A Revitalized Storm King Art Center

View of the South Fields, all works by Mark di Suvero. From left to right: Pyramidian, 1987/1998. She, 1977-1978. Private Collection. Mon Père, Mon Père, 1973-75. Mother Peace, 1969-70. Except where noted, all works Gift of the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation. ©Mark di Suvero, courtesy the artist and Spacetime C.C., NY. Photo: Storm King Art Center ©2020

The Storm King Art Center, a 500-acre open-air sculpture park in Cornwall, New York, has engaged a team of landscape architects and architects as part of a $45 million revitalization effort. In the works are a new entry sequence, an art-fabrication space, and a renewed, more sustainable landscape.

Landscape architects at Gustafson Porter + Bowman and Reed Hilderbrand and architects with heneghan peng architects and WXY architecture + urban design won the international design competition for the project and began the design process in 2018.

In the past few years, Storm King said it has drawn more visitors, likely due its vast, Covid-safe landscape. While better accommodating growth, the center seeks to preserve the serenity of its Hudson River Valley home and create more opportunities for artists.

Mark di Suvero: Mother Peace, 1969-70. Gift of the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation. ©Mark di Suvero, courtesy the artist and Spacetime C.C., NY. Photo by Angela Pham / BFA.com

A new entry sequence will move parking lots out of the campus and into a consolidated area at a forested edge. The idea is visitors will no longer need to navigate around vehicles once they arrive at the center, and former parking lots can now be used as platforms for more outdoor sculptures.

Aerial view rendering of new welcome sequence at Storm King Art Center. Image © Storm King Art Center

Entry pavilions, which will be built to handle school buses and public transportation, will orient visitors and offer gathering spaces. The structures will be designed to blend into the landscape, which will be “carefully shaped and populated with native plants that intuitively guide visitors through an outdoor lobby and into the grounds,” Storm King writes.

Rendering of new welcome sequence at Storm King Art Center. Background right: Alexander Calder,The Arch, 1975. Purchase fund and gift of the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation © 2021 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image © Storm King Art Center

For conservation, fabrication, and maintenance, a new building will serve as a multi-use “workshop, studio, mechanical shop, storage space, and office” designed for greater creative collaboration. Art will be fabricated on-site, creating more opportunities for emerging artists. The new buildings will also be fully electric and run on renewable energy generated on-site.

Rendering of new Conservation, Fabrication, and Maintenance Building at Storm King Art Center. Roy Lichtenstein,Mermaid, 1994. Major funding provided by: Ford Motor Company Fund, Ralph E. Ogden Foundation, The Young America Foundation © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Image © Storm King Art Center

The land under the former parking lots will be returned to its natural state, as meadows in the north and south ends of the campus are extended.

Rendering of new South Meadow, reclaimed from a former parking lot, at Storm King Art Center. Image © Storm King Art Center

“By consolidating the car parks from the meadows to the woodland fringe, we minimize the impact of vehicles on the landscape and vistas. The restored ground will provide opportunities for the reintroduction of plant communities,” said landscape architect Neil Porter, founding partner of Gustafson Porter + Bowman, in a statement.

Storm King’s diverse landscape of hay fields, meadows, wetlands, and forests, originally designed by landscape architect William A. Rutherford, is “dominated by native species,” including 100 acres of meadows grasses. The landscape architecture team plans on adding 650 trees to increase biodiversity and provide more shade.

Wangechi Mutu, In Two Canoe, 2022. Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery. Photography by David Regen
Wangechi Mutu, Nyoka, 2022. Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery. Photography by David Regen

“We thought deeply about how to make the woods, wetlands, and overall biodiversity of the grounds a more inherent and exciting part of the experience, especially how it can support people’s encounters with the art,” said Beka Sturges, ASLA, principal at Reed Hilderbrand. “This includes planning for greater diversity of plant species — varying heights, textures, shapes, and groupings, which reward intimate viewings as well as long views.”

