Teresa Galí-Izard: A Woman of Two Minds

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Teresa Galí-Izard, International ASLA, is a woman of two minds. At the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture, where she just began her first year as chair of the landscape architecture department, she explained, “I have the mind of my mother and the mind of my father.” Her mother’s family is made up of builders and architects, steeped in urban design. Her father’s family is one of educators and lovers of nature. She explained that because of these two minds, it was impossible for her to be anything but a landscape architect.

Galí-Izard melds her two minds in a powerful way in her designs. Each design is practical, functional and logical, while also being beautiful, inviting, and didactic. She achieves this balance by letting the site tell her how to proceed. Her overarching goal is the “transmission of this knowledge.” This knowledge to which she refers, I believe, is an intimate understanding of how “living systems” work.

Galí-Izard uses the term living systems to explain her vision of nature. She talks of landscape architects as being optimists. They change how people relate to living systems.

She also believes landscape architects should better understand and work with living systems, not as a palette of paints with which to make a pretty picture, but as a library of processes that can be harnessed within a design. She says of landscape architects, “we are builders of machines.”

She studied technical agricultural engineering (there was no field of landscape architecture in Spain), before going to France to work and study with Jacques Simon, her mentor. While in France, Galí-Izard was also influenced by French biologists Theodore Monod and Frances Hallé. Upon her return to Spain, she founded an office of landscape architecture and, in 2007, opened Arquitectura Agronomia with her partner, in life and work, Jordi Nebot.

Galí-Izard explained her process through six projects in Spain and one, currently underway, in Caracas, Venezuela.

TMB Parc, Barcelona

In this collaborative design, she designed a machine for collecting rainwater (see image at top and below). The design of the park, which was built above the cisterns, revealed the system of pipes below and “translated the rain into a shape.” The goal here was to “harvest the water in a clear way.”

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Parque de Los Cuentos, Málaga

Galí-Izard’s was part of a team that restored a monastery and repurposed it as a museum. She said it had to be “magical.” The irrigation was limited to the minimal rainwater that could be collected and stored in the arid climate of Malaga, Spain. Galí-Izard designed an ephemeral garden informed by the pattern of sprinklers on the site, which allowed the trees planted to build a strong root system.

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Estanque de Arriaga,  Vitoria

This lake had become a safety and management problem. Here she deployed her technical skills regulating water levels, separating the edge of the lake from the center, creating a tiered geometric reservoir. Galí-Izard’s design provided more calibrated maintenance of the reservoir, allowing for “delicate” management of water levels. Also, the separation of the central reservoir from a wide edge of shallow water made possible safe recreation. She thickened the threshold between edge and center with an intermediate depth to increase safety.

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Parc Odessa, Sabadell

The goal in this public park, built atop an old streambed, was ease of maintenance without sacrificing an interesting and diverse space. Galí-Izard countered the regulated pattern and geometry of the pavement  with a diverse  palette of plant species. With interesting paving of the path and a burst of annuals, she ensured the park would be inhabited immediately. Galí-Izard’s ability to deploy time as a design tool was at work here. Each plant group was given its moment.

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Parque Estación, Logroño  Rooftop Station

In this project, Galí-Izard had to deal with three rules: only 50 percent of the park could be irrigated; topographic changes would be marked by lines of shrubs accompanying trees; and open areas would be planted with grass. The park’s form was decided by the irrigation: only one type of sprinkler was used and its radius was 9 meters, the patterns followed. The plants and their arrangement were inspired by traditional uses of plants in the countryside as windbreaks and slope stabilizers.

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Parque. Hugo Chávez . Caracas

Currently underway, this design is a master plan for a park at the foot of a mountain. Galí-Izard approached this project as the mountain, saying “I am the mountain.” She is operating in the eco-tone where mountain meets city, developing options explaining how the mountain reacts to the city and how people react with the mountain. Here, the mountain is building the public space.

