Led by climate leaders in the field of landscape architecture, ASLA is developing a profession-wide Climate Action Plan
ASLA has announced it is developing its first Climate Action Plan for the U.S. landscape architecture community. The ambitious plan seeks to transform the practice of landscape architecture by 2040 through actions taken by ASLA and its members focused on climate mitigation and adaptation, ecological restoration, biodiversity, equity, and economic development. The plan will be released at the ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture, November 11-14, 2022, in San Francisco, CA.
The ASLA Climate Action Plan is led by a five-member Task Force and 16-member Advisory Group of climate leaders from the landscape architecture profession.
The diverse, intergenerational Task Force includes climate leaders at different stages of their professional life.
“Landscape architects are leaders in designing solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises that also provide multiple environmental, economic, social, and health co-benefits. ASLA purposefully included both established and emerging climate leaders in this critical Task Force, which will shape the profession far into the future,” said Eugenia Martin, FASLA, ASLA President.
Task Force members include:
Chair: Pamela Conrad, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP, Principal, CMG Landscape Architecture, and Founder, Climate Positive Design, San Francisco, California
Conrad built Climate Positive Design into a global movement with the goal of ensuring all designed landscapes store more carbon than they emit while providing environmental, social, cultural, and economic co-benefits.
Diane Jones Allen, FASLA, D. Eng., PLA, Director, Program in Landscape Architecture, University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), and Principal Landscape Architect, DesignJones, LLC, Arlington, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana
José M. Almiñana, FASLA, SITES AP, LEED AP, Principal, Andropogon Associates, Ltd., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Sarah Fitzgerald, ASLA, Designer, SWA Group, Dallas, Texas
Vaughn Rinner, FASLA, PLA, Former ASLA President, Seattle, Washington
The goals, objectives, and action items of the plan are also shaped by a Climate Action Plan Advisory Group of 16 diverse climate leaders, who are based in 12 U.S. states and two countries and in private and public practice and academia. The Group consists of nine members who identify as women, seven as men, two as Black, four as Asian and Asian American, one as Latina, and one as Native American.
“ASLA believes equity needs to be at the center of climate action, because we know climate change will disproportionately impact underserved and historically marginalized communities. It is important that the group guiding the Climate Action Plan and the future of the profession mirrors the diversity of the landscape architecture community and its breadth of educational and practice areas,” said Torey Carter-Conneen, ASLA CEO.
Advisory Group members include:
Monique Bassey, ASLA, Marie Bickham Chair, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Scott Bishop, ASLA, RLA, Principal, BLD | Bishop Land Design, Quincy, Massachusetts
Keith Bowers, FASLA, RLA, PWS, Founding Principal, Biohabitats, Charleston, South Carolina
Pippa Brashear, ASLA, RLA, Resilience Principal, SCAPE Landscape Architecture & Urban Design, New York, New York
Meg Calkins, FASLA, FCELA, Professor of Landscape Architecture, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
Chingwen Cheng, ASLA, PhD, PLA, LEED AP, Program Head and Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, Urban Design, and Environmental Design, The Design School, Arizona State University, and President-Elect, Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA), Tempe, Arizona
Jose de Jesus Leal, ASLA, PLA, IA, Native Nation Building Studio Director, MIG, Inc., Sacramento, California
Kate Orff, FASLA, Professor, Columbia University GSAPP & Columbia Climate School, and Founder, SCAPE Landscape Architecture & Urban Design, New York, New York
Jean Senechal Biggs, ASLA, Transportation Planning Manager, City of Beaverton, Portland, Oregon
Adrian Smith, FASLA, Staten Island Team Leader, New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, New York, New York
Matt Williams, ASLA, Planner, City of Detroit Planning & Development Department (PDD), Detroit, Michigan
Dou Zhang, FASLA, SITES AP, LEED AP BD+C, Director of Shanghai Office, Sasaki, Shanghai, China
In 2021, ASLA joined with Architecture 2030 to call for the landscape architecture, planning, architecture, development, and construction professions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their projects and operations by 50-65 percent by 2030 and achieve zero emissions by 2040.
“The persecution of women perceived to be witches took place throughout Europe and America for several hundred years. Women who were classed as witches because of their non-Christian practices were tortured and killed from as early as the mid-1400s in Europe, and roughly 80,000 witches were put to death between 1500 and 1660.”