The surrounding community of Cornwall and Orange County, New York also expect to see benefits, as does New York state, which contributed $2.6 million to the project. Joshua Wojehowski, Cornwall Town Supervisor, said: “the project supports the town and region by providing more opportunities for residents, schoolchildren, and artists, and it protects wildlife and plant diversity as a land corridor between public parks.”

New Public Art Gives Soul to the 11th Street Bridge Park

11th Street Bridge Park / OMA+OLIN

In a few years, the 11th Street Bridge Park will span the Anacostia River, finally realizing the ambitious vision to bring both sides of Washington, D.C. together through art, landscape architecture, and a shared commitment to equitable development. As the project nears final design and the construction process is set to begin, four new works of public art were commissioned by a team of local residents, landscape architects, and public art curators. According to Scott Kratz, senior vice president, Building Bridges Across the River and director of 11th Street bridge park project, these art works “help embellish the park’s soul and ensure it will be reflective of the community.”

11th Street Bridge Park / OMA+OLIN

Through over a thousand public meetings about the bridge park, the team, which includes landscape architecture firm OLIN and architecture firm OMA, heard that residents want to see public art integrated into the project. “For us, public art is a key strategy for amplifying the voice of the community,” Kratz said.

The team that selected the artworks included a local high school student, an 82-year-old nearby resident, OLIN, OMA, Forecast Public Art, and D.C.-based artist Irfana Jetha Noorani.

OLIN and OMA were also engaged early in the process to ensure the public art works would be “deeply integrated” into the bridge. “We didn’t want to just do plop art,” Kratz said. The design team worked closely with the artists to site the works and will continue to partner with them on design, installation, and maintenance.

The bridge park team only accepted submissions from artists with D.C. area connections. Out of 60 entries, four women artists from the D.C. area were selected. Each artist received a stipend for their submissions and then will receive an additional $15,000 – $50,000 to create and install the work.

Baltimore artist Becky Borlan created Biophilia, a 10-foot wide disc comprised of “overlapping mirrored cut-outs” inspired by the “native and non-native plant life” that grows along the Anacostia River edge. “Despite hundreds of years of human intervention, this wild flora continues to populate the banks of the Anacostia,” Borlan said. “I am fascinated by its resilience and the multitude of forms that these plants embody.” The disc will be installed under the bridge, near the Anacostia side, and be lit at night.

Biophilia by Becky Borlan / courtesy of 11th Street Bridge Park
Biophilia by Becky Borlan / courtesy of 11th Street Bridge Park

Mickey Demas and Nicole Bourgea’s mural Our Land will be found at the Navy Yard entrance wall and will reflect the “heritage of those living on and caring for DC’s land,” featuring members of the “native Piscataway Tribe among a field of tobacco plants, which hold historical and spiritual significance for the Tribe, and Ward 8 farmer, JJ Boone, propagating a native Paw Paw tree.”

Bourgea explained that “Our Land is a recognition of the people who have cared and are still caring for the land where the Bridge Park will be constructed.” “It is also a welcome to all communities to enjoy and protect our precious natural resources,” Demas added.

Our Land by Mickey Demas and Nicole Bourgea / courtesy of 11th Street Bridge Park
Our Land by Mickey Demas and Nicole Bourgea / courtesy of 11th Street Bridge Park

At the peak of the span, OLIN and OMA designed a Hammock Grove, where visitors can enjoy views of the city and river.

11th Street Bridge Park / OMA+OLIN

There, the actual hammocks will be designed by D.C.-based artists Aliana Grace Bailey, Rhea Beckett, and Syreeta C. “Each hammock and its posts will boast a unique collage design honoring a theme, story, or place relevant to the city’s culture,” the bridge park team writes.

Hammock mock-up by Liz Faust / courtesy of 11th Street Bridge Park

Syreeta C explained that “current residents already understand the value here. They need not be effaced.” Bailey said: “Our goal is for DC natives to feel seen. While community engagement enriches our process, we want to ensure that priority is also felt through the end product long-term.” “Our approach would preserve and reflect the District’s vibrancy and Black culture as mass development efforts persist,” Beckett added.