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Carme Revés Garden, Andorra

This project reflects Gali-Izard’s goal of helping people more deeply understand living systems. With her best friend’s mother as the client, she led the owner through a discovery of her garden in the Pyrenees. Not unlike how Galí-Izard would do with her students, she gave her client assignments, asking her to find the logic for the garden. This process of finding the logic through iterative design led to a space that deepened the relationship between owner and garden.

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This guest post is by Margaret Baldwin, Master’s of Landscape Architecture candidate, University of Virginia

Image credits: Teresa Galí-Izard

The Garden of Forking Paths

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Over the past 15 years, the Young Architects’ Program, which is sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and MoMA PS 1, has generated cutting-edge designs for parks, buildings, and public art. In four cities — New York City, Istanbul, Santiago, and Rome — winners of their design competitions have created some of the most fascinating landscape architecture and architecture around. In the past few years, winners have become even more ambitious, moving ideas from concept to reality. The scale has become more impressive, too, with a move from smaller temporary art installations to full-blown public parks.

Last years’ winner for the Santiago competition, The Garden of Forking Paths, by Beals & Lyon, a Santiago-based architecture firm, actually just got built. The 1,500-square-meter garden features a pair of bright-yellow pavilions nestled within a newly planted cornfield at the highest point of Santiago de Chile’s Parque Araucano. The park’s name is the same as one of Jorge Luis Borges’ short stories. In the Argentinian master’s story, a book called The Garden of Forking Paths is actually an “infinite labyrinth” in which people travel backwards and forward in time.

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The labyrinth is made real in this garden. According to Icon magazine, the “architects borrowed a layout from the labyrinth at the garden of Versailles, recreating its spatial character by building timber paths above ground level but lost to the outside world within the specially planted field of maize.”

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Alejandro Beals said: “We didn’t want to design a pavilion or folly, an isolated object to be looked at from the outside, but rather, an immersive environment.”

While the two pavilions, which are made of planks from recycled scaffolding, are both bright yellow, they have different vibes. One space offers a pool and deck chairs, with billowing curtains surround the space.

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The other, an “aromatic orchard,” contains a flower garden under a “stretched fabric tunnel.” Other spaces include a music room and “banqueting room.”

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Icon magazine tells us: “The entire strategy was to create a non-commercial, not fully defined environment in which people could get lost and perhaps have their attitude towards the spaces of the city refreshed. In this, the circuitousness of pathways, the ambiguity of the spaces, the isolation within the cornfield, combined with the intensified sounds and smells, all together were intended to heighten the sensory experience of the visitor, and as Beals puts it, to ‘promote a new rhythm that also allows you to perceive its surroundings in different and more intense ways’.” That effect will only increase once the maize grows in; it will be the same color as the pavilions.

See lots more images and explore previous winners of the Young Professionals Program.

Image credits: Beals & Lyon architects

Coming to an Empty Lot Near You: Free Mini Golf

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Free min-golf courses are popping up in the strangest places. In Amsterdam, playful forms invite players to “park and play” in an under-used parking lot, while in Detroit, Roosevelt Par shows how an abandoned lot between burnt-out buildings strewn with old cars can become a make-shift, albeit rough, urban playground.

In Amsterdam, Dutch firm NL architects has turned an expansive parking lot for the Harbor Club into a 9-hole mini-golf course. Design Boom writes that more of these DIY projects are popping-up there with the slow down in new building construction. With lots of empty lots, there are now opportunities in the Netherlands for pop-up gardens, farms, and, yes, now mini-golf.

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Organized by Carolien Ligtenberg, Platform Openbare Ruimte (POR), the architects were given a tiny budget of just 2,500 Euros. The inexpensive course was created with sod “grass carpet.”

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The playful design is meant to be a fun break for visitors to the club, giving them a chance to do something with their kids (see more images).

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In Detroit, students from Lawrence Technical University (LTU) worked with Jerry Paffendorf, co-founder of an art and music venue called “Imagination Station,” to create a scrap yard-chic course made of reused materials. Strewn throughout are the shells of dead cars, orange safety cones, and an abandoned sofa, writes The Detroit News.

