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2014student

ASLA Student Analysis & Planning Award of Excellence. Meridian of Fertility. Reid Fellenbaum, University of Michigan / image: Reid Fellenbaum.

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) announces the winners of the 2014 Student Awards. This year, 21 submissions received awards, out of more than 500 entries from 77 schools.

The October issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine (LAM) features the winning projects and is available online for free viewing. October’s LAM will be featured on the end-caps of the magazine sections in nearly 600 Barnes & Noble stores beginning October 14.

The awards will be presented at the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Denver on Monday, November 24, at 12 noon, at the Colorado Convention Center.  The 2014 awards program is sponsored by Victor Stanley.

The student awards jury included: Gina Ford, ASLA, Sasaki, Jury Chair; Rebecca Barnes, FAIA, University of Washington; Dennis Carmichael, FASLA, Parker Rodriguez; Sandra Y. Clinton, FASLA, Clinton & Associates; Bernard Dahl, FASLA, Purdue University; Christian Gabriel, ASLA, U.S. General Services Administration; Eric Kramer, ASLA, Reed Hilderbrand; Willett Moss, ASLA, CMG Landscape Architecture; and Brian Sawyer, ASLA, Sawyer/Berson.

General Design Category

Honor Awards
16th Street Station
by Erik Jensen, Associate ASLA, graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley

34,000 Tons of Miracles
by an undergraduate student team from Pusan National University, South Korea

Residential Design Category

Honor Awards
The Edgerly: The Next Generation of a Community Anchor
by a graduate student team from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Spaces of Exception: Housing as a Common Framework
by a graduate student team from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Analysis & Planning Category

Award of Excellence
Meridian of Fertility (see image above)
by Reid Fellenbaum, Student Affiliate ASLA, graduate student at the University of Michigan

Honor Awards
The Wild Anacostia: Cultivating a Thick Edge Typology through Everyday Experience
by Kate Hayes, Associate ASLA, graduate student at the University of Virginia

Migratory Lands Demonstration Project
by Emily Chen, Student ASLA, graduate student at Washington University, St. Louis

The Plexus Spine of North Philly
by Jacqueline Martinez, Student ASLA, graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania

Markings
by a graduate student team from the University of Texas at Austin

Bigger Darby: A Landscape Approach for a Coherent & Resilient Watershed
by an undergraduate and graduate student team from The Ohio State University

Beyond Turf: Reinterpreting the Ecological Management of Vacant Landscapes
by Alexander Ochoa, Student ASLA, an undergraduate student at Louisiana State University

Communications Category

Honor Awards
Adaptive Streets: Strategies for Transforming the Urban Right-of-Way
by a graduate student team from the University of Washington

SNACKs
by a graduate student team from the University of Virginia

Research Category

Honor Awards
A Spatial Analysis of the Uncharted Territory of Growing Old
by a graduate student team from the University of Virginia

Student Collaboration

collab

ASLA Student Collaboration Award of Excellence. Harvest Home. Students at George Washington University / images: Adele Ashkar, Nick Gringold, Ryan McKibben, Julie Melear, Sharon Metcalf

Award of Excellence
Harvest Home
by a graduate student team from George Washington University

Honor Awards
The Prairie Club + Redefined
by an undergraduate student team from Ball State University

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial: History, Design and the American People
by an undergraduate student team from Ball State University

Gardens, Greenspace and Health in Eliseo Collazos, Lima, Peru
by a graduate student team from the University of Washington

Community Service

community

ASLA 2014 Student Community Service Award of Excellence. Ratang Bana Aids Orphanage Playscape. California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo / image: California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo

Award of Excellence
Ratang Bana Aids Orphanage Playscape
by an undergraduate student team from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Honor Awards
Creating Home, A Healing Garden for Veterans and Their Families
by an undergraduate student team from the University of Washington

The Hastings-on-Hudson Community Street Tree Inventory
by Brett Schneiderman, Student ASLA, graduate student at Cornell University

arts

Dogpatch Arts Plaza / CMG Landscape Architecture

Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? At the EcoDistricts Summit in Washington, D.C., two urban innovators in San Francisco, the home of so many game-changing technologies, have come up with a truly brilliant idea: the Green Benefits District (GBD), a sort of green business improvement district, designed to facilitate community investment in new tree-lined streets, parks, and gardens. Michael Yarne, with Up Urban and Build Inc. and the creator of the concept, said the GBD in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco will also aim to improve the management and upkeep of neighborhood public spaces, which they say is currently done poorly by the city government. The GBD will be like the “Uber of public space,” meaning they are adding another layer of more convenient services on top of the existing baseline service. A GBD is needed because the city government is “stuck in the 1970s.” But the GBD clearly has higher aims than just better services: Yarne sees a future with local, distributed renewable energy systems and more.