Syreeta C / courtesy of 11th Street Bridge Park
Aliana Grace Bailey / Danielle Finney, courtesy of 11th Street Bridge Park
Rhea Beckett / courtesy of 11th Street Bridge Park

An additional Small Business Kiosk by The River East Design Center (REDC) will serve as a “multi-functional mobile unit” that supports the park’s comprehensive equitable development plan, which leverages the park development as a tool for local jobs creation, business development, and home ownership, and has resulted in more than $86 million in support to the surrounding community and $3.5 million in direct cash payments during the height of the pandemic.

A prototype of the mobile unit will be tested at the Anacostia River arts festival that the bridge park team organizes annually, Kratz explained. “The kiosk will help build a pipeline of Black entrepreneurs in the creative economy ready to engage when the park opens in early 2025,” the bridge park team notes.

Small Business Kiosk by The River East Design Center (REDC) / Anna McCorvey, courtesy of 11th Street Bridge Park
Small Business Kiosk by The River East Design Center (REDC) / Anna McCorvey, courtesy of 11th Street Bridge Park

Earlier this year, the bridge park team announced a $400,000 commission — Anacostia’s Sunrise/Sunset Portals — by D.C.-based artists Martha Jackson Jarvis and Njena Surae Jarvis of Jackson Jarvis Studio, which will be sited near the Anacostia bridge landing. “The notion of energy and rhythm of a capillary wave as it moves across the river brings light, color, and reflection into the landscape and into the Anacostia community,” said Martha Jackson Jarvis.

Anacostia’s Sunrise/Sunset Portals / Jackson Jarvis Studio, OLIN, OMA

Future exhibition spaces are already being planned for the bridge cafe along with performances in the amphitheater, which is located on the landing on the Anacostia side of the bridge. Learn more about the near-final designs of the bridge park.

The Beauty of Nature’s Functional Designs

Wild Design: Nature’s Architects / Princeton Architectural Press

The new book Wild Design: Nature’s Architects by science writer and essayist Kimberly Ridley is a slim, charming look at some of the most interesting results of billions of years of evolution — the beautiful and always highly functional forms of plants, fungi, insects, spiders, avians, and mammals. Through more than 70 well-curated antique illustrations, along with thoughtful and concise essays, Ridley tells stories of the wondrous diversity of natural forms.

As Janine Benyus, founder of Biomimicry 3.8 and the Biomimicry Institute, explained in an ASLA interview, “life has been on the planet for 3.8 billion years, and, in that time, it has learned what works and what lasts here on Earth. That’s a long line of good ideas and unprecedented longevity. What doesn’t work is recalled (made extinct) and what does work is optimized with each generation. Natural selection prizes those things that work best in place as well as those that create conditions conducive to life.”

These kind of ideas clearly inspire Ridley, who urges the reader to “notice nature’s creative genius.” She worries that “staring at our phone and computer screens, we isolate ourselves from the wild world, cutting ourselves off from a powerful source of inspiration, delight, and wonder.”

But beyond the power of nature to improve our spirit and sense of well-being, we must also pay closer attention to nature for even more important reasons. With the world becoming more fixated on technology, and development diminishing more wild places, the inspirations provided by nature can sometime feel less immediate and resonant. This not only impacts our well-being and ability to be optimistic, but also our ability to be passionate stewards and grow the next generations of Earth protectors.

As we face worsening biodiversity and climate crises, both a result of a fundamental disconnect with nature, Ridley argues we must take a “deeper look at the wild inventiveness all around us” because “it may be key to our survival.”

On the positive side: the specific needs of trees, plants, insects, birds, and animals have shaped the design of gardens and landscapes for thousands of years and inspired countless paths, features, and spaces. Landscape architects and designers have been leveraging and mimicking nature’s designs before there were even terms like biomimicry and biophilic and ecological design.

And in the past few decades, with the growth of the biophilic and ecological design movements, there has perhaps been an even more intentional effort to maximize the benefits of nature and create cities, landscapes, and buildings that function more like ingenious living systems.

Wild Design will encourage any designer who looks to nature for ideas and systems thinking and cares about the continuation of natural systems and, in turn, humanity.

