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The playground in Riverstone master-planned community, Big Adventrue Park, incorporates the natural environment as much as possible.

The playground in Riverstone master-planned community, Big Adventure Park, incorporates the natural environment as much as possible. / Houston Chronicle

FIU Students Seek Flooding Solutions if Sea Level Rises Throughout Miami-Dade CountyThe Miami Herald, 11/20/14
FIU professors Marta Canavés and Marilys Nepomechie worked with students for three years to research sea level rise projections at three, four, and six feet, and created models and proposals to keep existing city infrastructure and neighborhoods habitable. The models, designs and collected data are on display at the new Coral Gables Museum exhibit through March 1.”

S.F.’s Newest Public Space Provides Invitation to Sit, LingerThe San Francisco Chronicle, 11/25/14
“The new plaza is a patch of asphalt at Mission Street, closed to cars but with plenty of room for bicycles to coast through, below a gateway-like frame of salvaged wood adorned with hanging rat tail cactus. Its counterpart at Market Street behind the Palace Hotel spent decades as a deliberate green oasis with formal planters, until it declined to the point where now it is hidden behind construction barriers.”

Parks, Playgrounds Get New Attention in Planned CommunitiesThe Houston Chronicle, 11/26/14
“The latest amenity at River­stone creates a shady and colorful play area for families in the Fort Bend County master-planned community. On two acres of land, colorful pathways and play structures are set among the trees and twisting trails.”

A Guide to Denver’s Best Landscaped Spaces, Deep and FreeThe Denver Post, 11/28/14
“None of it got there by accident, as the new ‘What’s Out There Denver’ online guide reminds us in inviting detail. Our natural places were planned by generations of forward-thinking civic leaders and landscape architects who understood how preserved green spaces balance all of the asphalt and concrete of city life.”

New York’s High Line: Why the Floating Promenade Is So PopularThe Washington Post, 11/30/14
“It has become an archetype for cities everywhere craving their own High Line mojo. In Washington, it is the inspiration for a proposed elevated park where the old 11th Street Bridge crossed the Anacostia River and, separately, for a component in the long-range redevelopment of Union Station.”

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Urban acupuncture / Island Press

Looking for the perfect present for your favorite landscape architect, designer, or planner? Or taking time off during the holidays to delve into the latest thinking on design, cities, and the environment? Well, The Dirt‘s picks for the top ten books of 2014 are worth exploring:

Urban Acupuncture: Celebrating Pinpricks of Change That Enrich City Life (Island Press, 2014)
Jaime Lerner, one of the most influential urban leaders of our time, has written down all of his hard-earned wisdom about the city in one slim yet rich volume. Read the review in The Dirt.

Berlin: Portrait of a City Through the Centuries (St. Martin’s Press, 2014)
From the book: “Berlin tells the volatile history of Europe’s capital over five centuries through a series of intimate portraits of two dozen key residents.” The Washington Post: “Berlin is the most extraordinary work of history I’ve ever read. To call it history is, in fact, reductive.”

Composite Landscapes: Photomontage and Landscape Architecture (Hatje Cantz, 2014)
This book, which releases at the end of December 2014, is based on the exhibition at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston curated by Charles Waldheim, Affil. ASLA. Composite Landscapes examines one of landscape architecture’s most recognizable representational forms, the montage view. Learn more about the exhibition.

Landscapes of Change: Innovative Designs and Reinvented Sites (Timber Press, 2014)
University of Oregon landscape architecture professor Roxi Thoren, Affil. ASLA, explores 26 case studies from around the world that highlight how “site can serve as design generator.” Case studies include Queens Plaza in Queens, New York; the Buffalo Bayou Promenade in Houston, Texas; and the Jaffa Landfill Park in Tel Aviv, Israel.

The Landscape Imagination: Collected Essays of James Corner, 1990-2010 (Princeton Architectural Press, 2014)
As the author of canonical texts — and now built projects like the High Line in New York City — James Corner, ASLA, founder of Field Operations, has achieved a unique stature in contemporary landscape architecture. Read the review in The Dirt.

