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Great Bear Rainforest / The Huffington Post Canada via MyLoupe/UIG/ Getty Images

Great Bear Rainforest / The Huffington Post Canada

In a landmark deal that took 20 years to reach, Canada will protect over 7.7 million acres of one of the world’s last intact temperate rainforests in coastal British Columbia. The deal protects 85 percent of the rainforest, an area about half the size of Ireland, while leaving 15 percent open to loggers who must comply with the highest sustainable forestry standards. The rainforest is home to the Spirit Bear, a rare cream-colored black bear, wolves, salmon, orcas, and miles of old-growth forest. The deal was made with 26 First Nations, which are Canadian native tribal groups, environmentalists, forest product companies, and the British Columbia government, which all called it a model of sustainable forest management. The agreement is seen as a win for the First Nation groups, who will now get a greater share of the proceeds from timber than in the past.

The deal sets new rules for timber harvesting: some 2.5 million cubic meters of forest in designated logging zones can be harvested each year. Of that amount, only 750,000 cubic meters can be cut from old growth trees. This amount may sound like a lot, but it will be 40 percent less than in the past.

In The Globe and Mail, Rick Jeffery, president and CEO of Coast Forest Products Association, called the agreement a success because it creates more certainty for the wood and paper industries. “We know what the rules are, we know what areas are going to be set aside for protection, and what areas we are going to be operating in. Knowing we have that, people can start to invest in their mills, training, and capacity. That’s the first level of certainty. The second part is that First Nations have more tenure and we are in a better position to build on those partnerships.”

Mongabay outlines the long history of conflict leading up to the agreement. In the mid-1990s, “amid growing industrial logging operations in rainforests around the world, First Nations communities in B.C. were becoming increasingly concerned about the fate of the forests in their traditional territories, to which they often had no legal title. Those First Nations groups were joined by environmentalists in a fierce battle against the forestry industry and the B.C. government until 2000, when all parties came together to call a ceasefire and allow an independent scientific analysis of the rainforest. That process culminated in the 2006 Great Bear Rainforest Agreements, a vision for ecosystem-based management of the rare temperate rainforest ecosystems found in British Columbia.”

With the just-announced agreement, the rights of First Nation communities are further bolstered, two years after a Canadian Supreme Court decision recognized their rights to stop logging in their forests. British Columbia signed 26 separate agreements with the tribes living in the forest, guaranteeing them a greater share of the proceeds from the timber harvest. These groups will now get to keep the funds from 17 percent of the annual allowable cut, up from 7 percent today.

Marilyn Slett, chief councillor of the Heiltsuk Tribal Council and president of the Coastal First Nations, told The Globe and Mail that both environmental and economic sustainability are core values of First Nation leaders and elders. “We know we must respect and care for the land and the water so they can support our communities.”

And Dallas Smith, president of the Nanwakolas Council, which speaks for eight Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations, applauded the deal, but said, alone, it won’t guarantee the long-term economic sustainability of the tribes. He told the The Vancouver Sun his people are looking beyond the agreement, looking at new ways to sustainably generate income, like “clean energy projects,” eco-tourism, and selling carbon credits for protected trees. Millions of tons of carbon are stored in those old-growth forests.

The new deal will also end the commercial hunt of Grizzly Bears within the First Nation territories of the Great Bear Rainforest, which account for about half of the total forest, but not in areas owned by the government. Ecologists have highlighted how critical Grizzly Bears and Spirit Bears are to the ecological functioning of the rainforest. BBC News explains how bears catch salmon from the rivers as the fish return home to spawn. The bears then take the salmon into the forests to eat, leaving the carcasses. When the carcasses decompose into the soil, they release much-needed nitrogen crucial to plant growth. Some 80 percent of the forest’s nitrogen comes from decomposing salmon.

Spirit Bear on Griddell Island, Great Bear Rainforest / Nature Conservancy

Spirit Bear on Gribbell Island, Great Bear Rainforest / Nature Conservancy

There are still some critics who think the conservation agreement could have gone much further. Ian McAllister, with environmental group Pacific Wild, told The Vancouver Sun that the annual destruction of 2.5 million cubic meters of forest every year can’t be considered a win for the environment. “We simply have to find a faster transition towards the full protection of our remaining ancient forest.” A group of scientists also wanted the 20,000-hectare Gribbell Island, which is essential Spirit Bear habitat, completely protected, but it was left out of the deal.

