Grown in Detroit

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On a modest site downtown, Lafayette Greens yields a good deal more than just food.

By Linda McIntyre

Detroit is having quite a moment in the media at a time of renewed interest in the trials and tribulations of cities, but it’s still kind of surprising to find a small, trapezoid-shaped edible garden thriving among the towers of its downtown. This is Lafayette Greens, designed by Kenneth Weikal Landscape Architecture, on a block that, until now, was best known for its homegrown fast food rivals American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island (“Coney Island” is Detroitspeak for chili dog). Now the Coneys are improbably sharing the neighborhood with vegetables, herbs, fruit, and flowers, all grown on a scant half-acre at a busy intersection across from the historic Book Cadillac Hotel (now part of the Westin chain) and the city’s federal office building and courthouse.

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A little more than a decade ago, the notion of a neat, well-designed garden here at the paved epicenter of car culture—the General Motors headquarters is a few blocks away—would have seemed like a hallucination. The site’s previous occupant, the Lafayette Building, was a 14-story V-shaped Italian Renaissance tower built in 1923. It was demolished in late 2009, having been vacant since 1997. It had become one of the beautiful ruins for which Detroit has become ghoulishly famous, with broken windows, graffiti tags, squatting hipster artists, and weedy trees growing out of the roof.

But although abandoned buildings and vacant lots are still vexing issues in many parts of the city, this section of the downtown core has been transformed. The waterfront along the Detroit River is slowly developing into a series of linked green spaces and public plazas. Sports venues, even the home of the hard-luck Lions pro football team, draw hordes of loyal fans downtown. New cafés and pop-up retail spaces lure shoppers from suburban malls. Companies such as Compuware and Quicken Loans have opened big offices here and brought in employees from outside the city.

Compuware was one of the first companies to come back downtown, and one of its founders, Peter Karmanos Jr., has been a steady force in efforts to revitalize downtown Detroit. Karmanos, who stepped down as CEO in 2011 (he’s currently the company’s executive chairman), was one of the leaders of a group of businesspeople and philanthropists who raised $20 million to design, build, and maintain Campus Martius Park across the street from the company’s headquarters and just up Michigan Avenue from Lafayette Greens (see “Miracle on Woodward Avenue,” LAM, November 2006).

Lafayette Greens is a Compuware project too. Meg Heeres, the company’s art and community programs manager and the project director for the garden, says that Karmanos (who’s a Master Gardener) originally wanted to start an urban farm somewhere in the business district.

That’s not as weird as it might sound: Detroit is huge—almost 140 square miles—and by some estimates there are as many as 40 square miles of vacant land. There’s a long history of farming here, starting with French settlers’ early-18th-century “ribbon farms” along the Detroit River. Grassroots gardeners have started community gardens all over the low-density city, which has an abundance of single-family houses with yards. Detroit’s historic Eastern Market wholesale and retail food complex has a lot of local fruit and vegetable vendors. And in December, the city planning commission approved a new urban agriculture ordinance that updates the zoning code to allow land uses such as farms, tree farms, and orchards.

Compuware wanted the project done fast, but it also needed a design firm with the right kind of sensibility. “We knew this was not a straight-ahead landscape architecture project,” Heeres told me. “The designers had to understand the community here, how to engage a lot of different stakeholders and create a welcoming space for all, while meeting our demands for a strong aesthetic and innovation. My involvement as the client would be very, very hands on, and they had to be okay with that.”

Ken Weikal, ASLA, who started his firm in the Detroit suburbs in 1989, and Beth Hagenbuch, Associate ASLA, a partner in the firm and the project’s lead designer, were already involved in GrowTown, a nonprofit group formed to help improve derelict urban sites with easy and inexpensive design interventions and technology. They had recently worked on a community project in the north central part of the city.

The design quickly evolved from the simple kitchen garden concept that Heeres pitched to Weikal and Hagenbuch—raised planting beds divided by mulch paths—into a modern riff on the French potager. Corrugated steel clads the raised beds and plays off the concrete and high-rise buildings that surround the space, as well as the dramatic weathered brick wall of an adjacent building that serves as a backdrop to the greenery. The shiny metal and the reclaimed wood used to build a trio of wacky storage sheds were inexpensive and manufactured locally. They also give the space an industrial vibe that suits Motown quite well.

Compuware loved the design and wanted it built as soon as possible. But the city owns the site, and Mayor Dave Bing’s administration has been looking at creative ways to use vacant land, including larger-scale urban agriculture. A lot of consultation and negotiation by Heeres was required to hammer out the year-to-year lease agreement in a short time. The design was made final by January 2011, the city’s blessing was secured in time to start work in June, and most of the work was done by the end of July.

The prep work for the garden was not as hard as you might expect. Weikal says that after the Lafayette Building was demolished, the site was excavated about 15 feet down, and soil was hauled in to bring it up to grade. The team replaced the top few feet of that soil but didn’t have to deal with a huge contamination legacy.

The designers manipulated the site in subtle ways to give the garden a spatial charge. Two gravel paths radiate out from a paved terrace and gradually diverge from each other, widening for a forced perspective. This arrangement makes Shelby Street, to the west, look farther away than it is from the terrace. They integrated the site’s four-foot grade change into the design. It helps the hardscape drain into a swale edged with gabions and planted with redtwig dogwoods and other water-tolerant plants. It also varies the height of the raised beds for comfortable and accessible gardening. The tops of the planters all rise to the same flat level, but the bases follow the slope, resulting in a range of bed heights, from eight to 40 inches, and an intriguing sense of depth across the whole garden.

A small, circular children’s garden, 38 feet in diameter, sits at the southeast corner. It is edged with fruiting shrubs and sunflowers, and its planters are filled with colorful flowers, sweet-smelling herbs, fuzzy lamb’s ears, and spiky succulents. Made from recycled 55-gallon steel juice barrels, they repeat, in a smaller size, the children’s garden’s circular shape. These geometric shapes, and the strong lines of the rest of the garden, bring order to all of the lushly planted raised beds and help the small space hold its own in the tall and dense urban streetscape.

All of the planting in the 2,000 square feet of raised beds was done on one sweltering and labor-intensive day in July 2011, during which the landscape contractor, the WH Canon Landscape Company, executed what Weikal describes as a “military-style operation.” Plants were grown from seed off-site in the nearby town of Howell by Motave Meadows, a small organic grower, in 12-inch pots that could be slotted in to the raised beds without much root disturbance. “The challenge that day was to plant several thousand tender transplants into more than 30 beds according to a very detailed planting scheme,” says Hagenbuch. “Getting the plants into the right beds, the specified patterns, watered in, and drip irrigation in place and properly adjusted on a very hot day required dedicated teamwork.”

