Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite…and Free Bikes

The AP reports today that Paris has chosen an outdoor advertising firm, JCDecaux, to operate a free bicycle service in the city. The service will provide “thousands” of bikes to city residents and visitors in an effort to decrease car-based pollution. Amsterdam (“The Bike Capital of Europe“) has a similar program but its success may be based on that city’s compact size. How will Parisian planners get bicyclists from the suburbs into the heart of the city? Will there be fights over more bike lanes? Will there be other traffic-calming measures taken to increase bicyclists’ safety? Does anyone else want to go to Paris on a fact-finding mission to find out?

Google Transit Revs Up

Deep in search engine Google’s development labs is a new product that may help to spur more use of mass transit systems. The Google Transit Trip Planner works in the same way as the ubiquitous Google Maps; input your starting address, your ending address, and click, and walking directions to bus stops and subways stations will appear along with detailed information on which bus or route to take to reach your destination. The system also takes into account the time of day for scheduling and allows for advanced trip planning.

The system is still in beta (not that the term means much to Google!) with nine cities in seven states available, including places like Pittsburgh, Duluth, and Honolulu. It’s unknown whether the more complex transit systems of New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle will be coming to Google, but knowing how Larry Page and Sergey Brin want to catalogue all the world’s information, surely many more cities’ transit systems can’t be far behind.

Update 02/05/07: In the comments Dirt reader K. Notman points us to MBTA Boston’s T system website that has its own trip planner, powered by (wait for it)…Google Maps! The GOOG is everywhere, people.

LAM Asks: What Do You Read?

Bill Thompson, FASLA,
the editor of Landscape Architecture magazine, asks the basic question “What do landscape architects read?” in next month’s Land Matters column. You can get a sneak preview by visiting the latest LAND Online here. “…[D]oes a professional aversion to reading (and its corollary, writing) have anything to do with the absence of a national, ongoing dialogue on significant landscape issues?” Thompson asks.

If you have an opinion on the subject, or want to list your favorite professional reading material, feel free to leave a comment here on The Dirt, or email Thompson at Any comments will be considered for publication in Landscape Architecture.

Under threat of demotion and possibly legal action, The Dirt has learned, bitterly, that we cannot demand that you list this blog as your most useful professional reading matter. Darn it.


NY Daily News: Sky Gardens Spur Building Boom

The New York Daily News reports this week on green roofs in Manhattan, and focuses on another benefit of building one: tax credits. From the article:

And there’s an extra incentive — a federal tax credit that’s part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which established deductions for energy-efficient home improvements.“A green roof would qualify for a tax credit because of its insulating properties,” said Carl Weinstein, a certified public accountant in Roslyn Heights, L.I.

The federal law allows homeowners to get a tax credit equal to 10% of the cost of insulation materials, up to $500, for money spent in 2006 or 2007.

The Dirt wants to know: has Mister Trump been informed?

[via our friends at]

Dirt from Down Under

Maybe something’s lost in the lingo here, but it seems that one Aussie landscape architect had another as a client. The Courier-Mail covers the residential project here.

The landscape architect-for-hire, Matthew Franzmann, not only rose to the occasion, he won an award that had been traditionally won by developers.

Here are a few reasons why:

Plantings include the waterhousea lilly pilly, gardenia, ginger, dianella and a tiger grass bamboo with non-invasive roots. Agaves are in highlighted areas and yukka grace the entry.


Park to Finally Recover from Depression

The tulips are coming back to a 1920s park, The Baltimore Sun reports. The reporter describes the gem with famed lineage as “a sylvan sliver in the unlikeliest of places.”

Famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted came up with the idea for the park as he drafted ideas for Baltimore’s overall green space in 1905, but it was Thomas Hastings, another esteemed architect, who designed it years later.

The Great Depression left the park colorless, but it’s on its way to a revival close to a century later.


That’s a lot of acronyms! This interview in The Miami Herald with Chief Executive Officer Richard Fredrizzi of the U.S. Green Building Council spells out answers to some of the basic questions on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

If you haven’t been asked about LEED standards yet, The Dirt would bet 100 certification points that it will probably happen soon.

Even gamblers see it as a sure thing, or at least a tax break

Not much space for Fedrizzi to get into the finer points of green roofs and other contributions by landscape architects that can up a project rating. We hope he’ll cover that next time.

Homework: Design Capitol Plaza

It’s quite a final project for graduate students at the University of Arizona, the Arizona Daily Star reports.

A state rep. charged with redesigning an area between the Capitol and Senate and House buildings decided to call on the students for help.

The assignment: Beautify the state capitol while incorporating a memorial to honor active-duty soldiers and Arizona veterans.

The students rose to the occasion, saving the state money and currently having their designs considered for a final design. The Dirt humbly suggests that maybe a tuition break is in order?

Champagne Wishes and Caviar and Green

A West Coast Waldorf-Astoria hotel will be built on the grounds of the Beverly Hilton, along with gardens and open space.

Peter Walker & Partners is named as the landscape architect firm on the project.

Much of that cheap concrete will be done away with to create the grounds, “as well as implement a cohesive street and landscape design to transform Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards and Merv Griffin Way,” according to the press release.

We’ll see you at the opening, dahling.