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Rooftop Garden in Dumbo, NYC / Architectural Digest

Can a Professionally Designed Garden Add Value to Your Home? The Huffington Post, 1/4/15
“This year marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Capability Brown – the landscape architect renowned for designing over 170 country house estates and gardens during the 18th century. His elegant style of undulating parkland and serpentine lakes can still be seen at dozens of locations, including Blenheim Palace and Stowe.”

See a Rooftop Garden in Brooklyn Inspired by the High Line Architectural Digest, 1/6/15
“Few cities in the world have real estate as expensive as New York’s. For its millions of residents, the idea of certain amenities, such as a private garden—must be quickly abandoned. Yet one apartment building in Brooklyn’s trendy Dumbo neighborhood is creatively changing all of that.”

The New Dolores Park Will Be Pristine—But Can It Last? Curbed, 1/7/15
“It was another beautiful morning in Dolores Park, accompanied by the soothing sound of jackhammers. City officials—including Mayor Ed Lee, Supervisor Scott Wiener, and Dolores Park’s Project Manager Jacob Gilchrist—went along on a preview hard hat tour (sans hard hats—it’s mostly just grass out there, after all) of the park’s south end to show off the final phase of the park’s $20.5 million renovation.”

To Preserve and Protect: Working with ArboristsMetropolis, 1/7/15
“As landscape architects we love trees! Be they pre-existing or newly planted, trees are often the backbone to a site design. Mature, statuesque trees add invaluable character to a place and are often a site’s greatest asset or attraction.”

Field Mighty Real The Architect’s Newspaper, 1/11/15
“Once a quarry, then a landfill, the property at Circle Acres Nature Preserve in the Montopolis neighborhood of Austin was purchased by Ecology Action of Texas with the goal of transforming the site into a nature preserve and park.”

Let’s Talk Water Planetizen, 1/12/15
“It is important to note that landscape architects have been leaders in sustainable design since long before it became a hot topic. Environmental stewardship is a core value of the profession, and designing with water in a responsible and beautiful manner is what we do.”

Bus rapid transit (BRT) in Bogota, Colombia / Scania.com

Bus rapid transit (BRT) in Bogota, Colombia / Scania.com

“The Paris climate agreement didn’t create the commitments we need to limit global warming to a 2 degree Celsius increase,” said Laura Tuck, vice president for sustainable development at the World Bank at Transforming Transportation, a conference in Washington, D.C. “But it was an awesome achievement. All 190 countries — everybody — are in.” All countries are now focused on how to achieve a net-zero carbon world by 2050. For Andrew Steer, president of the World Resource Institute (WRI), the success of the Paris climate meeting, and the long-term movement towards the ambitious 2050 goals, signifies the “renaissance of moral imperative around the world.”

Tuck and Steer called for undertaking “disruptive approaches” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from the transportation sector, which accounts for the second largest share of energy-related emissions.

On the goods side, this involves shifting freight transportation from roads to rails and waterways. “Freight logistics for transporting goods needs to be greener.” Suresh Prabhu, minister of railways for India, concurred, explaining how India, with the World Bank’s help, is investing billions in a new, renewable energy-powered regional rail network to better facilitate the movement of goods.

And urban transportation was described as critical to achieving a sustainable future. This is because more than half of the world’s population — who create 80 percent of global GDP, consume 70 percent of the world’s energy, and expend around the same percentage of its GHGs — are found in cities, and they can either get around in cars on in a more sustainable manner.

While many of the world’s largest cities are busy retrofitting themselves with more sustainable transportation networks, it may not be too late to do things the right way the first time around with the world’s exploding second-tier cities. “We need to get to those second-tier cities that are growing fast. We need to get to them early and get them to invest in ‘live, work, play’ environments,” said Tuck.

A key part of this strategy in developing countries is to expand street-level connectivity; invest more in public transportation, like bus rapid transit (BRT), subways, and light rail; and create a regulatory environment that enables shared transportation, including mobility on demand services like Uber and Lyft and shared car and bike services.