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Roosevelt Par, which is free and BYOP, is actually an “inspired class project.” Each LTU student was put in charge of designing a course, procuring materials, and building it. The class raised money on Kickstarter, and lots of local firms donated materials, including recycled wood to build concrete slabs, the actual crushed concrete and the equipment needed to pour it, and scrap metal, fire cones, and tires for the gritty Detroit “hazards.”

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This one-of-a-kind course, which even includes a toilet hole, has 17 holes instead of the traditional 18. Steve Coy, the professor at LTU who conceived the project, told The Detroit News:  “It’s an untraditional course, and I think it’s funny to have an untraditional amount [of holes]. We call it ‘urban rules,’ so we’re creating our own style of course.”

Image credits: (1-5) Amsterdam Urban Mini Golf / NL Architects via Design Boom, (6-8) Detroit Roosevelt Par / Roosevelt Park Kickstarter Campaign

James van Sweden, Father of the New American Garden, Dies

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One of America’s most influential landscape architects, James van Sweden, FASLA, co-founder of Oehme van Sweden, died last week at age 78 from complications from Parkinson’s disease. Both a designer and prolific author, van Sweden is credited with changing the look and feel of the American landscape, introducing the “New American Garden” aesthetic, which included perennials and wild grasses. His influential gardens go beyond surface aesthetics though and had deeper impact. His free-flowing, grass-filled gardens led the way to today’s broader movement of more sustainable, ecologically-sound landscapes.

In a thoughtful obituary, Washington Post garden critic Adrian Higgins wrote that when Oehme and van Sweden first started their firm together back in 1975, they soon became internationally known for their “radically different approach to landscape design — replacing staid evergreen hedging, bedding annuals and groomed lawns with broad sweeps of long, flowering perennials and ornamental grasses. The vision was a rejection of passive vegetative architecture in favor of the bold massing of grasses and perennials that placed the observer in the midst of a living tapestry. The result was a garden that actively responded to light, wind and seasonal change.”

Many of van Sweden’s most famous work was created in the D.C. area, where Oehme van Sweden is based. Over the past few decades, he and his firm created memorable landscapes for the Federal Reserve, the National World War II Memorial, the Martin Luther King Memorial, the International Center embassy campus for the U.S. Department of State, and the Francis Scott Key Memorial Park, all in Washington D.C.

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Beyond the high-profile public and institutional work, he did residential gardens at all scales — from the private urban garden to the rural estate. As Higgins notes, van Sweden advocated for transforming spaces, no matter how urban or small, into prairie and meadow. The object, van Sweden wrote, was “to lead the eye deeper into a scene which is not completely revealed.” Gardens of any size could create “natural exuberance.”

According to Oehme van Sweden, he won numerous awards over his career. “Honors include the Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s prestigious George Robert White Medal of Honor, awarded to him and Mr. Oehme in recognition of efforts to advance interest in horticulture; the Thomas Roland Gold Medal, the University of Michigan’s Distinguished Alumni Award; the American Horticultural Society’s Landscape Design Award; and The American Society of Landscape Architects’ Design Medal. In 2011, he shared the Longhouse Landscape Award with Mr. Oehme and Firm Partners Sheila Brady, Lisa Delplace and Eric Groft.”

van Sweden’s most recent books include The Artful Garden: Creative Inspiration for Landscape Design (2011), Architecture in the Garden (2003), and Gardening with Nature (1997).

Read Adrian Higgins’ obituary and check out The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s in-depth oral history with van Sweden.

Image credit: (1) James van Sweden, FASLA. Oehme van Sweden, (2-5) Federal Reserve, Washington, D.C. / copyright Roger Foley. Oehme van Sweden

A Playful New Monks Garden

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The newly-redesigned Monks Garden just opened at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. At just 7,500 square feet, this intimate jewel of a garden shows how Michael Van Valkenburgh, FASLA, is both a master of the large park and small garden.

A tall brick wall encloses the space. Within, Van Valkenburgh maximizes circulation with a serpentine path of black brick, a play on Boston’s ubiquitous brick architecture. The winding trail, which also shines with mica schist, is the garden’s most striking feature.

