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Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

blue

Blue Urbanism / Island Press

Timothy Beatley, professor of sustainable communities at the University of Virginia, has done it again. His excellent book from a few years ago, Biophilic Cities: Integrating Nature into Urban Design and Planning, has been followed-up by an equally well-written and persuasive new one, Blue Urbanism: Exploring Connections between Cities and Oceans. In this book, Beatley expands his purview beyond the “green urbanism” of Biophilic Cities to the vast oceans that make up 70 percent of the face of the Earth and contain 97 percent of its water. While he still argues that cities must integrate green — really ecological design principles at all levels — into dense urban environments, he cautions that cities can’t ignore oceans and marine environments. He admits that he basically left out oceans in Biophic Cities. He certainly makes up for it in this book, which argues that we also have biophilic connections to the oceanscape, and that connection is essential to building a more “complementary, mutually sustainable relationship between city and ocean.”

It seems much of the inspiration for Blue Urbanism came out of a fortuitous experience Beatley had in Perth, Australia. There, he witnessed how “urbanites, under the right circumstances, can take on ocean conservation.” A real estate developer wanted to build a massive hotel resort along the coast facing the vulnerable Ningaloo Reef. The spot proposed was apparently the “worst location for preserving marine biodiversity.” Beatley was amazed by the collective sense of outrage, manifested in everything from bumper stickers to rallies and letter writing campaigns. Under pressure, the state’s premier (similar to a U.S. governor) shut down the plans. Beatley says “this story has stayed with me as a remarkable example of how urbanites, even those hundreds of kilometers away, can care for and advocate on behalf of the ocean world.”

The trick is turning all those good feelings about oceans — and the charismatic sea creatures we all love: whales, sea turtles, sea stars, to name a few — into real urban policies and plans that protect oceans. Beatley points to a few examples of local governments that have taken the lead, from San Francisco, with its ban on plastic bags; to Hong Kong, with its burgeoning movement to stop the consumption of shark fins; to Wellington, New Zealand, which has forged a deep and sustainable connection with its coastal environment. Still, Beatley thinks most cities can go much further than they are now, creating “blue belts,” to protect ocean spaces in the same way cities create designated “green belts” on land.

The world’s oceans — and their rich coastal zones — are in dire need of protection. While ocean diversity is important in its own right, our protection of it is really self-interested. This is because our “urban future and ocean world are intimately connected in numerous ways.” The world’s oceans are major carbon sinks, soaking up 2 billion tons of CO2 annually. Ocean related jobs total 350 million worldwide. Seafood generates $108 billion in economic value, while eco-tourism to reefs creates another $9 billion alone. We also get energy from the ocean — in the form of undersea oil deposits, and, hopefully, in the future, more offshore wind farms. Beatley says offshore wind farms could provide today’s energy needs four times over, if we were smart. Oceans are also our main transportation channels. But all of these interactions with our oceans must be done in a more considered, sustainable fashion to prevent more of what Beatley calls “ocean sprawl,” which negatively impact the “integrity of ocean ecosystems.”

Ocean sprawl has had terrible impacts. Those huge gyres — garbage patches — will continue to grow for the next 500 years, even if we stop putting any plastic in the ocean right now. Coal-burning power plants send huge amounts of mercury into the oceans. Here’s just one scary stat Beatley cites: “A recently released United Nations Environment Program report documents a doubling of mercury levels in the top 100 meters (300 feet) of ocean water over the past 100 years.” Then, there are events like the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Too many cities don’t understand their connection to oceans. Beatley explains how a number of local non-profits are trying to change that. In Seattle, a group called Beach Naturalists is helping locals understand the magic of their coastline. “The program trains several hundred volunteer naturalists in the ecology and life found in the intertidal zone, and these volunteers patrol the city’s parks to help people understand more about life in tidal pools.” And then there’s the group called LA Waterkeeper, which aims to build awareness of the massive kelp forests just off the coast of Los Angeles. Did anyone know they were there?

