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Archive for the ‘Landscape Architecture’ Category

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Medellin Metro station / Jared Green

“The turning point in our city’s history was the killing of Pablo Escobar,” said Alexander Velez, our guide during a tour of Medellin, organized by UN-Habitat during the World Urban Forum. Escobar, the most notorious drug dealer of the century, was estimated to be worth some $25 billion by the time he was killed by Colombian police forces in 1993. At his height, he controlled some 80 percent of the world’s cocaine market. According to Velez, his impact on Medellin was deeply poisonous. The gangs he controlled ruled the slums surrounding the valley of Medellin without mercy. It was dangerous to even cross neighborhood lines. Thousands of innocent people were murdered each year.

The other turning point, said Velez, was the creation of Medellin’s extensive Metro system, the first leg of which was launched in 1996. After Escobar died, the gangs were co-opted, and security began to improve, the people of Medellin discovered they could travel safely to other parts of the city. Soon, the city’s total transformation began to take root. And it only continues.

We drive along the Medellin River, a thin, polluted channel lined in concrete and surrounded by train lines and highways that cuts through the heart of the city. Velez explains that a new park will soon be built around the river. “We will bring back nature and undo the pollution. There will be pedestrian walkways, bicycle lanes. The highways will be buried.” Velez said there was an international design competition for the restoration and redevelopment project, which Latitud Taller de Ciudad y Arquitectura, a local firm, just won. The first segment will cost $300 million. Eventually, the park will extend 44 kilometers, said Velez.

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Parque Botánico Río Medellín by Latitud Taller de Ciudad y Arquitectura. Winner of the Design Competition for Medellín River Park.

The restoration of the Medellin River is just another example of how the city’s leadership is focused on improving social equity, stitching the poor and rich parts of the cities together.

This transformation is even seen in El Poblado, the wealthiest part of the city. Velez explained that this was the first place the Spanish colonialists settled in 1616. “They didn’t find gold but did find water so they stayed.” Over the centuries, the area evolved into a place where the very rich kept their country homes. In the early 20th century, there were extensive estates. One example of this is the Castle, the estate of José Tobón Uribe, who died just after he built the place in the 1930s. The castle was modeled after a Gothic castle in Loire, France. Later in the 1940s, textile magnate Diego Echavarría Misas bought the castle and then turned it into a museum.

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The Castle Museum / Jared Green

Even the richest area is now more accessible, said Velez. While the very wealthy still live in the area, along with the Mayor of Medellin and other celebrities, El Poblado is also now the neighborhood of the upper middle class. The main square, El Poblado square, where the Spanish first landed, has become a spot for locals to take a break. Gorgeous old trees provide a welcome canopy.

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El Poblado Square / Jared Green

And winding through the district is a stream that has been restored, forming the backbone of a new linear park, which opened in 2003.

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Linear park in El Poblado / Jared Green

Surprising cafes and bars appear at the edges of the park, providing another respite in a city filled with greenery.

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Small cafe space near the linear park in El Poblado / Jared Green

Heading towards the city center, Velez explains the city’s “partial plans,” an ambitious urban revitalization program aimed at improving the quality of life for residents and business owners. He said this plan will eventually result in 100,000 new, “non-subsidized” apartments. “The partial plans will bring life to areas that are industrialized. Before, they were places for the homeless and illegal drugs. Now, there will be residential apartment complexes, hotels, and hospitals.”

We could see the metamorphosis in one industrial area, with the opening of the Museum of Modern Art in an abandoned, 1930s-era steel mill. A $12 million addition is coming in behind the existing building.

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Museum of Modern Art, Medellin / Jared Green

And, again, Medellin surprises with its parks. Colombian endorphin-addicts could be seen tossing medicine balls in Parque líneal Ciudad del Río, the funky, urban park covered in street art, adjacent to the museum.

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Parque líneal Ciudad del Río / Wiki Colombia

As we gaze at the new museum, we stand right in the middle of Medellin’s budding system of bicycle infrastructure. While the lanes still seem a bit disconnected, the better ones are up on the sidewalks, away from the parked cars and traffic. Velez said “the network is not yet integrated, but the city is working on it.”