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And one can feel that it’s intentionally designed to be impractical. Instead of being a means to get from Point A to Point B, the path is designed for aimless wandering. Van Valkenburgh said “he thought of the garden as a place to get lost.”

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Favoring whimsy over function is really a response to the museum itself, which was considered outlandish for its time and is still not organized around traditional themes. As Van Valkenburgh described, the museum isn’t practical, nor was Isabella Stewart Gardner a particularly practical woman. With his design, he wanted to “do something that lives up to the museum.”

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In keeping with the unconventional approach, Van Valkenburgh wanted the space to appeal to children. Feeling that “kids hate museums,” he designed the garden as a place for them to run, hide, and play amid the 60-plus miniature Stewartia, Paperback Maple, and grey birch trees.

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Van Valkenburgh emphasized that while the garden’s form is beautiful from an aerial perspective, it’s really about the sensory experience being in the space. To that end, the garden’s planting design stresses seasonal variation, making it appealing year-round. There are bulbs for the spring, late summer day lilies, winter-blooming Lenten roses, and four varieties of Camellias. There are nice places to sit and have those experiences, on basic grey chairs that are both there and not there.

Far from a rarefied courtyard, Monks Garden’s playful design enters a dialogue with the eccentric museum it inhabits. Appropriately, Van Valkenburgh declared, “I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun designing a garden.”

This guest post is by Ben Wellington, ASLA 2012 summer intern and master’s of landscape architecture graduate, Louisiana State University.

Image credits: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The High Line Boosts Public Art

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In recent years, the High Line has been adding interesting art along its length and even on the billboards facing the linear park. Now, public art seems to be spreading outwards into neighboring Chelsea, a long-time destination for pricey galleries. Near the High line, a former gas station on 10th avenue has been turned into Sheep Station, a surrealist sculptural landscape.

There are dozens of sculpted sheep set on grass among the pumps and station.

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The sheep were created by French artist François-xavier Lalannen, who died in 2008. This piece is the largest collection of Lalanne’s iconic “moutons.” Now, his son, also an artist, has picked up and carried his legacy forward

This is just the first exhibition. More are coming at Getty Station, now a temporary art space (see more images at DesignBoom).

Beyond the sheep, there’s a lot more to see commissioned by the High Line next to or actually on the park. Viewable from the rails, Gilbert and George’s Waking, a new billboard piece, “represents the primal life forces at their most formative and explosive stages.”

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Then, there’s the exhibition “Busted,” offering a new series of contemporary busts amid the High Line’s public gardens. One artist, Steven Claydon, created UNLIMITEDS & LIMITERS, which humorously plays with the idea of the traditional bust, with doubles in resin and concrete.

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Ruby Neri created Before a Framework, a woman leaning against a window frame. “By casting in bronze a figure portrayed in a meditative pose, the artist creates a composition which appears as a strange hybrid between vernacular art and classical sculpture.”

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And then there’s a new piece on former Secretary of State Colin Powell by Goshka Macuga, a Polish artist who creates works around “singular historical episodes.” Here, Macuga, inspired by Picasso’s Guernica, puts into bronze Powell’s controversial speech to the U.N. Security Council on Iraq and its supposed weapons of mass destruction.

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Lastly, along the unfinished High Line at the Rail Yards, which will eventually become part of the third and final segment of the park, the High Line have placed Caterpillar, another set of sculptures by Carol Bove, this time only viewable through an arranged tour.

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Other linear parks are also becoming green platforms for viewing public art. The new Bloomingdale Trail (just re-branded “The 606”) will set aside spaces for specially-commissioned sculpture and light and sound installations throughout its 3-miles. In fact, Francis Whitehead, a Chicago-based artist shared equal billing with landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and Collins Engineering as co-designers of the park and its new outdoor exhibition spaces.

Image credit: (1-3) Getty Station, (4-9) The High Line

Introducing The Landscape Architect’s Guide to Boston

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From the Emerald Necklace to the Freedom Trail Sites, Boston’s green spaces are revered by tourists and locals alike. The Landscape Architect’s Guide to Boston, launched today by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), offers insider information about these designed landscapes and others you may not have heard of. This web site has been launched in advance of ASLA’s annual meeting in Boston, November 15-18.