Returning to Wellington, New Zealand, Beatley explains how that city has “created a new marine reserve on one of its shores, a marine education center providing children and adults alike the chance to touch and see marine organisms, the world’s first marine bioblitz (engaging the citizens in the recording of marine biodiversity), and a powerful new vision of its ‘blue belt,’ a complement to its historic and prized greenbelt system.” Imagine if New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco — and all the major coastal cities around the world — took their marine environments as seriously as Wellington does, and actually extended the marine world into the city.

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Dive instructor with sea stars in the Wellington harbor / Mark Coote

In a few sections of the book, Beatley dives into what blue urbanism looks like. Of interest to planners, architects, and landscape architects, he outlines how the “redesign of buildings and public spaces to foster resilience to climate change and rising ocean levels” can also extend “urban spatial planning and conservation into marine environments.” He points to innovative examples in Singapore, Rotterdam, Toronto, and Oslo.

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ASLA 2009 Professional General Design Honor Award. Spadina Wavedeck, Toronto, Ontario, Canada / West 8 + DTAH

Read Blue Urbanism and check out the review of Beatley’s earlier book, Biophilic Cities.

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1. Pavilion Vista

Pavilion Vista / Longwood Gardens

Known for its exquisitely-crafted formal gardens, Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania has just unveiled its new meadow garden, 86 acres showcasing “best practices in ecological garden design with artistic interventions.” Designed by Jonathan Alderson Landscape Architects with a team of local artisans, the meadow garden features three miles of walking trails and boardwalks that guide visitors from the woodland edge through sweeps of native wildflowers, then along to the wetlands surrounding Hourglass Lake. To guide the landscape experience, landscape architect Jonathan Alderson, ASLA, accentuated natural patterns that celebrate the meadow’s ever-changing nature. Also, all structures — from the entrance gate and learning pavilions to the bridges and boardwalks — were crafted with local materials to reflect Brandywine Valley culture, history, and ecology.

6. Meadow Bridge

Meadow bridge / Longwood Gardens

“The new meadow garden is an exciting departure from the more formal gardens,” said Longwood Gardens director Paul Redman. “Guests will experience a bucolic Brandywine Valley landscape and discover the beauty and variety of native and naturally-producing plants.” Visitors will gain an “appreciation for the inter-connectedness of plants and wildlife.”

To augment the existing plant varieties already thriving in the meadow and woodland edge, over 100 species were added to create sweeps of color, texture, and diversity. These plants permeate the landscape and provide interest and habitat benefits in every season.

In spring, woody plants like Eastern redbud and flowering dogwood combine with an herbaceous groundcover layer.

8. Spring Bird

Spring in the meadow / Longwood Gardens

In summer, meadow species provide visual scenes and attract pollinators like the monarch butterfly.

5. Blazing Star_Daniel Traub (summer)

Blazing Star in summer / Daniel Traub

While in the fall, native asters and meadow grasses blend with the autumn foliage of woodland-edge species of maple and oak.

7. Fall Meadow

Fall meadow / Longwood Gardens

Even in winter, dry seed pods and grasses provide subtle beauty and texture while providing important habitat amid the snow.

2. Meadow Garden Winter

Meadow Garden Winter / Longwood Gardens

Alderson designed the meadow garden as a showcase for ecological design. The new meadow “minimizes environmentally-destructive impacts by integrating itself with living processes. Land stewardship techniques are implemented with the goal of enhancing and maintaining the resilience of the existing native plant communities.”

By doubling the original meadow’s size, several species that require sizable habitat to complete their life cycle and migratory needs (the Eastern Meadowlark, for example) will have the opportunity to thrive. The plant and soil communities also function as dynamic, living water filters for the ponds, headwater streams, and wetlands throughout the gardens. “This meadow is a direct reflection of how the human and natural words interact, offering a valuable ecological and cultural experience.”

Longwood Gardens founder Pierre DuPont’s left a legacy of support for education. Following in this tradition, the meadow garden is a place for discovery and learning. Four pavilions frame vistas and provide gathering points for school groups and other visitors. The historic Webb Farmhouse has been restored and will serve as a gallery and interpretive center reflecting the site’s intricate history

3. Webb House

Webb House / Longwood Gardens

Efforts were made during the Webb Farmhouse restoration, along with the construction of boardwalks and other structures, to source local, environmentally friendly materials. Reclaimed historic wood beams and floor boards were used to restore the Webb House; benches are constructed from fallen trees on the Longwood property; and much of the Garden’s hardscape features stone sourced from nearby Avondale, Pennsylvania. Local masons, carpenters, blacksmiths, and others handcrafted the structures found in the landscape.