Mellon Square: Discovering a Modern Masterpiece (Princeton Architectural Press, 2014)
Recently restored to much ado through a six-year process, Mellon Square in Pittsburgh was the first Modernist space in the nation built over a subterranean parking garage. Considered a precursor to today’s green roof movement, Mellon Square is a showcase for urban revitalization through historic preservation, with a contemporary sensibility and the latest technologies. Read the review in The Dirt.

Next Generation Infrastructure: Principles for Post-Industrial Public Works (Island Press, 2014)
Architect and planner Hillary Brown’s new book is an inspiring argument for infrastructure that behaves like nature. She writes: “We need more diversified, distributed, and interconnected infrastructural assets that simulate the behavior of natural systems.” Read the review in The Dirt.

People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities (Island Press, 2014)
Influential blogger and advocate F. Kaid Benfield’s new book argues that sustainable places are really just places people love. Think of those places where you most feel like yourself. Would you want anything to happen to them? Read the review in The Dirt.

Projective Ecologies (Harvard University Graduate School of Design and Actar, 2014)
This new collection of essays, edited by Chris Reed, ASLA, founder of Stoss Landscape Urbanism, and Nina-Marie Lister, Affil. ASLA, professor at Ryerson University, is a timely overview of contemporary thinking about ecology and design. Read the review in The Dirt.

Urban Bikeway Design Guide, 2nd Edition (Island Press, 2014)
The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has released an updated second edition as part of their “sustained commitment to making city streets safer for everyone using them.” Reformatted in an attractive hardcover with improved structure, it features photos, diagrams, and 3-D renderings of wide-ranging best practices in design for bike infrastructure. Read the review in The Dirt.

For more, check out Books by ASLA Members, a hub offering up hundreds of books written over the years (all available via Amazon.com), and the top 10 books from 2013.

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Projective Ecologies / Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Actar

Projective Ecologies, by Chris Reed, ASLA, founder of Stoss Landscape Urbanism, and Nina-Marie Lister, Affil. ASLA, professor at Ryerson University, is a timely overview of contemporary thinking about ecology and design. The book is organized conceptually, moving from critical foundations to the connections between nature and culture, the relationship between urban design and ecology, and, finally, to new ways of unifying ecology and design. Previously-published seminal essays in ecological and design theory are interspersed with new contributions, effectively reframing and clarifying some of the concepts explored in the landscape urbanism movement. Projective Ecologies uses ecology as a lens for understanding the role of design in a complex, interconnected, and changing world.

Reed and Lister describe how ecological thought has shifted from classical determinism — epitomized by the notion of linear ecological succession toward a stable climax state — to a complex systems approach in which ecological systems are interconnected, self-organizing, relatively unpredictable, and constantly changing. With this new thinking, human settlement is not separate from nature. Instead, human activity and nature are inextricably bound. Therefore, we can never successfully control ecological systems from a top-down perspective; we can only manage our own activities within them.

This shift in thinking demands new approaches to large-scale environmental design. What does it mean to design within a complex and dynamic ecological system? What constitutes success in ecological design when the end goal isn’t a predefined climax community?

When a successful system is no longer defined by a predictable, steady end state, Reed and Lister write, “adaptation, appropriation, and flexibility [become] understood as the hallmarks of ‘successful’ systems, and it is now widely accepted (if not fully understood) that it is through an ecosystem’s ability to respond to changing environmental conditions that persistence is possible.”

Now, instead of imposing order on an ecological system to achieve a desired end state, the designer works within the ecological system to guide it to a state of relative stability. A truly sustainable complex-systems approach to large-scale design involves the adaptive management of systems not entirely within our control. This approach may become more critical as global climate change threatens to destabilize and alter the ecological systems we depend upon.

Jane Wolff’s excellent contribution, “Cultural Landscapes and Dynamic Ecologies: Lessons from New Orleans,” explores the catastrophic failures of New Orleans’s infrastructure and flood control policies to align with the ecological reality of its dynamic delta environment. Notably, Wolff stresses the challenge of implementing a complex systems approach to flood management, writing: “Though design professionals and scholars have made a wide range of interesting proposals that capitalize on landscapes’ fluctuating tendencies, there has been much less conversation about the challenge of implementing such ideas.” Wolff stresses the need for public education about ecological problems in order to implement solutions, and suggests that in the case of New Orleans, the greatest barrier to implementing such an approach may be cultural.