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Bicycle Lane in Medellin / Jared Green

These lanes also serve the new bicycle share system, which Velez said the city has been running for the past three years. If residents show an ID and credit card, they can use the bikes for free. Velez said there are 800 free bikes, and the system will soon scale up to nearly 1,100.

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Bike share system in Medellin / Jared Green

All of those must be put to use on Sundays, when much of the city’s streets no longer become accessible to cars, opening up into a bonanza for two-wheelers.

Throughout the city, one is struck by the small design details, too. Velez took us to Plaza Botero, which features the largest collection of local Medellin artist Fernando Botero’s outdoor sculptures.

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Plaza Botero / Jared Green

While the sculptures are stunning, the comfortable, human-scale streetscape competes for your attention, as well as the urban furniture that can be found throughout the downtown. This is a city designed for all — with places to stroll and sit. It’s the careful attention to these details that make Medellin feel so welcoming.

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Plaza Botero Pedestrian Mall / Jared Green

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Street chairs / Jared Green

The tour then headed to the northern end of the city, which has been hit hardest by poverty and violence, and, therefore, has seen the greatest transformation. Our first stop is the Ruta N complex, the center of Medellin’s efforts to lure innovative companies to participate in the city’s rebirth. Velez said it’s an innovation center that includes a lab and offices for the local Hewlett Packard center. The building features an innovative green wall system and reuses all water.

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Ruta N / Jared Green

Tropical gardens surrounding the building collect rainwater and cool the plaza and building.

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Ruta N garden / Jared Green

Next to Ruta N are a set of new parks that demonstrate the core of the city’s transition into a more equal place, at least in terms of access to beautiful public spaces. As Velez has explained, since the early 00s, the city, along with the foundation of the Empresas Publicas de Medellin (EPM), the all-encompassing public utility, have financed a wonderful program of “library-parks,” which combine places for learning, exploration, and play, with well-maintained green, public spaces. There are nine library-parks in “deprived areas.” One of these is the Park of Wishes, which was designed in 2003 by architect Felipe Uribe de Bedout, who also created the now-famous Barefoot Park, and features the city’s biggest music school. Facing the school is the city’s planetarium, which has a giant projector screen for outdoor films on one of its walls. The park offers fun “echo chambers” in the shape of moons.

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Wish Park / Jared Green

Right along side the Park of Wishes is Park Explora, which has the largest aquarium in Colombia in its extensive grounds. In the spirit of equality, “high income people pay to visit the aquarium, while low-income people just need to show their electricity bill to get in for free.”

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Park Explora / Jared Green

“Together, these two parks offer the poorest access to music, astronomy, and nature — education, which is what they need,” said Velez. “All these new amenities will help the city continue to grow in a sustainable way.”

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The Protective Shallows. Rebuilt by Design proposal by Scape/Landscape Architecture with Parsons Brinckerhoff, Dr. Philip Orton / Stevens Institute of Technology, Ocean & Coastal Consultants, SeArc Ecological Consulting, LOT-EK, MTWTF, The Harbor School and Paul Greenberg.

For more LA in the News, check out LAND, ASLA’s newsletter. If you see others you’d like included, please email us at info@asla.org.

Designing Outdoor Spaces to Fit Specific Patient PopulationsHealthcare Design Magazine, 4/1/14
“Patients using the garden could include a person awaiting minor surgery; someone recovering from a hip replacement who is urged to walk and seeks smooth pathways with frequent places to stop and rest; a person who has received outpatient chemotherapy and needs to recuperate—in the shade—before driving home; or a sick child being wheeled through a garden as respite from frightening medical procedures.”

Landscape Architects Edwina von Gal, Mikyoung Kim and Kate Orff Share their Favorite ThingsThe Wall Street Journal, 4/3/14
“Three trailblazing landscape designers are unearthing ways to improve the boundaries where man meets nature, using everything from oyster beds to interactive color walls to ensure that new developments harmoniously exist alongside their natural environments.”