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Apple and pear trees, and swaths of lawn, were installed separately. Weikal says the lawns, planted with fescue that doesn’t require a lot of irrigation, help the garden look good all winter and open up more space for programming. Along with gravel paths, they also contribute to the site’s mostly (70 percent) porous surface. As in most cities, stormwater management is a problem in Detroit: According to a 2012 report by the Alliance for the Great Lakes, in 2011 the city sent 7 billion gallons of stormwater and untreated sewage into the Detroit and Rouge Rivers. The city government is trying to use more green infrastructure, but its dire financial situation has slowed progress.

Since its official opening in late August 2011, Lafayette Greens has been a big success. In 2012, its first full growing season, the garden produced almost 1,800 pounds of fresh produce according to Gwen Meyer, who manages the garden for Compuware full-time. The food, which is grown organically, is donated to Gleaners, a local food bank, and other community groups (volunteers can take small amounts with them). Kids from Compuware’s in-house day-care center and other nearby programs come to learn and play. Volunteers from Compuware, the federal building, and other nearby offices show up regularly to pull weeds (the raised beds and overall tidiness make it easy for people in work clothes to do a bit of gardening at lunchtime) or hear talks on beekeeping, vermicomposting, and other garden topics.

And some people come just to hang out, which is fine with Meyer. “Our whole purpose is to be available for people to sit and relax, take a break,” she told me. “They can get involved if they want to.” The garden is open year-round, and so are volunteer hours, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. In the winter, fewer volunteers show up, but the ones who do shovel snow, keep an eye on the covered hoop houses Meyer is trying as an experiment, and plan for the next growing season.

Some concessions to the reality of urban parks had to be made. Heeres says that Compuware would have preferred to leave the site open, but the city insisted on a fence. The garden is locked up at night and on most weekends, and a camera allows Compuware security staff to monitor the site, which is well lit at night.

Vegetable theft hasn’t been a big problem, Meyer says, but it happens. “We’d rather engage people than reprimand them,” she told me. “I might ask them to pick more so I can take it to Gleaners. Honestly, I’d rather train thieves to harvest properly so the plants continue to grow. It doesn’t occupy much of my time.”

Lafayette Greens doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Urban farming has become something of a class-based flash point here. The concept was mocked by some residents in the recent documentary Detropia, and the city council’s December approval of the sale of about 1,500 city-owned lots to a local businessman, John Hantz, who wants to start a tree farm, was controversial.

Compuware has been careful not to fan any flames. Heeres and Meyer stress that Lafayette Greens is by no means the first or only edible effort in the city. “The media attention is positive, but it doesn’t always fully represent how deeply spread out growing is here,” Meyer says. At the dedication in 2011, Heeres focused on the park aspect of the project. “It’s like Campus Martius with vegetables,” she told the Detroit Free Press.

Heeres says that the ecofriendly aspect of Lafayette Greens is nice, but it wasn’t what drove the project—it was about building relationships in the community. The project offers some timely lessons. Green spaces are part of Detroit Future City, a long-awaited strategic plan released by the Bing administration in January. The product of a two-year process led by local government, business, academic, and nonprofit leaders, the plan is a broad blueprint for improving the city’s economy and making better, more efficient use of its vast amount of land over the next 50 years. Among other things, it envisions more walkable, high-density neighborhoods with inviting parks and gardens. Kind of like what Compuware has done on a smaller scale.

Other companies, whose willingness to deeply engage has the potential to make or break the strategic plan, might be paying attention to the company’s success. Heeres says she’s had “probably a half-dozen calls” about the process. “None of those have come to fruition yet, but we would love for that to happen.”

The city, and the people who live and work there, will benefit if it does. “Lafayette Greens has created a real amenity in downtown Detroit,” John Gallagher, a business and development reporter for the Free Press, told me. “The design of the park is very much advanced over the usual community garden in a neighborhood setting. The organization of the garden, with Compuware volunteers tending the plants, maintains the quality level.” Few places need that kind of amenity as urgently as this one.

Linda McIntyre, a Detroit-area native, is a former staff writer and frequent contributor to LAM.

In honor of National Landscape Architecture Month (NLAM), the entire April issue of LAM is available for free.

Image credits: (1-2) Lafayette Greens / Beth Hagenbuch, Associate ASLA

Bench Innovations in Boston

“Public seating sets the scene for chance encounters, people watching, connecting with nature, or just taking a break.” Indeed, public spaces without seating can seem pretty uninviting. To create an iconic bench or “street seat” for the Fort Point Channel area in South Boston, Design Boston invited all types of designers from around the world to submit concepts to their Street Seats Design Challenge. Nearly 170 concepts came in from 23 countries. Just 20 made it to the semi-final round. According to the organizers, the goal of the competition is to create a “sense of livability” in a pretty rugged urban area, while also being “socially and environmentally conscious.”

Judges chose the semi-finalists that best the design criteria: “innovation, durability, sustainability, aesthetics, and comfort.” Also, benches needed to be designed so they aren’t bolted to the ground.

The ones who made it to this round were clearly inspired by the rich marine and nautical history of the Fort Point Channel. Boston is trying to turn the whole area into its “Innovation District,” so many designs also pushed the boundaries of the typical park bench. Most concepts seemed to use sustainable or reused materials. Here are a few particularly unique ideas among the 20 semi-finalists:

The “Wa” Chair by Katsuya Arai. (see video above)

Arai writes that “wa” means harmony in Japanese. “I applied this concept to form the bench.” Made of marine plywood, which was selected because it’s pliable, sturdy and water and fungal resistant, the serene Wa bench provides opportunities for individuals or families to sit together. There’s even a path through it for animals.

Knot Bench by Joseph Chun Jr., Natalie Fizer, Sutton Murray, Emily Stevenson at Pillow Culture.

This interesting design takes its cues from the “rich marine and nautical history of the Fort Point Channel that ocean-going vessels once populated.” Their bench is made up of “tied, snarled, and knotted” P.E.T. plastic rope. There are different seating heights for tall and short people and kids, all built into one bench. Looks fun to sit on, but all it would take is one tourist to spill one ice-cream cone in there to really goop it up though. Hopefully it’s designed to be cleaned easily.