Twelve million people visit Boston annually, but most of those visitors possess only a rudimentary knowledge of the city’s landscapes and restrict their travel to the well-established tourist routes. With a tap of their smartphones, people can deepen their knowledge through expert commentary and more than 1,100 photos provided by 28 landscape architects.

Thomas R. Tavella, FASLA, president of ASLA, says that the guide is the first-ever website that describes 100 historic, modern and contemporary landscapes in Boston, Cambridge and Brookline—and explains why they captivate. It highlights historic monuments and parks and examples of new sustainable works—including Raymond V. Mellone Park, a cutting-edge park that also manages stormwater, and Condor Street Urban Wild, which caps toxic soils to create a new wildlife habitat and urban respite.

“This guide will answer questions you didn’t know you had about your favorite neighborhood parks and other landscapes,” says Tavella. “Boston’s vibrant public realm didn’t just magically appear but was carefully designed over the years, and is continually evolving, through interactions among elected leaders, communities and landscape architects.”

Boston has long been a trendsetter when it comes to urban design and sustainability. Its landscape architects have played a crucial role in making the city a better place to live, starting in the late 19th century, when Frederick Law Olmsted designed the Emerald Necklace, to today’s generation of landscape architects who are creating waterfront parks and beloved green spaces. Boston ranks in the top 10 nationally for sustainability, park space, and quality of life, in large part because its designed landscapes are integral to its urban fabric.

The guide is divided into 26 distinct tours in diverse neighborhoods in Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline. Each tour covers multiple neighborhoods, and includes a printable walking or biking map for easy exploration.

The guide was created by ASLA in partnership with 28 nationally recognized landscape architects, all of whom are designers of the public realm and leaders in sustainable design. The guides were asked to explain the sites from a landscape architect’s point of view and show how the design of these sites influences how people interact with or even feel about these places.

The guides are:

•    Cathy Baker-Eclipse, ASLA, Boston Parks and Recreation Department
•    Maria Bellalta, ASLA, Boston Architectural College
•    Deneen Crosby, ASLA, Crosby | Schlessinger | Smallridge
•    Melissa Desjardins, ASLA, Dan Gordon Associates
•    Joe Geller, FASLA, Stantec Consulting
•    Lynne Giesecke, ASLA, Studio2112 Landscape Architecture
•    John Haven, ASLA, Keith LeBlanc Landscape Architecture
•    Gary Hilderbrand, FASLA, Reed Hilderbrand
•    Carol Johnson, FASLA, Carol R. Johnson Associates
•    Cortney Kirk, ASLA, Copley Wolff Design Group
•    Mary Lydecker, ASLA, Hargreaves Associates
•    Bill Madden, ASLA, Mikyoung Kim Design
•    Jeremy Martin, ASLA, Hargreaves Associates
•    Kaki Martin, ASLA, Klopfer Martin Design Group
•    Grace Ng, Student ASLA, Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation, National Park Service
•    Marion Pressley, FASLA, Pressley Associates Landscape Architects
•    Robyn Reed, ASLA, Landworks Studio
•    Susannah Ross, ASLA, Sasaki
•    James Royce, ASLA, Studio2112 Landscape Architecture
•    Michael Sadler, ASLA, Boston Architectural College
•    JP Shadley, FASLA, Shadley Associates Landscape Architects
•    Cynthia Smith, FASLA, Halvorson Design Partnership
•    Laura Solano, ASLA, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates
•    Laura Tenny, ASLA, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
•    Kenya Thompson, ASLA, Boston Redevelopment Authority
•    Jennifer Toole, ASLA, Toole Design Group
•    Robert Uhlig, ASLA, Halvorson Design Partnership
•    Gabrielle Weiss, Copley Wolff Design Group

List of Sites Featured in the Guide

Back Bay
Copley Square
First Church

Boston / Cambridge Bike Network

Brookline
Fairsted, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site

Cambridge
Cambridge Commons
John F. Kennedy Memorial Park
Longfellow House
Mount Auburn Cemetery