I wished more of the essays explored these kinds of hurdles to implementing large-scale ecological design. Reed and Lister describe Projective Ecologies as the beginning of a more ambitious project, writing, “the bigger project initiated by this volume is to better and more critically understand both the context for and the implications of the various relationships that have developed between ecological and design thinking.”

Projective Ecologies lays out an effective course for designing within a complex and changing world, and, in this sense, it’s successful. As the project develops, the next step may be to consider strategies for implementation, including how to communicate the adaptive management of complex ecological systems to the general public.

Read the book.

This guest post is by Ben Wellington, Associate ASLA, designer, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, recent Louisiana State University Master’s of Landscape Architecture graduate, and former ASLA summer intern.

barangaroo

Barangaroo Final Plan. From top (Headland Park, Barangaroo Central, and Barangaroo South / PWP Landscape Architecture

After nearly ten years of planning and development, Barangaroo, a 22-hectare port on the Sydney waterfront, is coming together as a rich, $6 billion, mixed-use development that will fill in missing gaps in the city’s waterfront promenade and offer a stunning, one-of-a-kind park with an embedded Aboriginal cultural center. As Peter Walker, FASLA, PWP Landscape Architecture, described at the ASLA 2014 Annual Meeting in Denver, “it’s the most amazing project I’ve ever worked on.”

Walker explained how the original port had been “engineered to death.” Flat, covered in asphalt, and completely separated from the surrounding residential areas by a 60-foot cliff, the port had long severed parts of the city from the waterfront. PWP fleshed out a new landscape plan that dramatically improves connectivity to the water, while designing a new park that recalls the landscape early settlers would have seen.

Throughout Barangaroo, there will be a 50/50 split between buildings and parks. Headland Park, in the north, will be entirely green public space, while Barangaroo South will be entirely developed, with a new casino and a set of 40-story towers offering a mix of residential, commercial, and retail space.

In the middle, Barangaroo Central has an even mix of private development and parks. As Douglas Voight, SOM, explained, Barangaroo Central will feature a new set of “Sydney steps” that mimic Spanish steps, taking people down from the upper level at the top of the cliffs to the water. “There, we will introduce a civic element, a cultural space.” Views from Observatory Hill, one of the city’s best vantage points, will be protected, and the old building there will be made more accessible, so as to enable views “from water to stars.”

According to Brian ten Brinke, with the Barangaroo Delivery Authority (BDA), the goal of the Headland Park portion of the project was to replace the rectilinear edges of the port with the meandering, nature-carved shoreline of the 1700s. Examining maps from the early 1800s, they found a coastline they could recreate, which, amazingly, they did.

As PWP designed Headland Park, they also “established a design vocabulary for the whole precinct’s waterfront walk,” said Jay Swaintek, ASLA, PWP. From Headland Park all the way to Barangaroo South, “we engaged with the casino and building owners to ensure the foreshore worked for the public and read as public domain.”

Dave Walker, ASLA, also with PWP, then delved into the challenges of creating a naturalistic landscape where there was once flat asphalt. (This brief video enclosed of the construction process is really worth a watch):

First, they created a 60-foot cliff with the yellow sandstone found throughout Sydney, in order to recreate an edge that connects with the surrounding communities. “We married it up to the existing cliff face.”

All that height created an opportunity to build down within the cliff and create a new memorial and cultural center for Australia’s first inhabitants, the Aborigines. Walker said this was critical as for hundreds of years, “there was an apartheid-like situation” between the Aborigines and whites. Sunshine will trickle down into the building from gaps in the surface.

Park visitors will wind their way through a reconstituted bush landscape filled with Eucalyptus trees. Dave Walker said while these bush landscapes look quite dense from the outside, within, they offer a scrim with many views looking out. Parallel to a 2-meter-wide path through the bush and down the slope, there will be separate bicycle and pedestrian pathways that wind through.