The conservation of the Great Bear Rainforest is largely a win for the environment, but many more countries need to also engage all stakeholders in creating ecosystem-based management plans for their remaining forests. According to Yale University’s 2016 Environmental Performance Index, the world has lost 18 million hectares (44.5 million acres) of forest annually since 2000. That’s five Great Bear Rainforests every year. So many countries continue to destroy their forests unabated — with Brazil, Indonesia, and South Africa at the top of the list. As these forests are destroyed, unknown numbers of rare, niche species, perhaps less charismatic than the Spirit Bear but still incredibly valuable, face extinction.

ASLA 2009 Professional General Design Award of Excellence. Buffalo Bayou Promenade, Houston. SWA Group / Tom Fox

ASLA 2009 Professional General Design Award of Excellence. Buffalo Bayou Promenade, Houston. SWA Group / Tom Fox

Houston, Texas, America’s fourth largest city, is in the middle of a rebirth, argues Charles Birnbaum, FASLA, president of The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) and a number of design journalists. A city known as “car-centric and zoning-adverse” is now spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get people out of cars and into parks. Within this sprawled-out city, under spaghetti loops of concrete highways, there are now networks of accessible parks, trails for running and biking, and bayous for kayaking and canoeing. Many of these public amenities also double as green infrastructure, constructed systems that provide habitat for a range of species, manage stormwater, and protect against flooding.

According to TCLF, Houston is “undergoing a monumental landscape architecture-led transformation whose scale and impact could fundamentally change the city and influence city-shaping around the globe.” The questions then are: How has Houston–the mecca of skyscrapers, highways, concrete, cars, and oil–shed some of its bad habits and created places for people? And as Houston undertakes this green makeover, what lessons does it offer to other car-centric cities that want to improve quality of life?

To delve more deeply into how Houston is changing its identity through landscape architecture, TCLF has put together Leading with Landscape II, a day-long conference on March 11. The conference will be followed by What’s Out There Weekend Houston on March 12-13, which will feature two days of free, expert-led tours.

ASLA 2010 Professional Honor Awards. Rice University Brochstein Pavilion by Office of James Burnett / Paul Hester

ASLA 2010 Professional Honor Awards. Rice University Brochstein Pavilion by Office of James Burnett / Paul Hester

Attendees of the conference will hear from Mayor Sylvester Turner, the current Mayor of Houston; Annise Parker, former Mayor; parks department officials; as well as the leading landscape architects who are shaping Houston’s future, including: Kinder Baumgardner, ASLA, SWA Group; James Burnett, FASLA, Office of James Burnett; Sheila Condon, FASLA, Clark Condon; Mary Margaret Jones, FASLA, Hargreaves Associates; Douglas Reed, FASLA, Reed Hilderbrand; and Thomas Woltz, FASLA, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, and many others.

Discovery Green in Houston / H-town Visually Blog

Discovery Green in Houston / H-town Visually Blog

The 26 What’s Out There tours will take visitors everywhere from SWA Group’s award-winning Buffalo Bayou Park, in image at top, to Rice University’s Raymond and Susan Brochstein Pavilion, created by the Office of James Burnett, and Discovery Green, a park Hargreaves Associates designed in 2008.

The Leading with Landscape II conference on March 11 is $225 for professional and $95 for students. If you register by February 9, it’s 20 percent off. What’s Out There Weekend tours on March 12-13, which run 1-2 hours, are all free, but TCLF asks attendees to first register online.

Learn more about Houston’s green transformation in Birnbaum’s blog and the Texas Monthly.

ASLA 2010 Professional General Design Award. Park 20 / 20, A Cradle to Cradle Inspired Master Plan by William McDonough + Partners / DPI Animation House

ASLA 2010 Professional General Design Award. Park 20 / 20, A Cradle to Cradle Inspired Master Plan by William McDonough + Partners / DPI Animation House

More than 70 percent of Europe’s population lives in cities, and that number is expected to grow to 80 percent by 2050. As European cities further densify, they must find new solutions to ever-worsening problems, like congestion, pollution, and poverty. To stay ahead of these challenges, cities must remain the nexus of innovation. This is the goal of the European Commission (EC)’s Urban Innovative Actions program, which seeks bold projects that can push forward innovation in urban planning and design throughout the Union. Projects, which must be submitted by an urban government with a population of at least 50,000 people, can receive up to €5 million over three years. From now through 2020, the EC will be offering €372 million for these urban experiments.

In the program’s inaugural year, the Commission seeks projects that focus on renewable energy, the integration of migrants and refugees into European society, jobs and skills development, and urban poverty.

To be considered, projects must “not be part of your normal activities,” the EC tells city governments. In fact, the projects must be something experimental, never before implemented in Europe. Innovation accounts for 40 percent of scoring. Projects must also show that they have real multi-stakeholder partnerships; a clear plan for measuring results; a scalable and replicable approach; and a solid strategy for implementation, with a realistic budget.