4. Artisan Blacksmith_DANIELTRAUB

Artisan Blacksmith / Daniel Traub

Guests are welcome throughout the year to enjoy self-guided walks or to schedule school-group visits. Meadow days in August, September, and October will offer additional opportunities for fun and exploration.

In the meantime, check out this video and start thinking about how to get yourself to Pennsylvania for this Americana landscape experience.

Yoshi Silverstein is the ASLA 2014 communications intern. He is a Masters in Landscape Architecture candidate at the University of Maryland. He focuses on landscape experience and outdoor learning environments.

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Yorkville Park / © Peter Mauss/Esto

Landscape architects are increasingly focused on the social side of sustainability, said Ken Smith, ASLA, principal of Ken Smith Workshop, in a lecture at the University of Oregon’s campus in Portland. Smith said: “in the 70s, Ian McHarg taught us to focus on the regional and large-scale in landscape architecture, not what the quality of what we were building. In the 80s, landscape architects began to focus on what we were designing, the physicality. For the past 15 years, there has been a new focus on sustainability, with the ecological side getting the most attention. Now, the social agenda has risen to the front. The social realm is the new focus of landscape architecture.”

Smith said much of William H. Whyte’s research on urban social spaces, which began in the 70s, is still valid, but the way people inhabitat spaces has changed. “Social spaces are now a little different.” And landscape architects need to up their game if they are going to continue to know how to design spaces for today’s urban populations. “Google and Facebook probably know more predictably how people use social spaces than landscape architects. We need to be as smart as the companies profiting off data. We need to tap the data to design.”

But for now, Smith’s approach to creating social spaces that matter for today’s mobile phone-obsessed urbanites is to weave in both ecology and craft. Smith mentioned the growing importance of craftsmanship in today’s culture, saying he’s spending lots of time thinking about “how we make things.”

One example is Yorkville Park in Toronto, where Smith, Martha Schwartz, and David Meyer brought in a 700-ton bedrock mountain, creating an active social world around it. Taking the best of biophilic landscape design principles — that people enjoy a prospect view as well as an intimate refuge — the designers carved the boulder so it was easy to climb on, and then set out moveable chairs and tables around it. “People hang out on the rock and can configure their own social space.”

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Yorkville Park / Steve Evans

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For TFANA Arts Plaza, the setting of the Theatre for a New Audience, part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Cultural Arts District in New York City, Smith brought his inspiration — nightclub banquettes, a form of highly social seating — to the outdoors. “The cocoons envelope. There’s a loucheness to these banquettes that I like.” Working with outdoor furniture manufacturer Landscape Forms, Smith tinkered with the look and feel until it was right. Getting it right meant making the perforated patterns in the steel imperfect in some spots, creating a needed “fuzziness or noise.” The plaza is made up of permeable pavements, which he thinks is a first for New York City, and a silva-cell system for hydrating the trees.

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TFANA Arts Plaza at BAM / © Francis Dzikowski/Esto

Smith saved his discussion of perhaps his most ambitious remake of the social realm for nearly last. The East River Waterfront Esplanade in New York City, which will line two miles of the lower Manhattan waterfront, is being completed in phases. The first phase, which was a pilot used to test aspects of the site in real-time, was opened in 2010. Results from the site’s post-occupancy surveys informed phase 2, which opened in 2012. Two more phases are in the works.

The esplanade is part of former-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to make the city more livable for one million new residents, which he argued the city will need to attract in order to retain its competitive edge as a global city on par with London and Shanghai. The plan includes creating whole stretches of new waterfront parks, the massive Hudson Yards development, a new 2nd avenue subway line, and lots of new public spaces. The esplanade is also central to the city’s goal of creating a central park for residents of lower Manhattan and other communities that connect via the rivers. “Cross connections will be a critical issue as the city figures out how to get people to the waterfront.”