With the help of Scott Cataffa, ASLA, a partner at CMG Landscape Architecture, Yarne is in the middle of a two-year process to prototype the GBD concept. It seems creating a new assessment district in California is not an easy thing, as you first need a BID lawyer, then need to get 30 percent of the proposed assessed district to agree to a petition, and then 51 percent of the “weighted property owners” to back the idea through a ballot. Only then will the state and city governments allow you to use tax revenue to meet local ends.

Dogpatch and NW Potrero Hill, which covers some 700 acres and contains 100,000 people, has a “rich industrial heritage.” Through a survey, Yarne and his team learned the area actually has 13 sub-neighborhoods. Some of these maintain a “gritty, marginalized identity.” In contrast, some neighborhoods have a high level of “social capital,” which enables more coordinated action. Yarne decided to start in the area with higher social capital, with a history of local environmental activism and ownership of public spaces. There, a “plucky, can-do” group of locals have wrangled the state government to let them build a park where where was once transportation infrastructure. But all their efforts are “taxing.” This community clearly wants “parks and open space preserved,” but what’s the best way to do this? The neighborhood decided to pool resources into a new GBD.

The GBD will “coordinate property owners and build trust.” It will be a non-profit, public benefit corporation with an elected board and annual oversight by the city legislature. The new GBD will be “small enough to enable trust to grow and will operate in a hyper transparent manner.” It will “use an experimental ‘it’s OK to fail’ approach and aim to create long-term revenue.” Trust, he said, is the new “green,” because, without it, community action is impossible. Trust building will happen on the ground, in person, but also through a new app that will enable all GBD members to see in near real-time all reports, decisions, and expenditures.

“Like Facebook, the app will encourage GBD members to create a profile to encourage community accountability.” There will be something like the “See, Click, Fix” app, which will enable community members to report problems. The app will define the “party responsible for fixing, set the fix date, and the cost of the fix.” Yarne said listing the cost of the fix was important, because people don’t really have a clue as to cost of public services. All of the issues will be mapped, so the GBD member can see problem areas. For example, they could learn that vandalism occurs near the train stations. Like other techno-utopians in San Francisco, Yarne believes the app will “empower the community by demystifying work that’s happening.”

Landscape architect Scott Cataffa has been helping the nascent GBD map all their assets and discover where the opportunities are. Cataffa said a map of the community found only 2 percent of it is open space.  The community is already maintaining about half of the public spaces in the district, but the audit is helping the community figure out who owns what. With a list of more than 50 possible opportunities in hand, the GBD team is now figuring out what role they should play in creating new green public spaces and other sustainable features. They created a checklist to help label each project, with potential roles such as “lead, initiate, assist, or advocate.”

One proposal by CMG would create a new amphitheatre and outdoor art gallery in an unused, city-owned dead-end between two large industrial buildings. Through the audit, they also found that the very wide rights of way, which were designed for industrial use, create opportunities to create new linear parks. So they propose creating a new linear park — or green street — running from the new amphitheatre to a larger park. Cataffa said “we are looking at the right of way as a place to turn grey to green.” Other ideas being cooked up include putting a solar farm on top a freeway that cuts through the district, and creating a (black) waste water recycling system.

If they are allowed to assess the community for the GBD, Yarne says they will raise about $400,000 in their first year from taxes of about 9.46 cents per square foot of commercial and residential space and parking lots. Some non-profits would get a 50 percent discount on that tax, as would some struggling industrial site owners. Yarne expects their available funds to double over the coming years given lots of new residential complexes are coming online. He said, already, the GBD can change perceptions of new development from an unwelcome sign of gentrification into new opportunities to green.

barryfarm

Barry Farm / The Huffington Post

Cities are the place to be these days, which means big changes for the historic communities that have populated urban cores. While much of the urban renewal experiments of the 1940s through the 1960s have been deemed disasters, word is still out on the new wave of “urban revitalization” that began in the 1990s and continues through to today in most of America’s cities. The supporters of revitalization say rising tides lift all boats. As wealth has come back to cities, everyone benefits. But critics of revitalization simply call it gentrification, and, as one speaker at the EcoDistricts Summit in Washington, D.C. said, “gentrification is a crime.” Furthermore, new discussions of turning existing urban neighborhoods into “ecodistricts” may just be gentrification in a green dress. How can cities encourage growth but also provide a sense of continuity? How can over-taxed city planning departments accommodate the forces of change while also respecting local communities and cultures?

