Safer Street Design Can Spare Tens of Thousands

More than 47,000 people were killed while walking in the U.S. between 2003 and 2012, a rate that has been rising in the last few years. The majority of those deaths could have likely been prevented with safer street design, according to Dangerous by Design 2014, a new report released today by the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America, in conjunction with AARP and American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

The report also ranks America’s major metropolitan areas according to a pedestrian danger index that assesses how safe pedestrians are while walking. The four most dangerous — Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Miami — are all in Florida. The others in the top-10 most dangerous list are: Memphis, Phoenix, Houston, Birmingham (new to this year’s top 10), Atlanta, and Charlotte.

“We are allowing an epidemic of pedestrian fatalities — brought on by streets designed for speed and not safety — to take nearly 5,000 lives a year. This number increased six percent between 2011 and 2012,” said Roger Millar, director of the National Complete Streets Coalition. “Not only is that number simply too high, but these deaths are easily prevented through policy, design, and practice. State and local transportation leaders need to prioritize the implementation of complete streets policies that keep everyone safe.”

The report presents data on pedestrian fatalities and injuries in every U.S. metro area, as well as state by state assessments and an online, interactive map showing the locations where pedestrian fatalities have occurred.

More than 676,000 pedestrians were injured over the decade, equivalent to a pedestrian being struck by a car or truck every eight minutes. That rate increases significantly for more vulnerable populations such as older adults, children, and people of color.

While just 12.6 percent of the total population, those over the age of 65 years old account for nearly 21 percent of pedestrian fatalities nationwide. “Older persons account for one in every five pedestrian fatalities and have the greatest fatality rate of any population group,” said AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond. “America’s state, federal, and community leaders should focus on making our streets safer, which will benefit everyone, including the growing number of older Americans.”

Children 15 years and younger represent a significantly at-risk population, and fatal pedestrian injury remains a leading cause of death. Between 2003 and 2010 (the most recent year for which data is available about children), 4,394 children were killed while walking.

Among people of color, blacks and African Americans suffer a pedestrian fatality 60 percent higher than non-Hispanic whites, and Hispanics of any race have a rate nearly 43 percent higher.

The majority of pedestrian deaths occur on roadways that encourage speeding, and speeding is a factor in nearly one-third of all traffic fatalities. The report finds that these deaths can be prevented through changes to the design of our streets: providing sidewalks, installing high-visibility crosswalks and refuge islands, and calming traffic speeds.

This has proved true for roads such as NE 125th St. in Seattle, WA. In 2011, the city added a marked crosswalk, reduced the number of travel lanes, and installed bike lanes, along with other measures, to provide for the safety of pedestrians in a high-crash corridor where 87 percent of drivers were speeding. The modifications have reduced the rate of collisions by 10 percent and speeding by 11 percent and led to more people walking and biking along the roadway.

“More and more Americans are choosing communities that are walkable and accessible for pedestrians, children and older Americans, but that shouldn’t be a luxury,” said Nancy Somerville, Executive Vice President & CEO of ASLA. “Simple and affordable additions or retrofits to traffic signals, pedestrian islands, and sidewalks can make a huge difference in safety and protection.”

The report recommends states take action to improve safety for pedestrians in communities nationwide:

  • Increase the available funding and maximize the use of existing federal programs for walking and bicycling projects.
  • Adopt a complete streets policy and comprehensive implementation plan.
  • Emphasize walking and bicycling in the strategic highway safety plan (SHSP).
  • Reform measures of congestion, such as level of service, to account for the needs of all travelers.
  • Update design policies and standards.
  • Standardize and gather more comprehensive data on pedestrian crashes.
  • Give local cities and towns more control over their own speed limits.
  • Encourage collaboration across transportation, public health, and law enforcement agencies.

Read the report.

The Landscape Imagination

The Landscape Imagination / Princeton Architectural Press

As the author of canonical texts — and now built projects like the High Line in New York City — James Corner, ASLA, founder of Field Operations, has achieved a unique stature in contemporary landscape architecture. The Landscape Imagination: Collected Essays of James Corner, 1990-2010, a new collection of his written work, thus serves as a sort of mid-career retrospective. The book brings together the bulk of Corner’s writings over the last two decades — from the early theoretical arguments of a young academic struggling to move the discipline beyond Ian McHarg’s ecological determinism, to an eminent practitioner discussing his major public parks.