In addition to their many environmental benefits, these sustainable sources of urban transportation can be major job creators. Just to use one example, Steer said in Bogota, Colombia, some 40,000 workers are directly involved in keeping their city’s BRT system working, with another 55,000 indirectly involved. As Dario Rais Lopes, national secretary of transport and urban mobility for Brazil explained, his government is now forcing all of its 5,600 cities with a population of more than 20,000 to come up with a plan for moving to a BRT system, so imagine the number of jobs there. And then think about all of the jobs related to constructing sustainable transportation infrastructure. In an example from the U.S., complete streets, which provide equally as safe access for pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles, were found to create far more jobs than traditional road construction projects.

Copenhagen, Denmark, was held up as a model of disruption in urban transportation. Morten Kabell, mayor of technical and government affairs for the city, explained how the city transformed itself from a car-centric city 40 years ago to the Copenhagen of today, where more than 50 percent of the population commutes by bicycle, even from the suburbs, while just 20 percent use public transportation, and the rest drive. Copenhagen has its priorities straight: when snow storms hit, the city actually plows the bike lanes first, before streets for cars. But Kabell added that “Copenhageners aren’t so idealistic. They bike because it’s the cheapest, fastest, and easiest way to get around.” And the city has worked hard for decades to disrupt the rein of cars.

Copenhageners biking in winter / My City Way

Copenhageners biking in winter / My City Way

Kabell explained that Copenhagen, one of the world’s richest cities, “had to change in order to set this example. Only a few decades ago, we were both totally car-dependent and on the verge of bankruptcy.” City leadership believes going green is what saved the city from financial ruin and ensures its continued success. Today, instead of allowing big box stores only accessible by car, they enable small, local stores for bicyclists. And now Copenhagen is only upping the ante: they are investing $1 billion in wind turbines in the city, with the goal of being totally carbon neutral by 2025.

And if Copenhagen’s well-plowed, wintry bike lanes sound disruptive, how about “taxibots,” which are autonomous vehicles shared by one of more riders at the same time. Cities could begin to get serious about taxibots, said Jose Viegas, the head of the International Transport Forum (ITF), which just did an intriguing modeling exercise on what these vehicles could mean for Lisbon, Portugal. ITF thinks taxibots would reduce overall car use, eliminate the vast majority of parking spaces, but could also increase total vehicle miles traveled.

Taxibots study / ITF

Taxibots study / ITF

Still, to put all of this in perspective, Ani Dasgupta, director, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities at WRI, said the vast majority of the world’s transportation spending is still on car-based infrastructure. He said with increased political pressure, national energy policymakers now must really think again before approving a new coal-fired power plant. Dasgupta believes the world will have really turned the corner when national leaders feel the same pressure when they want to build a new highway. “But we aren’t there yet.”

Apps Survey / ASLA

Smartphone Apps Survey / ASLA

As we look forward to covering new stories on the built and natural environments this year, here’s a look back at the 10 most popular Dirt posts of 2015. The results of ASLA’s online survey, which asked landscape architects about their use of smartphone apps, were enduringly popular. On the technology front, readers also sought out an op-ed from Jordan Petersen, ASLA, on what drones will mean for planners and designers. (Speaking of which, The Dirt is always looking for original op-eds, particularly from member landscape architects, designers, and planners. If interested, please send us a note at info@asla.org).

Also worth highlighting: The Dirt‘s readers were very interested in the latest research on the health benefits of landscape architecture. We’ll post more on this exciting field of discovery in the coming year.

1) DesignIntelligence 2015 Landscape Architecture Program Rankings
Once again, Louisiana State University came in at the top of undergraduate landscape architecture programs. And for the 11th year, Harvard University came in as the best graduate program in the annual survey conducted by DesignIntelligence on behalf of the Design Futures Council.

2) Smartphone Apps for Landscape Architects: Useful Tools for Site Analysis and Design
In order to better understand what smartphone apps landscape architects use to conceptualize, design, and construct projects, ASLA recently surveyed practicing landscape architects, students, and university faculty from around the world.

