CO2Led: Zero-Carbon, Solar-Powered Public Art

Interesting use of disused public space: In Arlington, Virginia, across the river from Washington, D.C., a group of artists has created a temporary public art project aimed at raising awareness of global warming. The project, called CO2LED, is made up of more than 500 plastic water bottles, culled from local government employees, attached to white plastic poles ranging from 5 to 13 feet high. Inside each inverted water bottle is a bright white LED light. At a distance, the stems look like gently bobbing cattails in the median of a busy intersection. The high-efficiency LED lights are lit by solar power.

As the Washington Post reports, “…[U]nused medians are the perfect place for the transformation [of public space] to begin: ‘You don’t even notice those funny little pieces of land,’ says Cynthia Connolly, a photographer and artist….’They become spaces that aren’t spaces anymore. They’re like lost terrain.’

The CO2LED project will be disassembled and recycled in September.

PWP Landscape Architecture Wins National Design Award

Yesterday afternoon First Lady Laura Bush presented the winners of this year’s National Design Awards. Among those honored was ASLA Fellow Peter Walker’s PWP Landscape Architecture. In her remarks, Mrs. Bush called the awards a day to remember “design’s ability to influence the way we live.” PWP Landscape Architecture received¬† the Landscape Design Award, which is given to an individual or firm for exceptional and exemplary work in urban planning or park and garden design. The awards are cosponsored by the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in New York.

A History Lesson on the World’s First Gardens

If your travels happen to take you to Italy this fall, make sure to stop in Florence for what sounds like a fascinating garden exhibition at the Pitti Palace. Called “The Ancient Garden from Babylon to Rome: Science, Art and Nature,” the wide-ranging show traces ancient gardens from what may have been the prototype for the Garden of Eden in modern-day Iraq through the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and beyond. The International Herald Tribune has a full review here, including a history of the word “garden.”

ASLA Green Roof Gets the Early Morning Spotlight

Early this morning, the ASLA green roof was the star of the local WUSA news channel. ASLA staffer Keith Swann took reporter Howard Bernstein and his camera crew on a tour of the roof and highlighted all the benefits of green roof technology. WUSA is the metro Washington, D.C., CBS news channel. Click here to read the channel’s article online, and here to launch the media player to see the interview.

The Toronto Star Tells Us Why “Parks Are Important”

Chris Hume, a columnist writing for the Toronto Star, opens his piece on public parks with a great line: “If the 20th century was dedicated to buildings, the 21st will be about the spaces between them.” Hear, hear!

The piece is a little short on details, but makes for a nice primer on the importance of public parks now that so many people live in cities. Hume also highlights various public park renovations, and new parks like The High Line. Our friend Mr. Olmsted makes an appearance, too. And if you are well versed in the public parks of the greater Toronto metro area, The Star is also running a competition to find the “most cherished” parks in the area. Vote early, vote often.

Walk Score: How Walkable Is Your Community?

A neat new website (which unfortunately is buckling under the weight of its newfound popularity; The Dirt had to visit several times before getting it to work) called Walk Score allows users to find out how walkable their community is based on an algorithm that calculates distances to walkable businesses, transit, and parks near an address. Walk Score provides a score of 0 to 100, with 90 and above being a “walker’s paradise” and 25 and below being “driving only.”

The Dirt was happy to see its own mass-transit and walking-friendly neighborhood scores an 81 on the Walk Score scale. How does your home rate? It’s also nice to see that Walk Score is open about its current limitations: read “How It Doesn’t Work” for more details, or if you don’t like your score!

First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, Honorary ASLA, Dies at 94

Sad news to report this morning: Former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, Honorary ASLA, died yesterday in her Austin, Texas, home. She was 94. First Lady Johnson was a tireless advocate for preserving the environment and native plant species. Many today are praising her work on the Keep America Beautiful highway projects she spearheaded in the 1960s. Others are pointing to The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which she founded in 1982, as “a wonderful model” for what botanic gardens should be. The Wildflower Center has partnered with ASLA on the Sustainable Sites Initiative. Visit the Wildflower Center’s tribute site to learn more about her life and work.

[Update 07/19/07: The Washington Post has a nice article (and mention of ASLA and the Sites Initiative) in the “Lady Bird Looked Beyond Beautification to Preservation” piece in today’s issue.]


NASA Goes Looking for U.S. Lawns…from Space

A new NASA image above (click here to view full-size) depicts how much of the surface area of the United States is covered in fractional turf lawns. As NASA’s Earth Observatory states,

The map shows how common lawns are across the country, despite a wide variability of climate and soils. Indeed, the scientists who produced the map estimate that more surface area is devoted to lawns than to any other single irrigated crop in the country. For example, lawns appear to cover more than three times the number of acres that irrigated corn covers.

The site goes on to explain how converting natural landscapes to “human-tailored” ones dramatically changes both water and carbon cycles. The entire Earth Observatory site has great imagery and articles, enough to fill an entire afternoon “researching.”

What Drove Olmsted’s Vision? Harvard Magazine Investigates

Here’s an interesting take on Frederick Law Olmsted’s life and work. In the July-August issue of Harvard Magazine (the alumni publication of Harvard University, Olmsted’s alma mater), Michael Sperber, M.D., suggests that it was Olmsted’s turbulent personal life that drove him to create order in the natural world. Calling Olmsted the “first landscape psychoarchitect,” Sperber briefly traces how the death of Olmsted’s mother and later his stepsister may have caused Olmsted to suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder. The entire piece is much too short, but intriguing nonetheless. Click here to read it online, or here to download a printable .pdf version.