ASLA 2013 Professional General Design Honor Award. High Line, Section 2 by James Corner Field Operations / Iwan Baan

Corner’s initial contributions to landscape theory lean heavily on Heidegger and hermeneutics, giving intellectual weight to Corner’s mission to rescue landscape architecture from a period of stagnation and seeming irrelevance to contemporary culture. “In a globalized context of rapid and expedient production,” Corner writes, “landscape must appear an antiquated medium and, its design, a fringe activity sustained through the eccentric passions of a handful of romantics and nature-lovers.” That landscape architecture would never appear so today is the result of a shift Corner contributed to in a fundamental way.

Corner’s writings on representation and landscape urbanism chart new and exciting territory for the field. Some of Corner’s essays are classics and mainstays of landscape architecture syllabi. In this volume they appear all together and accompanied by full-color images.

Pivot Irrigators / James Corner

Rather than the concrete arguments found in books like Corner’s Recovering Landscape (1999) or Charles Waldheim’s Landscape Urbanism Reader (2002), to which Corner contributed, The Landscape Imagination follows Corner’s evolving concerns. These extend from drawing and mapping both in and as design — to the role of landscape in and as urbanism.

Always in tension are the landscapes of the mind and the site. But Corner seeks to defy and transcend these distinctions as he expands landscape’s conceptual scope. Corner focuses on ecology while also emphasizing landscape as a cultural project dealing in meaning, creativity, and imagination — hence the title of the collection. He shows us the through-line from theory to practice.

The more recent texts focus on built or proposed projects by Corner’s firm Field Operations. “Critical experimentation in action,” Corner calls them. They are the works of a mature practitioner and landscape visionary, whose intellectual rigor and influential practice have set the terms for landscape in contemporary life.

Read the book.

This guest post is by Mariana Mogilevich, PhD, assistant professor, metropolitan studies program, New York University.

ASLA Allies Outline Visions for the Future

ASLA 2013 Professional General Design Honor Award. The High Line, Section 2 by James Corner Field Operations / Iwan Baan

ASLA President Mark Focht, FASLA, first deputy commissioner of the Philadelphia Parks department, invited the heads of four allied organizations to speak to the ASLA board and chapter leadership last week about what they perceive to be future opportunities and challenges.

Patrick Phillips, CEO of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) — who was trained as a landscape architect but ended up going into real estate economics — said ULI will continue its focus on both the global and the local. They will further expand overseas, “bringing our non-ideological perspective to urban development” to Asia and Africa, while also strengthening their local councils, which focus on the issues of immediate concern to communities. At this scale, Phillips said “education — reaching out to thousands of local high schools — is a priority.”

Long-time friend of landscape architects, Paul Farmer, CEO of the American Planning Association (APA), said “our collaboration with ASLA has been excellent.” Farmer, who is retiring from APA this summer, said “planning is about outcomes, using a open and transparent process to create what people want: livable neighborhoods and clean air and water.” Farmer said APA will increasingly focus on the “social side of sustainability — the equity side. Most organizations are too focused on the environmental or economic side of sustainability.”

He said APA is now providing direct assistance to around a third of its chapters to fight anti-planning efforts led by the Tea Party movement. “There are draconian bills coming up in legislatures, but only the one in Alabama passed.” Farmer was dismayed by this development, as “just a few years ago, smart growth was an issue both Democrats and Republicans could agree upon. Now everything is totally polarized. So our assistance is defensive. But polls still tell us that there is tremendous public support for planning.”

Barbara Tulipane, National Parks and Recreation Association (NRPA) outlined her group’s new approach to communications. She said when speaking with public officials, “we have to sell them on the many benefits of parks — how parks save us money or make us money — but when NRPA is focused on reaching the public, we use common language.” Parks are about forging “a real emotional connection with nature.” As an example, she pulled up a quote from one happy park-goer: “that was the best day of my life!”

