Design Competition: Renew Cork’s Quays

Save Cork City / Dan Linehan


Save Cork City
, a volunteer association in Cork, Ireland, has launched a design competition calling for an innovative approach to renewing the historic city’s quayside landscape on Morrison’s Island. The international competition is co-organized with the Cork Architectural Association, with the support of the National Sculpture Factory and the Architectural Association of Ireland.

Save Cork City, a bottom-up citizens’ group that has won the support of local businesses, celebrities, designers, and advocates, was formed to protest the Irish government Office of Public Works (OPW)’s plans to raise the historic quays’ walls, thereby destroying the historic relationship between the city and waterfront.

Cork’s quays / Save Cork City

According to the group, OPW’s plan — which seeks to “build over 8 kilometers of concrete walls and 46 pump chambers around the River Lee in Cork” — will “destroy huge parts of Cork’s historic character through damage to and removal of the City’s historic quay walls and railings, replacing them with basic concrete walls; turn the city into a building site for up to 10 years during the construction, affecting trade and tourism; and visually and physically disconnect the city’s quays and Fitzgerald’s Park from the Lee due to the introduction of the proposed concrete walls and embankments along the river.”

Furthermore, the group believes that OPW’s overall approach of using concrete walls is outdated and expensive, with a high potential for failure. “River containment is a flawed system that has been abandoned as a flood defense measure in many countries as it is expensive, difficult to achieve and can increase water levels in times of flood, putting cities at even more risk. The scheme relies on rarely used mechanical systems such as water pumps and drain valves, that could fail with catastrophic results.”

Instead, they have issued a three-point plan, featuring more upstream green infrastructure, proposed tidal barriers in the harbor downstream of the city, and historic quay revitalization. The group argues that the OPW’s approach only looks at the last 20 kilometers of the River Lee, but it’s in fact 90 kilometers long, so there’s ample opportunity to reduce flooding upstream. They believe their plan will cost much less than the €450 – 1 billion the OPW plan is expected to cost.

The group states their plan has been endorsed by a “Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Robert Devoy; the deputy director of the Dutch flood protection program, Erik Kraaij; the former dean of engineering in University College Cork, Philip O’ Kane, as well as thousands of concerned Cork citizens.”

Engineer Michael Ryan told The Irish Times that “flooding in Cork city involves a complex of factors, including upriver flows, tidal surges, a series of historic culverts and pipes under the city and the fact that the city is built on an extensive aquifer which is supplied and affected by both river flows and tidal surges.”

OPW recently dismissed Save Cork City’s proposal as “too costly,” reports the Evening Echo. OPW is still deliberating over the thousand-plus public comments it received about its flooding plan.

Save Cork City and the other organizers will give €10,000 to the winning entry, which will be presented at a public symposium. Register by September 8 and submit by September 22.

Another interesting opportunity: MIT Climate CoLab, “a global, web-based community designed to pool intelligence in a manner similar to Linux or Wikipedia,” offers seven new contests with a $10,000 grand prize. The competitions are in land use, transportation, buildings, carbon pricing, energy supply, adaptation, and shifting attitude and behaviors.

“Since its launch in 2009, Climate CoLab’s open problem-solving platform has grown into a community of over 85,000 people from all walks of life–including more than 300 of the world’s leading experts on climate change and related fields–who are working on and evaluating plans to reach global climate change goals.” Proposals are due September 10.

Proposed Design for WWI Memorial at Pershing Park Evolves

Restored pool concept / Image courtesy of National World War I Commission, designers UU+Studio, Forge Landscape Architecture, and GWWO, via NCPC

Plans for the proposed World War I memorial at Pershing Park, located just two blocks from the White House, are being steered back to the site’s original design. This month, the team designing the capital city’s first national memorial commemorating WWI took comments from the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), which pushed for keeping more of the nearly two-acre park created by landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg, FASLA, in 1981.

Since first presenting their design to the planning commission last year, the team — led by architect Joe Weishaar, landscape architect Phoebe McCormick Lickwar, ASLA, and sculptor Sabin Howard — has continued to adapt their proposal in response to feedback. The original plan, The Weight of Sacrifice, which won a competition last year held by the WWI Centennial Commission, sought to replace the sunken pool basin with a lawn to improve access and visibility and install a bas-relief commemorative wall depicting images of the war.

At this month’s meeting, the planning commission reviewed an iteration of the plan that got rid of the lawn, expanded the existing pool, and combined the site’s signature water feature with a 65-foot-long commemorative wall.

Restored pool concept / Image courtesy of National World War I Commission, designers UU+Studio, Forge Landscape Architecture, and GWWO, via NCPC

NCPC requested the proposed wall be reduced in size in order to maintain views across the park. And they pushed the design team to consider what the plaza would look like with the water feature turned off.

Restored pool concept / Image courtesy of National World War I Commission, designers UU+Studio, Forge Landscape Architecture, and GWWO, via NCPC

Considering the many changes to the original proposal, council member Evan Cash questioned whether the entire scope of the project had changed. He noted that people liked the new design because it preserved open space, but with on-going edits “…the project has changed to rehabilitation.”