A general lack of urban experimentation is why the EC created the program. As the EC explains, “many urban planners and authorities have proposed new and innovative ideas, but these solutions are not always put into practice. One of the reasons is that urban authorities are reluctant to use their own financial resources to fund ideas that are new, unproven, and hence risky. Budget constraints therefore limit the capacities of urban authorities for experimentation.”

The Commission hopes to identify those city governments with the “imagination to design, prototype, test and eventually scale-up novelties that citizens and users would perceive as having an added value, therefore providing a wider, if not completely new, market for them.”

While there will surely be some failed experiments, it’s an exciting chance to test new approaches that can have lasting impact and spread far beyond Europe’s borders. The rest of the world’s cities can only benefit from the EC’s ambitious investment in the future.

Urban governments should submit proposals by March 31.

Another convention-buster is the annual Buckminister Fuller Challenge, “socially-responsible design’s highest award,” which seeks original submissions from multi-disciplinary teams of designers, planners, artists, and scientists. In 2014, SCAPE landscape architecture won the $100,000 prize for their innovative Living Breakwaters, an oyster reef restoration project. This year, for the first time, the Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) will also offer a separate student award. Submissions are due March 1.

Each year at the ASLA Annual Meeting, some of the world’s top landscape architects and designers explain themselves in front of audiences 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 2015 Annual Meeting in Chicago, you can watch more than 6 hours of videos by:

Floor Associates

Since its inception in 1997, Floor Associates’ work has sought to integrate a contemporary design approach with the timeless beauty and ecology of the desert Southwest. Through case study examples of their work, this wife and husband team will discuss the firm’s highly collaborative, interdisciplinary design approach to urban, healing, learning and playing environments and how they continue to refine their new, yet authentic, “Desert School” design vernacular.

Watch Kristina Floor, FASLA, principal; Christopher Brown, FASLA; and Ashley Brenden, ASLA, all with Floor Associates; moderated by Todd Briggs, ASLA, principal, Trueform landscape architecture studio.

HM Design

Meet this one-of-a-kind international planning and design firm that practices it’s very own quadruple bottom line philosophy – one that balances economic, environmental, social and spiritual aspects for every project. HM Design is a multi-disciplinary modern-renaissance practice that respects animals, native plants, local people and the spirit of the place.

Watch Hitesh Mehta, FASLA, and Hirsh Kabaria, HM Design; moderated by Todd Hill, ASLA, DTJ Design

Hollander Design

Edmund Hollander Landscape Architects has been involved with environmental planning and design projects covering a wide range of scales for 20 years. Each project focuses attention on detailed design and environmental appropriateness encompassing, wherever possible, elements of the native or vernacular landscape. Hollander Design utilizes a combination of landscape architectural, horticultural, and ecological talents to develop creative solutions to design problems.

Watch Edmund Hollander, FASLA, president; Stephen Eich, ASLA; Melissa Reavis, ASLA; Marjorie Bart Salcedo; and Geoffrey M. Valentino, ASLA, all with Hollander Design; moderated by Bradford McKee, Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Spurlock Poirier Landscape Architects

SPLA combines deep understanding of southern California regional ecologies—urban, natural, and political– with deep analysis, research, and design rigor. Over three decades they’ve created transformative, restorative landscapes that embrace the paradoxes of the contemporary west and connect people, communities, and environments. Principals will discuss the firm’s influences, evolution and design approach, including the practice of taking the long view.

Watch Martin Poirier, FASLA, principal; Andrew J. Spurlock, FASLA, principal; and Leigh Kyle, ASLA, all with Spurlock Poirier Landscape Architects; moderated by Thomas R. Oslund, FASLA.

ASLA 2015 Professional General Design Honor Award. Mill River Park and Greenway by OLIN / OLIN, Sahar Coston-Hardy

ASLA 2015 Professional General Design Honor Award. Mill River Park and Greenway by OLIN / OLIN, Sahar Coston-Hardy

While landscape architects, arborists, and park advocates, and an increasing number of mayors, planners, and public health officials, understand the presence of nearby nature in cities to be central to human health and well-being, the public seems to think of tree-lined streets, trails, and parks as “nice, but not necessary, add-ons,” according to a new report commissioned by the TKF Foundation and conducted by the FrameWorks Institute, a non-partisan research organization. The report shows wide gaps in understanding between members of the public and experts on the health benefits of nature, the value of daily exposure to nature, how landscape design can enhance nature’s health and social benefits, and how the presence of green space and trees can boost neighborhood and, by extension, community connections. The members of the public surveyed also don’t perceive the typical differences in the amount of trees and parks available to wealthy and poorer urban neighborhoods and so don’t see it as a major equity issue. Urban nature is simply not a top priority. As one survey respondent said, “nature doesn’t pay the bills.” FrameWorks argues the best way to increase public demand for more parks, trails, and green streets is to undertake a broad communications campaign to educate the public about the health benefits of nature.

