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Archive for June, 2007

cookinglightpage1
Arricca Elin SanSone, writing for Cooking Light, has a great article in the July issue that’s chock-full of ASLA members talking about oh-so-hot outdoor kitchens. Her first piece of advice before starting to build an outdoor kitchen? “Talk to a professional.” Michael Erskine, ASLA, Michael Coutu, ASLA, and J’Nell Bryson, ASLA, are all quoted. The article is available only in print, but The Dirt’s copy has already arrived in the mail.

Arricca will also be at the ASLA Annual Meeting, where she’ll be part of the consumer publications media roundtable, and she’ll also moderate the kitchen design education session. The meeting’s Schedule-at-a-Glance is here. Registration for the Annual Meeting is open now, so click through and get ready for San Francisco in October!

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talkingplantscropped1
Ketzel Levine, National Public Radio senior correspondent (and much more important, a 2007 ASLA Professional Awards jury member), has launched a new blog on NPR.org. The blog, called “Talking Plants with Ketzel Levine,” went live today and already has several posts, a flickr.com photo gallery, and podcasts. I’m sure her self-described “plant nerd” persona will make for great reading.

By the way, ASLA also has an official flickr photo gallery: visit to see pictures of our green roof through the months, shots from last year’s Annual Meeting, and more.

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wetland1
From Sunday’s Washington Post: The Wetlands Initiative has turned 2,600 acres of corn and soybean farmland by the Illinois River back into a wetland. This new experimental wetland’s main purpose is to filter out harmful nutrient runoff from farming. According the the article, the wetland is “grounded in science that shows wetland plants capture phosphorous and turn nitrogen into a gas that escapes into the air. They also can remove carbon dioxide from the air, thus reducing the greenhouse gases that many scientists say cause global warming.” “It’s like dialysis for water systems,” said Jim Nelson, the Nature Conservancy’s vice president for public affairs. The Nature Conservancy is one of the supporting organizations of the Chicago-based Wetlands Initiative.

The whole article is worth a read, and goes into detail on the plans for creating a “nutrient credit” system much like the carbon credit economy that some environmental groups are advocating.

[wetland photo by Dean Forbes]

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barge1
Check out this neat learning science barge that is currently tooling around the island of Manhattan, growing food. The Science Barge was built by the New York Sun Works non-profit, and, according to their website, the barge

…is a sustainable urban farm powered by solar, wind, and biofuels, and irrigated by rainwater and purified river water. We grow food in the city with no carbon emissions, no water use, and no waste stream.

School kids from all five boroughs and the general public can visit and learn about solar power and urban gardens and farms.

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pershingsquare1
This recent story outlines the challenges facing neglected Pershing Square in Los Angeles. With the building of a new, 70-story retail and apartment complex beside the park, attention has been turned to improving the space for the thousands of new residents the Park Fifth building will bring. Stephanie Landregan, ASLA, gives her opinion on the current park as “bare, stark and empty” and calls for the new park to be a world-class garden to be tended by horticulturists. Pershing Park was created in 1866 to serve as the city’s central park.

[via our friends at ArchNewsNow; photo of Pershing Square by Daquella Manera]

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recycling1
Interesting sustainability news from an unlikely source: The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) conducted a survey earlier this year and found that  85 percent of U.S. consumer business companies have active sustainability initiatives in place. The most common types of sustainability initiatives are recycling and energy conservation programs, both of which strike The Dirt as, well, the easiest thing to do. However, the co-author of the study has an interesting quote about consumers’ and shareholders’ expectations for businesses now:

“While the issues associated with sustainability — such as waste management, commodity shortages and energy usage — are nothing new, the expectations of shareholders, consumers, regulators, and other constituencies have changed, pushing sustainability to the top of the agenda for many consumer products companies,” said Peter Capozucca, a principal with Deloitte Consulting and co-author of the study. “It is unlike any business issue consumer businesses have encountered in the past….”

Nice to see that businesses are at least starting to pay attention to their customers on this issue. Now let’s see if they follow through.

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mongolia1
AFP has a fascinating article about a new “green wall” that has been planted in Inner Mongolia. The wall, consisting of pine trees, grasses, and apricot bushes, aims to hold back the growing Gobi Desert. Chinese officials already see positive results from the new barrier, citing a decrease in the number of large sandstorms affecting the area. The wall also aims to protect Beijing from blowing sand during the upcoming Olympic Games.

Skeptics, however, note that

the root of the problem, overpopulation and unsustainable development, has not been addressed by a narrow corridor of grass and trees.

Jiang Gaoming, of the Institute of Botany at the Chinese Academy of Science, said that 60 billion yuan (7.6 billion dollars) spent on projects to control sandstorms hitting Beijing had been largely wasted. “Do not get too excited by those recovered grasslands and forests you see alongside the highways. They only cover 10 percent of the total affected area. The other 90 percent causes the continuing sandstorms,” said Jiang.

So what do you think, Dirt readers? Will the Gobi be reined in by a living wall? Or is this pre-Olympic Games “greenwashing”?

[photo of Mongolia by tiarescott]

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kudzu11
Today’s New York Times has a piece on Tennessee’s attempts to control kudzu, an extremely invasive plant, using a “four-legged alternative to herbicide,” that is, goats. The Chattanooga Public Works Department has had great success clearing public land of kudzu using goats, especially on steep, hard-to-reach slopes and hillsides. The project, however, has not been without a few chuckles:

“Usually, in dealing with this, you’ve got to get people past the laugh factor,” said Jerry Jeansonne, a city forestry inspector and the program’s self-described “goat dude.”

Despite the humorous overtones to the city’s methods, the program represents an environmentally friendly effort to grapple with a real problem in Chattanooga and the South.

The article also drops great kudzu trivia: Did you know that kudzu was once called “the miracle vine” and during the Depression the federal government paid farmers to plant it? Amazing.

[photo of "the vine that ate the South" by cainmark]

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The design competition, called “The Park at the Center of the World” [official site here], has five finalists: WRT and Urban Strategies; Hargreaves Associates/Michael Maltzan Architecture; West 8/Rogers Marvel/Diller Scofidio + Renfro/Quennell Rothschild/SMWM; REX/MDP; and Field Operations.

Rybczynski has mainly positive comments on all five finalists, but tips his hand that Field Operations is his favorite. The entire piece is well worth the read (even if the text is in an annoying “slideshow” format).

Update 6/20/07:
Dirt reader Hmmm notes in the comments that New York Times‘ architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff also weighs in on the Governors Island finalists in today’s NYT.

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