“What started out as a project to look for a new WWI memorial has actually turned into a preservation project of the existing park, with some additional elements,” he said. “I just think all the problems we’ve been talking about are linked to the fact this has been a design that has been so overworked.”

Despite concerns, the planning commission approved the conceptual design and the team will move forward to refine the proposal and incorporate requested elements. Changes to the design will also need to be approved by the Commission on Fine Arts (CFA) and the National Park Service (NPS).

The park was originally design by Friedberg, who is also known for Peavey Plaza in Minneapolis. Friedberg’s views on the proposed design were shared with the commission by Margo Barajas, a representative of The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), which has been advocating for restoring, rather than redesigning Pershing Park, which has been determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Pershing Park / Eduard Krakhmalnikov, 2012, via The Cultural Landscape Foundation

After the latest iteration was presented to the CFA in May, Friedberg noted he was disappointed with the design, taking particular issue with the commemorative wall, saying it is being “forced into the space and is obliterating the scale” of the space.

Friedberg’s original design is a multi-level space with a sunken pool and water feature with a fountain that housed a Zamboni to maintain the pool as an ice rink during the winter. The site’s planting was later revised by Oehme, van Sweden. The site also includes a small, presently-unused kiosk structure that once doubled as an ice-skate rental station, movable furniture, and a statue of the WWI hero.

Pershing Park / Image courtesy of M. Paul Friedberg & Partners, via The Cultural Landscape Foundation

The revised design replaces the kiosk with a flag pole and adds a walkway across the pool to allow visitors more intimate access and a more tactile connection to the commemorative wall. 

Debate has waged on over the aesthetic and functional merits of Pershing Park and the addition of a WWI memorial. The site has been poorly maintained and fallen into disrepair over the years. Many find the park difficult to access, with limited points of entry on the southern end of the site. Critics of the new plans, including TCLF, have sought to reduce changes to the site and instead restore the park to its original intent.

The addition of a national WWI memorial was hard-fought by advocates on the WWI Centennial Commission who originally wanted the commemoration on the National Mall. Met with opposition from Congress and the National Park Service, the Centennial Commission eventually settled on Pershing as the selected site. Once approved by Congress in 2014, the Centennial Commission held an international design competition for the memorial. Last January, they announced Weishaar’s design as the winner of five finalists among hundred of entries.

Unlike World War II and the Vietnam War, World War I is the only major US conflict of the 20th century not commemorated with a national monument in Washington. There is a World War I memorial on the Mall, but not a national one (it is specific to local DC soldiers who fought in the war). And some critics say, that’s OK.

As The Washington Post‘s Philip Kennicott argues, DC’s many smaller WWI memorials embedded throughout the city offer another form of remembrance. The monuments are specific and distributed, and, as such, Kennicott writes, “there is no one-stop shopping, no simple, quick way to ‘pay respects’ and move on; but there is a rich history lesson, not just about the war itself, but about how memory and monuments have changed over the past century.”

Regardless, plans for the memorial will continue to move forward with hopes for a final dedication on November 11, 2018, the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the war.

The Art of the Park with Michael Van Valkenburgh

“I don’t see parks as an escape from the city; I see them as an escape in the city, and therefore an essential part of what a city is,” explained landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, FASLA, at The New York Times’ Cities for Tomorrow conference in New York City.

In a Q&A, Van Valkenburgh touched on five parks his firm designed throughout the country and Canada, beginning with his redesign of the landscape of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on the St. Louis riverfront, which is home to Eero Saarinen’s famous Gateway Arch.

Here, Van Valkenburgh explains, his team at MVVA incorporated elements of Modernist landscape architect Dan Kiley’s original intention for the site while “creating a series of bridges – physical and metaphorical” to better stitch the previously-isolated 91-acre historic Arch ground with St. Louis.

Van Valkenburgh then discussed Maggie Daley Park in Chicago; A Gathering Place for Tulsa, a new park in Oklahoma; and Corktown Commons in Toronto.

And, finally, Van Valkenburgh, a Brooklyn resident, finished his talk on the now-famous Brooklyn Bridge Park, a set of piers once used for maritime industries now turned into a beloved 85-acre park, a project realized after 18 years of planning and design.

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

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Manhole in Central Park, NYC / Cole Wilson, via Curbed NY

Sprucing Up Your Garden for Summer, the Tropical Way Vogue, 7/2/17
“Fernando Wong knows how to make a lush, enviable garden. The accomplished landscape architect has done so time and time again for his various private clients.”

Seven of America’s Top New Museums and Monuments The Architect’s Newspaper, 7/4/17
“Last year saw one of the biggest and most publicized museum openings in recent memory: the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).”

Why Do Some Graduate Landscape Architects Have a Poor Understanding of Planting? Landscape Architect’s Network, 7/12/17
“In the pursuit of a landscape architecture degree, students have the opportunity to acquire a wealth of knowledge on planting, but as with other subjects there are some students who take this issue more seriously than others.”

The Manhole in the Meadow Curbed NY, 7/12/17
“Standing in the Long Meadow, pondering a manhole cover, I realize that I never look at this significant urban place with the critical eye that I routinely apply to the city around me, and that my neighborhood expanse of greenery is, as it happens, a primary example of engineered nature.”