Buildner, which bill itself as the world’s largest organizer of architecture competitions and has awarded more than $1 million in prizes, has launched a new global ideas competition for a memorial to people unjustly persecuted as witches throughout history. Entrants are welcome to select any location and design any structure, with any material, but with sustainable practices in mind.
Entrants are also not limited to a particular event or injustice. Landscape architects and other designers can mine the past or examine the present. Concepts can educate about past persecution or provide a “method of whistle blowing and raising awareness of ongoing injustices.”
According to the organizers, witch trials have been staged for hundreds of years and in some communities continue to this day.
The most famous is perhaps the Salem Witch Trials, which took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692-93. More than 200 were accused of witchcraft and nineteen were executed, including fourteen women and five men. All were hanged except one who was pressed to death with heavy stones. Buildner notes that this is a “relatively small number compared to the Basque Witch Trials of the 17th century in Spain, in which around some 7,000 cases of witchcraft were heard.”
While the popular image is of witches burned at the stake, most in England and the American colonies were hanged. “30,000–60,000 women, men, and children” were executed this way during the height of witch mania in the western world.
The Memorial for Witches competition is the first in a series of competitions that seeks to “remind the public” of the ways in which society deals with “irrational fears.” They note that “those who were feared and misunderstood were suppressed and victimized, a trend of social injustice that still takes place to this day.”
Indeed, National Geographic states that 21 percent of Americans currently believe in witchcraft and attacks on socially marginalized groups have risen. And the United Nations and other human rights groups have found the number of witch trials and hunts around the world has increased, particularly in India and some Sub-Saharan African countries. In recent years, witch hunts in Sub-Saharan African countries, India, Indonesia, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia have resulted in many innocent women, men, and children kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured, or killed.
While the jury hasn’t been announced yet, past juries of Buildner competitions have included Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT Senseable City Lab, and leading landscape architects and architects from firms such as MVRDV, Zaha Hadid Architects, Snøhetta, and UN Studio.
First prize winners will receive €3,000 ($3,044); the second prize, €1,500 ($1,522); and third prize, €1,000 ($1,014); while one student winner will also receive €1,000.
William E. O’Brien’s book, Landscapes of Exclusion: State Parks and Jim Crow in the American South, was first published as a hardcover edition in 2015. It is ironic that one year later in 2016, the U.S. Presidential election would usher in cultural and racial shifts that further divided Americans into ideological factions. This year, O’Brien’s book has been reissued as a paperback. It presents a mirror with which we can look back and see the profound changes in America, which is greatly needed in our divisive social media age of disinformation and historical erasure.
In a new forward, Ethan Carr, FASLA, professor of landscape architecture at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, reinforces O’Brien’s efforts to highlight “the impact of racial ideologies on park design throughout the twentieth century — and to this day.” O’Brien, who is trained as a geographer and is professor of environmental studies at Florida Atlantic University, acknowledges this impact by documenting the current efforts in many southern states to acknowledge the recreational segregation of the past. Early in his book, O’Brien’s refers to the efforts of the Texas Parks and Wildlife agency to add signage at Tyler State Park that recognizes “the Texas start state park system’s racial exclusion policy under Jim Crow.” Yet, he remains steadfast in his view that more must be done to acknowledge the segregation of the past in southern parks. He pronounces the example of the Tennessee park named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, the “first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan,” as an indicator of the work remaining to be done in redressing the remnants of Jim Crow.
This is a well-researched book that documents public space segregation within state parks and southern society, in particular during the 100-year period from the post-Civil War era through 1968. These Jim Crow laws (or Black Codes) were named after a minstrel character in “blackface,” which depicted newly freed slaves as less than human. The laws subjugated Black Americans and dictated their movements and access to recreation, education, and other benefits accessible to white Americans. The Jim Crow laws limited African American progress for decades, which specifically included access to recreation in southern states.
O’Brien’s research spans the establishment of the first state park – Yosemite Park in California in 1864 — to a collection of southern state parks. His map indicating white and African American park sites from 1937-1962 is a striking visual record of the Jim Crow segregated culture that created an imbalance in park distribution and quality. He does not shy away from highlighting systemic racism based on the doctrine of ”separate-but-equal” and the disparities created between white and African American park facilities.