On the esplanade design, Smith said, “I didn’t want a formal, perfectly spaced and organized esplanade like OLIN’s Battery Park City; I wanted to purposefully slow people down so they have to look up from their devices to see where they are going.”

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East River Watefront Esplanade / © Peter Mauss/Esto

The esplanade runs parallel to the FDR Memorial Drive and, in some cases, underneath it. New coastal structures were built to provide support for the soil mass needed to support enough vegetation. “The site is a series of successive walls that provide the structure for the dunes,” which Smith calls the waves of raised landscapes. Those pieces of nature were central to the design. “The ecological basis is conflated with the social purpose. We integrated the social infrastructure into the sea walls.”

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East River Watefront Esplanade / © Peter Mauss/Esto

There’s all sorts of fun places to sit along the esplanade. “The seating is a kit of parts.” There are benches set close together, which are designed to foster conversation. “You can also put your feet up and use the other bench as an ottoman.” There are wood chaise lounges for a bit of a get-away.

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East River Watefront Esplanade / © Peter Mauss/Esto

Rail-side bar stools are great for eating lunch and gazing out at the water. “Those stools are very popular.”

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East River Watefront Esplanade / © Peter Mauss/Esto

Smith was thrilled with how the lighting turned out. He said the usual New York City light pole is “horribly wrong scale, historicist, and clunky.” He ended up commissioning a new lighting system, with soft lighting reflected against FDR girders now painted lavender, and calf-level LED lighting, which will eventually wrap through the entire two-mile-long park. Smith defended the low-light approach, arguing that it’s actually safer, as “over lighting a space causes your pupils to dilate.”

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East River Watefront Esplanade / © Peter Mauss/Esto

Throughout the esplanade, there are several pavilions coming — and it seems like most of them are beer gardens. Smith laughed and said, “beer gardens are really positive activators of public space.” Each pavilion is part commercial and community space.

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East River Watefront Esplanade / © Peter Mauss/Esto

And then there’s the pop-art dog park. “Dog runs are social spaces, too. Dog runs are like playgrounds. They are supervised just like kids. There’s a social life among both the dogs and parents.” And more ominously, “there are lots of politics in dog parks.”

Dotted along the esplanade are new pier parks, some of which are still in development. One new pier park has two levels, with the upper deck made up of gardens and lawn.

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East River Watefront Esplanade / © Peter Mauss/Esto

And Pier 35, now in the works, will be an eco-park with mussel colony. “We call it mussel beach.”

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(FIG 3) halle_barefoot

all photos by Hannah Barefoot

“Trees appear to be too complicated if we don’t have the key. I will give you the key to trees,” Francis Hallé

Renowned botanists, Francis Hallé and Peter Del Tredici, came to the University of Virginia (UVA) to teach landscape architecture students about the architecture of trees. Hallé is a professor emeritus at the University of Montpellier II, where he studies tropical rainforests. UVA landscape architecture chair Teresa Gali-Izard, International ASLA, introduced him as a botanist, biologist, artist, and poet. Del Tredici is a botanist and research scientist at Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum and professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. His research includes wild urban plants and plant morphology.

As the first workshop on Saturday afternoon began, Hallé defined plant architecture through 22 known models of tree growth and morphology. We learned how certain logic plays out in the growth of a tree. The diagrammatic quality of his drawings demonstrated growth habits and the potential for reiteration, which refers to a tree’s response to damage with the redirection of nutrients. Hallé developed concepts of reiteration and tree adaptability, explaining how these capabilities formed out of tree evolution.

Hallé insists the key to understanding trees lies in the difference between unitarian and modular models. Unitarian trees have ancient methods of reproduction – they are consistent and symmetrical throughout their entire life. When a unitarian tree is pruned, the plant lacks the means to reproduce from the cut. Modular trees work in a more complex way – as the tree grows the branches create a dendritic pattern. When a modular tree is pruned, the tree responds through reiteration. A modular tree is adaptable because it can reproduce more modules of the original tree form throughout the canopy.