Negative / Positive by Matt Trimble, Haik Tokatlyan, Jared Steinmark, Bob Williamson at Radlab.

The RadLab team says their bench is made up of the city’s “infrastructural refuse”: wood, concrete, and steel. “Deposited layer by layer, the bench is a response to the geomorphological conditions that make and shape the land surrounding Boston.” Thought-provoking seating with lots of layers.

The Wharf Bench by Jesse Shaw at Currey and Company

This elegant bench would use reclaimed pillars from the Fort Point Channel piers. The use of just three pillars is symbolic, playing homage to the “three pillars” that supported the development of Boston. Shaw also says the design is purposefully open because people “feel free to communicate with each other when their chests are at a 45 degree angle to each other.”

Arbortecture by Teddy Slowik at Novatona

In the same vein, Arbortecture also reuses local materials, in this case fallen urban trees, to make a lovely bench. Applying an adhesive enables Slowik to create a simple yet comfortable-looking form.

Park Bar by Ryan Pierson and Sally Zheng at Syracuse University.

Another simple yet really family-friendly form made out of reused materials allows people to sit, eat a snack, and catch views of the water.

Cleat by Sarah Burley, Tyler Dawson , Cale Kaufman, Tai Geng, Blake Morton, Colton Sanford at Western Washington University.

This team lets their refined design speak for itself. Using a cleat as a model, it immediately brings the area’s nautical history to life, makes a bold statement, and looks like an inviting place to sit.

See all 20 semi-finalists’ bench concepts.

All semi-finalists get a $750 grant from the Design Museum Boston and sponsors to fabricate a life-size bench by April 27. Then, the 20 benches will be on display for people to test out. The winners will get $5,000.

Before then, check out all Street Seats entries at Factory 63 (63 Melcher Street, Boston, MA).

Tree Gardens: The Largest Living Architectural Structures

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Tree Gardens: Architecture and the Forest
by Gina Crandell, a landscape architect and professor at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, is a fascinating exploration of what she calls the “largest living architectural structures” – masses of trees that form expressive spaces. Crandell provides an in-depth study of several iconic landscapes and the role of tree planting within the design of these world-famous spaces. Tree Gardens combines rich historical research with careful design analysis to illustrate an array of living structures, many of which offer defining concepts central to landscape design.

Case studies from the Renaissance era to the modern-day reveal the goals of the original designers and how the projects have since been maintained. The legacy of each project is discussed in detail, as the removal and replacement of trees within these influential and often beloved landscapes is inevitably costly and controversial. These discussions provide an excellent framework for the book’s primary focus: the spatial strength of tree forms and their crucial relationship to the definition, connection, and continuity of spaces.

The case studies cover the historical era (Lucca and Boboli Garden, Italy and Versailles), the era from 1860 to 1960 (Central Park, Gateway Memorial Park, and the Christian Science Plaza), and more recent projects spanning 1995-present (Tate Modern, Reimer Park, Novartis Headquarters, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the 9/11 Memorial Forest). In the case studies, historical background, views on art and gardens, and the significance of the design concepts set the tree structures in a rich context.

The reader gains an understanding of the significance of various landscapes in the evolution of design. For example, we learn how Versailles challenged the traditional boundary of garden and regional landscape with its unprecedented scale and ambition.

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We learn how the naturalized forms of Central Park reflected not only impressions of Olmsted’s trips to Europe and England, but the idea that forms free of rigid geometries represented a new found freedom.

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We learn how artistic representations of gardens influenced people’s perception of nature, and the Musical Garden by Sorensen, inspired by the Danish agricultural landscape, pushed the boundaries of geometric and spatial ordering.

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We also learn how Dan Kiley’s revolutionary emphasis on proportion and the critical nature of tree spacing would make him the father of the modern bosque.

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The book then provides a cross-section of the cultural, social, and political factors that influenced not only the garden designs but the prevailing public perceptions of the time. Particularly enriching is the dialogue on the “garden as art and forest as architecture” and the evolving perception of man’s relationship to nature.

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This captivating analysis provides a great reference. Throughout, Crandell analyzes all sorts of tree structures: allees, bosques, palisades, groves, quincunx, plantations, thickets, and their ability to transform space over time. The guiding principles and design theories behind these iconic landscapes offer a wealth of information for designers to consider in future projects.

Read the book.

This guest post is by James Royce, ASLA, LEED AP, Principal, Studio2112 Landscape Architecture.

Image credits: (1) Princeton Architectural Press, (2) Historic Photo of Central Park, (3) Musical Garden, (4) Versailles, France, (5) Rendering by Dan Kiley, (6) Orchard, Nursery, Garden. (2-6) Courtesy Princeton Architectural Press.

In Philadelphia, More Landscape Innovations

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Last year in Philadelphia, Amtrak started tearing things up as part of new work on the west plaza of their 30th street station, replacing the underground parking garage roof. The only problem was it was right next to a new public space called the Porch, which had been created by the University City District, a non-profit in Philadelphia. So the team with the district decided to create an innovative green wall to block the views of the construction, providing a new model for how to camouflage the unsightly. According to Nate Hommel, ASLA, capital projects manager with the district, an average of 1,000 people walk past the popular Porch each hour. See a brief video about it below:

Hommel tells us that his team worked with local industrial designer Mario Gentile, Shift_Design, to create a “modular system” that can be used by the Porch and other public spaces once the Amtrak project is completed. “Shift_Design came up with a modular planter wall that sits in front of the construction fence and is stabilized with ballast comprised of construction debris from the Amtrak West Plaza project.”

But hiding a construction site isn’t as easy as it looks. The Porch is “essentially a bridge” so they couldn’t exceed the weight of 300 pounds per square foot. The area is also a really windy thoroughfare, so it needed to withstand gusts of 40 miles per hour or more.

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Once the stainless steel form was in place, Hommel worked with Shift_Design landscape architect, Kate Farquhar, to come up with a “plant palette that would develop into a lush vertical planting wall as quickly as possible.” Hommel tells us that “several species of sedum (Angelina, blue spruce, hispanicum, acre) Eastern Wood Fern and Liriope were used to give us some late winter color. Plants like helleboris, Clematis lonecera Magnifica and Carex morriwii will be giving us some spring and summer textural varieties. Additionally we will add plants as part of our late spring planting change-outs at The Porch.”

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All twelve modules were installed in just a couple of days.