According to Charles Hostovsky, a professor of urban planning at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., the speed of revitalization in D.C. has been extraordinarily rapid. Every neighborhood has cranes, signifying new development. There has been a corresponding shift in the demographics of the city. In 1970, the city was 77 percent African American. Today, it’s just 49 percent. “The number of people who have been displaced equals a small town.” Indeed: in the past decade, approximately 50,000 young, white Millennials have moved into the city while 35,000 African Americans have left.

Reyna Alorro, who works for the DC Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning, said revitalization has even spread east of the Anacostia River, perhaps the last hold out to gentrification. There, the city is supporting the redevelopment of Barry Farm, 25 acres of public housing, into a new mixed-income, mixed-use development that they hope will be an example of equitable revitalization. As HUD Hope IV funds have diminished since 2005, the District has started its own program of revamping public housing. “We want to target the areas with blight, crime, high unemployment and turn them into mixed income communities.” The theory is that reducing the concentration of the poor in communities, and relieving their isolation, will improve their conditions.

Barry Farm, a historic African American community founded by freed slaves, currently has some 400 units, with 1,200 people. The population of the housing development is 93 percent single mothers; some 86 percent are unemployed. “This is not a friendly, welcoming site.” There is only one over-priced corner store, with a bullet-proof glass wall separating the store owners from customers.

The $550 million redevelopment plan, said Kelly Smyser, DC Housing Authority, will create 1,400 public and affordable apartments at the same site. New apartments will face each other, creating open public thoroughfares that enable “eyes on the street.” There will also be a recreation center, with an indoor pool, basketball courts, and computer labs, as well as a charter school. The nearby Anacostia Metro station will get a full upgrade, with improved access to the station from the development. “We want to bring opportunity to residents. We will make the connection to Metro easier and safer.”

The District government calls this project “revitalization without gentrification,” as all current residents will be allowed to come back to the new development. “There will be zero displacement.” The city also promises it will undertake a program of “build first before demolition.” To increase the diversity of the development, some 300 of the new units will be affordable housing, rentals, or for sale. The city also wants to encourage small businesses to locate in Barry Farms. They are creating “live-work” sites that will enable people to live above their stores. “We need to get rid of the bullet proof glass.”

The neighborhood is rightly concerned about how they can preserve the best of the local culture with all the change. One example of this is the Goodman League, a basketball tournament that happens in the neighborhood every year. “People have a good time, barbequing, sitting in lawn chairs. There are no beefs on the court.” The basketball courts where this happen will remain untouched.

While Smyser was convinced this upgrade will benefit the community, one conference attendee seemed equally as convinced that with the District’s multimillion dollar investment, the city will simply be opening the neighborhood to opportunistic developers and further gentrification. Word is still out on how this urban redevelopment story will play out.

Hazel Edwards, a professor of planning at Catholic University, outlined some examples of successful revitalization without gentrification in other parts of the U.S. She pointed to Melrose Commons in South Bronx, where a group of local residents banded together in the early 1990s into a group called Nos Quedamos (We Stay) and fought back New York City government’s imposed urban renewal plan. With the help of an altruistic architect, Nos Quedamos forged their own urban design that respected the community’s unique cultural heritage. The plan and design resulted in 2,000 units of affordable housing. “There was no displacement in the community.”

In Portland, Oregon, Edwards told us about a project called Cully Main Street plan, which helped preserve one the most diverse neighborhoods in Portland, with some 40-50 percent people of color. They devised a plan to equitably bring in commercial activity to their main street while accommodating an influx of new white homeowners and preserving the neighborhood diversity.

Edwards said the key to revitalization without gentrification is “bringing residents and the community to the table often and at the beginning.” This kind of public planning process requires a great investment of time and resources by city governments, but without this investment, the only result may be inequitable, developer-led urban revitalization. “Cities have to form diverse, inclusive partnerships, foster openness, and collaborate on goals and outcomes.”