With 40,000 members, NRPA will focus on “ensuring 300 million Americans have access to a place to play and connect with nature and each other.” Half of members are professionals and the other half are park-lovers. “So we are not about the profession of park management but the parks.” Tulipane said “parks are essential to smart growth. Parks are a solution provider, offering benefits in terms of conservation, health and wellness, and social equity.”

Randall Over, head of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), said ASCE will ramp up efforts on dealing with climate change as an engineering challenge. “There, I said it, we openly talk about climate change. Climate change has changed our design standards. We need to design more resilient infrastructure. We need to focus on the social side of resilience, too, including who will operate and maintain infrastructure in the case of a serious climatic event.”

To encourage more “sustainable horizontal infrastructure,” ASCE will soon roll out Envision, a new rating system. “Some two out of every three projects that have been certified are landscapes.” Another 25 pilots are in the pipeline.

ASCE will also continue to get a lot of out of its well-known infrastructure report card. The U.S. has gone up from a D to a D+. “We do this to get action.” Over also mentioned a $15 million fundraising campaign now underway to finance an IMAX movie about the wonders of engineering.

Hugh Livingston’s Sonic Landscapes

The Pool of ‘Bamboo Counterpoint’ / Hugh Livingston

“I listen to a place, record its sounds and then look for the empty spaces. I put the music in the gaps,” said Hugh Livingston, a sound artist, explaining his new sonic landscape commissioned by Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. His approach fits with the “niche hypothesis,” which posits that all species in a biological environment seek out their own frequency to communicate in so they don’t compete with each other. Like other living things, Livingston said, “I don’t compete with nature. I complement.”

For his new installation, which is called The Pool of ‘Bamboo Counterpoint,’ Livingston miked the landscape, capturing sounds night after night to use in his sound piece. He discovered “sirens are going all night; air traffic is continuous.” He also recorded parts of Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks Concerto on an old Steinway at the museum. There are notes from a bamboo flute, given Lover’s Lane Pool, the site of the installation, is shielded by bamboo.

The sound is piped through 12 black speakers set on acrylic tubes in the pool, which has been dyed black. Livingston said the tubes refer to “organ pipes.”

The speakers are controlled by an “engine,” an algorithm running through some 600-800 variables. The algorithm separates the sound into 12 independent channels or fragments, creating “swirls and eddies” of sound when they come together for the listener. “The fragments are echoed, like they are spinning in another directios. It creates the feeling of three dimensional space. It’s like two pianists improvising off of each other.”

The engine creates patterns but they don’t repeat. “Some segments are contemplative, with simple drops of water, while others are dense and active.” The overall effect is like a “chorus milling about backstage at an Italian opera house. Something is about to happen but it’s not quite clear what it is.”

Livingston said the sounds from the installation also interact with the landscape, with humidity, light, and wind.

Still, he believes his works are “no substitute for nature. This is just like a sculpture to be experienced in the landscape.” If anything, Livingston says, his goal is to get us to listen more closely, so “we hear other things elsewhere in the garden.”

Listen to The Pool of ‘Bamboo Counterpoint.’

Also, check out Livingston’s homage to the birds of Russian River:

And his Russian River opera:

A Sense of the Past

Wild Bergamot in a Prairie / Prairie State Outdoors

At a conference on sound and scent in the garden at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. landscape historians delved into spaces of the past in an attempt to unearth historic sensory experiences. A question that ran through all the lectures was: can we ever get a true sense of what it felt like to be in a place that no longer exists?

Barbara Burlison Mooney, University of Iowa, gave us a deeper sense of what the great Illinois prairies sounded and smelled like. She said tall grass prairies are not a designed landscape — “they are really the antithesis of Versaille” — but they were still managed. Native Americans set fire to the grasslands so as to sprout the small green shoots that would bring bison. Today, just small parcels of the original American grasslands remain. What’s left has inspired landscape architects such as Jens Jensen and James van Sweden, who have attempted to replicate the beauty of these grass landscapes everywhere.