Full of ideas on how to draw, plant, understand trees, students and faculty set out in the rain to draw and study trees on the grounds of UVA. We looked at specific instances of reiteration in action: tree collars, water sprouts, fluid tree growth dynamics, and grafting.

The following morning we walked to the side of Carter’s Mountain along the Monticello Trail. We lingered with certain plants: eastern white pine, devil’s walking stick, tulip poplar, eastern redbud, and an oak. We encountered visible reiteration in the forest surrounding Monticello.

“Wood is plastic,” Francis Hallé; “Trees have fluid dynamics,” Peter Del Tredici

Peter Del Tredici then discussed biological functions in architectural models of trees. Discussion of meristems (the tissue in plants enabling regenerative growth) and the fluid dynamics of trees informed Del Tredici’s examples of tree adaptability. Images of trees growing through chain link fences, massive tropical tree buttresses, or trees converting dead internal cambium into soil for new growth all demonstrated the ability of trees to change and succeed within taxing environments.

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Our final group workshop gathered into a large informal critique of the work UVA landscape architecture students completed as part of courses on planted form and function. The work included axonometric drawings of plant communities in Virginia, specific and general examinations of plant architecture, and some experiments in representing representation types of planted forms (hedge, alleé, windbreak). While we discussed methods of drawing plant architecture with Hallé and Del Tredici, other questions at the intersection of botany, design, and preservation arose.

As landscape architects and students, we know tree maintenance is a critical part of design. Though Hallé insists cutting a limb of a tree is “like cutting the leg of your dog,” we pondered the reasons for pruning a tree. Gali-Izard and UVA professor Julie Bargmann wondered about the role of the landscape architect’s role in pruning: “I love trees. I want to touch them,” and “Why can’t I be the lightning strike?”

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We talked about the cultural implications of cutting a tree, as well as pollarding, hedging, or training trees. Though no ethical conclusion emerged from the conversation, Hallé said it well, “to prune a tree you must have a very strong reason.”

This guest post is by Hannah Barefoot, Master’s of Landscape Architecture candidate, University of Virginia

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Le radeau des cimes / Krapo arboricole

After a weekend spent drawing trees with the students and faculty of the landscape architecture department at the University of Virginia, French botanist Francis Hallé gave a talk on the ecology of tropical rainforests. He has studied tropical plant life in 45 countries for 55 years and was the first person to land on top of the rainforest canopy using a raft suspended from a dirigible.

Hallé said the tropical rainforest canopy is the most complicated place to study botany for two reasons: one, the rainforest is the most biologically-diverse ecosystem in the world; and two, the canopy — because of its lack of humidity and access to sunlight — is even more diverse than the tropical forest undergrowth.

Hallé often uses metaphors to describe the life of the rainforest. “Can you imagine a lovely building of ten floors inhabited by smart and interesting people? Why should we visit only the basement, the parking, the terminal of rubbish and plumbing, the garbage cans, with cockroaches and mice? So we have to find a way to go up. I regret that at the time of Darwin it was not possible to climb the canopy and get up there.”

Compared to the lightness of the canopy, with its scents and butterflies, the undergrowth is dark, musty, and humid. “You can hear the animals, but you cannot see them. Undergrowth animals are big, dark, slow, and extremely shy. There are big cockroaches, spiders, millipedes, toads, and snails, but they are very shy. They turn around the tree trunk to avoid being seen by you.”

In 1975, Hallé and his colleague, Dany Cleyet-Marrel, a pilot and expert ballooner, attempted to fly in a hot air balloon over the rainforest in French Guyana. The trade winds were too strong to collect specimens, as Hallé planned. They needed to build an airfield in order to land on the canopy, and they also needed more financial backing.

Hallé consulted his friend and colleague, an architect from the Versailles School of Architecture, Gilles Ebersolt, to design a canopy raft. Finally in 1989, after the funding was acquired, and the equipment built, Hallé landed for the first time on the tropical canopy. The suspended raft and the materials were light enough that the crowns of three trees could support the entire weight. The 600-square-meter raft can hold 600 kilograms, approximately six scientists and their gear. He has brought entomologists, zoologists, and local botanists. In 1989, Hallé visited French Guyana, and, subsequently, Cameroon, Madagascar, Panama, Vanuatu, and Laos, where he hopes to return in 2015.