10 Design Ideas to Prepare Us for the Next SandyNew York, 4/3/14
“‘If we put back what was there before, that’s a failure from the start,’ says Henk Ovink, a lean, bald, hyperintense water-management expert who organized Rebuild by Design while on loan from the Dutch government. The future will not be dry.”

Rebuild by Design Redesigns Sandy-Battered ShoreArchitectural Record, 4/7/14
“Protective sand islands in long narrow threads would run along the Atlantic seacoast from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Cape May, New Jersey, in one of the most ambitious proposals unveiled last week by Rebuild by Design. The program is a high-speed, invited competition sponsored by a presidential task force, guided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and others.

Dan Kiley’s LandscapesThe Washington Post, 4/11/14
“From his longtime home studio in Vermont, Dan Kiley could see low-slung mountains, rippling Lake Champlain and trees grouped thickly and randomly. But when the influential landscape architect went to work, he emulated not such natural vistas but the geometric layouts of both baroque and modernist France.”

Vision 42 Design Competition Asks Designers to Re-Imagine 42nd Street without CarsThe Architect’s Newspaper, 4/15/14
“The Institute for Rational Urban Mobility is hosting the just-announced Vision42 Design Competition calling on architects, designers, and transportation gurus to re-imagine one of the most iconic (and congested) streets in New York City—42nd Street.”

These articles were compiled by Phil Stamper-Halpin, ASLA Public Relations and Communications Coordinator.

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The American Society of Landscape Architects has launched a new Career Discovery web site to help young people explore the profession of landscape architecture. To help teachers steer young people towards the field, a new resource center has also been created, filled with classroom activities.

The Career Discovery website, aimed at students in middle school and high school, explains what a landscape architect does and how to become one. With a background that features the evolution of Columbus Circle in New York City from sketch to reality, the website shows how landscape architects creatively solve complex urban and environmental issues through design. Columbus Circle was redesigned by OLIN, a landscape architecture firm, and received a 2006 ASLA Honor Award in the General Design category.

The website also includes two videos—“Personal Paths” and “Why Become a Landscape Architect?”—featuring landscape architects and designers on why landscape architecture is the perfect career for art- and science-oriented students.

Tools for Teachers is a new education hub for K-12 teachers.  It is loaded with fun, free classroom activities that will inspire lesson plans and start classroom dialogues about landscape architecture. It includes links to all of ASLA’s educational resources, including:

“Students need to know at an earlier age why landscape architecture is a fun, rewarding, and important career that helps communities become great places to live,” said Mark A. Focht, FASLA, president of ASLA and first deputy commissioner of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation. “Our educational and career discovery resources will help them and their teachers get excited about what we do and why it matters.”

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Place de la République before aerial view / © Air-Images.net

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Place de la République after aerial view / © TVK

A piece of Paris has been recivilized for walking (or skating, or scootering, or protesting). Taxi Drivers aren’t happy, but they’ll get over it.

By Tim Waterman

Over lunch at the cheap and cheerful Gai Moulin restaurant near the Pompidou in Paris, I spoke with the man at the next table about his experience of the Place de la République. He replied that it was outside his usual haunts, but that he had always seen the space as “a sort of absence.” This is precisely how I remembered the Place from previous trips to Paris. It was somehow dark, cold, and wet in every season; a vortex of angry traffic that made fugitives of pedestrians, a margin, a nonplace. What a pleasure, then, to return to find a space filled with warmth and activity even on a damp winter day.

The design, by the French architecture and urbanism practice Trévelo and Viger-Kohler (TVK) with Martha Schwartz Partners and the landscape architects AREAL, has brought the city back together where it had been fractured by traffic planners and years of small streetscape adjustments unaided by strategy. TVK was responsible for much of the design, the meetings, the consultations. One of the great successes of the space is owing to creative input from Martha Schwartz Partners: the partial pedestrianization of one side of the square. The other is owing to a very sophisticated grading strategy.