3) What Dose of Nature Do We Need to Feel Better?
There has been a boom in studies demonstrating the health benefits of spending time in nature, or even just looking at nature. But a group of ambitious landscape architects and psychologists are actually trying to determine how to prescribe a “nature pill.”

4) Complete Streets Are a Bargain
Normal, Illinois, doesn’t sound like a typical spring break destination—but for me, it was the perfect getaway.

5) Doctor’s Orders: Go the Park
Pediatricians in Washington, D.C. are prescribing their patients a new type of medicine: parks.

6) A New Map of the World’s Ecosystems
A new, free, web-based tool from the US Geological Survey (USGS) and ESRI allows us to gain a better understanding of the ecological character of any place in the world.

7) Do Urban Growth Boundaries Work?
Urban growth boundaries are held up as one of the most effective tools for limiting sprawl. But do they actually constrain unplanned development?

8) Drones Will Elevate Urban Design
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently released long-awaited guidelines for commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or drones.

9) Smartphone Apps for Landscape Architects: Useful Tools for Construction and Presentation
In part two of this three part series, we continue to summarize the results of the survey, focusing on useful apps for constructing landscapes and presenting design ideas to colleagues and clients.

10) A Rare Look at the New U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
This $646-million project is just the first in a series that will transform a mid-19th-century mental asylum, founded by social reformer Dorothea Dix, into the new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security, of which the Coast Guard is a major piece.

Sea level rise in New York City / Climate Central

Sea level rise in New York City / Climate Central

World leaders have begun to get serious about fighting climate change, but we still face the incredible risk of a rising sea in this century and far into the future. According to Climate Central, a research organization, a 4-degree Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) global temperature increase, which is our current path, could result in sea level rise that would submerge land where 470 – 760 million people now live. If the world’s governments actually meet the declared goal of the UN climate summit in Paris and reduce and draw down carbon emissions, keeping the world to a 2 Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature increase, 130 million would need to evacuate over coming decades. To understand how serious this could be, here’s some perspective: 4 million Syrians have fled their homeland since their civil war began in 2011, with 380,000 making their way to Europe this year. Imagine millions more on the move each year, all over the world, and the political, social, and environmental effects of this migration.

In a new report, Climate Central finds that Asia, with large populations on coasts, will be hardest hit. “China, the world’s leading carbon emitter, leads the world, too, in coastal risk, with 145 million people living on land ultimately threatened by rising seas if emission levels are not reduced. China has the most to gain from limiting warming to ​2°C, which would cut the total to 64 million. Twelve other nations each have more than 10 million people living on land at risk, led by India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Japan.” And the U.S. could experience huge impacts, too, with land for 25 million underwater. Major parts of coastal cities like New York City, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco; river cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C.; and smaller coastal and river communities could be submerged.

The Surging Seas Risk Zone Map, their latest interactive map, shows in startling detail what that flooding could look like, foot by foot, with a 2 degree Celsius increase. The map, which was relaunched last November to extend the coverage from the U.S. to the whole world, is designed to help policymakers and planners better plan coastal resilience efforts.

Plugging in New York City brought up a map showing the relative impact of inundation, ranging from 1 to 10 feet. As one moves up the scale in sea level rise, parts of lower Manhattan are submerged, and LaGuardia airport in Queens is totally underwater (see map above). A rising East River would flood highly populated parts of Brooklyn as well, and New Jersey would become a patchwork of islands.

In Los Angeles, almost all of the coastal communities, including ecological preserves, are completely submerged.

Sea level rise in Los Angeles / Climate Central

Sea level rise in Los Angeles / Climate Central

Looking at Washington, D.C., one could see the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers expanding beyond their banks, putting much of the Tidal Basin, East Potomac Park, the Navy Yard, and parts of the National Mall underwater. Reagan National Airport could also need to close some runways.

Sea Level Rise in Washington, D.C. / Climate Central

Sea Level Rise in Washington, D.C. / Climate Central

And an even scarier map shows side-by-side comparisons for any mapped point, with both a 2 degree Celsius and 4 degree rise.