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Le radeau des cimes / Forêts Tropicales Humides Le Film

“You cannot image how beautiful the night is up there. You have a clear sky, the Milky Way, insects creating light. You have the music of the fauna: the frogs inhabiting the branches, the birds of the night, and monkeys. You have the perfume of flowers. I try not to sleep when I am on top of the canopy.”

After witnessing the deforestation of tropical rain forests his whole life, Hallé seeks to bring attention to the beauty and life of the rainforest canopy. Last year, he completed his first film with filmmaker Luc Jacquet, Il Etait une Forêt, to celebrate the rainforest as it exists today and to help people understand the value of tropical rainforests.

He concluded his lecture with another analogy: the tropical canopy is a large table set for an elegant and delicious dinner. There is exquisite food, abundant flowers, and fine wines. The moment the guests are ready to sit down, an idiot arrives with a chainsaw and says, “Wow, your table has wooden legs. I am interested in the wood.” Without a glance, he takes his chainsaw and he cuts the four legs. The dinner – the canopy – is destroyed and everything is lost.

This guest post is by Lucy Mcfadden, a Master’s of Landscape Architecture candidate at the University of Virginia.

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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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Global Forest Watch

Global Forest Watch, a new $25 million dollar, web-based tool — which was created through a partnership of the World Resources Institute (WRI), ESRI, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Google, and a slew of other environmental groups — aims to provide a “near-real time” view of deforestation (and reforestation) around the world. According to data from Google and the University of Maryland, the world has lost 2.3 million square kilometers of trees from 2000 to 2012 from logging, diseases, and storms. BBC News tells us this is the equivalent to 50 football fields of trees being lost “every minute of every day over the past 12 years.” But during the same time frame, about 800,000 square kilometers of new forest were also planted. Still, this means the world has lost forest cover equal to the size of Mongolia in little more than a decade. The world can’t keep going at this rate given only about 15 percent of the planet’s original forest cover now remains.

Since the late 1990s, WRI has led the development of the forest watch service, which “unites satellite technology, open data, and crowdsourcing to guarantee access to timely and reliable information about forests.” The program uses more than half a billion high-res images from NASA’s Landsat program, which are organized with new algorithms created by the University of Maryland, and then made available for easy online access thanks to the cloud computing power of Google’s Earth and Maps engines. BBC News writes that high-res images of global tree loss and gain are updated annually while data on tropical forests is updated monthly.

The program’s ability to crowdsource information is particularly interesting. Campaigners and local communities can also submit data, pictures, and video on the ground. This picks up on an existing trend: “In Brazil, the Paiter Surui people are already using smart phones and GPS software to monitor illegal logging.”

The watch service will visualize protected areas, as well as concessions for logging, mining, and palm oil. For example, any user can look up whether a given area is protected or whether a company has the right to take down the trees there. Policymakers and regulators can now point to the map to see if laws are being followed on logging in vulnerable areas. Multinational companies like Nestle say it will enable them to better track where they supply palm oil and other ingredients. And sustainable forestry companies can better prove their products are coming from sanctioned places. Dr. Andrew Steer at WRI said: “Global Forest Watch is a near-real time monitoring platform that will fundamentally change the way people and businesses manage forests. From now on, the bad guys cannot hide and the good guys will be recognized for their stewardship.”

The world no longer has to rely on guesstimates. As Rebecca Moore, engineering manager with Google Earth, explained to Reuters: “With the exception of Brazil, none of the tropical forest countries have been able to report the state of their forests. Now it will be possible to have near real-time updates of the state of the world’s forests, open to anyone to use.”

The trick will be getting out some final kinks, writes The Christian Science Monitor. Critics of the program say it currently can’t distinguish between forests and industrial plantations, a major problem given rows of palm trees shouldn’t really be counted as a forest, given these mono-cultures provide very few ecosystem services.

