabling a holistic student experience. Desk critiques continued through the week as Karres extended the dialogue to university sprawl and the poor connections with the Ivy Road corridor.

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Karres listens to a student presentation / UVA

The final charrette was held at Sunday morning, bringing the week-long chaos to an end. Students, faculty, and community members were all in attendance.

Team 2, which was led by landscape architecture professor Julie Bargmann, won the public, student, and faculty awards. The team envisioned connecting the community and university with Ivy Road by making the road an academic, environmental, and commercial hub for the western edge of Charlottesville. Using an existing culverted stream under the site as an organizational element, the proposal included a pedestrian mall, multi-level housing, and a bridge in memory of Morgan Harrington, a Virginia Tech student, who disappeared there in 2009. The team sought to create a place of empowerment and community.

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Team 2 proposal / UVA

Team 26, led by architecture professor Peter Waldman, won the main prize, given by Karres, with their development of a campus collage. The team’s proposal focused on merging the various layers of university life and better connecting the community through public transportation and pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. The team proposed placing several more train stops along the existing railroad. Taking cues from the existing historic sites, railroad organization, and cultural points of interest, the proposal also links this area with new housing and public spaces.

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Team 26 proposal / UVA

In a single week, the competition took a creative discussion beyond the walls of the School of Architecture into the Charlottesville community. This year, students acted as their own client, designing new models for sustainable academic life at the University of Virginia.

This guest post is by Jasmine Sohn, Student ASLA, Master’s of Landscape Architecture candidate, University of Virginia.

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COSMO / Andrés Jaque’s Office of Political Innovation

The ingenious winner of this year’s Young Architects Program (YAP) at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) PS1 in Queens, New York City, is COSMO, a mobile, transparent, and artful system for purifying wastewater. Designed by Andrés Jaque’s Office of Political Innovation, the machine makes visible the process of cleaning dirty water, exposing the value of this vital natural resource in the process.

Here’s a description of Jaque’s invention: “An assemblage of ecosystems, based on advanced environmental design, COSMO is engineered to filter and purify 3,000 gallons of water, eliminating suspended particles and nitrates, balancing the PH, and increasing the level of dissolved oxygen. It takes four days for the 3,000 gallons of water to become purified, then the cycle continues with the same body of water, becoming more purified with every cycle.” The system uses no electricity, just sunlight and gravity to accomplish all of this.

See a wild video that explains how the system works:

As architect Bjarke Ingels and others have long argued, sustainable design should not only be an improvement on the status quo but also be fun, not a drag. Taking that idea to the nth degree, Jacque believes the process of using natural engineering to clean water can actually be transfixing. Here, clean water is the life of the party. “The stretched-out plastic mesh at the core of the construction will glow automatically whenever its water has been purified. In the stone courtyard of MoMA PS1, the party will literally light up every time the environment is protected providing a dynamic backdrop for the Warm Up summer music series. It will gather people together in an environment as pleasant and climatically comfortable as a garden as visually textured as a mirrored disco ball.”

Once the partying and water purifying is over, COSMO will be dismantled, its parts redistributed, the plants used in its cleansing processes given to PS1’s neighbors.

Andrés Jaque sees his machine as a prototype for a new mobile system for cleaning water. His team will offer detailed instructions for how to create your own COSMO online.

PS1 has been using its summer installation series as a way to highlight how architecture can be designed to give back environmentally. Last year, Hy-Fi, the 2014 YAP winner, aimed to push the boundaries of bio-design, creating a 100 percent organically-grown and fully compostable structure. And in 2012, Wendy highlighted how architecture could be used to clean the air. Its spiky arms were covered in “nylon fabric treated with a groundbreaking titania nanoparticle spray to neutralize airborne pollutants.”

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Waste Music Festival / Title Magazine

According to Mariana Mogilevich and Curt Gambetta, Princeton University Mellon Initiative, “the production of waste and the production of space go hand in hand.” As landscape architects, architects, and urban designers remake our cities, waste is created too. Moving this waste shapes our urban landscape. Putting all this waste somewhere often means the creation of segregated urban wastelands.

As Mogilevich and Gambetta explain though, “despite waste’s centrality to the design and imagination of cities, it is today understood as a largely technical problem about the management of its disappearance.” On March 7 at Princeton University, they will assemble a diverse group to look the opportunities in spaces “designed as waste or wasted.”