Philadelphia is also pushing it in terms of incorporating green stormwater management infrastructure into urban revitalization efforts. The city’s ambitious $2 billion, 25-year program aims to bring green roofs, streets, rain gardens, and enhanced tree pit systems to urban neighborhoods. As part of this effort, Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up!, a national, interdisciplinary design competition organized by the Philadelphia Water Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) and Community Design Collaborative just announced that teams led by Roofmeadow, OLIN, and Urban Engineers, Inc. won the $10,000 prizes. A total of 28 teams representing more than 100 firms participated.Explore the presentations by the winners.

Image credits: University City District

Dennis Bracale’s Garden Compositions

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“It took me two years to find the stones for this project,” says Dennis Bracale, a landscape designer based on Mount Desert Island, Maine, while giving a lecture at his alma mater, the University of Virginia. Image after image showcased Bracale’s work on private gardens. The talk showed the audience the artistic heights landscape architecture can achieve when time and monetary constraints aren’t an issue.

The crux of Bracale’s philosophy is an image of a stone Buddha with a carved flowing robe framed by two stones, one of which accents the robes with its own layered flow pattern. That philosophy is the skillful combining of rough nature (found objects made through geologic and biologic processes) with refined nature (objects modified through craft) to create meditative spaces.

With a client base primarily on Mount Desert Island, Bracale knows his fellow islanders move to and stay on the island for the natural beauty of the location. Helping a client form a relationship with the landscape is his mission. His work results in meditative spaces that amplify yet seamlessly blend into the surrounding landscape. Scale is critical, Bracale says, and the design must be an echo of the surrounding site. If there are large stones in the background, he says to place large stones in the foreground. Making the land sing requires design at the scale of the land, not the scale of the person. Designing in this way brings the grandeur of the surrounding landscape right to the front door, immersing the client in the idealized extension of the native milieu.

Bracale’s design ethos is fed by his study of philosophy, ecology, the Arts and Crafts movement, and the garden traditions of Japan and China. His travels abroad have influenced his style, as have his experiences with calligraphy and craft. Calligraphy is incorporated both as a concept of energy flow and also as an inspiration for paths through the gardens. Craft, most notably Japanese joinery, is highlighted in all of his construction. “A project is only as good as its details,” he says, as he shows the assembly of an Alaskan yellow cedar arbor without nails.

While his most frequently used wood is from Alaska, his stone and plant choices are predominantly local to Maine. Most notably, the stone he chooses is granite from the “scrap pile” at the base of old quarries, whose workers used to roll any imperfect stones out to the edge. Imperfect and weathered stone is what Bracale is after, giving his projects the appearance of age at completion. Bracale’s planting style is romantic with lush, texture-rich arrangements of primarily native plants that capitalize on the never-freezing-never-hot climate of the Maine coast. His goal is to take the site’s natural features “up a notch.”

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Bracale, who takes pictures of his works in progress from all perspectives, talks of sitting on his bed, examining the images night after night, noting the adjustments to make on the next trip to the site. “Sometimes,” he says, “that can mean adjusting a giant rock just two inches.” While others working on the site may think this sounds crazy, they’ve learned to trust the eye of the composer.

This guest post is by Sarah Schramm, Student ASLA, Master of Landscape Architecture candidate, University of Virginia.

Image credits: (1-2) Mount Desert Island gardens by Denis Bracale / Real in Darien

Superkilen: Global Mash-up of a Park

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The nearly mile-long Superkilen park in Denmark is a bold attempt to create a new identity for an “ethnically diverse and socially challenged” neighborhood in Copenhagen, Denmark. An in-depth community outreach process organized by the city has led to a place like no other, with a sequence of plazas that honor different ethnics groups living in the area. Designed by Bjarke Ingels’ firm, BIG, landscape architecture firm, Topotek 1, and artists’ group, Superflex, the massive project also accomplished a lot with a little budget: at just $34 per square foot, the landscape “packs a lot of bang for the buck.” The project, which has recently been all over the design press, also just took home the AIA Institute Honor Award for urban and regional design and an annual design award from Architect Magazine in the “play” category.

The AIA jury, which included Ellen Dunham Jones, author of Retrofitting Suburbia, Mark Shapiro, Mithun, and Tom Luebke, U.S. Fine Arts Commission, wrote: “This is not only original, but stunning to behold. It is noteworthy for its aesthetic approach, which is straightforwardly artificial rather than pretending to be natural. One of the project’s most exciting dimensions is its inclusion of the diverse community of users. Its bold use of color and public art in spaces that promote social interaction and engagement all exude a high level of excitement and energy through what once looked like residual space. Superkilen shows what can be done with an open, inventive approach within severe cost limitations. It demonstrates the value of powerful visual and spatial moves while keeping connected to the realities of a contemporary multicultural context: the condition of many European cities.”

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AIA writes that the design of Superkilen was driven by two over-arching ideas: “First, that the park would become a vehicle for celebrating the neighborhood’s multicultural heritage, and, second, that it would serve as a giant exhibition of urban best practice.” Beyond this, the park would also work for the neighborhood, with new trails for pedestrians and bikers, local transportation connections, outdoor recreation areas and playgrounds, and space for markets.

Three zones provide both hard plazas and green areas: the red square, the black market, and the green park, which serves as a “giant exhibition of urban best practice,” writes AIA. Urban best practices are defined as a “global collection of found objects” that come from the groups represented in the residential areas surrounding the park, some 60 nationalities. Arch Daily says these objects range from “exercise gear from muscle beach L.A. to sewage drains from Israel, to palm trees from China and neon signs from Qatar and Russia.” All the urban objects are identified by small stainless plates.

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The objects, they write, are a “sort of surrealist collection of global urban diversity that in fact reflects the true nature of the local neighborhood – rather than perpetuating a petrified image of homogenous Denmark.”

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Local diversity is also represented in the landscape architecture that frames all the unique objects. “Superkilen re-attributes motifs from garden history. In the garden, the trans-location of an ideal, the reproduction of another place, such as a far off landscape, is a common theme through time. As the Chinese reference the mountain ranges with the miniature rocks, the Japanese the ocean with their rippled gravel, or how the Greek ruins are showcased as replicas in the English gardens. Superkilen is a contemporary, urban version of a universal garden.”

Apparently BIG and team started with three different colored zones as their starting point, but ended up expanding the green section due to community demand. “The desire for more nature is met through a significant increase of vegetation and plants throughout the whole neighborhood.” Nature is found in “small islands of diverse tree,” sorted by color, type, and bloom period. The origins of the plants also match those of the found objects nearby.