Sea level rise will be incremental and long-term. They write: “carbon emissions this century can lock in these projected threats, but the associated sea level rise is expected to play out over a longer period, likely centuries.” To date, the seas have risen approximately 8 inches.

The data in the map is based on research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. According to Climate Central, these are just median projections — meaning real sea level rise could equally be higher or lower.

A fascinating, complementary map is the Atlas of a Changing Planet, a “story map” from Esri. And for American users, the U.S. Historical Topographical Map Explorer, the result of a partnership between Esri and the U.S. Geological Survey, is a useful tool for calculating elevations.

Philadelphia Navy Yard 2013 Master Plan Update / Robert A.M. Stern Architects, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Pennoni Associates

Philadelphia Navy Yard 2013 Master Plan Update / Robert A.M. Stern Architects, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Pennoni Associates

The American Architectural Foundation’s Sustainable Cities Design Academy (SCDA) is looking for innovative public-private partnerships with ambitious sustainable planning and design goals. Teams are encouraged to apply to participate in an intensive 2.5-day design workshop led by SCDA in Washington, D.C., August 3-5, 2016.

Since 2009, SCDA has helped 55 project teams from 50 cities in the U.S. hone their sustainable plans and designs. Some recent highlights:

Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania: In 2009, a team of planning officials and developers met to discuss how best to achieve their goal of urban, mixed-use development on the 1,000-acre former ship yard. The team sought guidance on “best practices in sustainable planning, design, and development, including strategies coordinated with the recently launched GreenPlan Philadelphia and LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED ND) certification process.”

According to SCDA, their experts helped the project team realize “symbiotic relationships that the Navy Yard development could promote with the City of Philadelphia. These included integrating transportation and open space networks throughout the 1,000 acre site as well as developing residential and commercial spaces onsite to promote 24/7 use.” Check out the resulting master plan, which also includes the landscape planning work of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.

Mill River District, New Haven, Connecticut: A 206-acre urban and light industrial district in New Haven has many underused brownfield sites. “To address these challenges and build on the area’s native advantages, the Economic Development Corporation of New Haven (EDC), and the City of New Haven Department of Economic Development entered a public-private partnership with Mill River District businesses to create a development plan that will maintain the city’s industrial base, establish the district’s distinct identity, attract new businesses, and address sustainability challenges at the local and regional levels.”

With the help of SCDA in a 2012 design workshop, a revised plan was devised to improve pedestrian access, especially to the riverfront; set aside some parts of the waterfront for flood-preventing green infrastructure; and create a better balance between environmental and economic development. Kelly Murphy, New Haven’s Economic Development Administrator, said, “the lessons learned through SCDA played a large role in shaping the way we view the district.” Learn more about the resulting phased planning approach.

Mariposa Corridor, Fresno, California: In California’s San Joaquin Valley, the city of Fresno, which is home to more than 500,000 residents, has some of the highest concentrations of poverty in the country. While there are major challenges, city leaders have long sought to revitalize the Mariposa corridor, which connects Fulton Mall, a former main street that was transformed by architect Victor Gruen and landscape architect Garrett Eckbo into a pedestrian mall in the mid-60s; the civic center; and a proposed new high-speed rail transit center.

In 2012, SCDA experts helped the Mariposa corridor project team, which included city officials and local developers, to comprehensively rethink the deteriorating pedestrian mall and vacant buildings along the corridor, creating an integrated transportation and economic development strategy. The team then leveraged the new concepts created at SCDA to win millions in federal transportation planning grants. Plans were also shared with the community and local arts groups, which led to some innovative fundraisers (a rapelling event), and public space improvements, including the construction of an ice rink.

Submit your application by January 28, 2016.

Impulse / Image © Ulysse Lemerise

Impulse / © Ulysse Lemerise

In winter in the northern hemisphere, night falls early. Way up north in Montreal, Canada, the sun leaves the sky at 4.30. To deal with the onset of winter doldrums, Montreal started Luminothérapie or “Light Therapy,” an innovative public art event that brings light, music, and fun to the streets. In the Place Des Festivals, the feature attraction of this year’s Luminothérapie is Impulse by landscape architecture firm Lateral Office, CS Design, and EGP Group, which features 30 giant, light-filled seesaws, backed by wall-projected video art. It’s a temporary “illuminated playground” for kids and adults.