Sessions will explore questions like: “What is a wasteland, and what role does design play in its definition and reclamation? What is the relationship between wasteland improvement and social and economic transformation?”

Speakers include landscape historians, architects, geographers, urban designers, anthropologists, and artists.

Along with the symposium, the team has put together a new exhibition called Tracing Waste, which looks at “artistic works that trace the movement of trash and sewage.” The exhibition runs from February 23 to March 13.

The symposium on March 7 is free and open to the public.

And here’s a symposium for landscape architects interested in cutting-edge modeling technologies: Simulating Natures at the University of Pennsylvania, March 19-20. The organizers ask: “how can we better engage the invisible biotic and abiotic interactions and flows that exist outside of human creation but can only be understood through our systems of representation?” Speakers include Bradley Cantrell, ASLA, Harvard University; James Corner, ASLA, Field Operations; and Alex Felson, ASLA, Yale University, among others.

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Design Intelligence

DesignIntelligence recently announced its 2015 landscape architecture graduate and undergraduate program rankings. Once again, Louisiana State University came in at the top of undergraduate landscape architecture programs. And for the 11th year, Harvard University came in as the best graduate program in the annual survey conducted by DesignIntelligence on behalf of the Design Futures Council.

Detailed rankings are available in the 15th edition of America’s Best Architecture & Design Schools, which assesses program rankings and education trends in architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, and industrial design.

Respondents from nearly 1,400 “professional practice” organizations answered questions about how well prepared graduates are from different undergraduate and graduate programs. The number of respondents grew by 75 percent over last year, making the survey results even more credible.

Satisfaction with landscape architecture graduates among employers has been dropping the past few years. Some 71 percent said they “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with the state of landscape architecture education in the U.S., down from 74 percent last year and 80 percent the year before.

Among employers, some 75 percent found that graduating students had an “adequate understanding” or “more than adequate understanding” of biology, biodiversity, and environmental degradation. Some 68 percent thought their firms benefited from the new ideas about sustainability that recent graduates brought with them, up from 60 percent last year.

This year, the top five emerging concerns by practitioners are:

    Sustainability / Climate Change (55 percent)
    Maintaining Design Quality (54 percent)
    Integrated Design (40 percent)
    Speed of Technological Change (33 percent)
    Urbanization (32 percent)

The set of concerns is virtually unchanged from last year, except speed of technological change is now a top concern.

DesignIntelligence asks us to only list the top five schools for each program. To see the top fifteen rankings for each category, purchase the report.

Bachelor of Landscape Architecture Degree Rankings:

1) Louisiana State University
2) Pennsylvania State University
3) Cornell University
4) California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
5) University of Georgia

Master of Landscape Architecture Degree Rankings:

1) Harvard University
2) University of Pennsylvania
3) Cornell University
4) University of California at Berkeley
5) Louisiana State University

An additional deans and chairs survey asked leaders of 42 landscape architecture academic programs about the issues they find significant. According to 80 percent of the professors surveyed, their biggest concern is climate change and sustainability, while another 68 percent said urbanization and 36 percent said globalization. This is unchanged from last year.

Among the biggest changes to curricula in the last 5 years: some 58 percent thought it was “more emphasis on sustainable design,” while 48 percent saw an increased focus on “community engagement.”

For the fourth year, DesignIntelligence surveyed 317 landscape architecture students to gauge their satisfaction with the programs covered. On average, just 58 percent thought their program was “excellent.” The greatest number of students thought their program was excellent at the University of Pennsylvania, followed by those at the University of Virginia and then Iowa State University.

To see the full responses from professors and students, purchase the report.

Check out the 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009 rankings.

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Bar codes are engraved in granite towers jutting up into the sky in Topher Delaney’s “Promised Land.” – Amy Osborne / The San Francisco Chronicle

PBS Series Explores ‘A New Wild’ Sustained, Instead of Wrecked, by PeopleThe New York Times, 2/4/15
“The series ends in New York Harbor with the story of Kate Orff, a landscape architect who’s been pursuing the restoration of the region’s oyster reefs as a buffer to storms, pollution filter and more. Now a $60 million grant will help establish an oyster reef off the Tottenville section of Staten Island.”

Winter’s Stark Landscape Lets You See Yard in a New Light – The Chicago Tribune, 2/5/15
“‘This is a great time to look at your landscape without its screen of leaves,’ says Susan Jacobson, landscape architect at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle. ‘You can really see it in a new light. You’re down to the basics, and you’re not distracted by flowers and other details.'”

