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A’Beckett Square / © John Gollings

Typically, pop-up parks tend to be fairly small — just a thousand square feet, if that — but a few noteworthy ones show temporary places can be super-sized, too. In Melbourne, Australia, RMIT University turned a 30,000-square-foot parking lot into a vibrant community space for a game of pick-up basketball or just hanging out. Designed by Peter Elliott Architecture + Urban Design, A’Beckett Urban Square shows the amazing potential of really any empty urban parking lot. At a cost of $1.2 million Australian dollars ($970,000 U.S.), the park is not cheap, but still less than a more fully-realized, permanent park.

The designers told Landezine RMIT students and local residents can now take advantage of a multi-use sports court set up for basketball and volleyball and surrounded by spectator seating.

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A’Beckett Square / © John Gollings

Around the perimeter, there are ping-pong tables, BBQs, and bike parking. Colors help differentiate the sports zone from the areas designed for hanging out.  Throughout, WiFi is available, another draw.

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A’Beckett Square / © John Gollings

To keep the costs down, there aren’t any trees — but the design team bring a sense of green in other ways. One part of the pop-up park has astroturf dotted with planters filled with small trees and bushes.

And along two walls, the university commissioned a work by Melbourne artist Ash Keating meant to evoke an “urban forest and desert landscape.” Two panels of green paint represent the forest, while another red and orange panel, the desert. To not contaminate the environment, Keating used airless spray from “pressurized, paint-filled fire extinguishers.”

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A’Beckett Square / © John Gollings

Peter Elliot Architecture + Urban Design wrote: “Typically ‘pop-ups’ occupy leftover and underutilised spaces through the use of recycled materials and the clever adaption of everyday found objects. They are often gritty spaces that are curated rather than designed. A’Beckett Urban Square was conceived as a piece of urban theatre carved out of the surrounding city. The design approach was purposefully lean, developing upon the idea of a temporary and demountable installation.”

Pop-up parks are also getting bigger in the U.S. though, too. In Washington, D.C., the no-frills but still appealing Half Street Fairgrounds, which is modeled after the Dekalb Market in Brooklyn, New York, and started as a spill-over space for Washington Nationals games, is now home to Truckeroo, a food truck festival and musical events. This space, which also started out as a parking lot, is really just a place to hang out though, without the full range of features that A’Beckett Urban Square has.

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Half Street Fairgrounds / Move for Hunger

And in Philadelphia, there’s the Spruce Street Harbor Park, which is an estimated 7,000 square feet.

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Spruce Street Harbor Market / Jump Philly

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Spruce Street Harbor Park / Gallery Hip

An urban beach with hammocks, it really takes advantage of its Delaware River setting. It’s also home to food trucks galore.

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Russell Square, London / Ali Amir Moayed.com

“Just as all parts of an ecosystem must be healthy if the system is going to work,” an environment for people — a “people habitat” — must have “homes, shops, businesses, and an environment that fit in a harmonious way,” said urban thinker and author F. Kaid Benfield at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. For the past 50 years, “we have not been living in harmony with our environment.” To undo the damage, Benfield proposes a wiser approach, set out in his new book People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities. He covered a few ways to achieve these healthy environments in his talk:

Focus on Regions and Neighborhoods, Not Cities: Regions, Benfield argues, actually define the way we live today. Cities extend far beyond their jurisdictional boundaries. For example, “the functional region of Atlanta is 12 times the size of the city of Atlanta.” Only city governments and cartographers care about boundaries. “The environment, commerce, transportation, and people all cross borders.”

Neighborhoods, at the other end of the spectrum, are the center of people habitats and the agents of change on the ground, as they are where people spend much of their time.

Create Walkable Places: “Americans don’t walk much, and I don’t blame them.” Among a list of 20 plus developed countries, America ranks dead last in the amount they walk. Just 26 percent of Americans want often or sometimes. In 1969, Benfield says 48 percent of children walked to school; in 2009, it’s just 13 percent. There’s are many reasons for this, but the built environment is a major culprit.