The book, which is divided into six chapters, begins with a chronicling of the state park systems in American and ends with views on the current cultural transformation of integrated state parks. The threads that connect all chapters are well-documented historical perspective on Jim Crow laws, the evasive legislative tactics used by southern states to prolong segregated facilities, and the bureaucratic operations and racially negligent tactics of parks agencies. Other threads include the defiance of segregation by African Americans through legal efforts of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and insightful testimonials of ordinary citizens on both sides of the segregation divide.
He consistently reinforces how inadequate and unequal facilities for African Americans were, while highlighting specific parks in each southern state. Lake Murray State Park in Oklahoma is an example of unequal park facility that also included disparities in architectural quality. While the “Negro Recreation Area” designated as Camp No. 3 had cabins made of board and batten exteriors, the white-only Camp No. 1 had cabins made of wood timbers and stone fireplaces.
Oklahoma park service administrators understood white protests regarding proximity to “Negro” park areas and often succumbed to white resentments about physical contact with African Americans.
The park service supervisor, Milo Christenson, relayed white concerns, stating that “white groups will never use these facilities if they have ever been used by negro groups.” This was the understanding within the park service administration that was repeated in other southern states, helping to prolong the segregation of state parks even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, passed under the administration of President Lyndon Johnson, ended segregation.
O’Brien also documents that African Americans were not allowed to use “Negro area” facilities after sundown, and African American recreation areas were mostly restricted to areas that had little or no access to water, historical, and other scenic features. Day-use only restrictions were only one of many methods used by parks officials to create physical separation of the races.
A 1929 survey of California state parks by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. “expressed a desire to make state parks equitably accessible while maintaining standards of scenic quality.” However, this idealistic philosophy of state park development standards was out of reach for African Americans in southern states until the late 1960’s. With the development of separate parks, African Americans didn’t benefit from this Olmstedian idealization of scenic beauty.
African American self-help and advocacy was crucial in obtaining their own quality recreational facilities. In 1920, the Parks and Recreation Association (PRA) “added a Bureau of Colored Work, directed by Ernest Attwell – a graduate of the Tuskegee Institute – to help ensure more adequate park provision for African Americans,” O’Brien writes. The PRA was established in 1906 to support the development of state parks in the U.S. Attwell’s position and his efforts to grow quality recreational opportunities for African Americans was one of the first pivotal appointments within a state parks organization.
African Americans also created their own “private recreation retreats, including exclusive rural resorts in places such as Buckroe, Virginia, Idlewild, Michigan, and Gulfview, Mississippi.” Other African American intellectuals and leaders such as “Dr. John B. Watson, president of Pine Bluff’s Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College (AM&N), a historically Black College” were instrumental in securing the first Arkansas park designed for African Americans.
In “June 1937, [Watson] deeded to the state a hundred-acre parcel of his own land, located eight miles west of Pine Bluff, and a consortium of six government agencies, federal and state, agreed to spend $20,000 for park development.” Development of the park was only partially completed before Watson’s death in 1942. Given the lack of Arkansas state enthusiasm for fulfilling their commitments “his widow, Hattie M. Watson, sued for the return of the land to the Watson estate.” In 1944, her case was successful, and the land was returned to the Watson family.
One of the most fascinating examples of a Black-owned park during the segregation era was Gulfside State Park, owned and operated by Robert E. Jones, a Methodist bishop from Greensboro, North Carolina. O’Brien writes that “in 1923, he had purchased the property, which included a mansion once owned by President Andrew Jackson along with 300 acres…adjacent to 320 state-owned acres that Jones also acquired.” African Americans traveled from long distances to visit the park. “The New York Amsterdam News in 1926 hailed the resort as ‘the only project of its kind that has ever been launched in America.” Park activities included summer schools, music venues, home economics, religious studies, and camping trips. Unfortunately, the Great Depression destroyed the financial viability of the park, its Gulfside Association, and its future.
Assessing the effect of Jim Crow laws on African Americans, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University, states that “black men and women attempted to fight back in various ways, including nurturing their own segregated social and cultural institutions, especially churches, schools, colleges, self-help organizations. And black intellectuals, creative artists, and political activists increasingly grappled in their responses to the so-called Negro Problem.”
O’Brien’s balanced research on Black self-help to achieve some measure of recreational access in the face of Jim Crow is one of the crowning successes of his book. There are many other well researched elements in the book relating to the history of the “Negro Problem,” park planning and politics, post-World War II separate but equal policies, and court battles primarily brought by the NAACP to dismantle park segregation. Together, these research areas build a much-needed historical record of Jim Crow and the exclusion of African Americans in southern state parks.