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Headland Park bush path / PWP Landscape Architecture

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Headland Park waterfront promenade / PWP Landscape Architecture

Wrapping the shoreline are 10,000 rectangular, hand-carved sandstone blocks that recall patterns in remnant coastal landscapes. Organized into geometrical shapes, “these striated forms have a natural precedent,” said Dave Walker. Each GPS-tagged stone was individually set to create intricate patterns that connect with the nature. “In high tide and low tide, the transitional patterns change.”

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Headland Park waterfront / PWP Landscape Architecture

With hundreds of trees being planted now, Headland Park is expected to open early next year. More and more of Barangaroo will also come online in the following few years. BDA is already expecting more than 12 million people a year to visit.

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Wilmington Waterfront Park, Los Angeles / AEC Cafe

True sustainability is a three-legged stool, said Dr. Robert Bullard, one of the fathers of the environmental justice movement, at the ASLA 2014 Annual Meeting in Denver. It rests on environmental sustainability, economic sustainability, and equity. However, equity, Bullard believes, is still too often left out. This is a problem because “a community can’t be sustainable if it’s not equitable.”

It has been 30 years since the environmental justice movement in the U.S. was born out protests to stop a toxic landfill from being created in an African American community in Warren County, North Carolina. While there have been significant gains — “every state now has its own environmental justice movement” — there are still far too many inequities to address.

Bullard argued that place still matters a lot, and not in a good way. Where you live largely determines your health and well-being. “Zipcode is the most important predictor of someone’s health.”

Residents of wealthier and often whiter communities still lead longer, healthier lives. Bullard believes this is because these communities typically have  more trees. Bullard believes that “trees and inequality are linked. Parks and green space matter.”

But, unfortunately, “not all parks and green spaces are created equal.” Bullard pointed to a small park in a historic African American community in Norfolk, Virginia, settled in between two oil refineries. “If you stand there for 15 minutes, you will get a headache.”

Bullard has spent the past 30 plus years mapping social vulnerabilities across the country. He has identified “disaster hot spots,” areas of the country where are multiple overlapping high-risk factors. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the many layers of high risk are in areas where there are higher levels of minorities: the south, southwest, and, especially, southeast of our country.

“There is still a Southern legacy of inequality. So it’s not a coincidence that the South is also the most environmentally degraded region of the nation.” Slide after unrelenting slide proved the worst health and environmental levels in the country are in the southeast, which makes the area least resilient to disasters.

Today, African Americans are still the most vulnerable group as well. “African Americans are 79 percent more likely to live where industrial pollution poses the greatest health danger.” In fact, in 2007, 56 percent of African Americans lived within 2 miles of a hazardous facility, and 69 percent live within 2 miles of two or more facilities. As a result, asthma rates for African Americans are 35 percent higher than for whites. “African Americans are 13 percent of the population but 26 percent of all asthma cases.”

For Bullard, this is a huge waste of resources. He estimated some $56 billion is spent per year dealing with asthma. “Imagine what we could spend $56 billion on?”

Bullard concluded that “addressing equity is a prerequisite to achieving sustainable and livable communities.” The gaps in health, parks and green space, and income are all inter-related.

“We need more landscape architects and planners, along with a few sociologists, in the room working on these issues.”

Dredge Design

1_30000 Dredge Anth + 2008 islands

Jamaica Bay / Drudge Design Collaborative

To dredge simply means to scoop up sediment, often underwater, and move it to another location. While this process is often associated with moving contaminated soils to a place where they can be safely capped, today, dredging is also increasingly about harnessing natural processes to create new landforms and ecological systems. New “dredge landscapes,” designed systems, offer opportunities for ecological restoration, said Brett Milligan, ASLA, Dredge Research Collaborative, at the ASLA 2014 Annual Meeting in Denver.

Sediment is dynamic and dramatically differs from place to place. Studying the natural flow of sediment in rivers and deltas, we can begin to understand how the movement of sediment can be “choreographed” to achieve ecological goals. However, given sediment flow happens within complex ecosystems impacted by human activities, like the deepening of channels for large ships, using dredge to create new landscapes is a highly complicated process.

