New X Prize to Spur Growth of Next Generation Oil Spill Clean-up Solutions

The X Prize Foundation launched an X Challenge to generate new, more efficient approaches to oil spill clean-up. Like other X prizes, which have spurred major investments in space travel, robotic lunar modules, and cars that can make 100 miles per gallon, this new challenge is meant to create next generation technologies and industries. Wendy Schmidt, President of the Schmidt Family Foundation, has put up $1.4 million for the prize — $1 million to the first place winner, $300,000 for second place, and $100,000 for third place. “This is a flash prize — we hope to do it fast,” said Peter Diamandis, Chairman of the X Prize Foundation, adding that winners will be announced within a year. All types of scientists, design professionals, and “out of the box” thinkers are encouraged to create a team and submit concepts.

Wendy Schmidt said she was driven to invest in this competition because watching the Gulf oil spill, she found we “clearly need a new operating system, a version 2.0.” She added that we are “using last century’s energy infrastructure” and may continue to do so for some time. Given oil won’t be going away in the near-term, the U.S. needs to come up with better oil clean-up technology for the perhaps inevitable catastrophic spill down the road. “With tens of thousands of ocean oil platforms across the globe, and billions of oil being transported every day by tankers, it’s not a question of ‘if’ there will be another oil spill, but ‘when.'”

While ecosystems are an “abstract concept,” she said in reality, “the oil spill is destroying families under water. There’s a complex web of life down in the sea that we know little about.” David Gallo, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, added that 70 percent of the world is ocean, but we’ve explored only 5 percent of this. Phillipe Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau and co-founder of EarthEcho International, argued the U.S. currently doesn’t have the technology to clean-up the Gulf oil spill. Looking ahead to potential future spills, he also said a major accident in the Arctic region would be an even worse disaster because there would be no way to get equipment up into the region during icy months.  

Pollution, ocean acidification, plastics, shipwrecks were all cited as major on-going problems. The ocean is the recipient of increased dumping. Pollution from man-made sources then also needs to be addressed in any comprehensive solution. “We need to change our behavior towards the ocean. We’ve been acting like we are at war with it,” said Gallo.  

When asked, Gallo said potential design solutions that harness natural technologies like “evaporation or massive-scale microbial action” can be submitted, but aren’t the focus of the competition. He also mentioned the need to integrate land-based communities and ocean-based clean-up operations into an integrated approach. Clean-up operations and facilities need to work well with coastal communities and provide a source of jobs. “This is the hard part — bringing in the community.”

Next year, the final ten Oil Clean-up X Challenge finalists will be asked to demonstrate their technologies on the water. Judges will see how they perform in reality at the National Oil Spill Research and Renewable Energy Test Facility in New Jersey.  There, teams will need to demonstrate the ability to recover oil on sea-water surface at the highest oil recovery rate and efficiency. Shell oil company and other energy firms may also participate to see which technologies can be quickly be scaled-up and rolled-out.

The Oil Clean-up X Challenge is supported by a range of top environmental organizations, including the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Alliance for Climate Protection, and Global Green. Additional corporate or foundation donations are encouraged to help expand the funds available for winners.

Learn more and pre-register your team

Urban Agriculture, Climate Change Ideas Competitions Announce Winners

Terreform ONE announced the winners of an ideas competition focused on creating productive green spaces in cities. “Mowing to Growing: Reinventing the American Lawn” called for new strategies for urban food production that can leverage existing infrastructure and work well within local conditions (see earlier post).

A high-profile jury considered 202 entries from 850 people in 20 countries, including concepts that offered vertical farms, neighborhood farms, farms on vacant lots, front lawns, strip malls, roof tops, river barges, and reused abandoned infrastructure. The entries were narrowed down to two winners and four finalists. Each winner received $5,000.

Some details on the two winners:

Super Levee Urban Farming (AGENCY Architecture, LLC): “The project proposes a global system of levees, serving also as a new  brand of urban farms at the city’s edge, preserving local ecologies while protecting cities from emerging dangers. Each stage of the levee supports the next. Clippings, compost, and surplus crops from farming levels are used as nutrients and food for a series of fish farms, marshes, and restorative dune ecologies. Waste from marine life and nutrients from algal habitats are then used to fertilized farm levels, making the levee a complete ecology.”