While Landscapes of Exclusion is comprehensive, O’Brien’s academic prose and roaming timeline structure often makes reading the book a slow process. This is not inherently bad, and readers should do the work necessary to read and learn from O’Brien’s historical survey. Anyone exploring landscape, planning, and public space history will find the book interesting. O’Brien has crafted an intensively researched history of the political, social, racial, and environmental implications of Jim Crow practices and the unfair distribution of parks in the southern United States. His work can withstand present day attempts to deny history and turn facts into divisive political weapons.
Glenn LaRue Smith, FASLA, is cofounder and principal of PUSH studio in Washington, D.C., and founder and former president of the Black Landscape Architects Network (BlackLAN). His landscape architecture projects include garden designs, urban waterfronts, community redevelopment, playgrounds and memorial monument design. He has directed graduate landscape architecture programs at two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) — Florida A&M University and Morgan State University.
A Radical Vision for Reinventing the Suburbs – 07/25/2022, Fast Company
“Outside Toronto, in a field surrounded by farmland, the seeds of a seemingly implausible high-density, transit-oriented community are taking root.”
Ford House Completes Restoration of Historic Lagoon and Pool – 07/24/2022, Detroit Free Press
“’Before the restoration, the landscape behind the pool had become overgrown. It lost its hierarchy, the diversity of material, and the layering that were meant to replicate a northern Michigan landscape,’ said Stephen White, principal and director of landscape architecture and urban design for Albert Kahn Associates.”
In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the Doyle Drive Bridge in the north end of San Francisco, which had moved vehicles through the Presidio to the Golden Gate Bridge since the 1930s. As a result, California’s department of transportation (Caltrans) embarked on a planning effort to re-engineer the roadways and interchanges through the Presidio. During those discussions in the 1990s, landscape architect Michael Painter, designer of the parkway system within the 1,500-acre Presidio, offered a plan for replacing the viaduct, which had severed the upper areas of the Presidio from Crissy Field, with tunnels. His idea was that with tunnels, the city could then use the space on top for a new park. More than thirty years later, James Corner Field Operations has realized this vision with Presidio Tunnel Tops, a 14-acre park designed for kids and their families.
According to Richard Kennedy, ASLA, principal-in-charge and head of the San Francisco office of Field Operations, Caltrans had offered to form the soil from the tunnel excavation and other landscape work into a flat top and a triangular edge. But the Presidio Trust, the National Park Service, the Golden Gate Park National Parks Conservancy, and Field Operations had other ideas. They would rather sculpt the land. “We decided to create a topographical design,” Kennedy said, eventually using more than 90,000 cubic yards of soil. And in order to do this, they first had to look deep underground.
Given San Francisco is an active seismic area, the Presidio Parkway tunnels, which were completed in 2012, had to be engineered for stability. This meant the rest of the adjacent Tunnel Tops landscape, a project that started in 2014, also needed to be engineered in a similar way. “That way, in the event of another earthquake, everything would move as a contiguous system with no differential settlement,” Kennedy said.
MKA, a Seattle-based engineering firm, set the tunnel park on 40-foot-deep stone columns arranged in a 10 by 10-foot grid. Each column, comprised of gravel, is 3 feet in diameter. This complex subterranean work isn’t apparent on the surface of the park, but for Kennedy it shows that the park is also infrastructure, and that infrastructure investment is needed for landscape architects to realize their vision.
“It’s a new vision for this area of the Presidio — open public parkland. Before, the perception was the Presidio was a kind of commercial office park. Our goal was to invite the public in with disarming and sometimes obvious elements. On opening day, there were over two thousand children in the playground,” Kennedy said.
Field Operations organized Tunnel Tops into three landscape zones. The first zone is a “platform,” a flat landscape on top of the tunnels at the same level of the Presidio’s main parade, which essentially acts as an extension of the historic military base.
“We purposefully designed it as a platform to leverage the incredible panorama. This elevation of 40 feet enables visitors to turn 360 degrees and see everything — from Marin to the Golden Gate Bridge, to Alcatraz Island, the Presidio, and the Palace of Fine Arts. This is an experience visitors couldn’t have had when the viaduct blocked views.”