FrameWorks interviewed 13 experts on urban nature in one-on-one sessions over multiple hours. Interviews with 52 members of the public were conducted across the country, with 20 in-depth dialogues along with 32 10-minute ones on the street. Interviewees were selected to be representative of the make-up of the country in terms of age, ethnicity, gender, residential location (inner city, outer-city, and rural areas up to three hours from the city), educational background, religious involvement, and political views. This is a small sample of the general public, but FrameWorks argues it’s enough to get a sense of the public’s “top of the mind” thinking about nature, cities, and health.

The experts and members of the public agreed on many things, and FrameWorks argues these areas of agreement are key starting points for creating a campaign that can increase public demand for more urban trees and green spaces:

First, nature is the root of human existence. Humans evolved from natural environments. Experts know this because their training is “firmly grounded in evolutionary biology,” but members of the public understand this, too.

Second, both the public and experts agree that nature sustains us. “Nature is the source of human sustenance,” said both groups, but members of the public tend to be more “consumerist in tenor and less attuned to the importance of biodiversity and linkages across ecosystems.” Consumerist because many of the respondents view nature as simply a source of food, wood and paper, etc — something to be consumed to meet human needs.

Third, cities are inherently stressful; they work against human well-being. Members of the public and experts agree that city life, with its fast pace, as well as “elevated levels of congestion, air pollution” and prevalence of concrete, can be “hard, cold, grey, and depressing.”

Fourth, feeling safe in nature boosts well-being. A quiet natural spot is seen by both members of the public and experts as a “respite from the stressors of modern urban life.” Places with lots of trees and water can provide “rest and positive distraction.” Nature is the opposite of our hectic urban life. Another key concept upon which to build greater understanding.

The gaps between members and the public are too numerous to list in full here, but here are main areas of divergence:

While experts view nature as central to human health and well-being, members of the public view it as a nice add-on and the absence of urban nature doesn’t rank among their top concerns. This may be because the members of the public surveyed don’t understand how time in nature reduces their stress, improves their ability to pay attention, or boosts their sense of well-being.

Experts understand that neighborhood access to trees and park space trends quite closely with income levels — wealthier neighborhoods typically have more of these natural assets than poorer ones, but members of the public are unaware of these different levels of access of nature. Experts also look to the broader return on investment these green spaces provide to tree and park-laden neighborhoods — in terms of increased safety, greater social cohesion and community connection, and improved health — while the public isn’t thinking in those terms. In particular, the community benefits of trees and green spaces are way off their radar.

Experts conceive of a whole range of innovative green infrastructure to deliver the health benefits of nature, but the members of public surveyed mostly thinks in terms of parks and walking or bike trails for recreation and exercise. According to the experts, natural infrastructure helps maximize daily exposures to nature, as exposure needs to be continuous for the benefits of small doses to accrue. But the public thinks of time in nature as a memorable one-off experience — a road trip to Yellowstone National Park, or a weekend hike on the Shenandoah Trail. Nature is a place to go to outside the city to recharge.

For experts, designed nature — realized through landscape architecture or garden design — has intrinsic value. They believe it’s still nature even if it’s managed, but the public largely sees nature “out there,” away from cities, as the most “salutary.” According to the experts, even a small urban garden can provide benefits, but members of the public don’t think these places offer a true break, only those places that truly remove them from their everyday urban life.

Lastly, the experts see the value of good design in public parks, but members of the public surveyed simply think in terms of quantity of green space. “For the public, design is largely a taken-for-granted feature.”

The question then for the many health, design, parks, and trails organizations working on these issues is: how best to communicate the health benefits of nearby urban nature to the public? How can we convince the broader public that spending time in a park, riding a bicycle on a tree-lined trail, or jogging along an urban forest path will have a “meaningful difference” in their health and this natural infrastructure can boost the broader health of the city? How can we convince them that nature in cities can be just as restorative as the nature “out there?”

The best proof may be the reality — well-designed urban parks are natural draws. But many argue that what’s needed is more research and more promotion of positive findings through the media and advocacy efforts directed at urban policymakers. ASLA created a guide to the Health Benefits of Nature, which collects the most credible research, and it has been immensely popular. But, clearly, more research studies are needed, which TKF and some universities and foundations are sponsoring, and more targeted communications campaigns are also needed to reach the urban public.