Renovated “Tom Sawyer’s Play Island” in Hialeah Park UnveiledThe Miami Herald, 2/10/15
“Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah now boasts a half-million-dollar new playground area for kids to experience their own adventures, both in the air — on monkey-bars and swings — and on land. Nestled between strands of oak trees and pristine lakes, ‘Tom Sawyer’s Play Island’ is the largest playground within Miami-Dade County’s parks.”

Promise Fulfilled: Required Public Art Springs up on Mid-MarketThe San Francisco Chronicle, 2/11/15
“Unfenced last week after nearly a year of anticipation, a new pathway cuts a corner from Market Street through tall slabs of granite to 10th Street. Look up and they will see that there are granite monoliths with ledges to sit on. One ledge has the word ‘Promised’ etched into it in gold, the other has the word ‘Land.'”

Billionaire Barry Diller’s $130 Million Floating Park on the Hudson Is Actually Going to Get Built, and It Looks IncredibleBusiness Insider, 2/12/15
“Media mogul Barry Diller and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, have committed to funding a floating public park and performance space on a pier in the Hudson River. Their pledge of over $113 million will be the single largest private donation to a public park in New York City history, according to Capital New York.”

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ASLA 2014 Professional Award of Excellence. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus, Seattle, Washington. Gustafson Guthrie Nichol / Timothy Hursley

Landscape architecture services in the U.S. are currently valued at around $2.3 billion per year, according to a new report from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The latest data, which covers up to 2012, shows that landscape architecture services account for 14 percent of total architectural services, which are estimated to be valued at $16 billion. In 2012, an estimated 21,000 landscape architects were employed, earning about $1.8 billion.

The report shows architecture and design industries as a whole were hard hit by the recession from 2007 to 2009. From 1998-2008, architectural and design services — which also includes a range of industrial, interior, and graphic design services — accounted for 0.25 to 0.27 of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). In 2009, that number dropped to 0.22 percent of GDP, “a current-dollar decline of $8.7 billion from value added in 2008.” And the decline just continued through the recessions to 2012, when the value added by architectural and design services hit a “15-year low of 0.19 percent.” As NEA has not yet presented any data from 2013 and 2014, it’s unclear whether architectural and design industries have come back to pre-recession levels. But ASLA’s Business Quarterly shows a dramatic uptick in business for landscape architects from 2008.

The NEA’s report doesn’t attempt to quantify the broader economic impact of landscape architecture. For example, it has been demonstrated that designed urban plazas and green spaces generate significant economic benefits: they raise nearby property values, which in turn leads to more tax revenue for governments, attract tourists, clean the air, and store stormwater. According to a report from the Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence, Central Park in New York City is estimated to create 1,000 jobs and contribute $80 million in direct economic benefits as well as an additional $665 million in tax revenues due to the fact that it raises the value of nearby property by $17 billion. There’s also the monetary value of ecosystem services, the benefits of cleaner air and managed stormwater for Manhattan. The question remains: how can the broader economic impacts of landscape architecture, and really design in all its forms, be better measured in national data?

The only good news in the report is in 2012 the U.S. exported nearly $2.4 billion in architectural services, creating a trade surplus in this area of $1.5 billion. This surplus has only been increasing over the past few years, as more American landscape architects take on ambitious projects in the Middle East and Asia.

Jason Schupbach, NEA Director of Design, told us: “The headline to us from this data is the growing trade surplus in landscape architecture services. It says to us that American design is in demand across the world, and that demand is growing.”

Taxis submerged in nine feet of water during Hurricane Sandy / Alan Blumberg

Taxis submerged during Hurricane Sandy / AP Photo/Charles Sykes

Fifty percent of Americans live in coastal cities now threatened by extreme storms brought on by climate change, said AIA NY President Tomas Rossant at a recent event sponsored by ASLA NY and AIA NY at the Center for Architecture in New York City. Architects, landscape architects, urban designers, and engineers need to collaborate to save our coastal cities. As ASLA NY Chapter President Jennifer Nitzky, ASLA, argued, “effective resilience planning takes great collaboration.”

Kicking-off the event, Stevens Institute of Technology professor Alan Blumberg and urban designer and professor Alexandros Washburn, Affil. ASLA, showcased their work at the new Center for Coastal Resilience and Urban Excellence (CRUX) modeling interactions of “water on cities and cities on water.” Blumberg hopes these models — if well communicated to the public — can help us better prepare for the next Sandy.