The Place de la République sits at the corner of the 3rd, 10th, and 11th arrondissements and at the center of a spiderweb of streets with no fewer than seven roads connecting (and more diving into forks just before). There are also five Métro lines that converge underground and eject people at five points around and within it. The square’s current shape is the result of the talented megalomaniac Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s interventions in the Second Empire. The construction of the square and the adjoining boulevards involved the destruction of a row of theaters on the Boulevard du Temple. One of the earliest known photographic images, a daguerreotype of the Boulevard du Temple, shows the area before Haussmann’s picks began to swing.

The center of the Place de la République is the top of a gentle hill on which sits a gaudy statue of Marianne, France’s national emblem, brandishing an olive branch with bombast. Before the renovations of the square she sat marooned on a traffic island, her pedestal covered with graffiti deposited during demonstrations. Now she floats over the dome of space, and the topography bends away from her and down the many radiating streets. The hilltop has been gently smoothed in every direction, which gives it a decisive tautness. It doesn’t have “hospital corners,” tucked into itself nicely as so many squares do; rather the tautness extends beyond the square and down each connecting street. As Schwartz says, “The project’s big win was to attach the square to the rest of the city.” The decisive, perhaps brutal, confidence of Haussmann’s avenues has met its complement. The square and the surrounding streets have all been joined in grand unity.

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Place de la République / © Pierre-Yves Brunaud. Picturetank

The redirection of the traffic, which partially pedestrianizes the northeastern side of the square, is almost a photocopy of London’s Trafalgar Square, which was also a choked gyre of traffic until Peter Heath, at Atkins, and Norman Foster, at Foster + Partners, corrected it in 2003. Whereas Trafalgar Square is completely pedestrianized along one side, its Parisian counterpart allows bus and taxi traffic along its quiet side. It’s hated by taxi drivers, who claim that there is now a permanent bottleneck at the Place de la République. The London version is not loved by taxi drivers either, nor by the National Gallery, which, with characteristic English reserve, claims the space is now so overrun with tourists that it has turned into an undignified carnival. In 2009 the gallery actually tried to have the traffic returned to the square.

The city of Paris is willing to wait out the taxi drivers, though. The intentions are overall to make Paris a place much friendlier to alternative transportation modes, and the hope is that congestion will ease as car usage declines. Paris also gives over automotive spaces to the pedestrians, bikes, and other wheels along the Seine during the summer when a beach appears on the road, and on Sundays all year.

On my midwinter visit the tourist throngs that plague Trafalgar Square weren’t in evidence at République, but the square was certainly thronged on my arrival. Thousands of Kurds and their supporters had turned out to protest the murder of three Kurdish activists in Paris the previous year. Flags of a variety of countries waved from the hands of young protesters who were climbing Marianne’s pedestal. Food vendors set up at the edges of the crowd, and then, lining every street in incredible numbers, there were armored gendarmes with their vehicles, drinking coffee and waiting for trouble (which never came). From my hotel room just next door we could hear the indignation of the crowds and the speakers coming in waves.

At midnight the square was full of piles of refuse being gathered together and trucks with pressure washers. A couple of flags still fluttered around the statue. The next morning, a Sunday, was clear and bright, and early on in the day the traffic around the square was light. With a cup of coffee and a croissant I watched the Place de la République awaken. First there were just a few of us—a couple of homeless people on a bench, the other coffee drinkers, a few people whizzing by on bicycles. Gradually, though, a wide variety of other types of wheeled vehicles began to appear, attracted by the large, clear, smooth space. First a father teaching his tiny son to ride his bike, then a mother and a young girl both with pink Rollerblades, and a toddler on a scooter who let it fall to the ground in order to have a good full-throated cry. Later, two girls with unicycles carefully threaded their way through a group having a kickabout with a soccer ball.

While I watched all the activity dependent upon a clear, level space, a delightful paradox became evident. The space does, as I’ve mentioned, slope off into streetscapes in every direction. It’s far from level. However, along the pedestrianized edge of the square, a series of four flights of stairs provides balconies over the space below and helps to give the illusion of levelness. Thus it is possible to stand in the square and simultaneously comprehend it as both meticulously level and pronouncedly domed. What’s even better is that this isn’t an accident. It required some very canny and careful grading. Not one of the flights of stairs meets the slope in the same way, and there are cross slopes to the cross slopes.