Ridley examines the microscopic wonders created by diatoms, minute algae, and radiolarians, marine zooplankton. She explains that these tiny life forms “use their cell membranes as molds to create mesh frames of hardened silica–structures that are remarkably durable.” It easy to see these forms inspiring new kinds of efficient protective materials.

Ernst Haeckel, Kunstformen der Natur, 1904. Gotha: Bibliographisches Institut

In a section on “fabulous fungi,” Ridley explains that fungi are in a separate kingdom from plants, with more than 200,000 known species and an estimated 5 million more that scientists have yet to catalog. They provide two critical functions: they act as “demolition crews,” breaking down dead plant material, which is vital to the health of any forest; and also form networks — a prime example being mycorrhizal fungi, which help trees and plants absorb nutrients and water and communicate risks. This latter kind of fungi forms the basis of a subterranean “world wood web” scientists have only recently begun to understand. Ridley argues that “terrestrial life wouldn’t exist if not for these bizarre and ancient beings.” Landscape architects can design with fungi to improve soil and ecological health and better sequester carbon. We can also learn from fungi how to design resilient, adaptable networks and systems.

A Morel mushroom / Berthold Seemann, Journal of Botany, 1863. London: R. Hardwicke

“Plants are the design wizards of the natural world,” Ridley writes. Seemingly like magic, they use sunlight to transform carbon dioxide and water into sugars they live on while generating the oxygen the rest of us rely on. Scientists have organized the approximately 400,000 species of plants into four groups: mosses and liverworts, ferns, coniferns, and flowering plants. As Ridley describes, trees have inspired everything from Greek and Roman columns to the vaulted ceilings of medieval churches. Throughout history, landscape architects and architects have been drawn to designing with trees and plants and incorporating woods, one of the most sustainable, carbon-sequestering materials.

Types of trees / Oscar Réveil, Le Règne vegetal, 1870. Paris: L. Guérin
Conifer trees / William Curtis, Curtis’s Botanical magazine, 1790. London: T. Curtis
Sunflowers and daisy family plants / Oscar Réveil, Le Règne vegetal, 1870. Paris: L. Guérin

In a section on arthropod engineers — spiders and insects — Ridley argues that “despite their miniscule brains,” these beings have “solved some of the most complicated problems in architecture and engineering” — and offer a model of efficient and sustainable uses of resources. As Darwin noted, a honeycomb created by bees is “absolutely perfect in economizing wax and labor.” And centuries before, in 36 BC, Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro proposed what came to be known as “honeycomb conjecture,” arguing that “dividing a flat plane into equal hexagons is the most efficient way to pack the most surface area into the smallest perimeter.” Exploring the amazing structures designed by bees, along with spiders, termites, and ants, we can learn from some of the original master designers how to build resilient, pre-programmed structures using natural materials.

Honeycomb / Henri de Saussure, Études sur la famille des vespides, 1852. Paris: V. Masson
The web of the labyrinth spider / Henry C. McCook, American Spiders and Their Spinning Work, 1889. Philadelphia: Academy of Natural Science of Philadelphia

Additional chapters explore the varied and surprising nests birds design, and the elaborate tunnels and dens formed by prairie dogs and beavers. Birds can inspire all designers practicing in our era of increasingly limited resources: they constantly re-use what they find, crafting only what they need. For example, an adaptive Carolina wren will either create a dome-like nest in open cavities 3-6 feet off the ground or simply design a nest out of abandoned “clothespin bags, plant pots, boots, bags, and even the pocket of a jacket left outside.”

Nest of a Carolina wren / Howard Jones, Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio, 1886. Circleville.

Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (December 16-31)

Elyn Zimmerman’s new design for “Marabar” at American University / Elyn Zimmerman Studio

A Million-Pound Artwork, Once Threatened, Finds a New Home — 12/28/21, The New York Times
“‘It’s a piece that’s part of the history of landscape architecture,’ said Jack Rasmussen, the director of the American University Museum, who will now be charged with safeguarding ‘Marabar.’ ‘A woman sculptor in the 1970s and 1980s who was doing this? It’s ground breaking.'”