More promising small-sample research studies could also generate demand for a government-financed, large-scale, longitudinal study examining the impact of nature on all sorts of health mental and physical health issues. This kind of study, if it demonstrated positive results, could help bring the mainstream public health community on board, and, in turn, even more urban policymakers.

The good news is that many mayors and cities already get the value of access to nature, even in car-centric places like Houston, which is investing huge sums in new parks and trails. As momentum builds and more cities act, we can imagine a future where people in all of a city’s neighborhoods enjoy a daily nature outing because nature is everywhere, but this future will take lots more work to achieve.

A Tree Campus, Rice University / Carol Ciarniello

A Tree Campus, Rice University / Carol Ciarniello

What if what is outside a school’s windows is as critical to learning as what’s inside the building? A fascinating new study of high school students in central Illinois found that students with a view of trees were able to recover their ability to pay attention and bounce back from stress more rapidly than those who looked out on a parking lot or had no windows. The researchers, William Sullivan, ASLA, professor of landscape architecture at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Dongying Li, a PhD student there, reported their findings in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning.

Sullivan and Li argue that “context impacts learning. It is well-documented, for instance, that physical characteristics of school environments, such as lighting, noise, indoor air quality and thermal comfort, building age and conditions all impact learning.” However, schools’ surrounding landscapes have been too long overlooked for their impact on learning, and it’s time to understand what campus greenery — or lack thereof — means for student performance. Research studies to date have had relatively small sample sizes. While these studies point to encouraging correlations or associations between improved student performance and access to nature on campus, Sullivan and Li argue that up until their study, no causal connections have been proven.

Looking at the effect of views of nature on both cognition and stress recovery, they test two theories: attention restoration theory and stress reduction theory. According to their report, attention restoration theory posits that “people use voluntary control to inhibit distractions and remain focused, and this capacity to remain focused fatigues over time.” But the theory also contends that even just a short period of time in nature (10 minutes or so) can renew our cognitive capacity to pay attention. Nature does this through its ability to engender “soft fascination” that doesn’t demand all of our attention, just enough to enliven us. Stress reduction theory looks at how nature supports psychological and physiological recovery, including lower blood pressure and levels of stress hormones.

In Sullivan and Li’s study, a third of the 94 students, equally male and female, were each randomly assigned to a classroom with either no windows, a window view looking out on a barren landscape, or a window view looking out over greenery. They were all put through about 30 minutes of classroom exercises. Their stress and cognitive states were tested in the beginning to set a baseline, at the end of the classroom activities, and then again after a 10 minute break after the activities. Researchers used both standard questionnaires to test stress and attention levels and various tools to measure their physiological responses to stress, including heart rates, body temperatures, and skin conductance.

After the students had completed 30 minutes of classroom activities, the researchers found the window views of greenery had no impact on students’ ability to pay attention or their stress levels. However, at the end of a 10 minute break after the activities, the researchers discovered those who had a green view bounced back, attention-wise, and became less stressed — this group “performed significantly better on standard tests of attention and showed significantly greater stress recovery than their peers who were assigned to classrooms without a green view.” They think this is because during the classroom activities the students were too busy focused on what they were learning. Only when students with green views had a chance to take a break was their “involuntary attention” engaged while looking out the window. Only then did they receive the restorative benefits of looking at the trees.

Sullivan and Li say they found a causal relationship: “green views produced better attentional functioning and stress recovery.” Furthermore, viewing nature helps both cognition and stress recovery, but through separate mental pathways. In other words, nature’s ability to help us recover our ability to pay attention has nothing to do with whether we are stressed out or not, but nature, separately, also helps us recover from stress. (To learn more about this aspect of their research, read the study).

Results of study / WIlliam Sullivan and Dongying Li

Results of study / WIlliam Sullivan and Dongying Li

What’s important for designers, school principals, and educational policymakers is that this is yet another promising study that points to the direct benefits of exposure to nature for students. Sullivan and Li argue that new schools, which are often placed at the “urban-rural fringe” need to be sited where there are a lot of existing trees, and, if that’s not possible, trees and shrubs need to be added. New schools should also be designed so they maximize views of trees and greenery from the inside; and existing schools retrofitted to improve the connection to nature. As Sullivan and Li argue, “architects should work to ensure every classroom has views of green space. Landscape architects should consider the location of classrooms, cafeteria, and hallway windows in the development of their campus design.”

These changes to schools could be more cost-effective than “most interventions aimed at relieving stress (e.g., emotional skill building, anger management, positive behavior programs). Placing trees and shrubs on the school ground is a modest, low-cost intervention that is likely to have long-lasting effects on generations of students.” Lots of schools encourage student environmental groups to engage in volunteer community service. Why not involve these students in the greening of their own campuses and teach them about the value of nature at the same time?

