Metropolis Magazine’s latest issue offers a set of “What’s next?” articles outlining possible future directions for a range of design disciplines, including landscape architecture, urban planning, green building, and other areas. Each section includes ideas of what’s coming next in one, five, and then ten years.
Metropolis asked Wendi Goldsmith, President of the Bioengineering Group, Denise Hoffman Brandt, Professor of landscape architecture at the City College of New York, and Jan H. DeJager, founder of Nautilus Eco-Civiel for their insights on the future of landscape architecture, which they see as intimately tied to climate change. “As climate change threatens to reshape our world, landscape architecture seems poised to play a leading role in creating an environmentally sound and effective response.”
One year in the future: New Levees. Wendi Goldsmith writes: “In New Orleans, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is redesigning its approach to hard infrastructure, because we have treated that entire Mississippi River system and its delta wetland complex very poorly. It’s falling apart and not doing all of the work it did in centuries past to buffer wave impact, store sediment, and serve as a natural line of defense. I predict New Orleans will be the classic canary in the coal mine. The lessons learned (or not learned) there as we rebuild the storm surge barrier can and should be translated elsewhere.”
Five years in the future: City Sink. Denise Hoffman Brandt argues: “What I see happening in landscape architecture is a growing understanding of how projects for specific sites work at a macro scale as part of larger environmental systems. I’m working on a project called City Sink that tries to create a new embedded infrastructure for carbon storage within the existing physical and social land uses of the city. It uses fourteen different approaches. One, highway biosound barriers, would retrofit existing concrete barrier walls with a planted ‘drape’ that’s irrigated with highway runoff using solar power.”
Ten years in the future: Soft Coastal Engineering. Jan H. DeJager contends: “We’ll need to develop a range of approaches to combat rising sea levels, including something we call ‘soft coastal engineering.’ In Holland, we take sand from the deepest parts of the North Sea and put it in front of our coastline. So when you lower the water depths in front of the coast, even if the sea level rises and waves come in, the sandbar breaks the large waves into smaller ones. We also make cuts in the dunes to let seawater enter in safe ways. And perhaps most important, we’ve been giving back certain low-lying areas to the Rhine River, which means the river gets more room to store its overflow during high-water periods. I was in New Orleans in January 2006 and saw some of the devastation. I think certain areas there you should give back to the sea, and other areas, if you want them to stay there, you must protect.”
Metropolis also sees a revolution in urban planning over the next ten years, which will include retrofitting surburbia so communities are less car-dependent, new (massive) investments in public transportation, as well as the rise of traffic congestion pricing across major cities. Ken Greenberg, an urban planner writes: “We’ve reached the end of the lifespan of much of the highway infrastructure that was built after World War Two. We’ll see a major retooling of the infrastructure of the city. We are going to see an incredible investment in public transit. We’ll see congestion pricing—which is now in a handful of cities—applied pretty much across the board. This will enable, both from a capital and an operating standpoint, a huge rein-vestment in public transit.”
Additionally, cities may need to dramatically rethink waste infrastructure to take advantage of waste resources. In a possible model for “five years in the future,” Greenberg adds: “In Scandinavia, there is an Envac system for waste management, where instead of having garbage trucks and people using bins and garbage rooms in buildings, and all that paraphernalia that we have, they have tubes under the streets that collect as many different streams of garbage as the city wants. In Stockholm, it’s four different streams. They pop garbage in little shoots—sometimes they’re in parks or in buildings or on streets or in courtyards—and it travels under the streets at forty-five miles per hour, with no noise, no odor. They have these depots where it’s collected, picked up, and then used for cogeneration of energy.” Read more
In terms of the future of green building, Metropolis argues that more energy-efficient buildings can only go mainstream through public policy: government incentives, zoning changes, and stricter building codes. “Despite all the talk about net-zero and net-positive architecture, green buildings remain elusive for the mainstream. There are, however, some promising developments: state and municipal tax incentives, stricter building codes, and commercial real estate honchos who have finally figured out that sustainable design stuffs cash into their pockets. Progress hangs on the tricky interplay of public policy and technology.” Read more.
Image credit: Metropolis magazine / Bioengineering Group