Impulse / © Ulysse Lemerise

Impulse / © Ulysse Lemerise

 

Impulse / © Ulysse Lemerise

Impulse / © Ulysse Lemerise

Sitting on the ends of the seesaws and kicking off starts the LED light show and sounds. The intensity of the seesawing is reflected by the intensity of the light and tonality of the sounds the structures give off. So the seesaws’ light and sound will differ from player to player. The organizers told Dezeen, “Impulse is an urban installation that renews itself for every different audience. Each person becomes, while on the seesaws, the player of a novel instrument.”

In the same district, nine wall-projected video and sound art pieces are running simultaneously. The pieces show angular architectural forms, pieces of video games, or, simply, bright bands of color, transforming building facades into new nighttime experiences.

Symmetry by Irregular and Mitchell Akiyama / Martine Doyon

Symmetry by Irregular and Mitchell Akiyama / Martine Doyon

Chantal Rossi, Ville de Montréal Associate Councillor Culture, Heritage and Design, told ArchDaily: “Every year, we are eager to give Montrealers a new creative winter experience. Luminothérapie’s public installations transform our relationship with the city, beautify it, and give it a wonderful, friendly touch. Luminothérapie also keeps Montreal shining bright around the world as a hub of interactive art.”

Try out Impulse through the end of January. See more photos.

LA+ Pleasure / LA+

LA+ Pleasure / LA+

A recent New York Times money column encourages financial planning for play. Architect Bjarke Ingels pitches projects of “hedonistic sustainability.” The second issue of LA+, a new journal from University of Pennsylvania’s landscape architecture department, sets aside questions of saving money or the earth to focus exclusively on pleasure for its own sake. What if landscape architects ignored the perils of inundation, extinction, and urban anomie in favor of the pleasures of the flesh? The authors of the short piece, “Why so serious, landscape architecture?,” argue that such pieties help neither the earth nor the profession. The journal’s collection of articles guide us through an alternative landscape of leisure and sensory delight.

To understand why this approach feels so transgressive, we can look back to Ancient Greece and Rome, and the Stoic view of pleasure as “something lowly and servile, feeble and perishable, which has its base and residence in the brothels and drinking houses” (so said Seneca). Yet an article on the urbanism of pleasure in Rome shows, to the contrary, how that city’s landscape developed as a space of leisure as opposed to an arena of virtue. Contributions go on to describe the central role of pleasure to the shaping of cities, from Rome back then to New York, Hong Kong, and Singapore today. They render pleasure as eternally fundamental to the development of urban form and experience, but also as something whose parameters are constantly changing.

But the larger forces behind the evolution of leisure go unexamined here. For example, how have we gone from the rise of pleasure-driving to new designs for a pedestrian-friendly Las Vegas strip?

Las Vegas Street Signs / Stefan Al and Cricket Day

Las Vegas Street Signs / Stefan Al and Cricket Day

Critique is no fun. Yet some contributors hint at the role of pleasure in combating contemporary landscapes of austerity or promoting joyful coexistence. The strongest articles are the historical ones, tracing the linkages between pleasure and the development of Rome, Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and New Orleans. All the landscapes in question here are overwhelmingly urban. The spaces that support our pleasure through extraction—of diamonds or opium poppies—make only a brief appearance. So does the landscape of outer space travel, perhaps pleasure’s final frontier.

In a triumph of pleasure over method, the journal itself takes a wunderkammer approach, more interested in the joy of collecting than in the pursuit of science or editorial logic. LA+ bills itself an interdisciplinary journal of landscape architecture, and indeed, design projects and interviews here share space with articles in fields ranging widely from philosophy to sociology to marketing to neuroscience.

While it is heartening to see such a drive to engage with knowledge beyond the field of landscape architecture, there is little through line from one contribution to the next. A stronger organization could help guide readers and direct a path through such historical, geographical, and disciplinary variety. Issue 3 will be dedicated to “tyranny.” Perhaps the editors will bring an iron hand to their task.