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To extend the sports and cultural activities at the Norrebrohall outward, a new Red Square, which looks a bit fascist or playful depending on your mood, was created. “A range of recreational offers and the large central square allows the local residents to meet each other through physical activity and games.” A large section of the square is covered in “multifunctional rubber” to enable ball games, parades, and farmer’s markets.

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Also included is an outdoor fitness area that is also a global mix-up, with Thai boxing equipment; a playground that includes a slide from Chernobyl,  Iraqi swings, and Indian climbing playground; a sound system from Jamaica; and benches from Brazil, Iran, and Switzerland. Of course, the trees in the neighborhood all bloom red, too.

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Mimers Plads, the black component of Superkilen, offers the main gathering spot. This is “where the locals meet around the Moroccan fountain, the Turkish bench, and under Japanese Cherry trees.” There are tables, benches, and tables for backgammon, chess, BBQing, and hanging out. Humorously, there’s a big dentist’s sign from Qatar, “Brazilian bar chairs under the Chinese palm trees, a Japanese octopus playground next to the long row of Bulgarian picnic tables and Argentinean BBQ’s.”

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Lastly, there’s the Green Park, where everyone can speak the language of games. There, BIG and team built a hockey field with an integrated basketball court but surrounded these spaces in green. “The activities of the Green Park with its soft hills and surfaces appeals to children, young people, and families.”

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The neighbors has asked for more green so BIG and team ended up making the green park completely green, “not only by keeping and exaggerating the curvy landscape, but also painting all bike- and pedestrian paths green.” Monochromatic landscape in three colors.

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See more photos of this global mash-up of a landscape.

Image credits: (1) copyright Iwan Baan, (2) copyright Torben Eskerod, (3) copyright Jens Lindhe, (4-7) Iwan Baan, (8) Torben Eskerod, (9-10) Iwan Baan, (11) copyright Mike Magnussen

In the Shadow of Farrand

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“By exploring the history of designers, we find out who we are as designers,” said Michael Van Valkenburgh, FASLA, at a conference on Beatrix Farrand at Dumbarton Oaks, in Washington, D.C. For Van Valkenburgh, who is well-known for his ecological and contemporary campus, park, and residential projects, “standing in the shoes of Farrand and trying to figure out what decisions she would make in new circumstances is both a responsibility and a great pleasure.” He did just that in restoring and expanding upon Farrand’s original landscape architecture at Princeton University.

To understand Farrand’s work at Princeton, he dug into old photos, seeking out “anecdotal photographs of historical precedents.” He found that Farrand, a consulting designer at Princeton, organized the campus around ecology. Partnering with Ralph Adams Cram, the architect of Princeton University’s old stone campus, she created “passages through sequences of courtyard spaces.” Within the courtyards, she orchestrated a “close relationship between building and planting; there was a taut ground plane, no thickets.” Farrand said her goal was to “adapt one’s self to nature’s way.” She was a “lady intolerant of discords and “evoked effects that were subdued.”

Farrand took on a real “trial and error approach,” trying out plants and trees here and there. While “sexist” critics of her day would view this approach as “ding-batty,” Van Valkenburgh said her way was spot-on. She had a way of “going over things again and again.” Through trial and error, Farrand also perfected her “signature practice: training shrubs on building facades.”

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She emphasized seasonality. By testing things out, she also sought to understand what a landscape looked like in “autumn, winter, and spring.” She was “big on palettes.” An early trend-setter, she showed a distinct preference for native plants.

“She had a strong interest in the different maintenance capabilities of plants.” Farrand oversaw the creation of tree and plant nurseries on campus and “actively managed what was grown there.”  Van Valkenburgh said Farrand knew that “grounds people aren’t stupid. It really takes a gardener to raise a landscape.”

Working in Farrand’s shadow, Van Valkenburgh tried to figure out what she would do. Blair Walk, the central grand promenade through the campus, was in disrepair. His firm replaced the stone walkway and used “new old plantings,” an act of preservation, which also involved “restarting elements of the design.”

Because the university wanted to widen the walk in some places due to heavier foot traffic, Van Valkenburgh, in his sensitive historical approach, simply kept the original path width, but tacked on permeable pavements at the edges. “She would have gone for this because she was into stormwater management.”

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In another project, he pushed the woodlands into the campus. Because the campus had expanded to such a degree – “Farrand would have been shocked by its size” – his team wanted to recreate the original campus’ woodland feel, which had disappeared with its later expansion. “We re-asserted the presence of the woodland at the edge of the campus,” in effect recreating Farrand’s original relationship between campus and environment. (Apparently, some alums didn’t really get this).

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For another campus project, he created a subtle new bridge that weaves through nature. There, Van Valkenburgh said, his goal was to “preserve the beauty of the landscape.” Unveiling his design philosophy, he said landscape architects “have made a big mistake by trying to be modern. The beauty of a landscape is in its fragility. If you remove the fragility, you take out the beauty.” Farrand really understood this, and even went one step further, incorporating “irregularities into her designs as a complement to Cram’s buildings. There was a complementarity through contrast and distinction.”

Other speakers at Dumbarton Oaks spoke about Farrand’s legacy: Dennis Bracale, landscape architect and historian, discussed Farrand’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden, an oriental garden in Bar Harbor, Maine, that is a mix of Western, Chinese, and Japanese landscapes. She had worked closely with the Rockefellers — who amassed an amazing collection of East Asian art that would later became the founding collection at the Asia Society — creating a garden that traced paths through priceless stone sculptures. The landscape design was based in Chinese spatial relationships and a Japanese appreciation for using found, natural materials. Mrs. Rockefeller had wanted a “spiritual retreat,” which she got. Farrand studied gates and wall designs from Beijing’s Forbidden City and replicated these designs to a tee. The garden, and its surrounding natural landscape made accessible via paths — which Bracale said also mirrors East Asian landscape patterns – was meant to evoke the maxim, “God is in nature.” So we understand yet another side of Farrand’s versatile practice.

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Judith Tankard
, a landscape historian, then covered Farrand’s final years in Maine, where she created the Reef Point arboretum and amassed an amazing collection of plants and trees (and tens of thousands of books, which were later donated to U.C. Berkeley). At its prime, the arboretum had some 4,000 visitors a year, but Farrand complained that most visitors were tourists and not real lovers of plants. By the mid-1950s, Farrand realized the arboretum had no future, so she decided to “obliterate” this part of her life by destroying the buildings and landscape, as opposed to letting it fall apart through mismanagement. Forever the perfectionist, Farrand would destroy things that didn’t live up to her standards.

