The Earth Day Network’s Report Ranks Cities by Public Parks and More

Earlier this month the Earth Day Network released its“Urban Environment Report,” which ranked 72 U.S. cities. The report used over 200 indicators, chief among them air quality, quality of life, parks and recreation, toxics and waste, drinking and surface water, human and public health, and global warming climate change.

By visiting the site you can slice and dice the report’s findings in many ways: here, for example, is the link that lists cities by their public parks’ score. From the report:

Urban parks also provide play areas that are critical to children’s physical, mental and social development. Additionally, at-risk youth in crime-stressed neighborhoods benefit from the opportunities to enjoy safe havens to interact with their peers and to engage in outdoor activities that redirect their energies from potentially more troublesome pastimes. For adult residents, urban parks provide the chance to interact with neighbors and to participate in communal activities, such as community gardening, that offer a sense of community and environmental stewardship.

Hear, hear.

New 100-acre Park in Indianapolis to Fuse Landscape with Art

Yesterday the Indianapolis Museum of Art announced the names of 10 artists and artist collectives selected to create works for the new IMA Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park. The 100-acre park, scheduled to open in 2009, will be designed by landscape architect Edward L. Blake, ASLA, and architect Marlon Blackwell. The pair will work with the artists throughout the design and build process.

Below is the list of IMA artists:

  • Haluk Akakçe
  • Atelier Van Lieshout
  • Kendall Buster
  • Sam Easterson
  • Peter Eisenman
  • Alfredo Jaar
  • Los Carpinteros
  • Tea Mäkipää
  • Type A
  • Andrea Zittel

Click here to go directly to view a professionally produced 5-minute video overview of the project.

[via our friends at ArchNewsNow]

Leave it to the Bronx?

After yesterday’s troubling post on the Colorado River’s diminishing flow, here’s a positive story of river rehabilitation from New York City. The NY Times reports that, yes, a beaver has been sighted building a lodge in the Bronx River.

From the article:

For the first time in two centuries, the North American beaver, forced out of town by agricultural development and overeager fur traders, has returned to New York City. The discovery of a beaver setting up camp in the Bronx is a testament to both the animal’s versatility and to an increasingly healthy Bronx River.

The article outlines the $15mil+ rehabilitation efforts to clean up the river that started in the late 1990s. The beaver, apparently a male in search of a mate, has been named José in honor of United States Representative José E. Serrano of the Bronx, who has been instrumental in directing federal funds to the river clean-up.

Photo of a beaver by dcJohn.

Federal Report: Colorado River Flow Could Shrink by 20% by 2100

In a sobering report, a panel from the National Research Council states that the Colorado River’s flow will decrease dramatically in the coming years. The stated culprits? Population growth and global warming.

The report also discusses water management and conservation methods in the West, but ultimately dismisses them: “‘The point that we make is that the technological and conservation operations, although very useful and necessary, will not in the long run constitute a panacea for coping with the limited water supplies in this desert area,’ said panel chairman Ernest Smerdon, dean emeritus of the University of Arizona College of Engineering and Mines.” [from the Rocky Mountain News article on the report]

The Colorado River basin stretches over seven western states and supports both farming and some of the largest cities in the United States. Read the NRC’s full report free online.

Photo by Mike Reyher.

This Public Park…Brought to You By Nike?

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Broward County officials are actively seeking major corporate sponsorship for their 16 regional and five neighborhood parks. The new 97-acre Central Broward Regional Park is up first for “big-name companies” to bid for advertising space and naming opportunities for the park’s facilities.

From the article:

“We are clearly in a financial situation in this county where we need to be innovative and looking for additional revenue sources,” Commissioner Ken Keechl said during a recent [Parks and Recreation] commission workshop.

Next time The Dirt is in Fort Lauderdale, we plan to take a jog around the Diet SpriteTM Nature Trail and then cool down at the MentosTM water fountains located next to the General MillsTM playing field. Won’t you join us?

NY Times: Tiny Houses Are Hot

The New York Times reports today that more people are thinking small when it comes to building homes, especially second homes. Prefab modern-inspired homes are popping up in many places, spurred by more manufacturers moving into the market.

What could be most interesting for LAs is that as people live in smaller and smaller homes (some featured in the article are under 500 square feet), of necessity they spend more time outside. From the article:

To compensate for the lack of interior space, the couple cook, entertain and, for the most part, live outdoors. “We live in our view rather than look at it,” said Ms. Shepherd, 58, a retired youth counselor and an avid hiker.

Many prefab houses include decks, outdoor living rooms, gardens, and other landscaping to create more livable space outdoors. For more information on modern prefabs, check out Inhabitat’s “Prefab Fridays.” The Dirt is particularly partial to Rocio Romero’s LV House, pictured above.

LA Times: Parks Being Pushed Into Private Hands?

Today’s LA Times looks at the finances of Bryant Park in New York City. The park, which is completely funded by commercial sponsors and fees, represents what might be a growing trend of private financing for public spaces. Critics are concerned that the public, particularly the poor, may be one day forced out of these quasi-private spaces. Proponents say that private donations help improve the care and upkeep of parks much more than fickle public money. Read on for the Times‘ take.

Photo by Son of Groucho.

New Playground for Children of All Abilities a Big Hit

A new playground in McLean, Virginia, is quickly becoming the destination in the minds of eager parents and caregivers, according to the Washington Post. Grace Fielder, ASLA, designed Clemyjontri Park to be a fun and educational space for children both with and without disabilities. The park’s motto is “Where every child can play.” Some of the park’s accessible features include larger swing sets and other equipment, ramps and widened pathways, signs that include Braille and American Sign Language, and more.

The Post reports that the park is so popular that there are frequent traffic jams and parking problems around the playground. The Dirt wishes that more public spaces could be such “victims” of their own success!

Edinburgh’s Green Building Code is Finalized

News from Scotland today that all new residential buildings of 1,000 square meters, 10 units, or 0.5 hectares of land in size will have to adhere to new green building guidelines starting in May. Along with pledges to produce at least 10 percent of the building’s energy needs on site and use recyclable materials, the new guidelines include the following objectives more pertinent to LAs:

  • reusing existing buildings and brownfield land wherever possible
  • providing good pedestrian, cycle, and public transport access
  • consulting with the local community to draw up “public realm” benefits
  • providing water-saving devices and adequate rainwater drainage on roofs and car parking spaces
  • providing recycling bins compost facilities on site

What, no green roofs?

Critic Weighs In On AIA/Harris Interactive Poll of “America’s Favorite Architecture”

By now you’ve probably heard about the new poll released this week by the American Institute of Architects and Harris Interactive, ranking “America’s Favorite Architecture

.” The list of 150 structures includes the Golden Gate Bridge, the White House, and the former World Trade Center towers, to name a few. The Empire State Building is ranked #1.

The Dirt has some thoughts about the list (for example: three Washington, DC, memorials in the top ten? MoMA all the way down at 146?), but the Chicago Tribune‘s architecture critic, Blair Kamin

[note: the Tribune site requires login, but is free] does a much better job. Click to read the article, or leave your comments here on what you thought of the poll.


Photo by hyunlab.