This guest post is by Mariana Mogilevich, a historian of architecture and urbanism, whose research focuses on the design and politics of the public realm.

The Authentic Garden: Naturalistic and Contemporary Landscape Design / The Monacelli Press

The Authentic Garden: Naturalistic and Contemporary Landscape Design / The Monacelli Press

In The Authentic Garden: Naturalistic and Contemporary Landscape Design, Richard Hartlage, affiliate ASLA, and Sandy Fischer, ASLA, founders of Land Morphology in Seattle, show us the planting designs that have shaped landscape architecture, featuring “never-before-published” examples of 60 influential gardens. Organized by design movement, the book features more than 250 full-color photographs highlighting the work of well-known designers such as Andrea Cochran, FASLA, Raymond Jungles, FASLA, Christine Ten Eyck, FASLA, Michael Vergason, FASLA, and many others. The book’s strength is its breadth, even within the seemingly-narrow focus on planting design.

Plants as Architecture

Plants can create structure for a larger landscape. This idea is the very “essence of landscape architecture, and essential to garden- and place-making,” the authors write in the book’s first chapter, which focuses on how plants can be used to divide and manipulate spaces. The chapter begins with the history of English topiary gardens dating back to the 1700s before transitioning to more contemporary interpretations.

OLIN’s design for the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a contemporary standout, with mature trees creating a striking division between the museum and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The mottled trunks on these London plane trees also provide a complement to the fossilized limestone of the buildings’ façade, while drawing attention to their height.

Barnes-Foundation-Entrance.jpg

Barnes Foundation by Olin Partnership / By Michael Moran for the Architectural Review

Artfully Naturalistic Gardens

Those familiar with naturalistic planting design, an approach that appears seemingly natural but is actually constructed, will undoubtedly recognize the names of William Robertson and Gertrude Jekyll who pioneered the style in the late-1800s. While the approach has remained popular over the last 125 years, The Authentic Garden delves into how it has evolved from the 1800s to present day. Over the centuries, two design principles came to the forefront: first, create multi-seasonal gardens and, second, make them ecological. These principles, according to the authors, have helped to ensure the naturalistic approach endures as designers adapt English traditions to their own climates.

One of the most compelling examples of this evolution is California-based Elysian Landscapes’ design for a courtyard beside an Isabel Marant store in Los Angeles, California. Using native plants adapted to the dry southwest climate, the firm formed “casual massings,” out of “loose tufts of perennials” that are bright and exotic, but subtly pay homage to a more traditional planting system. Such examples, found throughout The Authentic Garden, provide inspiration to designers in all climates.

AuthenticGarden_Page82

Isabel Marant in Los Angeles by Elysian Landscapes / The Monacelli Press

Graphic Planting Design

Graphic planting design — which incorporate plants in large, often mono-color blocks to create a graphic effect of the landscape — were perhaps made most famous by Brazilian landscape architect, artist, and ecologist Roberto Burle Marx. Known for his affinity for strong forms and bright colors, Marx has inspired many generations of designers. However, as with other traditional planting styles, graphic planting design has evolved over the decades since Marx, becoming even more popular today, the authors assert.

Attracted to the strong aesthetic of these designs, as well as the ease of maintaining larger masses of plants, firms such as Sonoma, California-based Roche+Roche have made this style their own in the 21st century. Using massings of copper, blue-green, and lavender plants “that hold up well in strong light” at a Napa Valley residence, the firm created a memorable landscape striking within the pages of the book.

AuthenticGarden_Page90

Residence in Sonoma by Roche + Roche / The Monacelli Press

Subsequent chapters highlight more contemporary planting design styles, such as ecological, seasonal, and temporary planting. The authors show how climate-sensitive adaptations of traditional, European-style planting approaches can be achieved in gardens in dry and tropical climates, too.

Though the book is defined by its large, vibrant imagery, The Authentic Garden is more than just a coffee-table book. A must have for landscape architects and horticulturalists alike, it serves as reminder that even as beauty should be ecological today, there is still nothing wrong with adding in some “beauty for beauty’s sake.”