Cambridge: Harvard University
Harvard Yard
The Plaza
Tanner Fountain
LISE and Science Center Courtyards
Northwest Laboratory Courtyard
Rockefeller Hall
Cabot Courtyard and Frisbie Place

Cambridge: MIT
Ray and Maria Stata Center Landscape
North Court and Main Street
MIT’s Public Art Collection
Killian Court

Charlestown
Bunker Hill Monument
John Harvard Mall
City Square Park
The Harborwalk
Charlestown Navy Yard
Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital

Charles River
Charles River Esplanade
Nashua Street Park
Lechmere Canal Park
North Point Park
Paul Revere Park

Dorchester
JFK Presidential Library and Museum
Pope John Paul II Park

East Boston
East Boston Greenway
Piers Park
HarborArts
Condor Street Urban Wild

Emerald Necklace
Boston Common
Boston Public Garden
Commonwealth Avenue Mall
Back Bay Fens
The Riverway
Olmsted Park
Jamaica Pond
Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University
Franklin Park

Fenway / Kenmore
Fenway Park and Yawkey Way
Fenway Victory Gardens
The Robert McBride House
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Courtyard
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Christian Science Center Plaza

Financial District / Government Center
Granary Burying Ground
King’s Chapel Burying Ground
City Hall Plaza
The Garden of Peace
Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park
Long Wharf
Central Wharf Plaza
Post Office Square Park

Harbor Islands
Georges Island
Little Brewster Island and Boston Light
Peddocks Island
Spectacle Island

Jamaica Plain
South Street Mall
Allandale Woods

Lower Alston
Raymond V. Mellone Park

Mission Hill
Levinson Plaza
Kevin W. Fitzgerald Park

North End
Paul Revere House Plaza and North Square
The Prado
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground and Terrace

Public Alleys Bicycle Tour

Rose F. Kennedy Greenway
Chinatown Park
Dewey Square
Fort Point Channel Parks and Urban Arboretum
Wharf District Parks
Armenian Heritage Park
North End Parks

Roslindale
Forest Hills Cemetery

Roxbury
Cedar Street Gardens
Highland Park and Fort Hill
Malcom X Park
Horatio Harris Park
Puddingstone Garden

Southwest Corridor Park

South Boston
Fort Point Channel and Boston Children’s Museum
South Boston Waterfront
Pleasure Bay and Castle Island
Broadway
William Day Boulevard and Carson Beach Harborwalk

South End
Harriet Tubman Park
Berkeley Community Garden
LandWave
Blackstone Square and Franklin Square

West Roxbury
Millennium Park
Brook Farm

The Boston guide is the second produced by ASLA. The Landscape Architect’s Guide to Washington, D.C. was launched last year and so far has received more than 100,000 page views.

Image credit: Wharf District Parks, Rose F. Kennedy Greenway / John Horner via Copley Wolff Design Group

ASLA Launches New Guide on Health Benefits of Nature

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A growing body of research proves what we all know to be true—nature is good for us. A new online guide launched today by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) showcases the long- and short-term mental and physical health benefits of spending time outside.

“We created this guide to expand public awareness about the benefits of green spaces, as well as to urge people to get out and take advantage of the designed and natural landscapes available to them,” said Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, CEO of ASLA. “This online resource fully documents the benefits of interacting with nature.”

The guide, part of ASLA’s series of sustainable design resource guides and toolkits, includes hundreds of free research studies by leading scientists, news articles, and case studies of parks and other designed green spaces. Resources, which have been reviewed by expert advisers, are organized into 23 health issues that affect adults and children, including asthma, depression, chronic stress, obesity, and autism spectrum disorders. Each issue is organized by a description of the health problem, how nature helps, and the role of landscape architects in solving the problem.