Why Cycle Lanes Aren’t Responsible for Urban Congestion — 12/28/21, Streetsblog
“It’s important to note that creating cycles lanes reduces the space available for cars but does not necessarily get people out of cars. Copenhagen is a city famous for cycling, with 28 percent of journeys made by bike. Yet car traffic is only slightly less than in London.”

10 Ways Cities Came Back in 2021 — 12/27/21, Bloomberg CityLab
“Even as Covid-19 continues to disrupt urban life around the world, some cities this year still made transformative — and in some cases unprecedented — changes toward improving residents’ health, safety and overall livability.”

The West’s Race to Secure Water — 12/21/21, Bloomberg CityLab
“How four cities are trying to survive future droughts, from expanding reservoirs and tapping neighboring watersheds to pushing conservation efforts.”

The Pandemic Kicked Cars Off Some Streets. 2022 Could Be the Year They’re Banned Permanently — 12/20/21, Fast Company Design
“The planters are part of a new and permanent effort in the Meatpacking District to give streets more than the single purpose of moving cars. Installed in June, the planters both close and open the street, blocking vehicular traffic and clearing the space for pedestrians to take over.”

How Equity Isn’t Built into the Infrastructure Bill — and Ways to Fix It — 12/17/21, Brookings Institution
“Ultimately, $1.2 trillion is nothing to sneeze at, and new public investment is welcome after years of disinvestment and neglect. But if we want to ensure prosperity for all in the future, the [Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act] is only a down payment on the debt that is owed to communities who have been denied resources.”

Best Books of 2021

250 Things a Landscape Architect Should Know / Birkhäuser

During another turbulent year, books remain a respite, enabling us to recharge and regroup in our efforts to tackle some of the most pressing problems. Over the holidays, now is a great time to delve into new books that offer fresh perspectives and help us reimagine what is possible. Whether you are looking for the perfect gift for your favorite designer or something to read yourself, explore THE DIRT’s 11 best books of 2021:

250 Things a Landscape Architect Should Know
Birkhäuser, 2021

Landscape architect B. Cannon Ivers, the London-based director of LDA Design, was inspired by architecture critic and educator Michael Sorkin, who authored 250 Things an Architect Should Know and passed away from COVID-19 in 2020. Ivers brings together 50 leading landscape architects, designers, and educators from around the world, including Anita Berrizbeita, Charles Birnbaum, FASLA, James Corner, ASLA, Gina Ford, FASLA, Kongjian Yu, FASLA, and Sara Zewde, who each offer five brief musings, exhortations, poems, or reminders, accompanied by an image. Of the 250 things included: “Know when to throw confetti,” by Martí Franch; “Bitches get stuff done,” by Kate Orff, FASLA; and “Waterscape urbanism as the way forward” by Kotchakorn Voraakhom, International ASLA.

A Blueprint for Coastal Adaptation: Uniting Design, Economics, and Policy / Island Press

A Blueprint for Coastal Adaptation: Uniting Design, Economics, and Policy
Island Press, 2021

“Everyone should read this book [by Carolyn Kousky, Billy Fleming, ASLA, and Alan M. Berger] to see how the field of landscape architecture might help cities adapt to a changing climate, particularly with new federally-funded infrastructure investments. Each chapter of this book reaches beyond the conventional limits of our professional knowledge, by degrees or by leaps,” writes Kristina Hill, Affil. ASLA, associate professor of landscape architecture, environmental planning, and urban design at the University of California at Berkeley in her review. “The most important bar this anthology has set for other books about adaptation is to place questions about funding and policy side-by-side with design proposals. For setting that bar higher, we should all thank the editors.” Read the full review.

Dynamic Geographies / Barbara Wilks, ORO Editions

Dynamic Geographies
ORO Editions, 2021

Barbara Wilks, FASLA, founding principal of W Architecture & Landscape Architecture, shares her firm’s work in this new monograph filled with inviting images. In her review, Grace Mitchell Tada, Assoc. ASLA, writes: “As our climate shifts in increasingly surprising ways, the landscape architect’s challenge is to predict how and at what rate our world will change and to create designs that will adapt accordingly. Perhaps, like Wilks argues, allowing for nature’s agency is the key to effective adaptation.” Read the full review.