As an example, Milligan pointed to efforts to dredge sediment into new landforms that can support wetlands in Jamaica Bay in New York. At current rates, “the wetlands will totally disappear in 10 years. Water regimes have changed due to stormwater runoff and deeper shipping channels.” While efforts are underway to rebuild the low-lying islands that can support wetlands in the bay, he asked how dredge can be used to restore a natural environment “where everything has changed?”

According to Hugh Roberts, Arcadis, we must “design with nature” when dredging, and a changing nature at that. Coastal land loss plus sea level rise means using dredged sediment to create wetland habitat is incredibly complex, hence the need for his job, numeric modeling lead. Wetlands require multiple flushings of water per day and they only exist at sea level, so there are “narrower number of places where they can survive. It’s a fine balance.”

In the Mississippi River delta, Roberts has been working on the White Delta diversion project, which aims to create the most efficient interventions for spreading out sediment in the widest possible fan from the river into the delta. Flow paths are dredged to enable the reconstitution of sediment far into the delta plains. All of this is part of an effort to undo the built system of containing the river, which looks like “a plumbing diagram,” in favor of letting the river flow and deposit sediment where it’s most needed, ecologically.

Roberts also pointed to the innovative Sand Engine project in the Netherlands as a great example of how dredging can work with nature. The Dutch have created a “changing land form that distributes sand along the Dutch coast.” They have placed large “nourishment mounds.” Nature then “spreads out the sand where it needs to.”

This process is the opposite of the conventional approach of pumping sand directly onto eroding beaches, an approach often called botoxing beaches. Like botox, this pumping approach only works for so long before the beach needs to be re-sanded.

The Sand Engine, Roberts says, is about “increasing resilience through nature.” Models, like the ones he creates, can help nature optimize its efforts. Today, one can see the Sand Engine has actually resulted in “natural dune formations” and the return of endangered plant species.

Zandmotor vlucht-30 10-01-2012 foto: Rijkswaterstaat/Joop van Houdt

Dutch Sand Engine / Topos Magazine

Milligan said up to 45 gigatons of earth is dredged per year, about 30 tons per person in the U.S. According to engineer and dredger Chris Dols, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, there are a number of different dredging technologies. There’s the cutter suction dredge, which turns mud underwater into a slurry then moved through massive hydraulic pumps. Then there’s hopper dredging, which involves using a mobile dredging vessels that vacuums up material then stores it within the boat only to be sprayed or pumped to other locations. Both can be used to support restoring ecosystems.

Sean Burkholder, ASLA, a landscape architecture professor at University at Buffalo, wants landscape architects to see dredging as a real design opportunity. Today, in the Great Lakes region, only 25 percent of sediment is reused; the rest is dumped on land or sent out to sea. Instead of treating contaminated sediment as merely waste that needs to be moved and capped, contaminants can be separated out, leaving material to create new dredge landscapes. “We can use this material more creatively in our own work.”

Also, existing dredged landscapes can become environmental education opportunities. These landscapes are typically near cities. “We can create access and interpretation for legacy sites.”

For those interested in learning more about dredge landscapes, Milligan organizes DredgeFest every year.

3d printing

3D printer / Gigaom

Landscape architects can bypass contractors and participate directly in the fabrication and manufacturing of all sorts of objects like benches or even pavers, if they are confident enough to delve into 3D modeling and 3D printing, said Scott Bishop, ASLA, Stoss Landscape Urbanism, and John Pacyga, ASLA, Verdant Design, at the ASLA 2014 Annual Meeting in Denver. “This can really disrupt the product development process. We can now actually make products the way we want,” said Pacyga. With 3D printing, landscape architects can both enable new forms, leaving the old standardized ones in the past, and begin building.

Multiple technologies are found under the umbrella term “3D printing.” There is Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), also sometimes known as FFF, which involves turning wires of plastic into forms. This is the most common and popular 3D printer technology out there. Then, there’s stereolithography printers, which are slow at creating models but offer an incredible level of detail. With this technology, resin is turned into a solid form. “You start with a sort of pot of goo,” said Pacyga. There’s also selective laser sintering, which uses a laser to melt materials into a form, as well as CJP/3DP, which adds up thin paper or powder layers. Any excess is broken off to reveal the form.