Mooney said the first time settlers in the early 1800s saw the prairie they were totally overwhelmed by its “breathtaking magnitude.” Settlers traveling west would be in dense forest up until Ohio, when they started to experience meadows. Then, as they hit Indiana, the trees would disappear and the grasslands would open up for countless miles. Mooney said scholarship has “looked at the sight of the prairie, and artistic interpretations of it, but the auditory and olfactory experience is a more complex experience to relate.”

Mooney read from first-hand accounts of settlers who recorded their experiences crossing the prairie, including some of the first American naturalists. She played recordings of a range of birds, including wild fowl, songbirds, and turkeys; insects; dangerous animals like wolves, snakes, cougars; and less dangerous ones, like bullfrogs.

She described how scent, “our most memorable sense,” defined the prairie, too. “Prairie rose, bergamot, and sassafras all have sweet scents.” For the settlers, foul odors also foretold disaster. As an example, some of these settlers feared the smell of “bad water” and were overwhelmed by rotting vegetation.

“Early Illinois settlers understood the sensory experience of the prairie.” Unfortunately, their recounting is “unstable, limited, biased in describing ephemeral experiential cues.” The result may be we can get just a hint of what the prairie was like from these early accounts and modern sound recordings.

Mark Laird at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) described Strawberry Hill, a Gothic revival villa created by Horace Walpole, a politician, writer, and artist, in the late 1700s. Using letters Walpole wrote over five decades, Laird discovered some aspects of the historic sounds and smells, which helped guide recent restoration efforts.

Strawberry Hill by Paul Sandby / Wikipedia
Strawberry Hill today / Wikipedia

Restoring the sound and smell of a place is challenging, as nature changes. Laird said the sound of field crickets were mentioned in Walpole’s letters, but today, “they no longer exist in the UK,” except for three small managed populations. Similarly, the Landrail (or Corn Crake), which was once widespread, is now confined to small parcels of Scotland. There are just about 1,200 males left.

What Halpole yearned for most, Laird said from the letters, was the smell of the “lilac tide” and the sound of nightingales in late spring. Through intensive research, Laird discovered where the lilacs, roses, and lavender was planted, but, again, a changing world has robbed us of having a similar experience, as there are just 6,700 male nightingales left in the UK. Furthermore, “it’s a secretive bird that hides in bushes.”

So more historic sensory experiences don’t go extinct, Laird and John Beardsley, head of the landscape studies program at Dumbarton Oaks, discussed efforts to create a “world heritage of sound.”

For Anatole Tchikine, a post-doctoral student at Dumbarton Oaks, sensory experiences found in Italian gardens are all political. In the early 20th century, American writers such as Vernon Lee and Edith Wharton visited Italy many times. Wharton even wrote a book, Italian Villas and Their Gardens, which argued that Italian gardens can be defined simply by their use of “stone work, evergreens, and water.” Anything like flowers were extraneous to the sensory experience of the forms in the Italian garden.

The fascists picked up on this very limited definition of an Italian garden and used it for nationalistic purposes. Before, there was no singular Italian garden, but many local vernacular gardens. The fascists chose the Tuscan garden, making it the “national language, the trans-regional and trans-temporal garden. It became part of the national agenda, helping to create a shared national identity.”

Orti Oricellari in Tuscany / Wikipedia

Italian-style was then reclaimed from France, the UK, and elsewhere where it had been misappropriated. In 1931, during the Florence garden festival honoring Italian traditions, the Italian garden was presented as “rational, ordered, geometrical, with the emphasis of mind over body, conquest and domination over the expression of natural genius.” Tchikine said under the fascists, “Italian gardens became about intellect over experience, with an exception for sight, which was needed to experience form. Flowers were just an expression of form; they were not to be smelled.”

The sensory experience of water then became political, too. “Water has a volatile nature — it can be hot, cold, hard or soft. Water can be temporarily restrained but it can’t be subjugated.” Water was then threatening. Different themed fountains showed either militaristic installations or the trickster-nature of water, as “playful, bizarre, and unpredictable.”

The end result is Italian gardens became an “impoverished experience, filled with contradictory cliches. They became simple repositories of art works.”