Communicating what we know is vital. One of the main issues during Sandy was researchers could predict where water would enter urban locations, but had trouble communicating this information to the public in advance. In Hoboken, New Jersey, which thought it was protected from the Hudson River swells, water would ultimately enter from the south and north. In one dramatic example, taxi companies seeking to evacuate to drier ground moved from an area where water would rise three feet to an area that would ultimately be submerged in nine feet of water, information Blumberg says he could have told them.

Can we use new technologies to communicate all the data we have? What if we could check our Google Maps before a storm to see predicted conditions for a location and an overlay showing the range of water levels in street view?

Flood level predictions via Google Maps? / CRUX

Flood level predictions via Google Maps? / CRUX

Washburn described the hybrid fluid-solid modeling he and Blumberg have been working on at CRUX. To date, software for fluid modeling and solid architectural modeling have existed in separate worlds. At CRUX, they seek to create hybrid “surf and turf” modeling programs to understand “how water affects the city and how the city affects the water, as well as ways to bring in data whether from fluid hydrological systems or topography and buildings to make the models comprehensible, accurate, and plausible.”

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“Surf and Turf” hybrid models would integrate fluid modeling software with architectural software / Alex Washburn / CRUX

Such models take grid-based software for fluid modeling and attempting to create fully three-dimensional grids. But such modeling needs to focus on specific locations since creating such grids requires tremendous computational power. Researchers need to understand where the hot spots are in the first place, then direct modeling efforts there. But Washburn believes things are looking bright with this technology: “Ten years ago, we couldn’t even come close to modeling of this type. Now, we are at the edge of being able to define the problem and finding the solution.”

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Grid mesh models are used to simulate fluid dynamics / CRUX

Urban designer Walter Meyer, ASLA, founding partner, Local Office Landscape Architecture, presented several projects seeking to implement innovative and effective approaches to resilient coastal design. Meyer described the process of what Local Office calls “forensic ecology” to assess existing “nature-based features.”

Meyer showed how wetlands could be used for “wave storage” and absorb water and energy from incoming waves.  The type of wetland, however, is critical. Herbaceous wetlands, in one study, showed only a 13 percent effect on wave energy from storm surge, whereas woody wetlands, such as afforested mangroves in India, had a 50 percent effect on surge attenuation.

Meyer also showed how sand dunes are really “root” dunes and suggested ways to “horizontally turbo-charge” these dune structures to get similar functionality in narrow spaces such as the Rockaways.

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“Forensic ecology” applied to several situations / Local Office

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Planted “double” dunes “horizontally turbocharge” ecological functionality in narrow spaces / Local Office

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Proposed planted coastal dunes in the Rockaways / Local Office

Beyond wetlands and dunes, manipulating underwater topography could also have an impact on coastal resilience. Meyer used forensic ecology to explain how “Hudson Canyon,” a gully in the sea floor just off the Rockaways in New York, correlated to hot spots of wave energy that caused further erosion. Such findings suggest that topography could be used to focus wave energy on particular hot spots of heavy impact on the coastline where more intensive infrastructure might be built to cost-effectively mitigate storm damage.

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Wave energy channeled by the “Hudson Canyon” at the Rockaways / Local Office

How can projects that use these novel approaches take root? Anthony Ciorra, US Army Corps of Engineers NY district chief of coastal restoration and special projects branch, said the Army Corps’ has its hands tied to a great extent as it awaits funding approvals and marching orders from Congress, but there has been a shift in culture there in recent years. Ongoing studies are exploring more sustainable and adaptable solutions, and the Corps is trying to integrate resiliency thinking into its projects. That said, for the Army Corps financial feasibility is primary and “recreation is secondary . . . any project must first show that risk reduction choices equal a cost benefit.”

The best approach, agreed on in theory by all presenters, is to find ways to collaborate regionally, across state lines and beyond election cycles. “Nothing happens in the city without aligning money, politics, and design,” said Washburn, recalling something he learned while working with US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynahan. “And if you can’t hold them together through an election cycle, it falls apart.”

Washburn added that “nothing will help speed our preparation for the next storm more than our ability to make decisions better at the federal and state level and do something that America as a nation was not set up to do, which is to have politicians work regionally.”

Yoshi Silverstein, Associate ASLA, is founder and lead designer-educator at Mitsui Design, focusing on landscape experience and connection to place. He was the ASLA summer 2014 communications intern.

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