Quoting the urban leader and author, Kaid Benfield, she said, “we have to work towards a balanced solution,” and also track our progress to see whether we are living up to our goals.

Stegastein_forasla

Stegastein / Johanna Hoffman

Regardless of how beautiful or strange a landscape is, we’ve all done it. After the initial shock of a cliff’s craggy façade or the undulating, raw rubble of lava rock flows wears off, we’ve been lulled into sensory complacency. Amazement only lasts for so long: being stunned becomes the norm.

This is why the 120 designed projects along Norway’s National Tourist Route are so significant. They are the result of a multi-decade investment of nearly $400 million by the Norwegian government to enhance overlooks, picnic areas, and rest stops along its scenic highways. Together, theses projects exemplify design’s power to highlight nature.

A result of our hunter-gatherer heritage, we humans are good at maintaining a narrow focus. Through different creative media – film, dance – we have developed ways to compensate. Filmmakers regularly use music to highlight the feeling of a character or the insight of a narrative moment. Musicians employ lighting during live performances to cue audiences to shifts in mood. Designers of Norway’s tourist routes show how landscape architecture can do the same for our appreciation of landscapes, expanding our narrow focus.

In Stegastein (see image at top), which was created in 2006 by Todd Saunders and Tommie Wihelmsen, laminated wood contrasts with the surrounding forested hillside in color and form, reinterpreting the steep movements of the region’s hillsides.

In Storseisundet Bridge, which was completed in 1989, the rising section of the scenic highway crafts a line against the jagged outcrops of the surrounding fjord. The contrast highlights the intense sinuosity of the Norwegian shore.

Atlantic-Road-Bridge_forasla_resized

Atlantic Road Bridge / Johanna Hoffman

Other projects use design to accentuate landscape dynamics otherwise difficult to identify.

For example, in Vedahaugane, completed in 2010 by L. J. Berge and Z. Jelnikar, the designers reveal complexity in the simple — both in the path’s design and the surrounding landscape — by using curved benches.

Vedahaugane_forasla_resized

Vedahaugane / Johanna Hoffman

And in Sohlbergplassen, created in 2005 by Carl-Viggo Hølmebakk, the exuberance of the curves coupled with the linear nature of the concrete formwork highlight the tightness of the forest groves and dappled light falling through the trees.

Sohlbergplassen_forasla_resized

Sohlbergplassen / Johanna Hoffman

And then there are designs that use framing devices to enable new ways of relating to the space.

Gudbrandsjuvet, which was created in 2007 by Jensen & Skodvin, is a CorTen steel walkway that crisscrosses a canyon carved by a gushing waterfall, cultivating a sense of both spaciousness and fragility where there otherwise would be none. Designed to sway with use, the walkway one traverses has a sense delicacy, creating a new sense of vulnerability for visitors to the waterfall.

Gudbrandsjuvet_forasla

Gudbrandsjuvet / Johanna Hoffman

And lastly, at Trollstigen, which was designed by Reiulf Ramstad Architects in 2010, a cliff overlooks a cascading waterfall and deep valley. The handrails and benches on the steep rock outcrops make seemingly dangerous areas approachable.

Trollstigen1_forasla

Trollsteigen / Johanna Hoffman

The main viewing platform provides spaces for both refuge and spectacle and prospect. The combination of these moments tells us extreme outdoor spaces are places to be appreciated rather than feared.

This guest post is by Johanna Hoffman, Student ASLA, Master’s of Landscape Architecture Graduate, University of California – Berkeley, College of Environmental Design. 

climatemarch
In the wake of the world’s largest global protest on climate change — with some 300,000 people marching in New York City and another 300,000 more marching in 2,000 locations across the world this past weekend, 120 world leaders met at the United Nations in an effort to build political momentum for a legally-binding global agreement on climate change next year in Paris. The meeting was the first large-scale meeting of world leaders on climate change in five years. The meeting occurs amid new reports that carbon dioxide emissions are at their highest levels yet, with 2.3 percent growth in emissions this past year, and the world is at its hottest since global temperatures have been recorded.