Design and Construction Groups Launch Alliance for a Resilient Tomorrow

ASLA 2012 Professional General Award of Excellence. A Green Sponge for a Water-Resilient City: Qunli Stormwater Park by Turenscape / Kongjian Yu

At the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., leaders of twenty associations focused on the design, construction, operations, and management of the built environment announced the Alliance for a Resilient Tomorrow, a new partnership dedicating to promoting resilience across the board. The CEOs of the industry associations, which have more than 700,000 members generating almost $1 trillion in GDP, also used the occasion of “Building Safety Month” to issue a joint pledge on resilience.

The event featured panel discussions of several of the CEOs who have joined in this pledge:

“We, like so many in this room, realize that next steps must be taken to address disaster mitigation, resilience, and sustainability,” said Chase Rynd, Hon. ASLA., Executive Director, National Building Museum, which has just staged a major exhibition on designing for disaster.

Robert Ivy, CEO of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), said that the list of signatories was “broad and comprehensive” and included not only the design, planning, and engineering profession, but also client representatives. He noted that AIA’s members have been involved with issues of resilience for a long time and operate according to a “core set of ethics to design structures that are sound.” However, the world has changed due to climate change, which “takes us to another place.” He added that “this is the beginning, the first step” to addressing resilience in a changing world.

“Sustainability is part of the DNA of landscape architects, and resilience is a key part of sustainability,” said Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). “One of the major roles we’re now playing is making sure we share best practices and the results of what’s happening among our members.” She noted that, “while projects have always been designed for resilience, now there’s an additional emphasis placed on performance standards and tracking them. This will help ensure we not only influence design decisions but also development projects.”

Randy Fiser, Executive Vice President, American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), suggested watching communities to “see how they begin to evolve.” He added that “often times, we see communities destroyed by events. Subsequent conversations often focus on rebuilding the way it was.” Fiser sees the need to inform communities to take that leap forward.

“A history of events have already occurred in this country—hurricanes, tornadoes, and mudslides—and we now have a game plan, our statement signed today,” said Henry Green, President/CEO, National Institute of Building Science. He called for moving future discussions internally and engaging the media, which he said will make a huge difference.

“Infrastructure in the United States is in really bad shape and will have to be rebuilt in the coming years,” said Gayle Berens, senior vice president, Urban Land Institute (ULI). She also argued the rate of recovery in Sandy-affected areas is highly variable. Here, size matters: New York City is in great shape, but communities in New Jersey, with “part-time mayors,” really need help.

Tom Phoenix, President-Elect, ASHRAE, pointed out that the “economics of what we’re doing can’t be escaped. To be honest, nothing’s going to happen unless someone can pay for this. How do we educate building owners, especially in the private sector, that there’s a benefit to doing this?”

This guest post is by Karen Grajales, ASLA Public Relations Manager

Our Senses Snap Us Back to the Here and Now

Lavender field in Provence / Wikipedia

We can read about how sensory experiences in landscapes work on our minds by exploring the latest neuroscience, but there’s no replacement for just going out an experiencing a place. “Our senses snap us back to the here and now,” said D. Fairchild Ruggles, a professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, at a conference on sound and scent in the garden at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. One question, though, is: how can we use our senses in a place that no longer exists? This was the topic of discussion over a few days, as landscape historians explored the limits of words and pictures when describing landscapes of the past.

Ruggles said “vision has a privileged place in architectural history.” This is because too often architectural history is dedicated to “the pursuit of permanence.” In landscape architecture history, the most common visual is the site plan or aerial view. “But this visual representation doesn’t capture the sound or scent of the place.”

For centuries, Arab poets discussed the sensory experience of the garden. Unfortunately, today, “smells are elusive. Other than saying something is fragrant, what can we say? We compare it to something else. Something smells like… We have no sophisticated vocabulary.”

John Dixon Hunt, a landscape historian at the University of Pennsylvania, picked up the discussion, saying essentially that words and images fail us when we are trying to evoke the sound and smell of a place. “We can’t explain one person’s experiences to another. They are so subjective.” He said two people may walk through a landscape and have a “shared experience but will have different articulations, using different words, just as two painters viewing the same scene will paint it differently. Everyone has their own take. We are on our own in life.”