Think of all those cul-de-sac neighborhoods designed for cars, or strip malls without sidewalks or crosswalks. There, people take their own lives into their hands going out for a walk. Why don’t kids walk anymore? It’s because so many suburban schools are now “bigger than Disneyland,” isolated and disconnected. Showing photos of the typical suburban school, Benfield wondered if it was a school, mall, or prison.

The death of walking has had negative ripple effects as well: It’s no surprise that places where you cannot walk face an epidemic of obesity. “Weight-related diseases are connected to a lack of walkable environments.” Today, many states’ obesity rates top 30 percent.

Integrate Nature into Cities: Benfield believes in the power of urban parks, particularly small neighborhood parks, to improve the health of a community. As an example, he pointed to Russell Square park in London (see image above), which is “big enough so you known you are in nature, but small enough so you know you are in a city.” He strongly believes that “bringing the function and beauty of nature into a neighborhood” has many positive benefits, including a boost in our health and well-being. “When we are immersed in nature, our blood pressure goes down and our mental acuity increases.”

Consider the Whole System of Energy Use and Emissions: “What is called green development in many places really isn’t green.” When examining the sustainability of a residential development, for example, we need to look at that development’s energy use and carbon expenditures vs. the amount of energy used and carbon expended by transportation getting to and from that place.

Using Prairie Ridge, a “net-zero development” outside Chicago, Benfield showed how the use of the term “net-zero” there is a misnomer because the community failed to consider the whole system of energy use and carbon emissions. While the development may produce as much energy as it consumes, its residents are expending huge amounts of energy and creating a lot of pollution getting there. This is because Prairie Ridge’s Walk score is literally zero. “It’s next to a corn field.” Residents of Prairie Ridge expend four times the amount of carbon as those in downtown Chicago.

For city after city, Benfield showed how different the carbon profile of people can be depending on where they live. “If you are living on the fringe of a city, you are driving longer distances.” In contrast, people living downtown are putting far less carbon into the atmosphere getting around.

Preserve the “Continuity of Places”: “If a place has a sense of continuity, it has a calming, reassuring effect.” In contrast, a place without it can be jarring, “disorientating.” Places treated with respect are the result of a slow accrual of layers, carefully thought out so they fit into a harmonious whole. These kinds of places spur “cultural engagement,” they invite us to “use our imaginations.” And they are the places with the most “civic vitality.” They are mixed-use and feature building of different sizes and ages.

On a related theme, Benfield argued that preserving the continuity of old buildings is also important: “the greenest building is the one already built.” Even replacing an inefficient older building filled with embedded energy with a new “green building” means starting at zero with carbon emissions. “It will take years for the new building to make up for the carbon emissions.” Benfield argued that “we have forgotten about the energy efficiency of thick old walls, solar orientation, windows, air, the basic principles. Now, it’s about gizmo green.”

Take Advantage of the Future Trends Here Now: “The future will be different from the past.” To be successful, communities need to take advantage of some emerging trends. First, cities are sprawling less today. “Greenfield development peaked in the 90s.” Second, Millennials prefer to live in the core of cities twice as much as other generations. Some 2/3 want walkable places, even in suburbs. “They value density, connectivity, and convenient access to jobs.” Third, people are driving less. The vehicle miles traveled per person per year has been falling since 2005 and staying down. Today, 46 percent of 18-year-olds don’t have a driver’s license. The miles driven by 16-34-year-olds has also fallen 40 percent in the past decade. Lastly, among all generations, bicycle use is up 24 percent and walking 16 percent.

Invest in Lovable Places: “People will take care of places they love, which makes them sustainable” (read more on this). Lovable places can be complex, like Quincy Market in Boston, or simple, like a small street cafe in Barcelona. They can be old or modern, but lovable places — like the French Quarter in New Orleans — always have culture. While many in the smart growth movement have focused solely on density and connectivity, Benfield argued that these projects ultimately fail because “they are not great places.” Great places need green spaces to attract people. “We can have both compact development and green spaces together. We can have it both ways.”

Read People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities.