The UN summit may have raised pressure on countries to act, particularly China, which has long stated that it will move on climate change once the United States does. Well, the U.S. has acted, with President Obama moving to curtail emissions from coal power plants and taking other measures in order to reduce emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and make “further ambitious cuts by 2050,” reports the The New York Times. In response, a representative from China, whose leader, Xi Jinping, decided not to attend, said China will reduce its carbon intensity by 40 percent by 2050. The Guardian quotes Chinese vice-premier Zhang Gaoli, who said: “As a responsible major developing country, China will make an even greater effort to address climate change and take on international responsibilities that are commensurate with our national conditions.”

Former U.S. Vice President and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore said the meeting was a “net positive.” “There is no question that a considerable amount of momentum was generated here. I think it was a tremendous boost to the whole movement that is towards the Paris agreement.”

Some European countries agreed to support the efforts of developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change. France, which will host the big climate negotiations, announced $1 billion for a global climate change fund. South Korea and Switzerland pledged $100 million and other countries also agreed to contribute $100 million. Last year, Germany committed $1 billion as well. Critics say the $2.3 billion in commitments falls far short of the $15-20 billion needed.

Much of the heavy lifting on climate change will be done at the local levels. News on that front was promising. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new plan to cut his city’s emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Boston, San Francisco, and Stockholm have made similar pledges. If only all the world’s other cities, which account for 70 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions, follow suit. There were also agreements among companies and non-profits to change business as usual. The Guardian reports that “more than 400 companies from 60 countries all signed on to support putting a price on carbon.” Furthermore, in two particularly environmentally damaging sectors — palm oil and paper manufacturing — some of the biggest firms agreed to stop “destructive logging by 2030, and restore an area of forest equivalent to the size of India.”

However, criticism abounded about the lack of concrete commitments among the world leaders. The Elders, a group of esteemed wise men and women from around the world, who even put out a full-page ad in The New York Times to support the global climate marches, were dismissive of the usual talk. One of The Elders, Graça Machel, the widow of Nelson Mandela, said in her speech at the UN: “There is a huge mismatch between the magnitude of the challenge and the response we heard here today. The scale is much more than we have achieved.” Of the protesters, she said: “can we genuinely say we are going to preserve their lives, and ensure their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren inherit a planet which is safe and sustainable?”

sagamore

Eel Creek Boardwalk leading to salt marshes and the Long Island Sound, Sagamore Hill National Historic Site Oyster Bay, NY.

In the era of ubiquitous technology and low attention spans, how can we reshape the national parks experience? This is what the Van Alen Institute and the National Park Service (NPS) want to figure out through their new competition, National Parks Now, which aims to bring “multidisciplinary teams of young professionals” together to develop new ways to attract diverse audiences, tell new stories, and engage the “next generation of visitors.” This competition is happening just as the National Park Service celebrates its centennial.

The four historic sites that are the focus of the competition are in the Northeast:

  • Sagamore Hill National Historic Site (Oyster Bay, NY), the estate of President Theodore Roosevelt.
  • Steamtown National Historic Site (Scranton, PA), one of the world’s most important monuments to the steam locomotive.
  • Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park (Paterson, NJ), a historic birthplace of American textile manufacturing.
  • Weir Farm National Historic Site (Ridgefield, CT), the summer estate of the artist Julian Alden Weir.

According to the Van Alen Institute and the NPS, these sites are in the some of the country’s “densest and most diverse urban sites,” and offer “countless layers of the nation’s economic, ecological, and cultural history.” To unearth all of this history and make it more accessible to younger, smart-phone enabled visitors, the NPS seeks new forms of “learning tools, hands-on workshops, customizable self-led tours, site-specific leisure and exploration opportunities, digital narratives, short or long-term interactive installations, performance events, and outreach and engagement campaigns.”

Interestingly, the competition is part of a broader initiative at the Val Alen Institute to explore how “the form and organization of the built environment influences our need for escape.” The goal is to more deeply understand cities’ effect on us.

Each team will need to be multidisciplinary and feature young professionals. Team leaders must have obtained their professional degrees within the last ten years. Additional experts should also be among the recently graduated. The organizers encourage design professionals to also bring a young academic on board. Here are some ideal teams for the organizers:

  • Filmmaker, landscape architect, historian, ecologist, and artist working with a film class.
  • Web developer, art historian, architect, public relations, and arts management professional working with a new media interactive design development class and local preservation organization.
  • Sociologist, marketing/advertising professional, civil engineer, graphic designer, urban planner, and artist working with marketing students and a local community development group.