For instance, here are four things you should know about obesity, nature, and landscape architecture:

  • More than a third of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Harvard Medical School calculates that walking outside at a moderate pace burns 149 calories in a half hour; a combo of walking and jogging (where you jog for more than 10 minutes of the half hour) burns 223 calories; and biking at a moderate speed for a half hour burns 372 calories.
  • Walking in a park or along a tree-lined street not only combats obesity but also improves cognition and mood and helps fight stress.
  • Landscape architects design walkable communities that allow people to get out of their cars.

The resource focuses on the benefits of not only natural wilderness but also community parks and green spaces designed by landscape architects. Nature in urban and suburban communities can provide great benefits, as it offers a break from the everyday stressors in our busy day-to-day lives. Landscape architects play a critical role in creating access to nature in these communities and designing green places that are safe, beautiful, and restorative.

This guide shows communities how they can work with landscape architects to better integrate nature into the built environment. Greener neighborhoods, with easy access to parks and trails, offer more opportunities to get outside and exercise, whether it’s biking, jogging, or walking, or using an outdoor fitness facility. Green spaces can also be designed to be therapeutic landscapes, providing healing benefits for those with a range of physical and mental health issues.

Explore the guide.

This guide is a living resource so the public is invited to submit additional research studies, news articles, and case studies. Please e-mail them to ASLA at info@asla.org

Image credit: ASLA 2010 Landmark Award. Bryant Park, NYC. OLIN / Peter Mauss, ESTO

Transportation Systems That Do More Than Move People

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The Metro do Porto in Porto, Portugal, and the Northeastern Urban Integration Project in Medellín, Colombia, just won Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s Veronica Rudge Green Prize in Urban Design. The winners are not just transportation systems though. They also “advance social mobility and reinvigorate public spaces.” These projects use new transportation infrastructure to “repair and regenerate” cities. According to the awards jury, both urban designs highlight the potential for “thoughtfully planned and carefully executed mobility infrastructure to transform a city and region.”

The Metro do Porto in Porto, Portugal, was designed by Architect Eduardo Souto de Moura for the local transport authority Metro do Porto. The Northeastern Urban Integration Project in Medellín, Colombia, was sponsored by the City of Medellín and designed by architect Alejandro Echeverri.

Rahul Mehrotra, professor of urban design and planning, Harvard GSD, and jury chair said: “If there are lessons to be drawn for urban design from Medellín and Porto, I think the broader lesson has to do with the disruption of the segregation of the disciplines in the design field. Historically, we have understood that landscape architecture sits in one place, architecture in another, and urban design and planning in another. They have been in constant conflict about their territorial rights. One of the things that is revolutionary about the Medellín project is that distinguishing among the disciplines is no longer possible.”

Metro do Porto, Porto

Metro do Porto (see image above) is comprised of 70 kilometers of new surface and underground track and sixty metro stations, which were created over 10 years in this historic city, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The region surrounding Porto includes sixteen municipalities, which have undergone “intense demographic change and socioeconomic restructuring.” The new metro is designed to provide a “future template for a cohesive and resilient regional pattern.”

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Harvard GSD writes: “At the scale of the region, Metro do Porto not only connects residents on the periphery with amenities and services in the historic city, it also forges a collective identity through its negotiation of the region’s unique geography, and the deliberate composition of individual stations in relation to that geography. At the neighborhood scale, new stations become opportunities to connect previously segregated communities while rehabilitating public space to the highest standard. At the architectural or human scale, the experience of each station—as objects within a culturally rich urban landscape, and as interior architectures imbued with civic virtues—is exceptional due to their spatial and material quality.”

Northeastern Urban Integration Project, Medellín

In 2004, Medellín city government officials launched the Northeastern Urban Integration Project (Proyecto Urbano Integral, or PUI) to capture new opportunities from its MetroCable, a cable-car project connecting three “informal” settlements to the local metro system. “In concert with the MetroCable, the PUI has made a significant contribution toward improving the quality of life for approximately 170,000 residents experiencing severe social inequality, poverty, and violence.”

According to Harvard GSD, MetroCable succeeded in integrating marginalized, off-the-grid communities into the mainstream of Medellín. “By reducing travel times to the city center from over an hour to less than ten minutes, the MetroCable has enhanced access to employment opportunities and eroded the boundary between the formal and informal city.”