Kingsbridge International High School in the Bronx Garden Day / New York Daily News

Garden Day at Kingsbridge International High School in the Bronx, New York / New York Daily News

As with any study on the health benefits of nature with a relatively small sample size like this, there are priming issues. And Sullivan and Li acknowledge this: “one limitation is that we could not take into account students’ interactions, physical activities, and their immersive experiences out on the school ground during break, or their exposure to green space during physical education classes or after school. This limits the ecological validity of the findings.”

What’s needed is a large-scale, longitudinal, government-financed study that looks at the benefits of nature across all critical dimensions, but, until then, here is another study that points to the positive effects of nature on cognition and stress recovery, this time in an educational environment.

Joe Weishaar & Sabin Howard / U.S. World War I Centennial Commission

Winning WWI Memorial design by Joe Weishaar & Sabin Howard / U.S. World War I Centennial Commission

Houston’s Big Green TransformationThe Huffington Post, 1/21/16
“The car-centric, zoning-averse city is undergoing a monumental transformation that is being led by landscape architecture–transformation at a scope and scale unseen in the U.S. in more than a century.”

7 Picturesque Public Parks Soon to Sprout Around the WorldForbes, 1/23/16
“Now underway on Governors Island, ‘The Hills’—designed by Dutch landscape firm West 8—will comprise of four mounds made entirely of construction debris and clean-fill material, blanketed with over 860 trees and 43,000 shrubs.”

How This Pop-up Park Engages an Excited CommunityThe Landscape Architect’s Network, 1/25/16
“When designing a site, it is necessary to research and analyze existing conditions in the beginning, but after a project is implemented, natural and human processes usually change the landscape in unexpected ways.”

Landscape Architect Sara Zewde’s Urban Monument Design Has Brazil BuzzingTadias, 1/26/16
“In the spring of 2011, Sara Zewde was on her way to Harvard’s Graduate School of Design to study landscape architecture when she found herself in the middle of a movement to preserve a historic Afro-Brazilian heritage site in the Pequena Africa (little Africa) neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro.”

World War One Centennial Commission Moves Forward, CautiouslyThe Washington Post, 1/26/16
“The World War One Centennial Commission has decided to go forward and endorse a winning design in the competition to create a new national memorial to the Great War at Pershing Park.”

WWI Centennial Commission Selects “The Weight of Sacrifice” for Memorial in Washington, D.C.Architectural Record, 1/27/16
“The United States got in and out of World War I in well under two years. The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission hopes it can move as quickly.”

Recreational, Scenic Wetlands Planned for Inner Harbor The Baltimore Sun, 1/28/16
“Three years from now, a green oasis of floating wetlands, bay grasses and terraced edges leading down to the water will greet visitors to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, under a plan unveiled today by officials of the National Aquarium.”

Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana / Lacamo.org

Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana / Lacamo.org

Five cities, both large and small, and eight states were winners of the first-ever National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC), which was organized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Rockefeller Foundation. Communities impacted by major disasters in the past few years will receive $1 billion to develop “resilient infrastructure and housing projects.” While many projects boost resilience for coastal or river communities, there are also inland projects that aim to protect communities against fire and flooding. A majority of the projects include multi-use green infrastructure — systems that both provide flood prevention and control and public green spaces. Winning projects also focus on transit, housing, and jobs. Some 40 communities submitted proposals.

In a conference call, HUD Secretary Julian Castro said this investment in resilience will help communities become “safer, stronger, and richer” as they adapt to climate change, which is the “great challenge of the 21st century.” The past few years, he said, have seen “extreme and devastating drought, wildfires, flooding, and tornadoes.” And with 2015 now just confirmed as the hottest year on record, extreme climate events will only get worse.

Here’s a brief overview of the state and city winners, organized by the amounts they won:

States:

Virginia: $120,549,000 for the Ohio Creek Watershed and Coastal Resilience Laboratory and Accelerator Center, which will develop “distributed green infrastructure projects, such as rain barrels and gardens, and combine them with coastal shoreline development to address flooding due to storm surge and torrential rains.”

Iowa: $96,887,177 for the Iowa Watershed Approach, an innovative program, which seeks to create local “watershed management authorities” that will assess hydrological and watershed conditions and create management plans for a more sustainable agricultural system.

Louisiana: $92,629,249 for its Louisiana Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments Program, which aims to protect coastal wetlands, retrofit communities threatened by flooding, and reshape high-ground areas. The funds will also help a tribal community on Isle de Jean Charles–whose land has submerged by an amazing 98 percent since 1955–move to a new location.