To learn more about Farrand and other women landscape architects in the early twentieth century, check out these books: Beatrix Farrand: Private Gardens, Public Landscapes by Judith Tankard; Unbounded Practice: Women and Landscape Architecture in the Early Twentieth Century by Thaisa Way, ASLA; and Women in Landscape Architecture: Essays on History and Practice by Louise Mozingo, ASLA, and Linda Jewell, FASLA.

Image credits: (1) Princeton campus / DLand Studio, (2) Farrand facade / Princeton University, (3) Blair Walk / Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, (4) Woodland expansion / Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, (5) Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden / Fine Art America

Beatrix Farrand Gets a Fresh Look

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One conclusion came out loud and clear from a day-long conference on Beatrix Farrand at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C.: Farrand was of one the most versatile landscape architects of her age and perhaps any age. A fresh review of her work by leading landscape architecture professors, graduate students, and practitioners unearthed fascinating aspects of this “perfectionist,” who was described as a scientific-minded experimenter, an early proponent of native plants, a leader in “pre-ecological design,” an expert in stormwater management, and a flexible and innovative designer who mastered numerous styles. Farrand, who designed hundreds of landscapes in her multi-decade career before her death in 1959, set the bar high for her successors, both female and male.

According to Thaisa Way, ASLA, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Washington, Farrand, the only women among the 11 founders of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), is an important “transitional figure” in ecological design, occupying a central spot somewhere between the founder of landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Ian McHarg, author of Design with Nature. Way said “ecological practices have always been a part of humans’ approach to the environment” yet some still think that “anything that came before McHarg was ‘unscientific.'” The designs of Farrand and other women landscape architects at the turn of the 20th century weren’t just “focused on aesthetics” but “offered important approaches that experimented with adoption and adaptation to ecological values.”

Ecology and Landscape Architecture

Ecology was becoming a cohesive profession around the same time of landscape architecture so there was lots of cross-pollination between the two fields in the early days. (Though, at times since, landscape architects have seemed at one with ecologists, and at other times, the two fields seemed to have diverged). Some of the early roots of landscape architecture were in gardening, botany, and planting design, which included studies of native plant groups and classification systems. But from the 1930s on, when “modernism and the suburbs reduced the value of native plants in favor of lawns and exotic plants,” a real knowledge of plants and native planting design fell out of favor, being viewed as “feminizing the profession.” Indeed, Way said one of McHarg’s goals with his rational, mechanical, scientific Design with Nature was to “dis-empower the scale of plants” (and the women landscape architects who worked with them), so that ecological design could become a large-scale process that could be applied just about anywhere.

Interestingly, though, those early “pre-ecological designers” weren’t all women. Frederick Law Olmsted was one of the first, who used “naturalistic design” approaches for his Ramble in Central Park, and the Back Bay Fens, which also provided enormous stormwater management benefits to Boston. With the growth of the natural style came the “wild garden movement,” which “grouped plants and saw nature as a source of design.” Gertrude Jekyll, an English landscape designer, said “each country should use its own landscape.” Other women landscape architects in the U.S. also picked up on this concept, with Ellen Biddle Shipman planting her Tregaron with native plants, “creating a distinctly American style focusing on the visual composition of plants.”

Arnold Arboretum was one the first world-class plant science center in the U.S. There, both “the scientific and picturesque aspects of plants” were highlighted. “The design fit the land, not the other way around.” Charles Sargent, the first director of the center, was a leading botanist and later brought on Farrand as an apprentice. His approach was to “present the plant material correctly from a botanist’s point of view, but also to make the living collection pleasurable,” said Way.

This mixing of science and pleasure seemed to be a focus a generation of upper and upper-middle class “Lady Botanists” also took up. By the early 20th century, “half of all botanists in NY were women.” Way discussed a number of leading women botanists, garden designers, and landscape architects of that time, including Marian Cruger Coffin, who designed naturalistic landscapes and wrote books about horticulture. Other early leaders in presenting native plants beautifully in naturalistic designs were Martha Brooks Hutcheson, who sought to “introduce habitats in designed landscapes and expand the reach of native systems,” and Marjorie Sewell Cautley, who created “self-sustaining landscapes” in urban areas, with her Radburn development.

Farrand Applied Ecological Principles

Farrand, then, worked in an era buzzing with ideas about how to use native plants and “design with nature” — even if the terms used weren’t the same as the language in today’s sustainable or ecological design — and was a leader in applying some of these concepts. As Betsy Anderson, landscape historian and MLA candidate, University of Washington, described, Farrand “anticipated the role of science in landscape architecture” by her willingness to partner with scientists and experiment with ecological design principles.

In her early years, Farrand actually managed the riparian system at The Mount, the estate of her aunt, famed author Edith Wharton. There, she “established a high-performance landscape in stages.” She called for leaving leaves and plant waste, arguing that it was “nature’s way to create great soils.” As a consultant to her aunt, Farrand “reforested the landscape” at the Mount over the years, creating a dramatic woodland drive that featured plant ecologies designed to be viewed at different speeds. Farrand “examined ideal climatic and soil conditions for plant communities” and conducted expeditions to learn more. She would use her time there to “create a meticulous understanding of northeast New England ecology, which she would then apply elsewhere.”

At Dumbarton Oaks Park in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., the naturalistic companion to the Italianate gardens of Dumbarton Oaks, she “studied the site from the ground up.” She created dams in spots, forming a new brook, which was used to “make a movement through the landscape” but also “manage stormwater.” There, “stormwater was deployed aesthetically and effectively.” By the new brook, Farrand also extended existing native plant communities so there was simply a continuation of the plant habitat.

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Anderson said while McHarg was “seeking certainty in ecological design,” Farrand was “looking for patterns in nature” and emphasizing long-term maintenance. Her approach was scientific, but based in “experiment, not observational methodologies.” While some may dismiss her approach as simply part of that naturalistic style, Way added that “this wasn’t just a visual style, but about using native plants and collections of plants to transfer habitats. Farrand used aesthetics to portray natural processes.” Clearly, sustainability or sustainable design then “wasn’t born in 1981.”

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And Designed for People

Patrick Chasse, ASLA, a landscape architect who has worked with landscapes designed by Farrand, told the story of Chiltern Estate in Bar Harbor, Maine. He said Farrand’s family had been coming to the area since she was a child and eventually built an estate there. Maine provided space for young Farrand to go out and learn about native plants. Later in life, after she had spent time at the Arnold Arboretum with Charles Sargent and set up her own practice in New York City, she came back to work on many of the big natural estates, including Edgar Scott’s Chiltern Estate.