The second landscape zone is what Field Operations calls the Cliff Walk, a set of trails and gathering places that intentionally focus visitors on landmarks at vantage points. “We used the slope to a great extent. As visitors wind through the trail, their body position moves, so they see different elements of the horizon. It’s surprising, awesome, and highlights the drama of being on the edge,” Kennedy said.
Along this edge are charismatic benches made of cypress trees that had been culled from the Presidio. Kennedy said Field Operations had hoped for sculpting a large piece of driftwood but no such trunk large enough appeared on the park coastline (another was found and used in the playground). Instead the benches are sculptured out of 9.5-inch wide planks and “assembled Jenga-style” into a curvature that resembles a tree. He said as cypress wood dries, it becomes metallic grey and when it catches the light sparkles like a silver fish. The perfect wood for a vista over the Bay.
The Outpost, an interactive play landscape, is the third zone. It’s where most visitors may enter Tunnel Tops, off of Mason Street, which bisects the upper area of the Presidio and Crissy Field. Other draws here include the new Crissy Field Center and adjacent Field Station, two environmental learning centers designed by architecture firm EHDD, with exhibition designers at Studio Terpeluk, which will teach kids about anthropology and ecology. This area is “designed to appeal to a broader sweep of families,” Kennedy said.
Given the upper portion of Tunnel Tops needed to be flat and highlight the panorama, Field Operations could use the lower portions nestled in the slope to add more intricacy without obstructing views.
Custom play elements are designed to bring children into the vistas. For example, there is a gap in the Outpost’s climbing wall on axis with Golden Gate Bridge. “Moments like this can create positive memories and life-long connections to the outdoors,” Kennedy argued.
The Outpost is also designed so that as the plants grow in overtime, the playground will feel more like the marshlands of Crissy Fields. The same plant species are found in the play area. “Labyrinthine trails will form, adding a layer of mystery.”
Play elements extend east from the Crissy Field Center creating an inclusive environment for toddlers to preteen children. The elements escalate in complexity as children move outwards from the buildings.
Near the Field Center, there are simple play areas comprised of sand and water for the youngest children. Older children can then enjoy a tunnel through a large driftwood trunk, which lets them to burrow through or climb above, along with slides set in boulders.
The bird’s nest sculpture, which is modeled after an oriole’s teardrop nest, enables children to climb on the outside and perch at the top, or climb from inside the nest and “poke their head out like small birds.”
The most difficult element is the forest den, which is a pile of logs. The interior of the structure has a small room filled with ropes and nets. “The exterior of the pile is purposefully challenging to climb and was designed to provide a sense of graduated risk. I have watched as some children became very nervous as they climb further towards the top. While the children can play safely, they can experience challenges, which also challenges themselves. I have seen children form teams. It asks them to be more brave,” Kennedy said.
On opening weekend Kennedy also saw teenagers climbing to the top of the logs to experience the view. For them, Field Operations has also designed seating areas that will eventually be enshrouded in marshes.
The new park includes over 200,000 plants of 200 varieties, many of which support birds and pollinators. Approximately 50 percent are native and drought-tolerant plants, chosen for what the climate will be in a few decades. The native plants were grown from seed in a nearby Presidio nursery to ensure they are “genetically specific to this landscape,” Kennedy said. The Presidio Trust “invested in plant communities that will last and can coexist with existing natural resources in the national park.”
The upper level landscape, which is connected with the manufactured military landscape of the Presidio, offers Mediterranean plants from countries like Chile and South Africa that will better blend with the existing non-native cypress and eucalyptus trees and gardens. In the Outpost, Field Operations focused on incorporating 100 percent native plants.
Presidio Tunnel Tops was made possible by a number of organizations. The Presidio Trust, a non-profit organization, has a mandate to preserve the historic military base and has restored 150 acres of landscape to date. The Presidio in turn is part of the 80,000-acre Golden Gate National Recreation Area, managed by the National Park Service, the country’s largest urban national park. The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy is the non-profit arm of the park and raised $98 million of the $118 million project, while the Presidio Trust provided the other $20 million.
The Tunnel Tops is just one part of a broader revitalization of the Presidio. CMG Landscape Architecture, a San Francisco-based firm, is creating a plan to update Crissy Field, the beloved landmark designed by HargreavesJones that opened in 2001.