FDM printers can be either desktop machines, which run from $500 to $4,000, or industrial size printers, which are found at 3D printing centers, now found in most major cities. A good desktop printer for a landscape architectural office could run $1,500 to $2,500. Pacyga cautioned that you really get what you pay for so it’s worthwhile to invest in a good one, which can be found in Make magazine’s annual consumer report released in the fall. Pacyga also noted the real expense of these tools is staff time spent “calibrating and maintaining them.” If you need to send a job to a 3D printing center, an average job can take 2 weeks to a month to do, so “plan ahead,” said Pacyga. The cost can range from $16 to $22 per cubic inch. Prices are calculated either according to volume or on a time and materials basis.

All these technologies, Bishop said, enable landscape architects to communicate with clients and stakeholders about their ideas in a more compelling way. “It’s one thing to fly through a 3D model and another to let them see what we want to make.” 3D printed models can also demonstrate the value of an iterative design process. For their Plaza at Harvard University, which includes innovative ergonomic, custom-designed benches, Stoss used 3D printed models to create one idea, then four, and then eight, followed by a range of iterations to show the “formal language” of their bench designs. The eventual models they created in Rhino were sent straight to the fabricator to prototype and then the manufacturer. “There was no construction documents and no middle man.”

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Plaza at Harvard University / Stoss Landscape Urbanism

For Erie Street Plaza in Milwaukee, Stoss created models of a novel paving pattern and delivered that straight to Wausau Pavers, who then created a steel mold for the 60,000 square feet of pavers they needed for the plaza. Using 3D printing for the paver design was important because the steel mold alone cost more than $100,000.

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Erie Street Plaza / Stoss Landscape Urbanism

Pacyga said Rhino or Sketchup works great for creating 3D models that can then be turned into models to be fed into a 3D printer. However, landscape architects will first need to ensure their 3D print model is “manifold and watertight before sending to the printer.” This means that if you, theoretically, put water inside your model, there would be no leaks. In practice, this mean “everything must have a depth.” Pacyga recommended using Cleanup3, Solid Inspector, or SUsolid.com, services that analyze your models to find any “dangling lines or holes.”

At Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD), Interboro Partners, an interdisciplinary and relatively young firm of three GSD alums Tobias Armborst, Daniel D’Oca, and Georgeen Theodore, said “architecture is for everyone.” As a way of introduction, Jerold Kayden, a former professor of theirs, affectionately characterized their practice with five key attributes: incredibly creative, versatile (employing many methods), academic (taking a critical approach), entrepreneurial, and famous.

Architecture clearly has a broad definition at the firm. With backgrounds in architecture, urban planning, and urban design, the firm’s three founders capitalize on whatever skills they have in order to achieve a common goal. Kayden jokingly suggests that the only missing professional title among the three is landscape architect. One of their most recent projects, Living with the Bay, one of the winners of HUD’s Rebuild by Design competition, would suggest otherwise though (see brief video above). Collaborating with a host of partners, including landscape architects at H+N+S, this complex project blurs the disciplinary boundaries between urban planning, architecture, engineering, and landscape architecture.

An interdisciplinary approach is one of the hallmarks of the firm. In fact, Armborst calls refers to this approach as their “means,” the way in which they, as designers, do their job of influencing outcomes in the built environment.

One of the first projects Interboro mentions is Improve your lot! in Detroit, an example of a research project based on the idea of doing “good detective work.” It takes curiosity and persistence to “suspend judgement for as long as possible in order to acquire a kind of located knowledge,” as D’Oca described it. Creating this “located knowledge” involved documenting the various needs and uses of private property in this shrinking city. It meant learning from the citizen’s “unplanned” transformations.

When the team discovered thousands of homeowners were expanding their property by acquiring adjacent lots, redrawing the city’s blocks, they termed the phenomenon “blotting”–that is, making a “blot” (a block of lots).

improve

Blotting Map / Interboro Partners

Armborst recognizes that their “work as urban planners is then something like that of a ghost writer,” using their training to really tell this story of blotting. “Unplanned transformations are funny,” says Armborst, but they are also inspirational and useful in hinting at the city’s needs.