NORC Farms (Thread Collective and the Greenest.Net): “The Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) Farms engages the aging New Yorkers population and inaccessible lawns in order to ‘create and cultivate farm plots and social spaces within public housing complexes.’ NORC FARMS will use urban agriculture to transform grass into a socially, ecologically, economically productive space; activate older New Yorkers, and transforming public housing into local agriculture; where the tower in the park becomes the tower in the farm.” 

Finalists include:; Feed Toronto: Growing the Hydro Fields; and Reclaiming: Reconsidering the American Strip Mall. (One additional finalist’s brief couldn’t be accessed).

In Sydney, the Australia Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) announced the winners of Sea Change 2030+, an international ideas competition designed to showcase ideas for planning, designing and managing for adaptation to urban sea level rise (see earlier post).

The three winners include:

Local Solutions (James Nash, Michael Marriott, Lydia Gibson, Bec Stephens): “Their project, based on the iconic Balmoral Beach, shows the value of typological analysis and performance responses for micro-scale harbour features such as beaches and rock platforms with an emphasis on access and amenity. This responds to the Sydney lifestyle and its focus on water-based amenity, and also deals with the challenges of sea level rise.”

Subtropical Sydney (Pierre Bélanger, Miho Mazereeuw, Christina Milos, Andrew tenBrink, Erik Prince, Sarah Thomas): “They propose a vision for re-engineering the urban form for cleaner waterways, recreational areas food production in urban gardens and improved access, amenity and mobility along green arteries. Their design integrates scales of place and time while producing a high value corridor for desirable and sustainable living.”

Embassy of the Drowned Nations (Bob Earl, Shahreen Alford, Simon Bond, Liam Butt, Katie Cooper, Daniel Firns, Ali Gaunt, Rosie Krauss,  Ben Nacard, Simon Trick): “This bold venture, the Embassy of Drowned Nations, extends a hand of connection and friendship as the Harbour Bridge and Opera House did in the last century. By providing a meeting place and forum for adapting to climate change it opens the debate on conceptual engagement with other drivers of global environmental change, particularly around population and resource use.”

View the winning ideas

Image credits: (1) AGENCY Architecture, LLC, (2) Embassy of Drowned Nations 

London’s Bike Superhighways

London just opened the first two in a series of 12 bicycle superhighways planned for key commuter routes. London Mayor Boris Johnson said the new series of bike highways will launch a “cycling revolution” in the city, writes Inhabitat. The textured lanes are 1.5 meters wide and painted bright blue, providing perhaps a safer space for riding than conventional lanes, which are usually narrower and separated from cars only by a dotted line. The two new routes connect the suburbs to downtown: Route “CS7” starts in Colliers Wood, a London suburb, and makes its way 8.5 miles to the city center, following a busy commuter path. The other one starts in east London and runs to Tower Gateway. 

According to BBC News, these new paths are designed to meet expanding demand for bike infrastructure. “The London Cycling Campaign (LCC) estimates there are 550,000 cycle journeys in London daily. Transport for London (TfL) says that is an increase from around 250,000 in 2000.” They are also designed to make bicyling in the big city safer — there were 13 fatalities in 2009, 15 in 2008, and 15 in 2007.  “Its aim is to attract those put off by accident statistics and direct them towards continuous, well-marked and maintained, straight-forward commuting routes.”

BBC News tried out the lanes during morning rushhour and found them invaded by cars in spots. “With congestion at its height, there are lorries, buses, cars, vans and motorbikes everywhere, across both lanes of this main road, blocking the flash new textured surface on the left hand side. But once the traffic blockade is negotiated, and the road begins to widen out a mile further north, it’s actually quite a fast route, if you wriggle round the manhole covers.” The superhighway tester concludes that the lanes could become widely used but riders will still need to be very careful: “Could these routes encourage beginners? Perhaps. The lanes look wide, but they are advisory, not enforced, and shared with the lorries, buses, more experienced cyclists – many can be unforgiving of mistakes.”

The new bike infrastructure is just one piece of a broader bike plan, which includes a city-wide bike hire scheme, new bicycle police, 66,000 extra bike parking spaces (before 2020), and better strategic planning.

Read the article and see more images.

Also, check out a video tour from The Guardian (UK)

Image credit: Barclays Cycle Superhighway / Inhabitat

In the U.S. Senate, Climate Bill Dead for Now

Even though this year is on track to become the hottest on record worldwide, the U.S. Senate is postponing introduction of a comprehensive climate and energy bill until September, writes Reuters. Instead Senate majority leader Harry Reid will push forward a more narrowly-focused energy bill that will reconsider offshore oil drilling rules and promote energy efficiency. Some argue that delaying action on the bill effectively kills it because political pressures to vote against the bill will only grow more intense closer to the November election.