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Flowerworks / Sarah Illenberger

Flowers, one of nature’s most appealing experiences, continue to be a source of inspiration for artists. Their form, color, and delicate, ephemeral nature are compelling. Their unique qualities make them the focus of photography, painting, even the material for sculpture. Today, contemporary photographers and artists are highlighting the seasonal lures of plants in ways never seen before.

In Flowerworks (see above and below), Sarah Illenberg has created an ingenious series of photographs that transform flower arrangements into fireworks exploding in a night sky.

Many of her photos have an incredible sense of movement.

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Flowerworks / Sarah Illenberger

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Flowerworks / Sarah Illenberger

Makoto Azuma has long been at the avant garde of Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, taking his living installations further into the world of abstract sculpture. Now, he is subjecting his arrangements to extreme conditions. With Iced Flowers, floral bouquets are suspended in pillars of ice. According to This Is Colossal, Azuma said the “flowers will show unique expressions they don’t display in everyday life.”

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Iced Flowers / Makoto Azuma

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Iced Flowers / Makoto Azuma

Azuma has even sent his arranged flowers into outer space, the most challenging environment. Last year, he launched a bonsai tree and collection of flowers up 91,000 feet into space from a launch site in Nevada. He told The New York Times Style Magazine this shows that “flowers aren’t just beautiful to show on tables.”

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Bouquet in space / Makoto Azuma

And lastly, the young Spanish artist Ignacio Canales Aracil has created unique sculptural forms out of pressed flowers, only made possible after being woven into place on large vessel-like molds.

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Flower Vessels / Ignacio Canales Aracil

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Flower Vessels / Ignacio Canales Aracil

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Flower Vessels / Ignacio Canales Aracil

This Is Colossal describes his process: “The pieces dry for up to a month without the aid of adhesives and are sprayed with a light varnish to protect the sculpture from moisture. The final pieces, which could be crushed with even the slightest weight, are rigid enough to stand without support.”

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ASLA 2014 General Design Honor Award. Slow Down: Liupanshui Minghu Wetland Park. Turenscape / Yu Kongjian

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) seeks a full-time summer communications intern. The intern will research and update ASLA’s sustainable design resource guides, produce new content for the web site Designing Our Future: Sustainable Landscapes, and write weekly posts on landscape architecture and related topics for The Dirt blog.

Responsibilities:

The intern will be expected to work full-time from June through August.

The intern will research and update resource guides on sustainable transportation, urban development, and other topics. The intern will create new case studies of best practices for Designing Our Future: Sustainable Landscapes.

The intern will also create original content for The Dirt, including a weekly series of reviews on new apps and technology useful to landscape architects.

The intern will attend ASLA’s annual diversity summit weekend and write a report on the proceedings.

The intern will also have the opportunity to attend educational and networking events at the National Building Museum, Harvard University’s Dumbarton Oaks, and other museums and think tanks in Washington, D.C. Other communications projects may come up as well.

Requirements:

Current enrollment in a Master’s program in landscape architecture.

Excellent writing skills. The intern must be able to write clearly for a general audience.

Excellent photographic composition and editing skills.

Proven research skills and ability to quickly evaluate the quality and relevance of many different types of Web resources.

Excellent interpersonal skills and ability to interact graciously with busy staff members and outside experts.

Working knowledge of Photoshop, Google Maps, and Microsoft Office suite.

How to Apply:

Please send cover letter, CV, two writing samples (no more than 2 pages each) to aklages@asla.org by end of day, Friday, March 27.

Phone interviews will be conducted with finalists the week of April 2 and selection will be made the following week.

The 10-week internship offers a $4,000 stipend. ASLA can also work with the interns to attain academic credit for the internship.

ASLA offers a flexible work schedule but the intern must be at ASLA’s national headquarters, which is conveniently located in downtown Washington, D.C., one block north of the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro Station on the Red, Yellow, and Green Lines. Learn more about ASLA’s green roof.