There, Farrand managed 100 laborers herself, creating new gradings and plantings. She designed a “naturalistic water garden,” set within an organic shape some 265 feet long. “This was the first great non-formal garden in Bar Harbor,” said Chasse, but perhaps more importantly, it played a central role in the lives of the family who lived there. Plays were enacted in the gardens, creating memories that stayed with the Scott children for their whole lives. The house has been pulled down and the landscape no longer exists, but old plans and plant lists still retain historic value.

Farrand may have also experimented with “kinesthetic” or “physiological aesthetic” design, creating spaces people love to be in at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. According to Robin Veder, associate professor of humanities and art history / visual culture, Pennsylvania State University, Farrand used a “rhythmic design” approach that was rooted in the ideas she was exposed to by Wharton’s friend Vernon Lee, who wrote Lie of the Land and was an early theorist on kinesthetics. 

Kinesthetics is about understanding “bodily experience” that goes beyond the 5 senses (touch, taste, sight, sound, smell). It’s about “motion through 3-D space,” said Veder, the “muscular feel of movement” that unites all senses. While physical environments “don’t determine movement,” they do offer up opportunities for how people interact with spaces. A garden then is an “assembly of affordances” in which bodily movements are choreographed. “It’s the lay of the incurable land.”

Farrand seemed to have understood these theories, so she created “terraced garden rooms,” and choreographed the movement between the terraces through steps, making sure they would be comfortable and create a feeling of safety. There are now four terraces that create a “sequence of experiences,” with a middle section acting as an intermezzo before the busy rose garden. To avoid a “wearisome continuous climb,” Farrand almost obsessively analyzed tread patterns to determine the ideal shape and set of steps and breaks. “The same starting foot was used on ascending or descending,” which, Farrand figured out, meant that sets of steps needed to be all odd or even. Farrand ended up creating a “whole set of rules for stairs” to make sure the garden “paced the walker.”

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Given her considerable time spent with Wharton and Vernon Lee around this time, it seems more than plausible that she was influenced by the ideas Lee and others were promoting, said Veder. These concepts were also out there: Early Landscape Architecture Magazine articles from the 1910s and 1920s examined the best proportion for stairs (and actually found that ramps were preferable to stairs). Others examined stairs and found that it was hard to design the universal stair given how the different heights and gaits of people. Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. said that “people perform with their feet,” and if they don’t like the stairs, they will go up the side banks. In 1901, Harvard Graduate School of Design also taught its landscape architecture students about physiological aesthetics. Farrand, with her rhythmic design, may have been an early innovator in this field then, too.

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Image credits: (1) Beatrix Farrand / Princeton University, (2) Dumbarton Oaks Park Brook / Dumbarton Oaks Park, (3) Dumbarton Oaks Park Brook / Flickr, (4) Dumbarton Oaks Park stairs / Flickr, (5) Dumbarton Oaks Park stairs / Elin’s Photo Blog.

Cities Have a Metabolism

urban
The recent John E. Woltz Symposium at the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Architecture, asked faculty, students, and eight invited panelists to consider “urban metabolism” as a mix of social and ecological flows, structures, and processes. In his keynote address, Scott Lash, a professor at Goldsmiths College, University of London, introduced urban metabolism as the “life-sustaining, dynamic transformations within and between urban objects and urban forms of life. Being life-sustaining, they allow the city to maintain structures, reproduce, and respond to the environment.” While discussion often centers on the flows of the city, urban metabolism, he emphasized, is about structure, form, and objects. It’s imperative to break from standard thinking in order to understand the “being” of the city. “What is at its core?,” asked Lash. The symposium’s goal was to then examine the role of “quasi-objects,” “world objects,” and “hyper-objects” in our understanding of the urban realm.

The morning roundtable consisted of speakers who are practitioners and academics in the disciplines of art, architecture, landscape architecture, and other fields. Jorg Sieweke, Assistant Professor in Landscape Architecture at UVA, in his opening remarks, echoed Lash’s lecture. Using the example of the Mississippi delta, Sieweke said on one hand, natural processes produce the structures that support other natural processes, such as the land-building that occurs when rivers flood. On the other hand, humans attempt to create stability, imposing their own infrastructure, such as levees, dams, and drainage canals. The detrimental effects of this infrastructure can be seen in the rapid erosion and land subsidence of coastal Louisiana. The discussions that followed signaled a paradigm shift away from categorical, binary thinking. However, as Elizabeth Meyer, FASLA, Associate Professor in Landscape Architecture at UVA, cautioned, this is not an entirely new way of thinking.

Dirk Sijmons, principal at H+N+S Landscape Architects in the Netherlands, appointed as the curator of the next International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, described one such paradigm shift in the Dutch perception of nature. A whale, dubbed Johannes by the media, was recently found disoriented and stranded in the shallow waters off the coast of Holland, creating a public outcry and remarkable efforts to save it and steer it back out to sea. While, sadly, the attempt to save the whale wasn’t successful, it illustrated to Sijmons how much had changed for the Dutch, who were known for their whaling operations as recently as the WW II era. The whale transformed “from a matter of fact to a matter of concern,” a hyperobject, explained Sijmons.

This shifting perception of nature is coupled with the increasing influence of humans on earth’s systems. We have entered a new geologic era called the Anthropocene. Human intervention has altered the geochemical cycles in measurable ways. Humans have influenced sediment flows, ocean currents, climate, biodiversity, and land use. Sijmons suggested that these cycles and processes are not only being altered, but hybridized and can be considered hyperobjects. Moreover, new technologies are, in a sense, enabling the earth to become self-aware. For example, through space imagery, we can more clearly understand the earth as an animate object. The blurred boundary between society and nature necessitates that we reconsider the terms and their conceptions. The 6th Biennale Sijmons is curating, titled “Urban by Nature,” is meant to highlight urban metabolism. The hypothesis of this Biennale is that “these urban tapestries are our nature, our ecology, our habitat, all rolled in one,” says Sijmons.