D’Oca explained Holding Pattern, a temporary public space at MoMA PS1 in Queens, New York. He describes how the design within the museum’s courtyard began in an untraditional way. They began, in fact, with the end. They thought about the possible afterlife of the materials they were using for their design at the beginning.

fig5_HoldingPattern_PS1-graphic

Holding Pattern / Interboro Partners

Instead of asking the museum about its needs, they turned to the museum’s neighboring community. D’Oca points out that their “client” thus shifted from MoMA to 50 clients within Long Island City, which included schools, non-profits, and other organizations in need. They charted their needs and wants and came up with a plan to treat the courtyards as a sort of stockyard for these future neighborhood improvements. Each item in the exhibit was tagged with a card explaining where the item would end up. They created a public space design wholly shaped by the neighborhood beyond MoMA’s walls.

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Holding Pattern / Interboro Partners

holding-pattern-2

Holding Pattern / Interboro Partners

Here’s how Armborst describes it: their design approach was a bit like Iron Chef, where one chef gets a whole bunch of ingredients and must do something creative with them. On a more serious note, Theodore calls this one of their “small, catalytic projects” that positively impacted Long Island City.

Unplanned transformations. Small budgets, limited time. These begin to characterize Interboro’s creative toolbox. Architectural tools, however, are for Interboro something to be used with caution. The firm is well aware of the power of these tools to shape the built environment.

In fact, their forthcoming book The Arsenal of Inclusion and Exclusion aims to reveal, in an encyclopedic manner, the many ways in which the built environment is built with “weapons.” These weapons of exclusion, like a uncomfortable public bench or even a private golf course, shape our communities.

fig8_mascontex_arsenal_exclusion_inclusion_zoom

Cover illustration by Lesser Gonzalez for Interboro’s forthcoming book The Arsenal of Inclusion and Exclusion / Interboro Partners

The encyclopedia is one of Interboro’s many strategies for making architecture for everyone. D’Oca says it best: “We think only architecture that pays close attention to what is happening out there engages in any meaningful way.” The simplicity of their thinking is profound: Interboro Partners seeks to understand what forces are acting on them in order to improve their ability to act as architects and planners.

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

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Postcard from “Gotthard Landscape: The Unexpected View,” 2014 Architecture Biennale, Venice, showing a multi-layered perspective / Department of Architecture, ETH Zurich

We need to find a word that brings us back to common ground. In a lecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Christope Girot, professor and chair of landscape architecture in the architecture department at the ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) in Zürich, Switzerland, suggests that “topology” may be the word, for it speaks to the logic and intelligence of a landscape. Girot acknowledges his unique way of viewing: “I believe in the landscape as a body.” He means this in a very literal sense, emphasizing landscape’s physical qualities.

One of the first slides Girot flashes before the audience shows topology’s etymological roots: Topos (place) and logos (reason). Topology, he claims, is about sensing and conceiving landscape. Rather abstractly, topology, then, can define a way in which constituent parts are interrelated or arranged. This approach can be applied to landscape architecture through multi-layered visualizations, and new, multi-scalar methods of design.

(Girot borrows the term topology from philosophy, but also reclaims its original meaning from its contemporary mathematical association. Girot makes reference to Hans Kollhoff, who retrieved the term “tectonics” from the realm of volcanoes and inserted it into the core of architecture).

In practice, his use of point cloud modelling for large-scale projects emphasizes landscape’s elevational information. This means designing on a “skin,” an abstracted land form developed by filtering raw data and draping a point cloud. The raw data to which he is referring is what his team collects by sending flying drones with laser scanners over a landscape. Girot uses an incredibly complex coordinate system to achieve a level of precision previously unknown to landscape architects. If his lecture could be summed up by a single statement it would be this: Landscape architects must become masters of simulating reality for this is the future.