The organizers write that four winning teams (one for each park) will receive $15,000 to participate in a six-month, collaborative research and design process. At the end of that stage, each team will get another $10,000 to prototype their strategies, which will be implemented in the summer of 2015.

Pre-register by October 10 and get your submissions in by October 30.

designteach

ASLA 2013 Student Community Service Honor Award. Design Teach / Jesse Nicholson, Student ASLA; Travis North, Student ASLA; Roana Tirado, Student ASLA Graduate Cornell University

ASLA recently released its annual graduating student survey. This survey was completed by graduating students from 47 accredited undergraduate and graduate landscape architecture programs. The purpose of this survey is to gather information on post-graduation plans.

While the average age for undergraduates and graduates remained consistent with previous years, 24 and 30 respectively, and the male to female ratio also remained consistent, there was a considerable change in the race of respondents. While 70 percent indicated they are Caucasian, this number is down from 84 percent in 2013 and 82 percent in 2012. The percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander students increased to 15 percent, up from 8 percent in 2012. Also, the number of Hispanic students increased to 14 percent, up from six percent in 2013 and just four percent in 2014.

Students enter graduate landscape architecture programs with diverse educational backgrounds. Those mentioned by two or more respondents include: architecture; art history; communications; environmental design and biology; environmental planning; environmental science; fine arts; geography; graphic design; horticulture; journalism; landscape architecture; philosophy; and urban studies.

For the first time, the survey asked respondents about how they were funding their education and any education-related debt. 69 percent of undergraduates indicated their parents or grandparents paid or contributed to their education, while graduate students indicated scholarships and federal loan programs as the top funding sources. The average amount of debt is $23,400 for undergraduates and $35,100 for graduate students. Overall, 49 percent of respondents have $20,000 or more in debt, and a just under a quarter owe $50,000 or more.

Some 90 percent of respondents indicated they plan to seek employment in the profession, up slightly from the previous year, while three percent plan to pursue additional education. Of those looking for a job, 67 percent plan to seek employment in a private sector landscape architecture firm. When looking for a job, the top three rated factors by respondents were geographic location, type of organization, and position description.

More than half of all respondents had been on one or more interviews during their final semester. Respondents expect a salary of around $47,600. Salary expectations increased by $5,000 from 2013. However, the average starting salary reported by those who have already started or accepted a job was $37,300 for undergraduate and $42,900 for graduate students.

The number of respondents who have already started a job and will receive medical insurance is up seven percent to 95 percent. The percentage of respondents is who will receive 401K retirement benefits increased dramatically from 63 to 83 percent. And the percentage who have employers who pay their professional dues has held steady for two years at 27 percent, up from only 3 percent in 2012.

And how did the survey respondents get hooked on landscape architecture? They were most likely to have first learned about the field from talking to a landscape architect or from reading about the field online or in a book, newspaper, or magazine. So in turn: one in four respondents visited an elementary, middle, or high school to talk about the profession.

Graduating student surveys dating back to 2002 are posted at ASLA’s Career Discovery web site.

This guest post is by Susan Apollonio, ASLA Director of Education Programs.

urban

Urban Acupuncture / Island Press

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, Urban Acupuncture: Celebrating Pinpricks of Change that Enrich City Life. This set of musings, a translation of the original Brazilian Portuguese book, pulls you in with its natural, intimate tone; it’s like you are sitting and having a conversation with Lerner over a glass of wine in a cafe. Lerner is an architect and urban designer who became mayor of the Brazilian city Curitiba, where he famously brought his practical yet innovative thinking to solve some tricky urban challenges. Along the way, he created bus rapid transit, devising a low-cost alternative to subway systems for developing world cities — and now increasingly, developed world ones, too. He came up with smart ways to clean up Curitiba’s bay, partnering with local fisherman in trash collection. He turned down the World Bank, with its offer of millions in loans, to find sustainable, home-grown solutions. With his many smart alternatives, he showed other cities how to do it right, themselves.

Lerner organizes his thoughts on the city through one central theme: urban acupuncture. He writes: “I have always nurtured the dream and hope that with the prick of a needle, diseases may be cured. The notion of restoring the vital signs of an ailing spot with a simple healing touch has everything to do with revitalizing not only that specific place but also the entire area that surrounds it.” He says “good medicine” depends on a good relationship between doctor and patient. In the same way, a healthy city depends on a good relationship between urban planners and designers and the city itself, another kind of living organism. Good urban planning can awaken a city to new possibilities, creating new life. But he cautions that it’s a process. Like medical acupuncture, which is rooted in an ancient Chinese medical philosophy that calls for a sustained, long-term preventive care, urban acupuncture takes time to create cures.