Ecoregional Green Roofs: Theory and Application in the Western USA and Canada / Springer

Ecoregional Green Roofs: Theory and Application in the Western USA and Canada
Springer, 2021

This comprehensive, 635-page how-to guide by Bruce Dvorak, ASLA, associate professor of landscape architecture and urban planning at Texas A&M University, and a slew of contributors — the rare book that wins an ASLA Professional Research Honor Award — is for any landscape architect or designer serious about integrating biodiversity into their green roof projects. In the forward, landscape architect David Yocca, FASLA, chair of the Green Infrastructure Foundation, says the book makes the case for “greater exploration, trials, and research for ecological surfaces in the face of a rapidly changing climate and substantial investment in the renewal of our cities over the next 50 years and beyond. It is also a satisfying read that ties together often disparate concepts, uniting ecology, technology, and long-term maintenance and stewardship. The [book] makes very real some of the bold visions of future green neighborhoods, villages, and cities…”

København: Urban Architecture and Public Spaces / © Edition DETAIL, Munich

København: Urban Architecture and Public Spaces
DETAIL, 2021

“København (Copenhagen), the capital of Denmark, is at the forefront of many landscape architects and planners’ minds for both its groundbreaking moves towards sustainability and cutting-edge public spaces, bicycle culture, architecture, and food scenes.” In his review, John Bela, ASLA, said “the many innovative ideas and projects described in this book, and the exploration of some of the values and motivations that drive the work, are what make København a valuable resource for landscape architects and planners in the U.S. or anywhere in the world.” Read the full review.

Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America / MoMA

Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America
Museum of Modern Art, 2021

Sean Anderson, associate professor at Cornell University, and Mabel O. Wilson, professor at Columbia University and winner of this year’s Vincent Scully Prize from the National Building Museum, are co-curators of a ground-breaking exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City that issued a “creative challenge” in the form of case studies in ten American cities, which aim to “re-conceive and reconstruct our built environment rather than continue giving shape to buildings, infrastructure, and urban plans that have, for generations, embodied and sustained anti-Black racism.” Walter Hood, ASLA, contributed his multimedia art work Black Towers / Black Power, imagining a set of ten 30-story skyscrapers in Oakland, California for non-profit organizations.

Resilient City: Landscape Architecture for Climate Change / Birkhäuser

Resilient City: Landscape Architecture for Climate Change
Birkhäuser, 2021

Thankfully, Birkhäuser has translated this new book by Elke Mertens, a professor of landscape sciences and geomatics at the Neubrandenburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany, into English. A dive into 11 in-depth case studies of cities across North and South America, this well-researched book makes the case for landscape architecture as the new infrastructure cities need to adapt to climate change. Mertens gets to the heart of the transformation that needs to happen: “Making cities more resilient means equipping them so that extreme climatic and weather events do not have a lasting impact on the inhabitants and infrastructure of a city, but that urban functions can be resumed, or at least rapidly restored, without permanent impairment.”

Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World Atria / One Signal Publishers

Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World
Atria / One Signal Publishers, 2021

Katharine Hayhoe, chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy, and an evangelical Christian living in a conservative part of Texas, outlines how to have meaningful, impactful conversations about climate change with people of different politics, beliefs, and backgrounds. Like a true scientist, she assembles evidence about what approaches work in communicating climate change, and also relays her own successes and failures. She calls for avoiding shaming people into changing their views: “When others attempt to impose their value system on us, we understand, fundamentally, that it is about making themselves feel better at our expense.” Hayhoe also says to avoid spending time trying to persuade the 7 percent of the U.S. population who can be characterized as angry climate “dismissives.”