According to Reuters, Republicans have been “near unanimous in their opposition to climate change legislation, saying the bill would be little more than an energy tax that would imperil an economy struggling to recover from recession.”  To gain bipartisan support, a bill will need to be stripped of any rules capping carbon emissions or mandating power companies to generate renewable or clean energy, actions that could raise energy prices.

Failure to act on emissions could have wider impacts: The absence of a bill that imposes fees on carbon emissions may stymie efforts by utilities and industries to increase investment in clean energy technologies. Additionally, Reuters argues that not acting could negatively impact the U.S.’s ability to influence global climate change negotiations. No domestic agreement may mean less pressure on China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and other major developing-country polluters that have opposed mandatory global caps. (Still, according to Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), China may soon have more stringent carbon limits than the U.S. has in place. The country is also planning a new carbon trading market).

As an alternative plan, the Obama administration may be moving foward with regulating emissions through the E.P.A. under the Clean Air Act. The agency is already regulating emissions from cars and requires power plants to apply for permits to spew CO2. To ensure this regulatory approach remains an option, the administration is working to fend off legislation that will limit the E.P.A.’s ability to regulate GHGs. However, The New York Times’ Dot Earth blog writes that others argue the Obama administration is showing a lack of leadership on climate change and may continue to punt on the issue.

A new report from the World Resources Institute (WRI) says a national cap and trade system is needed to reduce GHG emissions by 17 percent by 2020, but E.P.A. regulation of emissions and state and local action can serve as stop-gap measures. The New York Time’s Green blog writes: The institute said that the E.P.A., invoking the Clean Air Act, and the Department of Transportation, using its regulatory power over fuel efficiency, could make major strides over the next decade in reducing carbon dioxide pollution.” Examples of innovative state and local planning on climate change (see earlier post) include King County’s Climate Adaptation Plan.

Read the article 

Also, check out Thomas Friedman’s op-ed outlining how a bipartisan case could be made for climate and energy legislation at the federal level.

Image credit: 2004 California Heat Wave / NASA Earth Observatory

Tiny Taxonomy

Rosetta Sarah Elkin, a garden designer turned landscape architect, is presenting her installation, “Tiny Taxonomy,” at the International Garden Festival of Les Jardins de Métis in Quebec. The piece focuses in on the “most inconspicuous and often ignored players” in nature — plants on the forest floor. The installation offers a partial inventory of some of these tiny, yet critical operators in forest ecoystems. “[By] elevating these species from their traditional posi­tion underfoot, it is hoped that their highly delicate and intricate nature will be made evident to visitors.” 

Elkin chose 42 species for their different life-cycles, which she then planted in mirrored cylinders that reflect the surrounding forest. “Tiny unpacks and re-presents the garden, inviting the visitor to consider the beauty of each species,” says Elkin.

Since 2000, the International Garden Festival at Les Jardins de Métis has featured presentations of garden design, landscape, architecture, design and environmental art. Over 11 years, the festival has shown 80 gardens by 200 designers from 15 countries, attracting more than 800,000 visitors. 

This year’s festival will be held until October 3, 2010.

Learn more about the Garden Festival and connect with Elkin.

Image credit: RSE

Greening Diplomatic Grounds

Nine U.S. landscape architecture students will spend the first two weeks of August studying the grounds surrounding the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva and drafting a sustainable landscape design that can be phased in over five years. The students will work alongside three Swiss landscape architecture students, and under the guidance of three American landscape architecture educators, to deliver a comprehensive, sustainable landscape design that improves the landscape’s performance while also demonstrating American expertise.

This unique collaborative design project is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Mission and the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). More than 130 complete applications were received by ASLA and screened to select a team with the widest breadth of skills, talents, and experience. In addition, Craig Verzone, an American landscape architect based in Switzerland, worked with the Mission to identify three Swiss students to be part of the team and to share Swiss expertise in this area.

The American students are:

  • David Bramer, University of Washington
  • Colleen Gilfrich, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • Michael Lindquist, University of Pennsylvania
  • Jennifer Obee, Ohio State University
  • Kirsten Ostberg, University of Virginia
  • Natalie Ross, University of Minnesota
  • Damon Sanchez, Iowa State University
  • Michael Scholtz, State University of New York at Syracuse
  • Katherine Tooke, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The American faculty members guiding the design team are:

  • Terry Clements, ASLA, Associate Professor, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • Richard Hawks, FASLA, Chair, Department of Landscape Architecture, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, and ASLA Vice President, Communications
  • Tim Toland, ASLA, Assistant Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse

Joining them are three Swiss students from Geneva’s School of Landscape Design, Engineering and Architecture (HEPIA- Haute École du Paysage, d’Ingénierie et d’Architecture).