California: $70,359,459 to pilot its Community and Watershed Resilience program in Tuolumne county, which was hit by wildfires in 2013. The program aims to create a environmentally and economically sustainable model for forest and watershed health that can be rolled out across the state.

Connecticut: $54,277,359 for a pilot program in the city of Bridgeport to test the state’s broader Connecticut Connections Coastal Resilience Plan, which seeks to connect “economically-isolated” coastal communities through a mix of green and gray infrastructure.

Tennessee: $44,502,374 for the state’s Rural by Nature, a federal, state, and local initiative to create resilient rural communities along the Mississippi River, which will restore two miles of degraded floodplain.

New York: $35,800,000 for public housing resiliency pilot projects throughout the state, which will test efforts to build resilience into low-income multi-family housing.

New Jersey: $15,000,000 for a regional resilience planning grant program, which will help local communities create their own plans to address their vulnerability to flooding.

Cities:

New York City: $176,000,000 for coastal resilience in Lower Manhattan and efforts to protect public housing projects.

New Orleans: $141,260,569 for the city’s first-ever Resilience District in Gentilly, which will include coastal restoration, new parks and green streets, and workforce development initiatives.

Minot, North Dakota: $74,340,770 for an integrated approach to manage climate change and flooding.

Shelby County, Tennessee: $60,445,163 for its Greenprint for Resilience program, which will build a connective set of green infrastructure projects to increase protection against future flooding while creating trails and recreation areas.

Springfield, Massachusetts: $17,056,880 for an Urban Watershed Resilience Zone, which will focus on jobs, restoring affordable housing, and the creation of a new distributed heat and power plant in the event of a grid failure.

Green infrastructure, which involves using designed natural systems to provide a range of ecosystem services, is a primary area of investment, said Harriet Tregoning, who leads resilience efforts at HUD. “Lots of the projects feature green infrastructure. But we used a benefit-cost analysis to ensure that green infrastructure offers more than one benefit–not just stormwater management.” As Tregoning explained, HUD encouraged the project teams to come up with ways that “green infrastructure for stormwater managment or flood control could double as a park or greenway, bicycle or walking path.” The goal is to “capture all the social co-benefits.”

Christian Gabriel, ASLA national design director for landscape architecture at the General Services Administration (GSA) and one of the evaluators of the proposals, argued that the process also encouraged new approaches to deal with these complex, multi-faceted problems: “Great planning and design necessarily cross political and geographic jurisdictions. When multi-purpose projects are conceived from inception as trans-disciplinary, they more effectively act as force multipliers in communities.”

He added that the “competition asked proposers to not only provide compelling physical solutions but also propose new working relationships and create resilient models for collaborative work between governments and civil society.”

While the $1 billion is a drop in the bucket in terms of what’s needed, NDRC is an important expansion of the Rebuild by Design competition, which dedicated $920 million to improve the resilience of the communities hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy, as it may show this competitive financing model can work nationally as well. The NDRC involved some 25 federal agencies, including 100 experts, and it took 16 months to review the proposals and select the winners. What’s needed in the future is a scaled-up annual process, which is something we hope the next administration will take up.

Many more communities need help with resilience, or there will soon be more Isle de Jean Charles, more looking for a new home.

ASLA 2015 Landmark Award. The Art Institute of Chicago, South Garden, by Dan Kiley / Tom Harris

ASLA 2015 Landmark Award. The Art Institute of Chicago, South Garden, by Dan Kiley / The Cultural Landscape Foundation. Copyright Tom Harris

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) announces its calls for entries for the 2016 Professional and Student Awards, the world’s most prestigious juried landscape architecture competition. Each year, the ASLA Professional Awards honor the best in landscape architecture from around the globe, while the ASLA Student Awards give us a glimpse into the future of the profession.

Award-winning submissions will be featured in the October issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine and in many other design and construction industry and general-interest media. Award recipients, their clients and student advisors also will be honored at the awards presentation ceremony during the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in New Orleans, October 21-24, 2016. Award-winning submissions will also be featured in a video presentation at the ceremony and on the awards website following the event.

The prestige of the ASLA awards programs relies on the high-caliber juries that are convened each year to review submissions. Members of this year’s professional awards jury are:

  • Kona Gray, ASLA, Chair, EDSA, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Keith Bowers, FASLA, Biohabitats Inc. Baltimore
  • Jennifer Guthrie, FASLA, Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, Seattle
  • Mami Hara, ASLA, Philadelphia Water Department, Philadelphia
  • Christopher Hume, Architecture Critic, Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario
  • Lee-Anne Milburn, FASLA, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California
  • Willett Moss, ASLA, CMG Landscape Architecture, San Francisco
  • Suman Sorg, FAIA, DLR Group | Sorg, Washington, D.C.
  • Laurinda Spear, ASLA, ArquitectonicaGEO, Miami

Joining the jury for the selection of the Research Category will be representatives on behalf of the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) and the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA).