The Greenway would help make the Brooklyn waterfront more resilient - We Design / The Architect's Newspaper

The Greenway would help make the Brooklyn waterfront more resilient – We Design / The Architect’s Newspaper

Rethinking the WaterfrontThe Architect’s Newspaper, 2/17/15
“Earlier this month Brooklyn Borough president Eric Adams announced the release of Stormwater Infrastructure Design Guidelines, which have the potential to generate exemplary landscape design and benefit all of New York City. The Design Guidelines propose to integrate green infrastructure techniques with a 14-mile continuous corridor for bicycles and pedestrians along the Brooklyn waterfront.”

Plan for Obama Library in Chicago Must Respect Frederick Law Olmsted ParksThe Chicago Tribune, 2/21/15
“Maybe it’s time to erect temporary, ‘proceed with caution’ signs at the entrances to Chicago’s Jackson and Washington parks. The signs would be directed not at drivers, but at President Barack and Michelle Obama, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Barack Obama Foundation.”

Survey Open to Help Residents Choose St. Pete Pier DesignThe St. Petersburg Tribune, 2/23/15
“For the next two weeks, city residents may join in a survey to rank the seven remaining proposals to redesign the Pier and the iconic inverted pyramid that has anchored its far end since 1973. The Pier Selection Committee will use the survey rankings and send the top three design choices to Mayor Rick Kriseman and the City Council for final selection.”

Tour Philly’s Future Reading Viaduct with the Designers Behind the Visionary Linear ParkThe Architect’s Newspaper, 2/23/15
“We begin with a tour of Philadelphia’s Reading Viaduct, an abandoned rail line that advocates hope to transform into an elevated park, a grittier take on Manhattan’s celebrated High Line. With the city and state pledging millions toward the project, the Viaduct park is moving closer to reality.”

Canadian “Freezeway” Could Let Residents Skate to WorkBBC, 2/23/15
“With an average temperature of -12C (9.5F) in the heart of winter, and home to seven city-owned outdoor skating rinks, Edmonton, Alberta is no stranger to the cold. Unlike other cities in the US and Canada that have banned activities such as tobogganing because of insurance costs, Edmonton has no such laws.”

“Lost Gardens” of New England Unearths Forgotten GemsThe CT Post, 2/25/15
“New England’s great gardens always have been linked to the value of the land from which they spring. Many have been subdivided for building and housing developments or paved over for parking lots. The region’s rich garden-design history is the subject of ‘Lost Gardens of New England,’ a traveling exhibition from the nonprofit Historic New England preservation organization.”

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Patricia Arquette / E! Online

Actress Patricia Arquette spoke passionately about closing the gender pay gap during her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress during the Academy Awards on Sunday night. An uneven playing field exists in a number of professions, including the architecture and engineering occupations—women in these fields earn 82 percent of what men make, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2014 averages, which are based on median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers.

The Wall Street Journal used the 2014 data to show that in only two professions do women match or exceed men’s weekly earnings—health practitioner support technologists and technicians (100 percent) and stock clerks and order fillers (102 percent). A gap exists in every other occupation. Among full-time workers, women earn 82.5 percent of male salaries. Women working in construction earn 91.3 percent of male salaries; women in legal professions earn 56.7 percent, the biggest gap.

Discrimination plays a role in the gender wage gap, according to the National Women’s Law Center. The center cites a 2007 study by labor economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn, which showed that 41 percent of the wage gap remains unexplained even after examining the effects of occupation, industry, work experience, union status, race, and educational attainment. This indicates that discrimination plays a sizable role in the gap.

The 2012 median pay for landscape architects was $64,180, slightly less than the $66,380 earned by architects, surveyors, and cartographers, says the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. No information about possible salary differences between male and female landscape architects was provided by the bureau.

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Commuters at Grand Central Station, NYC / CBS Local

In a reversal of recent trends, job growth is now faster in city centers than outlying suburban areas, according to a new report from City Observatory, a Portland-based think tank. According to their analysis, from 2002 to 2007, “job decentralization” — that is, the growth of jobs in suburbs — was in full force. During that time, city centers, which are defined as the central business district and a three-mile circle around the district, saw annual growth of just 0.1 percent, with growth in outlying areas “10 times as fast.” From 2007 to 2011, that trend was reversed, writes Joe Cortright. “The 41 metropolitan areas for which we have comparable data showed a 0.5 percent per year growth in city center employment and a 0.1 percent decrease in employment in the periphery.”