  • Marion Crozetière
  • Samuel Enjolras
  • Raphaël Papiou 

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva represents the United States at the United Nations and other international organizations and is a major center for multilateral diplomacy in Europe. The prominence of the Mission building in international Geneva and the fact that it is regularly visited by diplomats and political figures from around the world were factors when the U.S. State Department selected Geneva as its “Flagship Post for Energy and Sustainability.” The building is the site of the largest solar energy installation ever undertaken by the Department of State overseas and home to an innovative magnetic levitation (MaglevTM) chiller air conditioning system that runs a virtually friction-free compressor.

Conserving the variety of plant and animal life is also a priority, and in 2009 the Mission became the first State Department facility to earn certification by the U.S. National Wildlife Federation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Seeking ways to further improve the sustainability of the building and grounds the Mission formed a “Green Team” which developed the concept with ASLA to recruit students for a collaborative sustainable design project. The students were selected by a committee which included representatives from ASLA and the Department of State. Applicants were required to be U.S. citizens and to submit a résumé; 400-word- statement of interest; faculty recommendations; and three samples of project work (see earlier post).

“I am very excited about this project, which will help reinforce the Mission’s reputation as the greenest US diplomatic building in Europe,” said Ambassador Betty E. King, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva. “The efforts of this talented team of young landscape architects will not only help us make our environment more sustainable, but also provide our staff with an inspiring and healthy environment which we will enjoy for years to come.”

Stewardship of the natural environment was among the core principles adopted at the founding of ASLA by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1899. Today, the Society continues that focus in all its programs and projects. ASLA is one of three partner organizations, along with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas, Austin, and the U.S. Botanic Garden,  spearheading the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), a comprehensive rating system for landscapes that is currently in its pilot phase at 150-plus locations. 

“ASLA welcomes the opportunity to showcase the profession’s young talent and skills through the application of sustainable landscape design practices at the Mission,” says ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville. “This model project will demonstrate the central role the profession plays in addressing environmental issues.”

National Park Service Picks Best-designed Parks

The National Park Service’s first Designing the Parks competition announced that a total of 17 projects won honor and merit awards. The Park Service received almost 70 entries submitted by public organizations and private design firms in 20 states and five countries. To win, parks had to engage people, embody sustainability, break traditional barriers, involve the community in decision-making and development, and “demonstrate a reverance for place” (see earlier post). 

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said: “The entries prove that great park design can change derelict factory sites to ecologically responsible social spaces and old dairy barns to LEED-certified conference facilities. Because the National Park Service has a community and sustainability mission outside the national parks, it is inspiring to recognize these exceptional park designs. These places will improve people’s lives.”

The National Park Service’s Denver Service Center worked together with Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy to select the winners, recognizing park design excellence in four categories: master planning, site design, building design and historic preservation design. A number of these projects have also won ASLA professional awards.

Master Planning Awards 

  • Honor: Brooklyn Bridge Park (New York); Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.
  • Merit: Parklands of Floyds Fork (Louisville, Ky.); Wallace Roberts & Todd
  • Merit: Minute Man National Historical Park (Concord, Mass.); Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype, Inc.
  • Merit: Flight 93 National Memorial (Somerset, Pa.); Paul Murdoch Architects and Nelson Byrd Woltz

Landscape Architects Site Design Awards

  • Honor: Waterfront Bunkaza Cultural Plaza (Osaka, Japan); RYUICHI ASHIZAWA Architects & Associates
  • Honor: Teardrop Park (New York); Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.
  • Merit: Eielson Visitor Center, Denali National Park (Denali, Alaska); Denali National Park and Preserve
  • Merit: Concrete Plant Park, Bronx River Greenway (Bronx, N.Y.); City of New York
  • Merit: Santa Fe Railyard Park (Santa Fe, N.M.); Frederic Schwartz Architects, Ken Smith Landscape Architects, and Mary Miss, Artist
  • Merit: Hudson River Park, Tribeca Section (New York); Mathews Nielsen
  • Merit: Annenberg Community Beach House (Santa Monica, Calif.); Mia Lehrer and Associates

Building Design Awards

  • Honor: Pocono Environmental Education Center Multipurpose Space, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (Dingmans Ferry, Pa.); Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
  • Honor: Liberty Bell Center, Independence National Historical Park (Philadelphia); Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Historic Preservation Design Awards

  • Honor: Blue Ball Barn, Alapocas Run State Park (Wilmington, Del.); Wallace Roberts & Todd
  • Honor: Chapultepec Park (Mexico City); Grupo de Diseño Urbano S.C. /Mario Schjetnan
  • Honor: Cavallo Point Lodge, Golden Gate National Park (San Francisco); Architectural Resource Group and Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, and Office of Cheryl Barton 

Learn more about the winning sites and read jury comments.