To further strengthen these transportation systems with a system of open spaces, designers met with the local communities to find out what types of spaces they wanted. What was once just a transportation system became “mobility infrastructure of substantial scale with various civic, commercial, and institutional functions.” Around each cable car station, the city created new parks and playgrounds.

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Streets below the cable car networks were also redesigned to offer more public space.

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The esteemed jury, which was was chaired by Rahul Mehrotra, Professor of Urban Design and Planning and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design, Harvard GSD, included two Harvard landscape architecture professors: Anita Berrizbeitia, ASLA, and Gary Hilderbrand, FASLA.

The first Veronica Rudge Green Prize in Urban Design was given in 1986. Previous recipients include the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project in Seoul, Korea, by the Seoul Metropolitan Government (2010), which also won an ASLA professional design award; the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, Washington, by Weiss/Manfredi (2007); the Rehabilitation of the Old City of Aleppo, Syria, by the City of Aleppo (2005); and Borneo Sporenburg Residential Waterfront in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, by Adriaan Geuze/West 8 (2002).

Image credits: Harvard University GSD

From the Future: A Smarter Highway

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While Google is racing ahead to create a data-driven, self-driving car, one Dutch designer is working on the opposite end: designing a smart highway that will communicate with your car. As one of the winners of this year’s Index awards, which comes with a €100,000 prize, Daan Roosegaarde, collaborating with Hijmans Infrastructure, will test out a road that will “communicate with its drivers in order to promote both traffic safety and efficiency.”

Roosegaarde writes: “We live in cities of endless gray concrete roads, surrounded by steel lamps and they have a huge visual impact on our cities. But why do the roads remain so rough and without imagination? Why not turn them into a vision of mobility – a symbol of the future?”

His smart highway concept is pretty mind-bending. He wants to embed highways with technology that can “visually communicate when the road is slippery,” actually charge your electric vehicle as you drive, and use its own electricity to create spot lighting as needed. “The goal is to make roads more sustainable and interactive by using light, energy and road signs that automatically adapt to the traffic situation. New design concepts include the ‘Glow-in-the-Dark Road’, ‘Dynamic Paint’, ‘Interactive Light’, ‘Induction Priority Lane’ and ‘Wind Light’.”

The roads would be covered in a kind of responsive paint so that if the temperature dropped below freezing and it started raining, the paint would turn on, covering the road in snowflakes.

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At night, the road could actually light itself, which Roosegaarde thinks would be more efficient. “Glow-in-the-dark paint treated with photo-luminizing powder could reduce the need for auxiliary lighting. Charged in daylight, the glow-in-the-dark road illuminates the contours of the road at night for up to 10 hours.”

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With his pot of money, Roosegaarde wants to further develop and even patent these technologies. He sees other wild applications, like “taking the bioluminescence of jellyfish or fireflies and applying this to nature, thus making roadside plants and trees glow at night as an alternative to public lighting – resulting in a 100 percent new natural lighting.”

A few other projects also won Index awards. One certainly worth highlighting is Copenhagen’s climate change adaption plan. Index writes: “Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, found a way to connect and address the climate changes in one master plan. The city’s Climate Adaptation Plan aims to prepare Copenhagen for the future by developing the Danish capital as a climate proof, attractive, and green city.”

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While municipalities in Denmark must create climate action plans, Copenhagen has actually gone a step further, creating a plan that “can be of pleasure and benefit to the city immediately.”

They write: “The Copenhagen Climate Adaptation Plan really stands out with its main focus on seeing flooding and climate adaptation as a resource rather than a problem, benefiting businesses and citizens alike. Thus, by rethinking climate adaptations as a whole, via in-depth analyzes, the Danish capital will use excess water as a vital resource – while implementing flexible design solutions that reduce construction work and saves money for the city.”

Index: Design to Improve Life is a Danish non-profit organization “under the patronage of HRH The Crown Prince of Denmark.”

Image credits: (1-3) Smart / Highway / Index: Design to Improve Life, (4) Copenhagen Flooding / Index: Design to Improve Life,