OY/YO sculpture by Deborah Kass / Etienne Frossard/Courtesy of Two Trees Management Co, Vulture

OY/YO sculpture by Deborah Kass / Etienne Frossard/Courtesy of Two Trees Management Co, Vulture

New York Has Solved the Problem of Public Art. But at What Cost? Vulture, 12/17/15
“It is such a simple joy to feel the real rhythms of the city and see this perfect public sculpture, especially in an age when public space seems more and more turned by developers into private arcades for the privileged.”

Obama Center Chooses Architects Strong On Modernism, Innovative Thinking The Chicago Tribune, 12/21/15
“I also wonder when — or if — landscape architects will be brought into the process. Their involvement seems crucial, given that the presidential center will be built in an Olmsted park.”

Four Finalists Announced for Revamp of Pershing Square in Downtown LA Dezeen Magazine, 12/22/15
“Architecture studio Morphosis and landscape architect James Corner Field Operations are among the four teams that have been shortlisted to redesign one of Los Angeles’ oldest public parks.”

Building a More Resilient Landscape With PolycultureDallas News, 12/23/15
“Much research using native plants has focused on conserving and restoring open lands, but corporations, hospitals, restaurants, housing subdivisions and college campuses have many open areas — some are acres, others are small beds outside a door.”

The Green Shoots of Gardening in the UAE The National, 12/24/15
“In the Middle East the winter months are a time of growth and abundance in the garden and represent the peak of the growing season.”

Peter Latz: Rehabilitating Postindustrial Landscapes – The New York Times, 12/30/15
“The landscape architect Peter Latz grew up amid the ruins of postwar Germany in Saarland, a coal- and steel-producing region whose bombed-out factories and mines would inspire his work.”

Christine Ten Eyck, FASLA / Ten Eyck Landscape Architecture Inc

Christine Ten Eyck, FASLA / George Brainard

Christine Ten Eyck, FASLA, is founder and principal of Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, Inc. Her firm of 12 has won numerous national ASLA awards. Interview conducted at the ASLA 2015 Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Texas seems to be just coming out of a severe four-year drought. What has the drought taught Texas about water management?

The drought has taught Texas they don’t have enough water for all the people and for growing agriculture. Texas wants to attract more people and industry. But if you attract more people, you’ve got to have water. Texas’s solution is to fund more infrastructure projects that bring water to the people — the Texas Rainy Day Fund, which has $2 billion for water management projects. They will give low interest rate loans to towns or cities to bring water or improve their water supply.

By the way, I don’t think we’re over the drought, even though El Nino has definitely hit.

As you just mentioned, Texas has passed this fund with $2 billion for water management. Is it enough? As a landscape architect, what does it mean for you?

No, I don’t think it’s enough.

I’ve always thought water is precious. In our projects, we make people aware of the path of water. We feel this is important anywhere, but especially in the arid Southwest where people long for a connection with water. Our projects have been a source of inspiration, not only for residential homeowners but also cities and college campuses. That’s the role we play. We can make communities aware that water is a precious resource and that they need to take care of water, not waste it on lawns. Our projects have to be beautiful and sustainable.

I usually work on sites that have immediate concerns with either no water or in a year like this with flooding water rushing off existing transportation systems into these last little shreds of remaining nature, and so we try to improve these systems, just one project at a time.

Significant amounts of groundwater have been used during the drought. Landscape architects are coming up with ways to recharge groundwater, even in urban areas. What will work in Texas? How can groundwater recharge be made more visible or even beautiful?

In Texas, if you own a property, you own the water rights to anything underneath your property. The rivers and streams are owned by the state of Texas. You have to get special permits to use that water. But, basically, in Texas you can still drill a well. There’s not a ton of regulation.

On my own street in Austin, I know of five homeowners who have dug wells. They’ll put signs out in their front yard that, “we’re watering with well water, so we’re okay. We can use as much water as much as we want.” This is just bizarre to me. We’ve still got lots of people with great big lawns. Now that we’re getting all this rain they think it’s perfectly okay to keep them. It’s just going to be a long, hard process.