Image credit: Summer movies in Brooklyn Bridge Park / Julienne Schaer

It’s Time to Take Material Reuse Mainstream

FreshKills Park Blog
noticed that the Reuse Conference and Expo, the first national reuse conference in the U.S., is coming to Raleigh, North Carolina in October. The conference is organized by the Reuse Alliance. Garth Johnson, author of “1,000 Ideas for Creative Reuse,” will provide the keynote address.

According to the E.P.A., only 40 percent of building and construction material is now “recycled, reused, or sent to waste-to-energy facilities, while the remaining 60 percent of the materials is sent to C&D landfills.”

The Reuse Alliance defines reuse, which differs from recycling: “Reuse is using an item more than once. This includes conventional reuse where the item is used again for the same function or repurposing where it is used for a new function. In contrast, recycling is the breaking down of the used item into raw materials which are used to make new items. By taking useful products and exchanging them, without reprocessing, reuse help us save time, money, energy and resources. In broader economic terms, reuse offers quality products to people and organizations with limited means, while generating jobs and business activity that contribute to the economy.” Indeed, one of Majora Carter’s main arguments is that economically depressed inner-city communities, which are often the sites of massive waste depots, could instead become bases for higher-value recycling and reuse industries (see earlier post).

TreeHugger says the alliance has a broad-based membership, including environmental and community organizations and charities, as well as the retail, IT, food, furniture, and entertainment industries. The E.P.A. is also involved.

The conference will cover a range of material reuse topics of interest to landscape architects, architects, and other design professionals, including:

  • Adaptive Reuse / Building Materials Reuse
  • Traditional Reuse / New Salvage
  • Designing for Reuse, Refurbishing & Remanufacturing
  • Creative Reuse, Upcycling & Repurposing
  • School/University Reuse
  • Online Materials Exchanges
  • Corporate Reuse
  • Making Events Green with Reusables
  • Connection between Reuse and Climate Change
  • Reuse as the “Original Green Collar Job”
  • Economics of Reuse
  • Reuse Sector best practices
  • Reuse in Environmental Education
  • Cooperative marketing campaigns
  • Community Activism and Reuse
  • Reuse and Public Policy
  • Reuse and Technology

For design professionals trying to make the case for adding reused materials into their projects, the Reuse Alliance cites a few useful ways to measure the environmental, social, and economic benefits:

  • # of tons diverted from the landfill
  • $ avoided dispoal costs (donor/seller)
  • $ avoided purchase costs (recipient/buyer)
  • $ value of materials donated (donor)
  • $ revenues earned (donor/seller)
  • # of job created or retained
  • # of families/individuals/organizations assisted

To add, tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can also be avoided through reuse processes.

Learn more about the conference and view more reuse resources from the E.P.A.

Also, check out the work of Andrea Cochran, FASLA, who creatively reuses materials such as wood and construction material in her award-winning landscapes.

Image credit: Reclaimed cypress wood benches / ASLA 2007 Professional Awards, General Design Honor Award. Curran House, San Francisco, California. Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture, San Francisco, California

For London’s 2012 Olympic Games, Man-Made Wetlands and Wildlife Habitat

George Hargreaves, FASLA, a leading U.S. landscape architect, is working with British landscape architecture firm LDA Design to create a $200 million, 2.5 square-kilometer site for the 2012 Olympic games in London. One key goal of the project is to ensure the park will serve the community well once the games are over: Out of the 2.5-square kilometer site, one square kilometer (102 ha) will be transformed into permanent parkland. Hargreaves, who did much of the landscape planning and architecture for the Sydney Olympic games, is developing new man-made wetland and wildlife habitats and huge open-air event spaces that can handle 20,000 people, writes the Royal Institute of British Architecture (RIBA) JournalHargreaves said: “We’re excited about how it brings together the social world of London with the ecological park. This doesn’t happen very often. More usually you get one use or the other, not both.”