There’s a particular irony that Martha Schwartz Partners should have helped to design a space where the design work flies so low under the radar. Her practice is founded on her flair as a provocateur. She has always wished to move the landscape profession by exciting comment and provoking debate, and always with highly visible design overtures. “I am the army ant that sacrifices its body to build a bridge,” she says. She utterly rejects the old dogma within landscape architecture that it is at its best when it is invisible. I couldn’t help asking whether such a minimalist space was enough for her. No, of course not. If she had her way she would have swept the old plane trees away that guard one side of the space, replacing them with a series of big fountains. But it was not to be.

She explains the Place de la République’s subtlety in terms of the fabric of Paris itself. Paris doesn’t need landscape spaces that shock it back into functionality. It’s already working in so many ways, and so sure of itself. Paris, she says, “doesn’t need a defibrillator.” Still, one gets the sense she would have used one anyway if she could have. Maybe it doesn’t need it, but it can certainly take it.

There are also difficulties trying to make a design splash in a public space where so many people have ownership. “The public landscape is the most contested of all spaces,” Schwartz says. “It is where everything overlaps. It’s more political territory than it is environmental or social, for example.” In addition to the many stakeholders, how much can happen in a project depends upon the political will of the powers that be—whether they will take on risks, which may depend upon where they are in the electoral cycle. “TVK took the largest part of the project—they were sitting there with the politicians.”

It is the big moves that work here, and perhaps also all that work with the politicians. Other gestures are much less assured. The square’s simple austerity allows the warmth of human activity to fill the space. TVK seems to have become frightened of such minimalism and added to the square a small wooden stage at the southeast corner, but it looks paltry and tentative. Worse, the square is dotted with wooden benches, the outsized timbers of which seek to reference overstuffed sofas. These appear jokey and compensatory. Finally, the northwestern end of the square is held in place with a small rectangular café, grandly named the Monde and Médias Pavilion. Its glazed walls allow a seamless interaction with the surrounding space, and a roof cantilevers out over seating next to a water feature—perfect for parents wishing to watch their children. There is gently glowing lighting that adds a delicate ambience. From the water side, this is a successful ensemble, but viewed from the street side the café’s lines are far less confident. The floating effect of the cantilever doesn’t elevate the building here—it is decidedly grounded. The heavy beam that forms the cornice and counterbalances the cantilever overpowers the building with top-heaviness, and as an otherwise unadorned box the architecture offers no other tactic with which to counteract this effect. Viewed from the major approach down the Boulevard Saint-Martin across the busy street, it is a graceless and unwelcoming presence.

I leave Paris in the midafternoon and walk to the Gare du Nord to catch the Eurostar back to London. The southern expanse of the Place de la République is now filled with youths skateboarding, and the clatter of boards is so constant it sounds like the pop and crackle of a poorly tuned radio. To all the other wheels in the square I add the two of my suitcase. TVK created a beautiful bande dessinée graphic to convey the various programs and activities that were to be contained within the new Place de la République, and they’re all in there—the kids, the Kurds, the skateboards. Even the sullen taxi drivers might reluctantly find themselves in the mix.

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Place de la République / © Pierre-Yves Brunaud. Picturetank

So many of the groups that have ownership of the square have been there through the weekend. The grout is already coming away between the stones from all the pressure washing at night—a direct result of so much activity. It’s gone from being an urban margin to something that integrates the city around it, making it legible. The charming little cafés near the Square du Temple are now part of the same city that contains the tranquil Canal Saint-Martin, which, just on the other side of the Place de la République, dives into a tunnel through the same hill that is crowned by Marianne. What the graphic fails to show is that the site’s narratives aren’t contained here. They are now part of all of Paris’s trajectories again—they stretch outside, they connect, and they bring the whole place into focus again.

Tim Waterman teaches at the Writtle School of Design in Essex and at the Bartlett in London. He is the author of two textbooks on landscape architecture, and he travels and speaks widely.

In honor of National Landscape Architecture Month (NLAM), the April issue of LAM is available for free.