Cortright says city center job growth isn’t universally higher than in the suburbs but trends are moving in that direction. “While only 7 city centers outperformed their surrounding metros in the 2002-07 period, 21 outperformed the periphery in 2007-11.” Today, there is still sprawling suburban job growth in places like Houston, Kansas City, and Las Vegas, and other metropolitan regions.

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City Report / City Laboratory

The Upshot at The New York Times writes that this kind of analysis adds needed depth to job figures. While we often focus on the total number of new jobs created, “the location of jobs is just as important — including for making decisions about employment, housing and transportation policies.”

It’s also worth noting that “the vast majority of jobs are still outside city centers.” The New York Times writes that jobs have been slowly moving to the suburbs since the beginning of the 20th century. “By the 1950s, most lived in suburbs and commuted to work in cities. In the decades that followed, employers decamped to the suburbs, too. By 1996, only 16 percent of metro area jobs were within a three-mile radius of downtowns, according to the economists Edward Glaeser and Matthew Kahn.”

But a number of trends have been at work to reduce suburban job growth. First, the recession hit the suburbs harder than cities. “Industries based outside cities, like construction and manufacturing, were hit much harder than urban ones like business services. Jobs disappeared everywhere, but more rapidly outside cities.” Second, people are increasingly finding cities attractive places to live again. “People increasingly desire to live, work, shop and play in the same place, and to commute shorter distances — particularly the young and educated, who are the most coveted employees. So in many cities, both policy makers and employers have been trying to make living and working there more attractive.” Third, “cities are also better able to hold on to jobs than they were before.”

Cortright concludes: “Our analysis of the industrial composition of this data suggests that city centers are both benefiting from a continuing shift to the kinds of industries that have historically preferred more centralized locations, and are also more competitive for jobs within industries. All of these changes are masked by the disruption of the Great Recession. While some of this effect is undoubtedly tied to the economic cycle, there are a number of longer-term, structural reasons to be optimistic about city center job growth.”

For example, he writes that young, well-educated adults are increasingly moving to city centers. And there is stronger demand for living near work in city centers. City centers are growing as “centers of consumption” — places for restaurants, nightlife, and entertainment. High-paying jobs in financial and professional services, education and healthcare remain in city centers. Entrepreneurs continue to prefer city center locations. Rising gas prices have meant lower spending in suburbs, where people drive more, and perhaps fewer jobs in those areas as a result.

Still, the worry is that the city center job growth will not benefit everyone equally. As The Upshot writes, “The jobs in the heart of cities tend to be highly skilled and high-paying ones, in industries like finance and tech. Working-class jobs, like retail or construction, are more likely to be suburban. So with the recent growth of downtown jobs, the risk is that cities will continue to become havens for the wealthy and inaccessible to the middle and working classes.”

Read the full report and see a useful table that outlines each metropolitan area’s job growth.

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Chinampas / lilianausvat.blogspot.com

Mexican landscape architect, architect, and urban designer Mario Schjetnan, FASLA, who recently spoke at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, is recognized for his built works that are fueled by a deep concern for the cities of his native Mexico. GSD landscape architecture department chair Charles Waldheim, Affiliate ASLA, introduced Schjetnan as one of today’s foremost landscape architects, and said the new appreciation of landscape architecture in Mexico can be greatly attributed to the efforts of Schjetnan and his firm, Grupo de Diseño Urbano.

The majority of Schjetnan’s work is in Mexico and Latin America, where he has grown awareness of the field by demonstrating the many ways it serves growing urban centers, while also reaching beyond the discipline to do the work cities need. He has an unusual profile: he is Mexico’s leading landscape architect but also internationally-recognized.

