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Archive for March, 2008

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Next time you are frustrated with the hours you put into CAD renderings and tours, think about 18th century landscape designer Humphry Repton. Repton, a famous designer of gardens and private parks for English country estates, created a series of before and after illustrations of his projects. Like flipping a pop-up book page, these illustrations showed prospective clients how much more bucolic and beautiful Repton’s designs would make their homes. Now the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections has digitized many of Repton’s drawings in high resolution. Check them out here, and click over to the excellent Pruned blog to read more on their reactions to Repton’s work.

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Yesterday, the New York City Department of Design and Construction and the Hudson Yards Development Corporation issued an RFP for the design of the four-acre Hudson Park and Boulevard and the creation of a streetscape plan for the Hudson Yards area in Manhattan. Click here to log in and download the document. According to the Development Corporation, the park and boulevard, as “a fundamental element of the new Hudson Yards neighborhood, will create open space, facilitate access to new development and create city blocks suited to the demands of the new neighborhood.  It will provide much needed open space in an area that is underserved today and offer opportunities for recreation in an area where none presently exist.”

The Dirt has been impressed by the city’s strong push to make the Hudson Yards a more pedestrian-friendly and  mass transit-oriented neighborhood. Check out the full plan for the area here.

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This week Chicago Public Radio’s program “Worldview” interviewed Marcus De La Fleur, ASLA, about how he convinced his landlord to improve his rental home’s stormwater management. De La Fleur’s design hits all the major stormwater management points: removal of old pavement and turf lawn and replacement with rain gardens, gravel grass, porous pavement and rooftop gardens. The story also provides a good answer to the question of “what is a landscape architect?”

Listen to the interview online here.

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The Shelby Farms Park Conservancy in Memphis, TN, has released the designs of the three finalists for the redesign of the 4,500 acre park. The new park is to be, in the words of the Conservancy, “…an urban forest, a civic playground, a model for health and sustainability. It can be a standard-setting prototype for parks around the world.

The three finalists are field operations, Hargreaves Associates, and Tom Leader Studio. The Conservancy website includes well-produced streaming video interviews of Jim Corner, ASLA, George Hargreaves, FASLA, and Tom Leader, Affiliate ASLA, each describing their vision for the park. Visit the site and complete the survey giving feedback on your favorite design. The winner of the competition will be announced April 9th.

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Not only is April 1 the start of National Landscape Architecture Month, but it’s also the day that the “Fossil Foolies Award” winners are announced. The Foolies look to “recognize the world’s biggest contributors to our devastating global addition to fossil fuels.” The Foolies are organized by the Energy Action Coalition, Co-op America and Rainforest Action Network and feature five different categories: Fossil Fool of the Year, Outstanding Performance in Corporate Greenwashing, Most Inauspicious Newcomer, Lifetime Achievement and Biggest Human Toll. Click through to review the Foolies’ rogues’ gallery of environmental offenders and vote your conscious. Also check out their interactive map of public global warming education events scheduled for April 1 around the country.

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Treehugger.com (now part of Discovery Communications) is a popular green and sustainability blog. This week they released a list of ten tips for new home buyers looking for a “sustainable home.” Along with the usual advice to buy a smaller house, and to live near mass transit, two of the tips speak directly to landscape. From the article:

9. Shade grown?
Trees are good for a lot more than hugging, so take a peek outside your potential new digs to check out the foliage the comes with the place. Big deciduous (leafy) trees are great natural climate controllers; in the summer, their leafy branches block the sun and can help keep your home cooler (reducing cooling costs), and, in the winter, the bare branches let more natural light and heat through to your home (reducing heating costs). Big old trees also offer potential homes for our fine feathered friends, who can be helpful in maintaining your organic garden. Your neighborhood’s biodiversity will benefit, too.

 

10. More great outdoors
Ask yourself a couple more questions: Is there is big lawn that requires care (and lots of water) to maintain? (Remember, this isn’t always up to you; some neighborhoods have homeowners’ association rules that requires a certain level of lawn manicuring.) Is there a good, sunny place for a garden, to grow your own food, or is there a good space for some good container gardening? Will you have room for a compost pile, or just a small compost bin?

Seems like home buyers, even in this challenging market, will want to buy a home with a intelligently-designed landscape.

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This week, the New York City Department of Transportation and
Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum announced a new international design competition for bike parking in New York City. The competition seeks to develop “attractive, functional, well-designed sidewalk racks and to generate new concepts for bicycle parking inside commercial and residential buildings.” More than $50,000 in honoraria to develop prototype bike racks and $15,000 in prizes will be awarded to the top designs. Part of the city’s ambitious PlaNYC 2030 transportation initiatives is to promote more biking as a way to alleviate motor vehicle traffic. Visit the CityRacks blog to enter the competition here.

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In a sobering report today, the Associated Press released the findings of a four-month study of the water supplies of 28 US metropolitan areas. Of the 28 cities’ water supplies, 24 were found to hold traces of popular over-the-counter and prescription drugs. These drugs include including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones.

From the article:

How do the drugs get into the water?

People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.

And while researchers do not yet understand the exact risks from decades of persistent exposure to random combinations of low levels of pharmaceuticals, recent studies–which have gone virtually unnoticed by the general public–have found alarming effects on human cells and wildlife.

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Grist, the environmental news and commentary site, has up a great compendium of interviews, fact sheets, and information on this year’s crop of US presidential candidates. Here’s a handy chart of the positions of Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. John McCain, Sen. Barack Obama, and Ralph Nader on various environmental topics such as fuel economy standards and alternative energy. And here’s a heartening fact for those of you are burned out on primary politics: it’s merely 238 days until the election!

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Take the time to read Architectural Record‘s piece this week about how the sustainability movement is encouraging architecture and landscape architecture firms to work more closely together.

From the article:

As architects attempt ever more ambitious feats with green projects, the collaborative relationship between members of a design team is becoming more important. Landscape architects, in particular, are codifying their role and taking on additional responsibilities. “It is not about just dressing something that the architect gives us,” [John Loomis, ASLA] says. “We would always like to be in there right at the same time the architect starts on the project, if possible.”

Hear, hear.

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