Responding to Sijmons, Meyer challenged the participants to consider “what is different today in our understanding of these hybrids?” The notion of a hybridized nature is not a new one. Olmsted’s Back Bay Fens in Boston, for example, was a park integrated with a stormwater infrastructure. Meyer emphasized that geographer Erik Swyngedow, analyzing the writings of Karl Marx, wrote that urban metabolism is a socio-ecological process, not a socio-economic one. “Metabolism is more than a metaphor. It’s a way of describing the connection between how we work and the larger historical and geographical ground,” explained Meyer. Perhaps the scale of the issues facing us in the Anthropocene will lead to a more rapid paradigm shift. But Meyer warned, “do not assume that because it’s obvious to us, it’s obvious to everyone.”

Another analysis was offered by Claire Pentecost, a research-based artist. The role of the artist, she said, is to “bring a body of knowledge into a realm of connective tissues of desire and necessity.” Pentecost values bridging different specializations and the connections between bodies of knowledge. The projects she presented seek to stitch together scientific, agricultural, and economic elements and bring them into the realm of art. One such project, done as part of dOCUMENTA(13), deemed the “Olympics of the art world,” in Kassel, Germany, was part of an exhibit titled: “when you step inside you see that it is filled with seeds.” Pentecost quoted Gregory Bateson in describing the goals of her work: “the unit of survival is organism plus environment. We are learning by bitter experience that the organism which destroys its environment destroys itself.” In Pentecost’s project, the seed is the organism and the soil is the environment.

Soil is a microcosm of biologic activity. Yet soil is the number one export of the U.S., said Pentecost, only partially joking. It’s all being washed down the rivers; it has no value. Pentecost’s exhibit proposed soil as a system of currency, “which is ridiculous,” she said, laughing. But the work had a rigorous approach. The rich, composted soil was bound together into ingots using potato starch gluten and dried very slowly so as to maintain its biological life, which goes dormant when dry, but can be revived at a later time. The ingots were arranged on top of gilded glass pedestals for display in the exhibit. In a world where soil is only valued when it’s transformed into real estate, the ingots merged use value with sign value to convey a layered meaning.

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During the second set of roundtable presentations, Seth Denizen, researcher at the University of Hong Kong, pushed further into a discussion of soil. Weaving cultural studies and historical discoveries, such as the discovery of the ozone hole, Denizen questioned narratives and language associated with “world objects.” Following this, Martin Felsen, principal of UrbanLab, discussed his projects as part of a larger collaboration that reimagines stormwater systems in Chicago. This work confronts the limitations of centralized, large-scale conventional detention systems. Ryan Bishop, Professor of Global Arts and Politics at University of Southampton, echoed the symposium’s opening, reading a triptych-inspired piece. He questioned the effects of designing with discrete structure and stability in mind when referring to global historical events. In closing, Robin Dripps, Professor of Architecture at UVA, emphasized that objects must be considered in relation to the fields they are in. By positioning objects as fields, we can begin to better understand their being, permutations, and role.

One of the many salient points in the discussion was the human desire for purity. By putting nature and culture into distinct, rational categories, we miss the opportunity to address the quasi-objects that now make up our world. Perhaps as we enter the Anthropocene, interdisciplinary conversations like this one will enable us to begin to imagine solutions that we haven’t yet considered: solutions that are not solely technological, but rather are hybrid responses that take into account, as Meyer put it, the “porous boundary” between us and our environment.

This guest post is by Dasha Lebedeva, Masters of Landscape Architecture candidate, University of Virginia School of Architecture.

Image credits: (1) Urban by Nature / 6th architecture biennale Netherlands. Curator: Dirk Sijmons , (2) Soil ingots by Claire Pentecost as part of doCUMENTA / Art Asia

Great Gardens Get Their Own Tours

gardendialogue
“How do garden owners and their landscape architects or designers work together to create a great garden?” This is the question that gets answered in fascinating ways during each one of The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s Garden Dialogues. For every in-depth garden tour, TCLF asks the patrons and designers to de-mistify the creative process and explain how the collaboration led to a “great garden.”

This year, the What’s Out There Garden dialogue has expanded, providing opportunities to learn about more than three dozen contemporary and historic gardens across the U.S. The series kicks-off March 23-24 in several locations around Miami, Houston, and New Orleans. The series continues through August. Here are key dates and locations:

March 23-24 – Miami-area & Gulf Coast, FL; New Orleans, LA; and Houston, TX
April 6-7 – Phoenix, AZ
April 13-14 – Southern California
April 27-28 – Southern California; Connecticut
April dates TBD– New York; Portland, OR; Virginia; and Washington, DC
May 4-5 – Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
June 1-2 – New York City
June 15-16 – Kentucky
June, July and August dates TBD – Aspen, CO; San Francisco Bay-area, CA; the Hamptons, NY; New York State; Massachusetts; Minneapolis, MN; and Seattle, WA.

There are 10 tours available in the first set in March. Many look great, but here are a few highlights. In the Miami-area, there’s a tour of the Bacardi Estate. TCLF writes: “This garden features elegantly combined formal and informal elements, hints of English and French garden styles, and a lush, complex plant palette. The geometry of a central rectilinear pool radiates outward through the exquisite use of paving materials, steps and botanical colonnades.” Mario Nievera, ASLA, Nievera Williams, is giving two tours of luxurious residences: Casa de Miel and Magical Mediterranean Garden. In Houston, Texas, there’s a tour of the Weber Estate, a “heavily-wooded, 185-acre estate” that features a 20-acre Japanese-style garden. And in New Orleans, Louisiana, there’s a tour of Lemann Residence, which “fuses traditional New Orleans architecture with mid-century California Modernism.”

These tours are intimate, enlightening affairs. A tour last year of a newly-designed Modern landscape framing a Richard Neutra house in the Hollywood Hills was a memorable experience.

Space is limited. Tickets are $35.00 each. Register Now.

Also, check out TCLF’s upcoming day-long Civic Horticulture conference in Philadelphia, May 17. TCLF writes that the event will “take a look at Philadelphia’s use of horticulture and what that portends for the future of Philadelphia and elsewhere. We will examine issues through multiple lenses – health/lifestyle, environment, economy and sense of place – but this conference will be unique in putting plants first in developing criteria for holistic stewardship.” As always, TCLF offers a great line-up of landscape architects and designers. For this conference, watch presentations by Raymond Jungles, FASLA, Raymond Jungles, Inc; Mia Lehrer, FASLA, Mia Lehrer + Associates; Susan Weilier, FASLA, OLIN; Thomas Woltz, FASLA, Nelson Byrd Woltz; and more.

Image credit: The Bacardi Garden. Sanchez and Maddux, Inc / Photo copyright Robin Hill. Courtesy of TCLF