Schjetnan outlined a set of principles that “establish the condition to immerse ourselves in the profession.” Along with “nature of place, collaboration, sustainability, and culture/history/precedent,” he lists “inter-disciplinarity” and the “conceptual continuum.” For an example of inter-disciplinarity, he points to innovation in the sciences, which often comes out a mix of different disciplines. “Inter-disciplinarity creates these new hybrids we are working in.” He acknowledges that no project addresses just one principle in isolation.

Schjetnan used his work at Parque Ecológico Xochimilco in Xochimilco, Mexico to talk about the nature of place. For Schjetnan, any project on a historical or natural site requires finding the “deep meaning of place,” the “starting point” from which to begin a project. “It encompasses the aesthetic, ecological, and the poetic…” This approach has particular relevance in a country with so many archeological sites. (At one point that evening Schjetnan even relates a bit of a joke: Once asked how many archeological sites Mexico had, “one of the best anthropologists” answered quite beautifully with a simple “only one; it’s called Mexico.”)

Xochimilco, one of Mexico’s historic sites, required Schjetnan to really immerse himself. It led him to discover the deep tradition of Mexico’s “chinampas,” an agricultural system based on raised plots of fertile land within the lake beds of the Valley of Mexico (see image above). Drawing on this tradition, which Schjetnan calls “the best technological invention of pre-hispanic Americas,” the new park design at Xochimilco reimagines their original use within contemporary water infrastructure, using the forms of these “marvelous islands created by man” to filter and pump water back into the lake. Schjetnan is making traditions visible and viable.

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“Chinampas” at Parque Ecológico Xochimilco / Grupo de Diseño Urbano

In the case of Parque Eco-Arqueológica Copalita in Huatulco, Mexico, the team, on its journey to discover the nature of place, created a new park along with an entirely new understanding of the relationship between archeology and environmental history. The archeological eco-park marries the two and no longer sees vegetation as being destructive. In practice, this new understanding has meant training the staff not to remove old growth trees from the precious pyramids.

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Parque Eco-Arqueológica Copalita / Grupo de Diseño Urbano

While not removing trees may be the “right” thing to do in one scenario, in another circumstance it may be the wrong thing. Take the firm’s work in the forest of Chapultepec Park in Mexico City. Schjetnan tells a fascinating story or how thinning the forest for health — yes, that means removing trees in this case — had to be done first on a nearly invisible demonstration plot in order to gain public support. Otherwise, he might once more risk being accused of cutting down trees. Schjetnan has the wisdom to let the vegetation be the agent of design.

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Rehabilitation of the Chapultepec Forest, before / Grupo de Diseño Urbano

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Rehabilitation of the Chapultepec Forest, after / Grupo de Diseño Urbano

A more recent project is his firm’s first large-scale contaminated, post-industrial site: Jardín Natura Parque Bicentenario in Ciudad de México. With a slab foundation dominating the site, the garden’s topography is entirely shaped by the bio-regions’ soil profiles. The more soil a tree needs, the higher the ground. Schjetnan excitedly walked the auditorium through a detailed longitudinal section that cuts through each of the distinct bio-regions of the garden. His garden demonstrates not only where but also how trees grow. What a novel way to refresh the role of a botanical garden in a city where not only the buildings but also the ground are rising up to the sky.

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“Natural” topography at Jardín Natura Parque Bicentenario, section / Grupo de Diseño Urbano

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Chinampa at Jardín Natura Parque Bicentenario / Grupo de Diseño Urbano

This guest post is by Lara Mehling, Student ASLA, Master’s of Landscape Architecture candidate, Harvard University Graduate School of Design

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Fourth annual Vortex competition / UVA

Hundreds of students walked down Ivy Road in the middle of January, marking the kickoff of the fourth annual Vortex competition at the University of Virginia. Undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines at the School of Architecture gathered together for a week-long design workshop to envision a new academic commons along the Ivy Road corridor, an underused entry to the university. Focusing on improving connectivity to new student and faculty housing, the workshop examined how to bring academic and residential culture together in a new urban environment.

Thirty student teams, each advised by a faculty member, developed innovative approaches to the design problems: how to improve accessibility, connectivity, and sustainability. Using university founder Thomas Jefferson’s “academical village” concept — which called for deep interactions between students and scholars — as the basis for dialogue, teams also focused on how to further this relationship and extend it city-wide.