A term that Girot employed even more than topology is precision. Point cloud modelling, he argues, is the optimal tool for achieving precision because it achieves a precision competitive with the instruments employed by structural engineers. It elevates the position of the landscape architect, granting a heightened level of control and broadening the landscape architect’s territory. Girot reminds us of a time when engineers, architects, and landscape architects each practiced within their respective scalar domains (1:1-1:1000 versus 1:10,000-50,000, etc.). In contrast to this, today, point cloud modelling enables landscape architects to reverse the order by teaching engineers something about sensitivity.

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Detail of a perspective generated from a point cloud model / Department of Architecture, ETH Zurich

What is astounding is how Girot has been able to apply this methodology, translating a seemingly infinite set of tiny informational dots into more than a pretty pointillist picture. (It is worth mentioning, however, that this does not preclude the possibility of an unlimited number of instant perspectives exported from zooming around in the point cloud model dimension.) While it is easy to gape at the seductive visualizations, such as the 20-meter projection of a fly-through made for Gotthard Landscape: The Unexpected View, the ETH’s contribution to the 2014 Architecture Biennale in Venice, Girot wants to make clear that this method is not just for show; it is a tool.

His animations present a new way of perceiving landscape, allowing viewers to experience an x-ray-like vision of the alps that situates the tunnel beneath a massive load, a measurable “void” beneath the modeled surface. The tunnel itself will alter the way in which visitors make their way “through the alps” by promising a 1-hour 40-minute journey without a single alpine view. In this case the model becomes a tool for communication rather than a tool for design.

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Postcard from “Gotthard Landscape: The Unexpected View,” 2014 Architecture Biennale, Venice / Department of Architecture, ETH Zurich

While point cloud technology introduces new design methods to the field, it by no means guarantees the quality of a design. This technology can only bring us one step closer to a desired level of precision. For example, point cloud modelling is a tool that measures, with surprising accuracy, the extent of flood events on existing topography. For the ongoing project with the Future Cities Laboratory in Jakarta, Indonesia, Girot and his team use point cloud modelling to give definition to a landscape that lacks topographical data.

Girot generated a model of the polluted Ciliwung River to achieve the information required for a systems approach to dealing with a region where informal settlements established within the narrowing riverbed suffer from frequent flooding. With a virtual topography, or a “skin” of the river district, the lab succeeds in developing what Girot calls “the new Nolli plan,” an “urban bas relief” that reveals useful information for an urban strategy.

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Detail from a bird’s eye view rendering made by the Future Cities Laboratory for the Ciliwung River project / Department of Architecture, ETH Zurich

Girot introduces to us a new design approach: communication through simulation. Here, precise data-based 3D modeling precedes the design of a landscape.

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

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Denver Mountain Parks / Barrett Doherty – TCLF

In advance of the 2014 ASLA Annual Meeting in Denver, The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) has unveiled What’s Out There Denver, the first in a new series of free web-based, city-focused guides. TCLF’s guide covers more than 150 years of landscape design history and city shaping in Denver. Guide users can explore nearly 70 sites and sort by 17 landscape types, as well as delve into histories of the local designers who created these places.

TCLF President and Founder Charles A. Birnbaum, FASLA, said: “The Denver parks and open space network is an unrivaled local design interpretation that leverages the unique geography of the surrounding Rocky Mountain range and expansive American Prairie grasslands. The goal of this guide is to make this legacy visible and easily accessible through laptops, iPhones, tablets, and other devices.”

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Denver Mountain Parks / Barrett Doherty – TCLF

The series is an expansion of TCLF’s free, profusely-illustrated What’s Out There online database of the nation’s shared landscape legacy, which currently features more than 1,700 sites, 900 designer profiles, and 10,000 images. This is the first phase in the series and will be upgraded over time to allow users to build individual itineraries, create links between cities based on designers, the types and styles of landscapes, and other features. The web site will continue to grow as additional sites are added to the What’s Out There database. The guide also features What’s Nearby, a GPS-enabled function that locates all sites in the database within a 25-mile radius of any given location.

The guide is made possible by project partners ASLA, the Colorado ASLA Chapter, the College of Architecture and Planning at the University of Colorado Denver, and support from Design Workshop.

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