Given words fail, the experience of being in a historic place is lost. “We have to be depressed looking at the past because we can’t get to it. Modern landscape architects can only try to impart back or transpose things backwards.”

Still, Hunt called for a greater effort to communicate the experience of being in a place, at least in landscape and garden writing today. He complained that writers and critics focus too much on the form of a space than the experience of being there. “We must evade simple reliance on architectural forms. Movement determines mood. The mood is lost when we just look at forms.”

This challenge is not lost on the poor writers who must explain what a place sounds and smells like. “How do you capture the sound of water?” He said even Shakespeare, who described a garden as “deft of sound and scent,” really told his readers, “one must go there to enjoy.”

Hunt described a number of historic and contemporary works of landscape architecture that highlight scent. For example, the lavender fields of France “assault the senses.” The scent garden at the University of Toronto, with its aromatic pavilions, has significant impact because of its “limited focus.” There, the “blind can smell and touch.”

As to whether the impact of a sound or scent can be measured, Hunt wondered whether some things in life are “immeasurable,” simply beyond our reach. He argued that may be a good thing: “it’s terribly important to have something in one’s life that you can’t grasp.”

Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (May 1 – 15)

Central Falls Comprehensive Master Plan / Brown University and RISD

For more LA in the News, check out LAND, ASLA’s newsletter. If you see others you’d like included, please email us at

Landscape and MemoryPlaces, 5/5/14
“I’ve never seen war photographs like Jo Röttger’s. The structure of his project Landscape and Memory is familiarly photojournalistic—Röttger accompanies a German military unit as they train in Saxony-Anhalt, deploy to Afghanistan and return to Germany—but the work is an unusual hybrid of genres.”

Five Landscape Designers and Architects Who Pair Soil with Toil The New York Post, 5/6/14
“Back in 2004, Oudolf was charged with ‘illustrating a series of moods, capturing open woodland, prairie and meadow’ in one of the densest—yet most underutilized—spots in the city. Today, the famed Dutch horticulturalist’s 1¹/₂-mile-long plantings on the High Line provide a giraffe’s-eye view onto the Hudson and West Chelsea. The breezy, carefree space is enough to inspire even the most jaded New Yorker.”

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan on How Design can Prepare Us for Climate ChangeFast Company Design, 5/6/14
“In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development launched Rebuild by Design, a design competition aimed at developing innovative storm resilience strategies in the places that Sandy devastated.”

Millennium Park Turns TenThe Architect’s Newspaper, 5/13/14
“Happy birthday, Millennium Park! Yes, the Chicago park named for the chronological milestone now 14 years in the rearview mirror is turning 10—it went famously over-schedule and over-budget but we love it nonetheless. Last year 4.75 million people visited Chicago’s front yard, taking in free concerts and events, and probably taking at least as many selfies with Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate and the flowing titanium locks of Frank Gehry‘s Pritzker Pavilion in the background.”

Brown, RISD Students Unveil Plan to Transform Central Falls’ Urban Landscape The Providence Journal, 5/13/14
“Elizabeth Dean Hermann, a professor of landscape architecture at RISD, said that as many as 100 students from Brown, RISD and Javeriana University in Bogota, Colombia, will flood Central Falls this summer with plans to help turn around the city that emerged from bankruptcy less than two years ago.”

These articles were compiled by Phil Stamper-Halpin, ASLA Public Relations and Communications Coordinator.

U.S. Report Warns Climate Impacts Coming

National Climate Assessment /

The White House has released a comprehensive assessment of the impacts of climate change on the United States. Congress mandates these reports are to be created every four years, but no reports were issued during the presidency of George W. Bush. President Obama has made up for that, with a 1,300 page report written by 300 leading scientists and experts, the third such report created. The assessment is expected to shape the environmental strategy for the last two years of the administration. Already, President Obama has signaled he will work to reduce carbon emissions from coal power plants, as the Supreme Court has just given the administration clearance to use the Clean Air Act to limit emissions because they cross state boundaries.

The report states the effects of climate change are already being felt across the country. According to The Guardian, the assessment indicates average temperatures have risen by about 1.5 F (0.8 C) since 1895. Some 80 percent of the rise has occurred since 1980, with the last decade the hottest on record. Furthermore, temperatures are expected to rise another 2 F in the coming decades. “In northern latitudes such as Alaska, temperatures are rising even faster.”