In all of our projects, we try to slow water down and let it percolate down. I do this even in my own yard and garden. The whole front yard, which is good-sized, is designed to be a sponge to take it down. The more of these sponge gardens that get published, the more projects people see, it will help.

Sponge residential garden / Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, Inc.

Sponge residential garden / Paul Hester

We’re also trying to get people to appreciate the beauty of drought and appreciate brown. It’s a gorgeous color. Golden colors. We just appreciate that there are seasons when things look a little haggard, just like me. It’s just like part of life. We need to come up with a new kind of beauty that people can have — a resilient, tough landscape that has a harsh beauty unique to its region.

Beautiful drought landscape / Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, Inc.

Beautiful drought landscape / Terry Moore

In a number of communities in Texas with severe water challenges, it came down to providing water for endangered species or humans. Where do you see the balance?

What can I say? People are having too many children. I hate to sound so rude, but there’s too many people. We’ve got to be satisfied with one or two. Of course I’m the oldest of five, so I love a big family, don’t get me wrong. It’s just there are just so many people, and they use too many resources.

Balance between the wildlife and the humans? Seems like the government is going to probably pick humans. There needs to be a balance, but I couldn’t begin to tell you how we’re going to figure that out.

In your own projects, you’re now even harvesting condensation from air conditioning systems. With your new project at the University of Texas at Austin Belo Center for New Media, you designed a fascinating system. Could you tell me how that works?

In Texas, we have humidity and also have tons of air conditioning. The air conditioning coils create this condensation, a byproduct of a building that typically goes into the sewer. Because of my experience in Arizona, I’ve learned to appreciate every drop of water and look for every little way to honor that memory of water in the landscape.

We made the whole Belo Center garden about the path of water. We were able to convince the Belo Center for New Media to harvest that the condensate along with the stormwater that hit the roof. The condensate and the stormwater go into these three cisterns for irrigation, but when those are full, a valve shuts, and the water then goes through our water fountain, a linear biofilter runnel, where we have native Juncus growing. It’s a great element in the plaza, but it also tells an interesting story about reusing the water that a building produces.

University of Texas at Austin Belo Center for New Media garden / Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, Inc.

University of Texas at Austin Belo Center for New Media garden / Bill Timmerman

Now, water departments will tell you, “we could have used that water to dissolve the solvents and things in our sewer system and all that.” So, again, is it really an end-all solution? No, it isn’t. It’s a way to use water that isn’t processed by the city and it calls attention to forgotten water.

As you’ve described, your projects make water flow visible in the landscape. For example, your landscape at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) campus has this series of vegetated arroyos or rivers. Why is making water visible so important?

Our project at UTEP, a campus that was defined by its architecture and abundance of asphalt, is set in a little mountain hillside in the Chihuahuan Desert. They had lost all connection with their fantastic place. The Chihuahuan Desert is a beautiful desert. It was more about really connecting the campus to their place, and creating a sense of pride of their unique spot in the world.

We looked at historic photos of the campus. When it was first built, there were many arroyos, but the campus evolved to become a car-centric campus, with acres of asphalt. We were lucky enough to peel all that off, reshape the land, and carve some of those arroyos back in, in order to slow that water down as it traverses through campus. When they do get rain, as little as they get, it comes in major, epic storms, so the new arroyos and acequias help to absorb and slow the water down.

UTEP campus / Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, Inc.

UTEP campus / Terry Moore

UTEP has the largest Hispanic student population of any university in the country. They’re just the greatest kids. It was just a blast to give them a heart to their campus, embraced by these arroyos and this central gathering space. The new landscape just celebrates them. It celebrates where they’re from, where their ancestors are from.

We used all the native andesite rock from regrading and native Chihuahuan plants to create these arroyos and, now, you can’t believe the birds and butterflies on this campus.

People’s first impression of El Paso is typically the uninspiring view of industry as they drive I-10. Except for the mountain views, it’s not flattering or reflective of this amazing city. We’re showing the beauty of this place and hopefully instilling pride. It’s had a great impact so far, so that’s exciting. And it’s all working.

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