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Pause / Shawn Lani via The Architect’s Newspaper

San Francisco has long been a test bed for innovation when it comes to its streets. With their Pavement to Parks program, the city showed how low-cost parklets and pop-up plazas can make streets much more welcoming, creating new street life where there was once only cars. Now, the city is experimenting with what they call Living Innovation Zones (LIZs), public-private spaces that also feel like design installations. The city thinks these places can become “catalysts for exploration, innovation, and play.”

The idea of the LIZ program is to express in physical form what San Francisco is all about: innovation. San Francisco sees the LIZs as a way to demonstrate the “economic and technological movements that define San Francisco today.” These public installations are people-friendly monuments to the city’s “creative expression and DIY spirit.”

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said the city’s everyday pedestrians and visitors will also benefit: “this is a whole new approach to activating our public realm.”

The first LIZ is on Market Street at Yerba Beuna Lane. The city gave a spot to the Exploratorium, the city’s museum of science, to create an interactive educational experience. The city says 20,000 people pass by the installation every day, meaning about 7 million will see it each year.

According to The Architect’s Newspaper, the Exploratorium’s LIZ is called Pause, and it was designed by that museum’s Studio for Public Spaces, along with Gehl Architects, and the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District. The installation has a set of “whispering dishes,” a musical bench “activated by hand-holding,” and a “pedal-powered cell phone charging station.”

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Shawn Lani, director of the Studio for Public Spaces at the Exploratorium told The Architect’s Newspaper that people may pick up some science while enjoying the space. “Hopefully, you develop proficiencies for seeing space, and that’s a type of learning—it’s not always about delivering that science punch line.”

This is just for the first innovation zone. The city plans ten more.

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Bronx Queens Expressway / DLand Studio via Architect Magazine

For more LA in the News, check out LAND, ASLA’s newsletter. If you see others you’d like included, please email us at info@asla.org.

Sea ChangeArchitect Magazine, 3/17/14
“Susannah Drake’s unconventional path out of architecture school inspired her to establish this niche. A licensed architect and a licensed landscape architect, she graduated with master’s degrees in both disciplines from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.”

Brooklyn Bridge CrossroadsThe Architect’s Newspaper, 3/19/14
“After five years of study, meetings, and schematic designs, however, accessing the Brooklyn Bridge will soon be improved under a plan to revamp the Brooklyn Bridge Gateway Area streetscape, encompassing Tillary Street between Cadman Plaza West and Prince Street and several blocks of Adams Street, with widened sidewalks, improved bike lanes, and increased landscaping.”

Born AgainThe Architect’s Newspaper, 3/24/14
“In 2001, an electrical fire ravaged St. Louis’ National Memorial Church of God in Christ, destroying all of the historic structure except for its perimeter walls. Rebuilding the interior from scratch was not possible. Instead, as part of a broader plan to revitalize the Grand Center neighborhood, a local nonprofit hired New York–based Gluckman Mayner Architects with Michael Van Valkenburgh to help local architects John C. Guenther and Powers Bowersox resurrect the ruins.”

How to Fix New York City’s ParksThe New Yorker, 3/28/14
“Park equity is a relative newcomer to the roster of issues that New York City leaders must have a position on. The issue gained relevance last year, after State Senator Daniel L. Squadron introduced legislation, still before the state senate, that would take twenty per cent from the budgets of the ‘well-financed conservancies’ and redistribute it to poorer parks, matching these ‘contributing parks’ to ‘member parks.’ De Blasio endorsed the bill then but stopped short of reiterating his support on Friday, instead referring to the idea as creative.”

Predicting Future Biodiversity under Climate ChangeThe Guardian, 3/28/14
“They developed a model to predict future biodiversity as a result of changes to the underlying productivity of foundational tree species with global climate change. Their study drew upon many intersecting fields of study including community ecology, biogeography, and genetics. With these tools, they asked how climate change will alter the productivity of foundational species.”

These articles were compiled by Phil Stamper-Halpin, ASLA Public Relations and Communications Coordinator.