Impacts will be felt differently across the U.S. As can be seen in this map from The New York Times, the change is not evenly distributed. Virginia Burkett, chief scientist for global change at the U.S. Geological Survey, said: “Parts of the country are getting wetter, parts are getting drier. All areas are getting hotter.”

Higher temperatures in the southwest are expected to create more droughts and lead to larger and more frequent wildfires. Meanwhile, “the north-east, midwest and Great Plains states will see an increase in heavy downpours and a greater risk of flooding.” Along the coasts, the threat of flooding will be particularly severe: “Residents of coastal cities, especially in Florida where there is already frequent flooding during rainstorms, can expect to see more. So can people living in inland cities sited on rivers.” Beyond flooding, sea levels will be inching up.

The report covers impacts for each region in detail. For the mid-atlantic, which covers the District of Colombia, Maryland, and Virginia, there are potentially scary impacts. “As sea levels rise, the Chesapeake Bay region is expected to experience an increase in coastal flooding and drowning of . . . wetlands.” The Washington Post writes these wetlands are crucial for protecting against storm surges, so this development would be “especially bad because the lower bay region is at higher risk as a result of sinking land. Water quality would decline and low-oxygen ‘dead zones’ would increase.” And if there are even higher greenhouse gas emissions, much of the area is expected to get an additional 60 days of weather topping 90 degrees, starting around 2050.

Extreme weather will test the country’s collective resilience in ways never seen before. The agricultural sector will need to adapt to hotter temperatures and more limited access to water. Higher temperatures will tax energy systems in the summer, as people crank up air conditioning. Health system will be tested, as more cases for asthma and other respiratory disorders increase with higher street-level temperatures, which exacerbate the worst effects of air pollution. Stormwater management systems will need to be redesigned to account for heavier and more frequent downpours. And natural coastal systems will need to be bolstered against sea level rise.

The goal of the report is to no doubt raise awareness of climate change as a real problem. According to a Pew survey conducted last year, Americans continue to be an outlier in how they rank climate change as a threat. Only 40 percent of Americans see climate change as a danger, while a majority of every region of the world does (except for the Middle East).

Read the report, and check out the innovative and positive adaptation efforts cities and communities are already undertaking. Philadelphia is highlighted for its game-changing green infrastructure program.

Also, explore ASLA’s comprehensive resource center on climate change.

Ken Smith Gets Social

Yorkville Park / © Peter Mauss/Esto

Landscape architects are increasingly focused on the social side of sustainability, said Ken Smith, ASLA, principal of Ken Smith Workshop, in a lecture at the University of Oregon’s campus in Portland. Smith said: “in the 70s, Ian McHarg taught us to focus on the regional and large-scale in landscape architecture, not what the quality of what we were building. In the 80s, landscape architects began to focus on what we were designing, the physicality. For the past 15 years, there has been a new focus on sustainability, with the ecological side getting the most attention. Now, the social agenda has risen to the front. The social realm is the new focus of landscape architecture.”

Smith said much of William H. Whyte’s research on urban social spaces, which began in the 70s, is still valid, but the way people inhabitat spaces has changed. “Social spaces are now a little different.” And landscape architects need to up their game if they are going to continue to know how to design spaces for today’s urban populations. “Google and Facebook probably know more predictably how people use social spaces than landscape architects. We need to be as smart as the companies profiting off data. We need to tap the data to design.”

But for now, Smith’s approach to creating social spaces that matter for today’s mobile phone-obsessed urbanites is to weave in both ecology and craft. Smith mentioned the growing importance of craftsmanship in today’s culture, saying he’s spending lots of time thinking about “how we make things.”

One example is Yorkville Park in Toronto, where Smith, Martha Schwartz, and David Meyer brought in a 700-ton bedrock mountain, creating an active social world around it. Taking the best of biophilic landscape design principles — that people enjoy a prospect view as well as an intimate refuge — the designers carved the boulder so it was easy to climb on, and then set out moveable chairs and tables around it. “People hang out on the rock and can configure their own social space.”