The Olympic site (and eventual post-game park) will be shaped like an “hourglass,” with a large commercial development pinching in the middle. This leaves two sections: in the south, a more urban area, and in the north, a “wilder” half. Hargreaves said the southern zone will look like a smaller version of Hyde Park. The wilder northern zone will include the “reinstatement of the Lea riverbanks’ natural forms,” which involves removing lots of hard concrete canals. Also planned for the northern section are more than 300,000 wetland plants designed to naturally provide flood control and manage water run-off.

The “2012 Gardens,” co-designed by the young landscape designer Sarah Price, is another component. At a half-mile long, the gardens will be divided in four different “climate zones,” each representing the “global collecting tradition of British botanists down the centuries.” RIBA Journal writes that some features will only be temporary. “There will be temporary wildflower meadows and edge-screening to future development sites, as well as ‘lenses’ of different landscapes at the squeezed centre of the site where hard paving is removed.” Hargreaves said these temporary features could last anywhere between five and 25 years.  

RIBA Journal says the park is hemmed in like any other park, but also puts a new spin on the urban-to-rural transect. “[The] Olympic Park opens up northwards into the vast open spaces of Hackney Marshes along the Lea Valley and so can be seen not only as a sequence of spaces in its own right, but also as a transition zone from urban/industrial to open landscape.” Ultimately, however, the success of the park will be judged “by Hargreaves’ strategy of porosity and linkage as much as by its re-imagining of the watercourses that run through here.”

The good public transit access, which will help incorporate the park in the broader community, will only help the park succeed. “Stratford, a nexus of rail links from the superfast (High Speed One, the express link to the Channel Tunnel) to the frustratingly slow (Docklands Light Railway) via two Underground and two surface railway lines, is surely one of the best-connected regional centres on earth, and some £100m is being spent on upgrading the transport interchange there.” In addition, some new starchitect-designed buildings, including an Aquatics Centre by Zaha Hadid and stadium by Populous / Peter Cook, will draw the crowds into the broader parks.

The initial Olympic Games site will be ready by 2012, and it will evolve into its final park form by 2014.

Read the article and a detailed progress report from the London Games on the Olympic Park.

Also, check out an earlier post that explores whether the new site can regenerate the economically depressed and troubled local community.

Image credit: LDA Design

Bay Bridge Gateway Park Plans Move Forward

With the new Bay Bridge expected to open in San Francisco in 2013, city officials are also laying the groundwork for a new Bay Bridge Gateway Park where the bridge touches down. The primary goal is to turn an area that is now a chaotic mess of ramps into a unified public space. The new park will also restore the industrial area to nature and add new wetlands; create a network of trails linking Oakland to the park; offer “self-guided exploration” or a new museum; and include a new “Ferris wheel, gondola, art, or a destination restaurant.”

Reviewing the three final design proposals, The San Francisco Chronicle writes: “The only way to make such a space fulfill its potential – or be worth pursuing – is to approach it as an act of transformation, where nature and industry collide for everyone to see.” 

In a public review session of the first park concepts, Perkins + Will and PWP Landscape Architecture offered three very different design options: one focuses on creating green space and restoring the local ecosystem, another centers on a public perch at the western side of the bridge, and the third includes “such goodies as a skate park next to a playground next to a bridge-themed transportation museum.”

All designs “have enormous potential” and seem to “exalt the journey as well as the destination,” says The San Francisco Chronicle. “Imagine rows of tall trees threading the mess of ramps known as the Maze, tides rustling restored wetlands below. One element would offer relief to everyone in a car; the other would signal to people on the ground how close they are to the bay. Or imagine, above the Port of Oakland, an elevated path along West Grand Avenue and Maritime Street that bicyclists can follow to the new $6 billion span. The rationale is pragmatic, segregating two-wheel bikes from 16-wheel trucks. But it could also be poetic. Once you saw it, you’d want to be on it. And imagine that, as you endure the incongruously named FasTrak lanes, the illuminated billboards now in place are joined by Burning Man-scale sculptures or salvaged pieces of the existing western span.”

A final design is not expected to be released before the fall. More public hearings will lead to discussions on cost, functionality, and “balancing neighborhood needs and regional attractions.”

Read the article, learn more about the three Bay Bridge Gateway Park concepts, and take a public survey.

Also, see a slideshow of work underway on the new $6 billion bridge.

Image credit: PWP Landscape Architecture