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Mid Main Park / all images from Hapa Collaborative

At Main Street and 18th Avenue in Vancouver, the Palm Dairy and Milk Bar, an old ice-cream shop, was a popular spot for more than 30 years, until it closed in the late 80s. In its place, Mid Main Park speaks to what must be the community’s nostalgia for that community gathering place. Landscape architecture firm Hapa Collaborative worked with the Vancouver Park Board and local residents to create a one-of-a-kind park that harks back to that old Milk Bar. This new gathering spot is part of Vancouver’s “greenest city” initiative.

The history of the place is found everywhere in the new park. Within the concrete paving are “large, random ‘milk bubbles.’”

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The trellis looks like giant “bendy-straws.” (The trellis itself supports kiwi vines growing fruits locals can snack on).

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And, lastly, there are dairy-bar stools set within the park, even with spinning seats. All powder-coated steel elements are painted with Palm Dairy’s orange-red color.

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The space taken up by Mid Main Park was an “underused slip lane” set within the Main Street right-of-way. It was transformed with curvy seat-walls, earth mounds, layered plants, and lighting schemes. The designers tell Landezine they used rounded paths to take the edge off an awkward triangular site.

The park also has lots of sustainable design features. According to Hapa, permeable concrete paving convey stormwater into a “detention gallery buried in the central mound behind the main seatwall, reducing runoff rate and quantity discharged into the city’s storm sewer.”

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Fun, sustainable, and popular.

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all photos: Fengming Mountain park / Martha Schwartz Partners

Martha Schwartz, FASLA, now works mostly outside the U.S., having moved to London and taken up shop there some years ago. Now a perma-expat, she has done many big master plans and parks in the Middle East and is now taking on projects in China. In Chongqiing, a massive metropolis in western China, Schwartz and her team just created the 16,000-square-meter Fengming Mountain Park, a place where visitors can be taken on a “dynamic journey via a series of iconic mountain-shaped follies, plazas, greenery and water features,” right up to the sales office for a new development. This is a bold, modern park rooted in Chinese culture, but also a place meant to encourage you to buy a new apartment.

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The park helps create an identify for a new urban development, Vanke Golden City. Like some developers in the U.S., this group seems to be working on the landscape first in order to create some sense of “there” there, before the buildings come in. In Washington, D.C., developer Forest City used this approach with their winning Navy Yard redevelopment on the Anacostia riverfront, which Witold Rybczynski called one of the most successful redevelopment projects in the U.S. Schwartz Partners say the park is meant to stimulate sales at first, but will evolve with the new development as it takes shape. The park is then also a permanent amenity for this community.

Schwartz’s firm tells us that the “extreme topography” was both a challenge and opportunity. The steep slope made it tricky to get people from the upper car park to the sales center. On the other hand, the place gave them a chance to create a distinctive park that speaks to the surrounding mountainous landscape.

“The vision was to create a strong connection between the setting of the site and the surrounding backdrop of the mountainous peaks, valleys of the Sichuan Basin; the agrarian patterning of rice paddy terraces; the Chang Jiang river; and the mysterious white, grey misty sky of Chongqing. These elements provide the inspiration for the mountain pavilions, zigzag patterns, orchestrated terrain and the use of vivid colors (to contrast against the sky).”

As for the visitor’s experience, the park is designed to provide a “triumphant journey.” As visitors come in off Fengxi Road, there are a series of bright orange and red triangular pavilions that speak to the surrounding mountains.

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The pavilions offer shade during the day and are lit from within at night.

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The path zig zags to ensure the deep slope is accessible for all visitors. Schwartz’s firm tells us that “the path also becomes a geological pattern language, as if one is a walking on trails winding up a steep mountain.” At each zag, there’s a spot to sit and check out the view.

Water also flows through, from the arrival spot all the way to the sales area. “Channels, pools and jets to assist with cooling, provide sounds and atmosphere to what is a captivating landscape.” A local Feng Shui master must have approved.

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See more images and check out a recent interview with Schwartz.

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Bourbon street scenes from the late 1930s (left column) paired with 2013 views (right). Image credits: The WPA, courtesy of the Library of Congress and the Louisiana State Museum; and Richard Campanella, LSU

For more LA in the News, check out LAND, ASLA’s newsletter. If you see others you’d like included, please email us at info@asla.org.