Yorkville Park / Steve Evans

For TFANA Arts Plaza, the setting of the Theatre for a New Audience, part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Cultural Arts District in New York City, Smith brought his inspiration — nightclub banquettes, a form of highly social seating — to the outdoors. “The cocoons envelope. There’s a loucheness to these banquettes that I like.” Working with outdoor furniture manufacturer Landscape Forms, Smith tinkered with the look and feel until it was right. Getting it right meant making the perforated patterns in the steel imperfect in some spots, creating a needed “fuzziness or noise.” The plaza is made up of permeable pavements, which he thinks is a first for New York City, and a silva-cell system for hydrating the trees.

TFANA Arts Plaza at BAM / © Francis Dzikowski/Esto

Smith saved his discussion of perhaps his most ambitious remake of the social realm for nearly last. The East River Waterfront Esplanade in New York City, which will line two miles of the lower Manhattan waterfront, is being completed in phases. The first phase, which was a pilot used to test aspects of the site in real-time, was opened in 2010. Results from the site’s post-occupancy surveys informed phase 2, which opened in 2012. Two more phases are in the works.

The esplanade is part of former-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to make the city more livable for one million new residents, which he argued the city will need to attract in order to retain its competitive edge as a global city on par with London and Shanghai. The plan includes creating whole stretches of new waterfront parks, the massive Hudson Yards development, a new 2nd avenue subway line, and lots of new public spaces. The esplanade is also central to the city’s goal of creating a central park for residents of lower Manhattan and other communities that connect via the rivers. “Cross connections will be a critical issue as the city figures out how to get people to the waterfront.”

On the esplanade design, Smith said, “I didn’t want a formal, perfectly spaced and organized esplanade like OLIN’s Battery Park City; I wanted to purposefully slow people down so they have to look up from their devices to see where they are going.”

East River Watefront Esplanade / © Peter Mauss/Esto

The esplanade runs parallel to the FDR Memorial Drive and, in some cases, underneath it. New coastal structures were built to provide support for the soil mass needed to support enough vegetation. “The site is a series of successive walls that provide the structure for the dunes,” which Smith calls the waves of raised landscapes. Those pieces of nature were central to the design. “The ecological basis is conflated with the social purpose. We integrated the social infrastructure into the sea walls.”

East River Watefront Esplanade / © Peter Mauss/Esto

There’s all sorts of fun places to sit along the esplanade. “The seating is a kit of parts.” There are benches set close together, which are designed to foster conversation. “You can also put your feet up and use the other bench as an ottoman.” There are wood chaise lounges for a bit of a get-away.

East River Watefront Esplanade / © Peter Mauss/Esto

Rail-side bar stools are great for eating lunch and gazing out at the water. “Those stools are very popular.”

East River Watefront Esplanade / © Peter Mauss/Esto

Smith was thrilled with how the lighting turned out. He said the usual New York City light pole is “horribly wrong scale, historicist, and clunky.” He ended up commissioning a new lighting system, with soft lighting reflected against FDR girders now painted lavender, and calf-level LED lighting, which will eventually wrap through the entire two-mile-long park. Smith defended the low-light approach, arguing that it’s actually safer, as “over lighting a space causes your pupils to dilate.”

East River Watefront Esplanade / © Peter Mauss/Esto

Throughout the esplanade, there are several pavilions coming — and it seems like most of them are beer gardens. Smith laughed and said, “beer gardens are really positive activators of public space.” Each pavilion is part commercial and community space.

East River Watefront Esplanade / © Peter Mauss/Esto

And then there’s the pop-art dog park. “Dog runs are social spaces, too. Dog runs are like playgrounds. They are supervised just like kids. There’s a social life among both the dogs and parents.” And more ominously, “there are lots of politics in dog parks.”

Dotted along the esplanade are new pier parks, some of which are still in development. One new pier park has two levels, with the upper deck made up of gardens and lawn.

East River Watefront Esplanade / © Peter Mauss/Esto

And Pier 35, now in the works, will be an eco-park with mussel colony. “We call it mussel beach.”