Also worth reading is “Networking Nature: How Technology Is Transforming Conservation,” a phenomenal article in the past issue of Foreign Affairs magazine. Conservation scientist Jon Hoekstra gives us many reasons to be optimistic about the power of new technologies. “Conservation is for the first time beginning to operate at the pace and on the scale necessary to keep up with, and even get ahead of, the planet’s most intractable environmental challenges. New technologies have given conservationists abilities that would have seemed like super powers just a few years ago.”

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Birds of a Feather

Flock together. This proverb is very much rooted in nature given single species of birds frequently form flocks. Ornithologists have discovered that birds flock to protect themselves from predators, take advantage of choice foods, raise their profile among females ready to mate, or aerodynamically maximize wind currents. Some species’ flocks also form amazing murmurations, undulating swarms that ebb and flow.

To further examine this wonder of nature, artist Dennis Hlynsky, a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, started filming the individual flight paths of birds to discover the broader patterns.

This Is Colossal tells us: “Hlynsky first started filming birds in 2005 using a small Flip video recorder, but now uses a Lumix GH2 to record gigabytes of bird footage from locations around Rhode Island. He then edits select clips with After Effects and other tools to create brief visual trails that illustrate the path of each moving bird.”

Here we see swallows:

And crows:

Then starlings:

Hlynsky has also looked at bird species out of the sky, like these ducks moving through the water. He writes: “Ducks are quite heavy… one can see by the paths they make they are sliding as much as paddling. This was shot at the Linesville, Pennsylvania, fish hatchery. It was an experiment aimed at the fish, but the mallard ducks were very aggressive.”

While the videos are clearly mesmerizing, they will also help ornithologists better visualize mass bird behavior. Slate writes, “information on flight behavior is valuable for field identification.” Up until recently, collecting large amounts of flight path data had been too onerous.

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Tree Wood / Tochihiro Oki Architects

For millennium, designers of our built and natural environments have positioned the viewer in nature, setting benches in just the right spots with gorgeous vistas, or even creating pavilions or pagodas that offer both a respite from the world and a vantage point for engaging with it. Contemporary landscape architects and architects are creating singular platforms for experiencing nature. In these examples, the biophilic platforms are as appealing as the surrounding nature.

Japanese architect Tochihiro Oki created Tree Wood for last year’s “folly” competition in Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria, New York. With this project, a simple wood frame set amid the forest looks over a grove awaiting the visitors’ discovery. Inside, the visitor is enveloped by the trees but also the skeletal frame made of 2 x4 planks held together with studs and nails.

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Tree Wood / Tochihiro Oki Architects

A chandelier sits at the top of the structure, creating the sense that one is in a room.

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Tree Wood / Tochihiro Oki Architects

Speaking to DesignBoom, Ohn Hatfield, juror and executive director of Socrates Sculpture Park, said Tree Wood “blurred lines and definitions, eliciting bewilderment, consternation, aesthetic pleasure,” adding that it “performs this feat by interweaving our built environment with nature’s chaos, setting in motion a dialogue, argument and narrative.”

Another example, Viewpoint, created by the Finnish Institute in London and the Architecture Foundation, is a floating platform on Regent’s Canal in Camley Street Natural Park, London. Designed by Finnish design firm AOR, the floating pavilion provides a way to bring visitors up close to London’s central nature reserve and the rich urban wildlife found there.

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Viewpoint / The Finnish Institute in London, Architecture Foundation

ArchDaily writes: “The inspiration for Viewpoint comes from the rocky islets and islands of the Nordic. For Finns, these islands are places of sanctuary, to relax the mind and get away from hectic city life.”But the platform’s actual form was also inspired by the simple, temporary structure created by fishermen and farmers. In Finland, these triangular structures are created out of tree branches, moss, and leaves.

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Viewpoint / The Finnish Institute in London, Architecture Foundation

Viewpoint seems to be a natural draw for those walking through the park. Visitors are likely to see Daubenton’s bats, whooper swans and the elusive Kingfisher.

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Viewpoint / The Finnish Institute in London, Architecture Foundation

The structure will be used by the London Wildlife Trust for educational programs for kids. Special triangular openings are set at different heights, giving kids of all ages a special view into the canal and the wildlife that it attracts.