“What we are doing is using shade, humidity, wind, and water to lower the temperature in the heart of Paris,” explained Brussels-based landscape architect Bas Smets, who has won an international design competition to redesign the landscape around Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris. Founder of Bureau Bas Smets (BBS), Smets is leveraging nature-based solutions, including a significant expansion of green space and a scrim of water, to cool the cathedral and protect it from future climate impacts.
In 2019, the cathedral caught fire, causing the destruction of its 150-foot-tall spire and interiors. The reconstruction of the 760-year-old medieval Catholic cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has started, but the organizers of the competition, which include the Paris city government; Diocese of Paris; and Public Establishment, the conservators of the cathedral, saw the need to further leverage the landscape to preserve the monument for future visitors and worshippers.
Smets is leading a team on the $50.3 million project that includes Paris-based firms GRAU, an architecture and urbanism firm, and Neufville-Gayet Architects, an architecture firm specializing in historic buildings. Together, they are re-imagining the visitor experience of the gothic cathedral while also adapting the site to rising temperatures. Their goals align with Paris’ Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce heat islands throughout the city.
Smet’s team will ring the cathedral in trees that will provide shade and cool the air, creating a micro-climate on Île de la Cité, the island in the midst of the Seine River where the cathedral is found, and its immediate surrounding area. The form of the existing rectangular square in front of the cathedral will be simplified, creating “a perfect rectangular form” to make it clearer and more usable, edged with a new canopy of trees, Smet’s firm states.
According to The New York Times, the Jean XXIII Square, a park behind the cathedral, will be connected with new green spaces that extend to the edge of Île de la Cité. This new park will link with gardens on the cathedral’s southern edge, creating a 1,300-foot-long green space planted with 131 new trees. The Architect’s Newspaper also notes that Île-de-France Square will also be integrated into the new plans. Throughout the expanded site, trees will increase by nearly 35 percent, in places layered behind existing trees, so as to not obstruct protected views.
Water will also be used to support that new micro-climate. Smets’ team plans for a 5-milimeter (one fifth of an inch) scrim of water in the forecourt of the cathedral in the summer. The water element will help cool the facade of Notre-Dame while bringing a shimmer to visitors’ photographs.
At the same time, Smets is rethinking the entire visitor experience and creating new pedestrian connections to the cathedral. A parking lot under the cathedral will be transformed into a welcome center and connect with an existing archeological museum that will now be accessible via a new passageway off the quay along the Seine. Currently visitors need to access the cathedral via stairs from the quay.
The New York Times reports that at a press conference, Father Drouin with the Diocese said: “I am very pleased that the tragedy of the fire will enable us to recreate physical and symbolic ties between the capital and its urban environment.”
While leading with climate, the landscape architecture address issues holistically. “The urban figures, such as forecourt, square, square, alignment and banks, are all present around the cathedral, but in a fragmented way. The project reveals the quality of each place and rethinks each of these figures from the double angle of the collective and the climate,” Smets told Paris.
And as he noted to Wallpaper magazine, “we wanted to make a nuanced composition. You’ll walk in, sit, stay, go underground, open towards the river, emerge close to the entrance…More than giving a form, we are giving an experience.”
The restoration of the cathedral is expected to be completed by 2024, when Paris hosts the summer Olympic games, while the landscape redesign is scheduled to be finished by 2027.
Elks Children’s Eye Clinic Creates Landscape Design for All – 07/12/2022, Healthcare Design Magazine
“As the landscape architect for a sensory garden at Elks Children’s Eye Clinic in Portland, Oregon, Mayer/Reed (Portland) considered ways to create a welcoming environment for children whose sight may be limited.”
Study: Rising Seas Are Weakening Nature’s Storm Shields – 07/11/2022, Grist
“Barrier islands shield the mainland from hurricanes, waves, erosion, and flooding, taking the brunt of a storm’s early blows. Without them, experts say hurricane damage to towns and cities inland would be even worse.”
After several years of intensive study and community planning, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) along with federal and local partners released its new vision for Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., “the nation’s preeminent ceremonial boulevard,” and three concept plans in March. The goal is to transform an overwhelming and underused avenue into a space that “prioritizes people over cars with inviting and inclusive public spaces.” The NCPC argues that with a new design, the 1.2-mile-long avenue could become a “signature outdoor event venue that could attract and support major national and international events.”