What are examples of healing urban acupuncture? Lerner has traveled all over the world, carefully examining all types of pinpricks to determine their impact. These pinpricks can be buildings — like Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao but also landscapes, like the Park Guell, one of Gaudi’s masterpieces, in Barcelona.

bilbao

Bilbao Guggenheim / Karie and Scott blog

guell

Park Guell, Barcelona / Share the City

Size doesn’t really matter, either. “You can feel it at work in the smallest venues, like Paley Park in New York.”

paley

Paley Park, New York City / Wikipedia

Undoing previous damage to our urban landscape is another form of healing acupuncture. For example, taking out San Francisco freeway helped revitalize that city.

Lerner presents deceptively simple stories that reveal deeper wisdom about what makes good urban life. Brief case studies are just long enough to get you thinking in a new way. Most succeed. In one vignette, he writes: “I often say that New York should build a monument to the Unknown 24-hour Shopkeeper. This industrious group — many of them immigrants from Korea — has done the city an extraordinary service merely by keeping its grocery stores and sidewalk delicatessens open around the clock. These shops not only offer infinite shelves of merchandise but also enliven whole neighborhoods by literally lighting up countless dreary street corners.” He calls these shop owners the city’s “true lifeblood,” as they “pump oxygen into cities that must never be allowed to stop breathing.”

deli

Deli in NYC / Gawker

In the same vein, “street peddlers represent an institution as old as the city itself. Think of open-air markets. At a given hour, in a given neighborhood, street merchants go to work — often hours before the lights go on in traditional storefronts — and then vanish along with their wares and jerry-built booths, leaving hardly a trace.” Commerce is then kept alive day and night, which also makes streets feel safer.

Acupuncture need not be physical; it can be sensory, too, like music. “Think of Rio and you are likely to start humming ‘Copacabana,’ ‘Corcovado,’ ‘Girl from Ipanema,’ or ‘Cidade Maravilhosa.” Lerner says every city should aspire to have a song. “When a distinct song or beat takes hold of a city’s or country’s identity, then good acupuncture is at work. It has echoes in everyday living, like improvised tapping on a matchbox at a street bar in Rio, the beat of drum on the sidewalk in Bahia, or hip-hop gushing from giant boom boxes in the streets of New York.” Does your city have a song everyone knows? If not, why not?

He also points out where cities have gone astray and offers his take on how to fix these problems, using simple, common sense steps. For example, in Santiago de Cali, Colombia, he decries the destruction of the city’s identity amid “outsized avenues.” “Just to cross them, you’ll find yourself huffing up and over suspended pedestrian bridges.” Here, he argues, “good acupuncture means building things smaller and stepping aside to give way to the simple beauties of nature, like the handsome river or the caressing wind.” Those big avenues break up street life, creating tears in the urban fabric.

Gaps in the city can also kill street life. For Lerner, so many urban problems are caused by a “lack of continuity.” He points to a sad “city pocked with lifeless suburbs or tracts of urban real estate devoid of housing.” These places are just as skewed as those with “abandoned lots and ramshackle buildings.” Cities must fill in these voids, even with temporary structures. One of his strongest statements: “continuity is life.”

While he touches on so much, Lerner’s message seems to be healthy street life is central to the city. Without it, the city dies. He argues: “good acupuncture is about drawing people out to the streets and creating meeting places. Mainly, it is about helping the city become a catalyst of interactions between people.” And so, “the more cities are understood to be the integration of functions — bringing together rich and poor, the elderly and the young — the more meeting places they will create and the livelier they will become.” Here, the role of landscape architects can’t be understated. “The design of public space is important.” He goes into detail about what kinds of parks, plazas, and squares work best.

My only minor complaint with this insightful book is the sometimes mismatched text and images. We want to see the scenes Lerner gushes over. While some images speak to the scenes described in the book, some don’t. A more careful approach to images and layout would have further strengthened one of the most intriguing recent books on the city.