Members of the student awards jury are:

  • Laura Solano, ASLA, Chair, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Ned Crankshaw, ASLA, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky
  • Terrence DeWan, FASLA, Terrence J. DeWan & Associates, Yarmouth, Maine
  • Janelle Johnson, ASLA, Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects, Chicago, Illinois
  • Roger Lewis, FAIA, Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation, Washington, D.C.
  • Elizabeth Miller, FASLA, National Capital Planning Commission, Washington, D.C.
  • Forster Ndubisi, FASLA, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
  • Trinity Simons, Mayor’s Institute on City Design, Washington, D.C.
  • Barbara Swift, FASLA, Swift & Company Landscape Architects, Seattle

Both the ASLA Professional and Student awards feature five categories: General Design; Residential Design; Analysis and Planning; Communications; and Research. The Professional Awards also include The Landmark Award, while the Student Awards include the Student Community Service Award and Student Collaboration categories.

Entry submissions and payment must be received by March 18, 2016 for ASLA Professional Awards and May 13, 2016 for ASLA Student Awards

Globetrotters by Agence TER and SALT Landscape Architects

Globetrotters by Agence TER and SALT Landscape Architects

Four design teams have been announced as finalists in the competition to remake Pershing Square Park in downtown Los Angeles. Pershing Square Renew, the public-private partnership behind the revamp, has whittled the finalists down from 54 entries and 10 semi-finalist teams. According to Dezeen, Eduardo Santana, executive director of Pershing Square Renew, said: “the world-class firms selected by our jury represent a huge range. They include global stars and local unknowns.”

The 5-acre park has seen many iterations over its nearly 150 year history; the latest was created in 1994 by Mexican architect and landscape architect Ricardo Legorreta and American landscape architect Laurie Olin, FASLA. Development on a new park is expected to begin later this year.

Here’s a brief overview of the four finalists, who largely present concepts rather than actual designs at this stage:

Globetrotters: This proposal, developed by European firm Agence TER and local Los Angeles firm SALT Landscape Architects, calls for “folding down the walls and edges of the existing park to reconnect Pershing Square with its immediate surrounding context, creating a seamless flow between, through, and across the city” (see image above). The design concept features a “smart canopy,” a “wind garden” for children, a “scent garden,” and a day and nighttime farmer’s market.

Landscape starchitect: James Corner Field Operations and Frederick

Landscape starchitect: James Corner Field Operations and Frederick Fisher & Partners

Landscape Starchitect: From James Corner Field Operations, the creators of the High Line Park in New York City and Los Angeles-based Frederick Fisher & Partners, this proposal seeks to create an “urban oasis and outdoor destination for the city — a place of both respite and event; both garden and theater.” The team sees the park as a node in a greater “cultural loop” that links historic landmarks and a key point in an “art and culture walk.” The proposal also calls for bringing the park all the way to its edges, minimizing any barriers to access.

Local Force by SWA Group and Morphosis Architects

Local Force by SWA Group and Morphosis Architects

Local Force: This proposal created by international landscape architecture firm SWA and Thom Mayne’s Los Angles-based practice Morphosis imagines an “eco-topia,” a “net-positive” park that provides the “water resources necessary for irrigation, sanitation, and recreation through stormwater collection and a demonstration facility for sewer mining.” The team also focuses on improving access, particularly for pedestrians and bicyclists, and the need to create a sustainable business model for the park’s long-term upkeep.

Wild Card by wHY and Civitas

Wild Card by wHY and Civitas

Wild Card: New York-based wHY architects and landscape architecture firm Civitas offer a vision of a new Pershing Squark Park that is a “social laboratory, a socio-cultural hub in an urban natural oasis.” Mark Johnson, FASLA, founder of Civitas, writes: “our goal is to generate experiences that you feel inside, that mean something to you; with social interactions that you remember and share with others.” They want to incorporate “food culture and food security” considerations into their design as well.

The four finalists are now further fleshing out their design proposals in the lead up to a public presentation in March, 2016. Public participation is seen as central to the process, and comments will be invited for the next stage as well. The 9-person jury includes landscape architect Janet Rosenberg, FASLA, and Michael Shull, general manager, Los Angeles department of recreation and parks.

Los Angeles city councillor Jose Huizar, who initiated the revamp of the park and is also on the jury, said: “Pershing Square is one step closer to once again becoming the focal point of life, commerce, and civic engagement in downtown Los Angeles.”

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