This year Sylvia Karres, founder of Karres en Brands Landscape Architects, which is based in the Netherlands, led the design workshop and served as the primary critic. With her expertise in campus planning, Karres called for using sustainable campus design approaches, wherein a balance between learning and living conditions is produced, enabling a holistic student experience. Desk critiques continued through the week as Karres extended the dialogue to university sprawl and the poor connections with the Ivy Road corridor.

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Karres listens to a student presentation / UVA

The final charrette was held at Sunday morning, bringing the week-long chaos to an end. Students, faculty, and community members were all in attendance.

Team 2, which was led by landscape architecture professor Julie Bargmann, won the public, student, and faculty awards. The team envisioned connecting the community and university with Ivy Road by making the road an academic, environmental, and commercial hub for the western edge of Charlottesville. Using an existing culverted stream under the site as an organizational element, the proposal included a pedestrian mall, multi-level housing, and a bridge in memory of Morgan Harrington, a Virginia Tech student, who disappeared there in 2009. The team sought to create a place of empowerment and community.

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Team 2 proposal / UVA

Team 26, led by architecture professor Peter Waldman, won the main prize, given by Karres, with their development of a campus collage. The team’s proposal focused on merging the various layers of university life and better connecting the community through public transportation and pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. The team proposed placing several more train stops along the existing railroad. Taking cues from the existing historic sites, railroad organization, and cultural points of interest, the proposal also links this area with new housing and public spaces.

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Team 26 proposal / UVA

In a single week, the competition took a creative discussion beyond the walls of the School of Architecture into the Charlottesville community. This year, students acted as their own client, designing new models for sustainable academic life at the University of Virginia.

This guest post is by Jasmine Sohn, Student ASLA, Master’s of Landscape Architecture candidate, University of Virginia.

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COSMO / Andrés Jaque’s Office of Political Innovation

The ingenious winner of this year’s Young Architects Program (YAP) at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) PS1 in Queens, New York City, is COSMO, a mobile, transparent, and artful system for purifying wastewater. Designed by Andrés Jaque’s Office of Political Innovation, the machine makes visible the process of cleaning dirty water, exposing the value of this vital natural resource in the process.

Here’s a description of Jaque’s invention: “An assemblage of ecosystems, based on advanced environmental design, COSMO is engineered to filter and purify 3,000 gallons of water, eliminating suspended particles and nitrates, balancing the PH, and increasing the level of dissolved oxygen. It takes four days for the 3,000 gallons of water to become purified, then the cycle continues with the same body of water, becoming more purified with every cycle.” The system uses no electricity, just sunlight and gravity to accomplish all of this.

See a wild video that explains how the system works:

As architect Bjarke Ingels and others have long argued, sustainable design should not only be an improvement on the status quo but also be fun, not a drag. Taking that idea to the nth degree, Jacque believes the process of using natural engineering to clean water can actually be transfixing. Here, clean water is the life of the party. “The stretched-out plastic mesh at the core of the construction will glow automatically whenever its water has been purified. In the stone courtyard of MoMA PS1, the party will literally light up every time the environment is protected providing a dynamic backdrop for the Warm Up summer music series. It will gather people together in an environment as pleasant and climatically comfortable as a garden as visually textured as a mirrored disco ball.”

Once the partying and water purifying is over, COSMO will be dismantled, its parts redistributed, the plants used in its cleansing processes given to PS1’s neighbors.

Andrés Jaque sees his machine as a prototype for a new mobile system for cleaning water. His team will offer detailed instructions for how to create your own COSMO online.

PS1 has been using its summer installation series as a way to highlight how architecture can be designed to give back environmentally. Last year, Hy-Fi, the 2014 YAP winner, aimed to push the boundaries of bio-design, creating a 100 percent organically-grown and fully compostable structure. And in 2012, Wendy highlighted how architecture could be used to clean the air. Its spiky arms were covered in “nylon fabric treated with a groundbreaking titania nanoparticle spray to neutralize airborne pollutants.”

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