Read the book and an ASLA interview with Lerner.

ozone

Earth’s Atmosphere / The Energy Collective

A United Nations scientific panel reports that the Earth’s protective ozone layer has begun to recover, in large part because the world has successfully phased out man-made halogenated hydrocarbons, including chlorofluorcarbons (CFCs), which used to be found in all aerosol sprays and refrigerators. These chemicals release chlorine and bromide, which destroy molecules far up in the atmosphere. The ozone layer protects the planet from solar radiation, which, in excess, leads to skin cancer and damage to plant life.

The Washington Post calls this a “rare piece of good news about the health of the planet.” This development proves that “when the world comes together, it can counteract a brewing ecological crisis.” Mario Molina, who won the Nobel Prize with F. Sherwood Rowland for anticipating the ozone problem, said: “It’s a victory for diplomacy and for science and for the fact that we were able to work together.” And former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called the treaty behind this global action “perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date.”

In 1987, the leading producers of CFCs signed on to the UN-organized Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which established a novel, phased approach for reducing the production and use of CFCs. This treaty led to the creation of a multilateral fund, which has directed funds to developing countries. The goal was to transition away from CFCs to hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), less active chemicals now also targeted for global phase-out, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are not covered in the treaty, as well as other replacement chemicals.

Now, 35 years later, scientists can confirm there has been “sustained increase in stratospheric ozone.” In fact, over the past 13 years, ozone levels climbed 4 percent. Had the world not taken action, the UN reports, there would have been an extra 2 million cases of skin cancer per year by 2030.

Still, we have a ways to go. The ozone hole above the Southern Hemisphere has still not yet fully closed, and the overall layer is still 6 percent thinner than it was in 1980. The United Nation’s Environmental Program estimates that the ozone layer will be fully repaired by mid century.

According to Scientific American, the efforts to reduce the use of CFCs have an added bonus: “The phase-out also helped slow global warming because CFCs are also powerful greenhouse gases. In fact, the agreement to address the ozone hole has actually cut five times the greenhouse gas emissions as has the Kyoto Protocol to address global warming.” However, others argue the HCFCs and HFCs that have replaced CFCs are equally as harmful to the climate. These compounds are up to 10,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming our atmosphere. The Montreal Protocol will phase out HCFCs by 2030, but puts no limit on HFCs.

cantrell

Cyborg Landscapes / Bradley Cantrell, Kristi Cheramie, Jeffrey Carney, and Matthew Seibert, Louisiana State University Coastal Sustainability Studio, the design firm Invivia, and Urbain DRC.


Design Profile: Q&A with Marcel Wilson of Bionic Landscape Architecture
The San Francisco Chronicle, 9/2/14
“Marcel Wilson, the principal of San Francisco-based Bionic Landscape Architecture, sees every project as a possibility for invention.”

Grand Park Benefits Made in America, but Is the Reverse True? – The Los Angeles Times, 9/2/14
“Luckily, even as concertgoers were tramping across Grand Park’s lawns and through its flower beds, they were also helping demonstrate pretty clearly where its design might be tweaked and improved. They made up a huge and unwitting landscape-architecture focus group.”

Unveiled: 5 Visions for Landscape Above Crissy FieldThe San Francisco Chronicle, 9/4/14
“They vary widely in looks, but each of the five new conceptual visions for the landscape above Crissy Field have two things in common. Each has seductive aspects – and each tries too hard to bedazzle, in a setting where flash is not what we need.”

Changing Skyline: Dilworth Park Has Many Irresistible Features, but It’s Stiff, Uncomfortable The Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/6/14
“They’ve reconstructed the space in front of Philadelphia’s palatial City Hall, furnished it with a cafe, a high-tech spray fountain and movable chairs, and rebranded it Dilworth Park. But the vast granite prairie is still very much a plaza, with all the weaknesses the word implies.”

These Synthetic Landscapes Respond to Nature in Real Time to Protect Us — and the Planet Fast Company, 9/8/14
“Bradley Cantrell, a landscape architect and TED fellow who will speak at the upcoming TEDGlobal2014 conference, is one of the pioneers exploring how the human-built world may begin relating differently to the natural world. ‘The goal is to embed computation, but with this kind of conservationist viewpoint,’ says Cantrell.”

“Dice Park” Fiasco Holds Lessons About Rising Expectations for Civic Design in Cleveland: Commentary The Plain Dealer, 9/12/14
“The brief life and rapid death last week of the Horseshoe Casino’s concept for the so-called ‘Dice Park’ in downtown Cleveland may have set a speed record for the public condemnation of a weak design idea.”

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