According to The Cultural Landscape Foundation, the avenue was part of L’Enfant’s 1791 plan for the District of Columbia and symbolically connects the White House, the executive branch of government, with the U.S. Capitol, the legislative branch. In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson designated the avenue the official Presidential inaugural route. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy, who complained about the pawn shops, X-rated movie houses, and liquor stores lining the avenue, created the President’s Commission on Pennsylvania Avenue, which included landscape architect Dan Kiley, to design a broad ceremonial avenue that would improve the pedestrian experience. In the 1980s, the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation further developed the parks and plazas along the avenue with landscape architecture firm Sasaki, establishing the unifying brown pavers that now define the space.
Today, eight lanes of roadways dominate the avenue, which make crossing the 160-to-400-foot-wide expanse feel like a chore. A central two-way cycle track fit in between vehicle lanes creates an angsty biking experience that requires vigilance about both pedestrians using crosswalks and vehicles on either sides. A 2018 District of Columbia transportation study found that 20 feet of the existing roadway could be allocated for other non-vehicle uses.
Reducing roadways for vehicles creates a slew of opportunities to re-imagine the avenue. NCPC has offered three concepts to “right-size and realign the roadway to increase the amount of usable and flexible public space” and “devote more space for people, bicyclists, and transit and less space for cars.” All three concepts would accommodate the Presidential inaugural parade from the U.S. Capitol to the White House.
Elizabeth Miller, FASLA, director of physical planning at NCPC and project director of the initiative, said “the three concepts are really distinct themes that enable us to achieve the goals of transforming Pennsylvania Avenue into both a street for people and America’s stage, a venue for national and international events. These concepts are at at 10,000-foot level and explore how to achieve balance between a space that can be enjoyable on a day-to-day basis but also support events.”
The “Urban Capital” concept is a “complete street with spacious sidewalks, central travel and dedicated transit lanes, and a two-way cycle track on the south side of the street.” Of the three options, this is closest to what currently exists, but would enhance the public realm with an improved streetscape and offer a better cycling experience.
Much bolder, the “Linear Green” concept proposes a “curbless car-free urban linear park with a dedicated central transit way flanked by dedicated cycle tracks.” Given research shows that people are drawn to green space, this proposal could perhaps be the most successful in bringing more visitors to the avenue and keeping them there longer. This offers a Dutch-style woonerf avenue, a much safer and welcoming experience for both pedestrians and cyclists.
The third “Civic Stage” concept proposes a “central pedestrian promenade flanked by a dedicated cycle track and shared travel lanes for cars and transit.” Here, a 52-feet-wide central strip in the middle of the avenue would offer pedestrians the broadest views up and down the avenue, but would require them to also navigate two sets of transit, vehicle, and bike lanes on either side. While the central promenade could be used for events or farmers markets, blazing hot DC summers could reduce use of a shade-less walking median.
NCPC also offers concepts for three “urban rooms” that would better connect the avenue to surrounding parks, memorials, museums, and businesses, while providing space for more temporary events.
Prior to the pandemic, more than 160 events were held each year on the avenue, but NCPC argues there could be even more with higher-quality public spaces better supported by retail and amenities, like public restrooms. They argue these urban rooms can help boost the downtown economy of Washington, D.C.
Through the proposals, NCPC offers ways to blur the boundaries between avenue, plaza, and park, creating a more seamless pedestrian experience. The concepts offer multiple reconfigurations of new public space in the many triangles where the avenue meets city streets. All add usable public green space and improve walkability and circulation.
One point of contention has already arisen since the concepts were first released: Since the 1980s, a diverse mix of skateboarders have claimed the otherwise empty, shade-less Freedom Plaza across from Pershing Park. Though their use of the plaza is technically illegal, some argue they enliven an underused space. Many skateboarders travel from out of state to experience Pennsylvania Avenue, bringing a vitality to an otherwise unloved plaza. According to The Washington Post, “generations of skateboarders have traveled to the plaza to connect with other skaters, pull off tricks, and record videos to mark their spot in skateboard lore.”
To preserve Freedom Plaza as a skating mecca, the skateboarders have created an online petition that has received some 11,000 signatures to date. Ensuring space for them in the future on one of America’s most important avenues would send a true message of inclusion.
Miller explained that public comments will shape future concepts and designs, which will then be returned to the public for additional review. More developed ideas may arise from a mix of multiple concepts. While realizing the entire vision could take a decade, NCPC hopes to initiate near-term pilots and programs to test out ideas.