Lawrence Halprin’s Freeway Park in Seattle to Undergo Wayfinding-focused RenovationThe Architect’s Newspaper, 7/4/17
“The renovations are being undertaken by the Freeway Park Association (FPA)—a nonprofit organization created in 1993 ‘in response to the community’s demand for greater public safety in their aging neighborhood park.'”

Hamptons Homes Blur the Line Between Inside and Out The New York Times, 7/14/17
“Twenty-foot-wide glass walls retract electronically at the tap of a cellphone app at the over-the-top $39.5 million furnished mansion John Kean built last year on four acres in Southampton.”

How Joplin, Missouri, Used Nature to Recover from a Devastating Tornado

I’ve always been struck by the undeniable power of nature. It destroys—as it did on a late Sunday afternoon in May, in Joplin, Missouri, six years ago when an EF5, mile-wide tornado chewed through the city in 38 minutes. It left 161 people dead, 1,150 others injured, countless more traumatized–and the rest of us watching and aching for them all. Aside from the human toll, it also caused billions of dollars in damages, and left thousands of trees decimated, uprooted or maimed.

Joplin was devastated. It needed to recover in every sense—physically, emotionally, spiritually. Many stories have been told in the aftermath of how the city drew together, rose up, and rebuilt.

But one story that’s not been told is about how nature, the thing that brought the destruction, has been the very thing that is bringing much needed emotional recovery to the community. Nature heals too. This is the story we wanted to tell.

When I flew in to Joplin, I gasped as I saw the massive scar in the landscape left by the tornado. It was a mile wide and several miles long. From that perspective high above the city, all that I could see was the destruction. But on the ground, a different picture emerged.

Key community members shared their stories and those of the community. Chris Cotten, head of Parks and Recreation for Joplin, was one of them. I quickly began to see what he saw: hope, hard work, and resilience were everywhere. And then I heard about the butterflies. Many community members told us stories of how the butterflies had saved them. Children told stories of being protected by them–like angels–while the destruction roared around them. I was captivated; but we weren’t the only ones who saw nature as a potential piece of the city’s recovery.

Just after the tornado hit, The New York Times ran a series of haunting images, including ones of Cunningham Park, showing a devastated landscape; mangled trees that had been stripped of their canopies and bark. These caught the eye of Cornell University’s Keith Tidball, who dropped everything to go to Joplin and, in his words, begin planting. A researcher and author, Keith has done some amazing work and spent years studying how nature can be a source of resilience for communities in crisis. He had been working in post-Katrina New Orleans just prior to the tornado.

Keith connected with Chris, and the idea for a healing garden was born. They worked quickly, with the support of the TKF Foundation to assemble a diverse team that included city officials, landscape architects, psychologists, musical therapists and urban planners–and most importantly, the community. Fusing research, design and nature—a healing garden the community named the Butterfly Garden and Overlook opened to the public in May 2014. As former Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean described to us, it’s a place where children and adults go to feel safe and whole, and to reflect. To recover. The nature effect is real. And our understanding of just how powerful its benefits are continues to grow.

Stories like this one, from Joplin, have much to teach us. Even in the hardest hit places, whether the disaster is natural or man-made, nature can heal and restore—and has the power to unify and rebuild communities in lasting ways.

This guest post is by film maker Alden E. Stoner, who is also a board member of the nonprofit TKF Foundation.

The Hive: An Acoustic Playground Made out of Cardboard Tubes

Jeanne Gang describing The Hive / Dana Davidsen

Spiraling upwards into the grand space of the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. is the Hive, a trio of domed chambers designed to create unique acoustic experiences. Conceived by Chicago-based architect Jeanne Gang, the Hive towers some 60 feet and is comprised of over 2,500 cardboard tubes. Within its chambers are chimes made out of building materials, like copper pipes and wrenches, and a giant tubulum, an instrument constructed out of pipes of varying sizes that produces warm, surprising sounds.

The Hive / Dana Davidsen

In a tour of the Hive, Gang explained how she used sound to define the space. In the vast expanse of the National Building Museum, “you can’t really hear someone just 10 feet away from you. The sound gets lost, as it does in a big field.”

Within the museum, Gang instead wanted to create an intimate acoustic space. She wanted to recreate the sense of being inside a forest clearing, open but enclosed by trees, where one can sense, acoustically, the bound space as sound waves bounce off trees.

Working with acoustic engineers with Threshhold Sound, Gang and her team accomplished a similar surround sound effect inside the Hive, using catenary structures, painted silver and magenta, to create a full, harmonious timbre.

Inside The Hive / Dana Davidsen

Gang seemed particularly excited about the tubulum. “When everyone plays together, the chamber will be rocking!”

Tubulum / Dana Davidsen

The structures are inspired by both built and natural forms — Gang talked about the oculus of the Pantheon in Rome and mused about pine cones. “We see spirals in nature, too.”

The Hive is open until September 4. Interactive sound experiences will be held on Saturdays. Tickets are $16 for adults and $13 for kids and seniors. Get your tickets in advance.