Hating Bourbon StreetThe Design Observer Group, 3/3/14
“Hundreds of millions. That’s how many people, over the past two generations, have crammed themselves into a minor and rather middling artery in a secondary city on America’s Third Coast.”

Soil as Carbon Storehouse: New Weapon in Climate Fight?Yale e360, 3/4/14
“Today, just three percent of North America’s tallgrass prairie remains. Its disappearance has had a dramatic impact on the landscape and ecology of the U.S., but a key consequence of that transformation has largely been overlooked: a massive loss of soil carbon into the atmosphere.”

Seattle’s Waterfront: Visions of Hot Tubs & Gardens, but Where’s the Cash?  – Crosscut, 3/6/14
“The cold realities of public finance and broken boring machines aside, the design offers a sweeping contrast to the downtown waterfront as it is today, separated from the rest of the city by the viaduct and the din of traffic flowing on top of the structure.”

Five Teams in the Running for London’s Natural History Museum Civic Realm CompetitionThe Architect’s Newspaper, 3/10/14
“Deeming them to be not ‘appropriate to a world-class institution nor effective in accommodating day-to-day use,’ trustees of London’s Museum of Natural History put out a call for redesigns to the grounds surrounding the building. The competition has now reached its second stage, with five firms selected as finalists for the project, though who is responsible for which proposal has yet to be revealed. The winning selection will have to ease access for the museum’s growing number of visitors and create a new civic ground for the city of London.”

A 38-Foot-Tall Hill of Slides Is Coming to Governor’s Island ParkInhabitat, 3/17/14
“Construction workers are working on erecting a 38-foot-tall hill that will eventually be covered with slides. Called Slide Hill, the play area will be just one of four themed waterfront zones planned for the island.”

These articles were compiled by Phil Stamper-Halpin, ASLA Public Relations and Communications Coordinator

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On the Benthemsquare in Rotterdam, Dutch landscape architecture firm De Urbanisten has finally achieved what they set out to do seven years ago: create a water park for the community fed entirely by storm water. Instead of hiding runoff in underground pipes and cisterns, the square has been designed to make water the main feature. The designers say this is the world’s first “water square.”

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Watersquare Benthemplein / De Urbanisten

Storm water is channeled through stainless steel gutters into three basins. Two shallow ones collect water whenever it rains, while another deeper basin is reserved for overflows from heavier storms. To help people understand what will flood or not, everything that can flood is painted in shades of blue.

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Watersquare Benthemplein / Millad Pallesh

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Watersquare Benthemplein / Millad Pallesh

And all that transports water is shiny metal.

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Watersquare Benthemplein / Millad Pallesh

In summer, if there is flooding, the main basin could become a pond. If it’s not gunked up with oily residue and leaves, perhaps kids will be playing there. In winter, maybe there’s ice-skating. At least, this is the vision of the designers and community. (Apparently, this is OK in Rotterdam, unlike in the U.S. where there would be lawsuits galore).

The designers came up with the concept in collaboration with students and teachers from Zadkine college and the Graphic Lyceum; members of the adjacent church, a nearby youth theater, and gym; and locals from the Agniese neighborhood of Rotterdam.

The say over the course of three public workshops, “we discussed possible uses, desired atmospheres, and how the storm water can influence the square. All agreed: the water square should be a dynamic place for young people, lots of space for play and lingering, but also have nice, green intimate places. And what about the water? This had to be excitingly visible while running over the square. Detours obligatory! The enthusiasm of the participants helped us to make a very positive design.”

The park doesn’t just work only when it’s raining. When it’s dry, the deep basin is a “true sports pit” as well as a sort of urban theater where people can see and be seen.

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Watersquare Benthemplein / Ossip Van Duivenbode

De Urbanisten also interposes the basins and walkways with green infrastructure made up of trees, grasses, and flowers, all “self-irrigated.”

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Watersquare Benthemplein / Millad Pallesh

See more images of Water Square and other water square concepts, and learn more about the innovative ways in which the Dutch manage water and create community assets.

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