NYC’s New Chief Urban Designer

Today’s New York Sun writes on the selection of Alex Washburn, Affiliate ASLA, to the new position of Chief Urban Designer in NYC’s Department of City Planning. Washburn’s charge ranges from the macro level (how the city’s skyline looks) to the micro (how  a pedestrian interacts with the sidewalk). A veteran of Senator Moynihan’s office, Washburn sees himself following his mentor’s path: “Senator Moynihan believed that good design is not just about aesthetics, but that the look of a city expresses the values of the people who live in it,” [Washburn] said. “He wanted to prove people wrong who thought that cities were hopeless.”

[photo by Sophia Washburn]

University of Florida’s New Green Roof “Might Fall Short of Being One of the World’s Seven Wonders”

This week the University of Florida completed the planting of its first green roof, reports the Gainesville Sun. The 2,600-square-foot roof has been covered with native Florida vegetation, including dune sunflower, tropical sage, and gopher apple. Glenn Acomb, ASLA, spearheaded the construction.

The roof covers an open-air amphitheater of the School of Building Construction, where craftsmen and construction experts demonstrate building techniques for students. Since the amphitheater isn’t air-conditioned, the new green roof’s major benefit will be controlling water runoff.

From the article:
Water that isn’t absorbed by the vegetation will drain into cisterns, where it will be stored to irrigate the roof during dry periods. “It allows you to collect a resource as opposed to wasting it,” Acomb said.

As an aside, you have to give credit to a reporter who name-checks Nebuchadnezzar II in an article about a green roof. Well played, Sun staff writer Nathan Crabbe. Well played.

Scenes from Florida: “Turn Off the Water Sprinkler and Keep Your Hands Where I Can See Them”

Beware, south Floridians: on April 15, South Florida Water Management District officials will start fining water restriction violators to the tune of $25 per infraction, all the way up to $500 for repeat offenders. Why? The area is suffering from one of the worst droughts in 70 years.

From the Sun-Sentinel article:

So far this year, an average of just 2.61 inches of rain — 4 inches below normal — fell in the 16-county district that stretches from Orlando to the Keys

“We’re into a rather serious situation,” said Fred Rapach, director of the district’s Palm Beach County service center. “What we are trying to do is send a message out.”

Looks like LAs in Florida and beyond may want to suggest graywater irrigation systems to clients. Cheap, plentiful water seems to be getting harder and harder to come by.

[photo by mayr]

Congress for the New Urbanism Announces 2007 Charter Award Winners

Today the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) announced 25 award-winning projects that “make a difference in the world.” The winning projects span the hemisphere but are concentrated this year on the southern United States, particularly the Gulf Coast. The Dirt is happy to see the prefab “Katrina Cottages” received a nod this year, as did other smart mixed-use and low-income housing projects.

Click through to CNU’s site for scads of information about each of the 25 winners. Also, mark your calendars–on May 18, jury chair Stefanos Polyzoides will present a lecture on the winners, which will be available on the CNU website.

Up-next — Sandboxes: Fun for Kids…or Deadly Stew of Pathogens?

This past weekend, the Chicago Tribune tackled one of parenting’s worst nightmares. No, not “stranger danger,” but (wait for it…) sandboxes. “Aren’t those things just giant, ahem, litter boxes?” asks reporter Heidi Stevens, who also discovers that almost all parks in Chicago have at least one sandbox, and that cleaning crews regularly sift and clean the sand. So, it’s safe for kids, right?

From the article:

Dr. Scott Goldstein, a pediatrician at the Northwestern Children’s Practice, said he would never tell parents to avoid sandboxes altogether. He just urges us to use common sense.

“Wash your hands and your child’s hands often,” he said. “It’s a good idea to carry hand gel or hand wipes around with you.”

And, of course, he adds, “If you see poop in the sandbox, it’s a good idea to avoid it.”

Thank you, Dr. Goldstein.

[photo by bhollar]

Forbes: Tastemakers in Landscape Architecture

This month, Forbes magazine has selected 10 architects for its continuing “Tastemakers” series of influential designers. “Their work,” the article states, “…will change the field–and our cities–for decades to come.” James Corner, ASLA, is honored as one of the ten; he was selected “for his boundary-breaking, interdiscipline work” and the NYC High Line project.

James Corner will be giving a “Spotlight on Design” lecture at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., on April 3 as part of ASLA’s National Landscape Architecture Month. Click through to the NBM site for more information.

[Photo of the High Line (pre-renovation) by tensafefrogs]

Can an Architect Make It to the Governor’s Mansion?

Today’s Washington Post reports that Jim Schellinger, an architect from Indianapolis, will run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Indiana.  If he’s elected, this will be Schellinger’s first public office. The Indianapolis Star has more about Schellinger’s bid and his “notable” supporters.

It always warms The Dirt’s heart to see more architects, designers, and LAs ensconced in the halls of power. Incidentally, the same WaPo roundup gives an update on the race for an open Senate seat in Colorado that is being vacated by Sen. Wayne Allard (R) in 2008. The Post states Colorado Democrats have “coalesced” behind Rep. Mark Udall (D), Honorary ASLA.


Call for Entries: National Award for Smart Growth Achievement

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has opened the application process for its 2007 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement. The competition is open to “public-sector entities that have used smart growth principles to improve communities environmentally, socially, and economically.”

This year, applications will be accepted in five categories:

  • Overall Excellence in Smart Growth
  • Built Projects
  • Policies and Regulations
  • Equitable Development
  • Waterfront and Coastal Communities

Applications are due soon (April 3), so get cracking on those official forms!


SF Gate: A Landscape Architect Looks Back At His Roots. They Go Deep.”

The San Francisco Chronicle today features a nice write-up of Lawrence Halprin, FASLA, who turned 90 years young last July. The piece discusses Halprin’s many projects, including what he’s working on today. “We’re sort of winding down a little bit,” says Halprin. “Just waiting for clients we like.”

When you are in Washington, DC, visit the Tidal Basin to experience Halprin’s work at the FDR Memorial.

[Chronicle photo, 2005, by Michael Macor]

Planetizen Announces Top 10 Websites for Planning, Design and Development

Suggested Subhead:
The Dirt Snubbed by Jury; Thousands to Launch Protest

We kid! We kid because we love!
Planetizen, a fine website by Urban Insight, has released its list of the best websites of 2007 in the fields of planning, design, and development. A lot of big names in the field are there, including Dirt favorites WorldChanging and Sustainalane. The Dirt congratulates all winners, and wants to call out the Louisiana Speaks site and the work there by Chad Danos, ASLA, and his firm Brown + Danos. Louisiana Speaks is a storehouse of information on planning the rebuilding of the battered Gulf Coast.

Click through for the whole list (including [he says grudgingly] Pruned, the “hottest blog for landscape architecture”).