Lastly, Fort Werk aan ‘t Spoel, an old fort in the Netherlands has been redesigned into a new kind of viewing platform for nature, except this one takes the visitor deeper into the ground for a new perspective. The fort is a national monument dating to 1794 and was part of the military defense line that enabled “intentional flooding,” to protect one of the inundation locks, writes RAAAF and Atelier de Lyon in Landezine.

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Fort Werk aan ‘t Spoel / © Rob ‘t Hart

Sculptured grassy steps lead the visitor down into the lock, which is surrounded by trees. It has become a major attraction in the “New Dutch Waterline,” says the design firms.

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Fort Werk aan ‘t Spoel / © Rob ‘t Hart

The new design, commissioned by the city of Culemborg and the Foundation Werk aan ‘t Spoel, is inspired by the old infrastructure but forges something new from it.

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Fort Werk aan ‘t Spoel / © Rob ‘t Hart

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transects

Transects, University of Pennsylvania

Transects: 100 Years of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at the School of Design of the University of Pennsylvania by Richard Weller and Meghan Talarowski, Associate ASLA, celebrates the transect of time: 100 years of people, events and ideas that have shaped the department. What began as a series of lectures in 1914 on landscape design by George Burnap, landscape architect for the United State Capitol, has grown into an internationally-renowned design program. Recognized in 2010 at the Barcelona Biennial as the best landscape program in the world, the department today hosts a diverse collective of practitioners and students from all over the world dedicated to investigating the implications of a rapidly developing world.

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Off the Reservation: A Seed for Change / Meghan Storm (2012)

Transects follows a narrative and illustrative timeline of the program’s development. A striking theme emerges: the continuous effort to remain creative, experimental, fluid and competitive while establishing a critical design dialogue across the international community. Robert Wheelright, a founding member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), established the first official landscape degree program at Penn in 1924. He acknowledged “the complexity of the problems which the landscape architect is called upon to solve”, involving a knowledge of engineering, architecture, soils, plant materials, ecology, etc., combined with aesthetic appreciation.”

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A country estate by L.B. Ambler, Jr. (1931) / University of Pennsylvania Bulletin

Ian McHarg, who became chair in 1957, left an indelible mark on the program and the profession when he broadened the department’s scope to include a regional planning component. McHarg emphasized the need to address environmental concerns within large-scale planning projects using practices beyond the bounds of traditional landscape architecture and urban planning. His interest in mapping, layering, and analyzing features such as geology, hydrology, and land form produced decades of research studies and design projects. His belief in the responsible stewardship of nature, outlined in his seminal work, Design with Nature, remains the profession’s raison d’etre. In 1990, he became the first landscape architect to receive the National Medal of Arts.

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The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania. (Col. 122).

Since McHarg enacted that major shift, the program has expanded to explore new directions in urbanism, infrastructure, cartography, representation, theory and process. Over the past decade, the focus has increasingly become urban design in the global community. As chair, James Corner, ASLA, emphasized the importance of training students such that they “could work not only with traditional forms of landscape and public space, but also become sufficiently competent to help orchestrate the complex ecologies of the city, including built form and infrastructure.” Students participate in real world studios in both the greater Philadelphia region as well as around the world in places like Brazil, Morocco, and Singapore. They analyze the ecological as well as the cultural, political, and economic systems impacting these sites.

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Tempelhof Wasserpark / Johanna Barthmaier (2011)

Today the program appears poised to undertake bold new tasks. Richard Weller became chair this past year, inheriting 100 years of design innovation. Under his direction, the department is building a research platform to apply design intelligence to landscapes of critical biodiversity, which are under pressure from rapid urbanization. Weller envisions landscape architects, armed with “the skills of the planner, the politician and the artist,” leading the process by which nations can reach the goals of the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity. He shares the following hope: “McHarg called it stewardship, but the world should come to know it as simply landscape architecture.” The transect continues.

Read the book.

This guest post is by Shannon Leahy, Master’s of Landscape Architecture graduate, University of Pennsylvania, and former ASLA summer intern.

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