Schools That Heal: Design with Mental Health in Mind / Island Press

Schools That Heal: Design with Mental Health in Mind
Island Press, 2021

As school communities continue to grapple with gun violence, racism, drugs, and COVID-19, which all undermine a sense of safety and in turn inhibit growth and development, Claire Latané, ASLA, assistant professor of landscape architecture at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and former Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) Fellow for Leadership and Innovation, has written a timely, critically important volume on how to incorporate nature-based solutions to improve mental, social, and physical health on school campuses. Latané methodically builds her argument for designing healthy, green learning environments for young people, with spot-on case studies and research. This book should be read by every educational policymaker, school superintendent, and PTA group — and every landscape architect who wants to help them.

Serious Fun: The Landscapes of Claude Cormier / ORO Editions

Serious Fun: The Landscapes of Claude Cormier
ORO Editions, 2021

Marc Trieb and Susan Herrington have managed to do justice to Canadian landscape architect Claude Cormier’s bold, often humorous landscapes, which they argue are far from frivolous, but instead rooted in serious technical and ecological considerations. Landscape and public art projects designed by Cormier and his team offer a rich exploration of “kitsch and camp, gender, technical and biological expertise, and political, environmental, aesthetic, and humanistic aspects.” Immersive photography of the playful Sugar Beach and Berczy Park, with its pop-art dog sculpture fountain, in Toronto, and 18 Shades of Gay, a celebration of Montréal’s gayborhood, are complemented by those of his deeply ecological design at Evergreen Brick Works.

Social Urbanism: Reframing Spatial Design – Discourses from Latin America / Applied Research + Design, ORO Editions

Social Urbanism: Reframing Spatial Design – Discourses from Latin America
Applied Research + Design, ORO Editions, 2021

Gabriel Díaz Montemayor, ASLA, said this book by Maria Bellalta, ASLA, dean of the School of Landscape Architecture at the Boston Architectural College, is “a welcome addition to the growing number of publications on the social justice-oriented form of urbanism, architecture, and public space emanating from Medellín and Colombia. The fact that the book avoids a design focus is refreshing. Social Urbanism instead targets the social and political processes that enabled these projects to exist.” Read the full review.

Buying these books through THE DIRT or ASLA’s online bookstore benefits ASLA educational programs.

Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (November 16-30)

“Borrowed Scenery” at the Japanese Friendship Garden by Kristi Lin / Beto Soto, KPBS.org

Meet Artist Kristi Lin: Bringing a Natural Balance — 11/29/21, The San Diego Union-Tribune
“Like many local artists, Lin grew up knowing she had artistic inclinations, but was worried about the financial impracticalities that come with being a working artist. In the field of landscape architecture, she says she found that balance; a profession that allows her to be creative and inspired while also paying the bills.”

How to Design a City for Sloths — 11/29/21, Bloomberg CityLab
“As pedestrians, sloths do not walk as much as ooze, inching forward commando-style with their bellies to the ground, as if trying to dodge a museum’s laser-security system. From a distance, the 10 long minutes it takes an average sloth to walk across the street might look more like the end of a yoga class.”

Car-Free Transportation Gets Boost from U.S. Grant Program — 11/29/21, Bloomberg CityLab
“A program that primarily funded highways during the Trump administration has pivoted away from roads in its new disbursement, marking a potential shift in infrastructure spending.”

Africa’s Rising Cities — 11/19/21, The Washington Post
“Several recent studies project that by the end of this century, Africa will be the only continent experiencing population growth. Thirteen of the world’s 20 biggest urban areas will be in Africa — up from just two today — as will more than a third of the world’s population.”

Minneapolis’ Newest Park Is Like a Front Porch on the Mississippi River — 11/17/21, The Architect’s Newspaper
“Damon Farber Landscape Architects led the design team with HGA designing the pavilion, MacDonald and Mack as historic consultants, and the 106 Group as archaeologists. The Healing Place Collaborative brought in Dakota artists and language experts to design covers for the fire pits and interpret the rainwater collection and use of Native plants.”

Canada’s LGBTQ2+ National Monument Is Moving Ahead, and Here Are the Shortlisted Proposals — 11/16/21, The Architect’s Newspaper
“The monument, which is meant to ‘educate, memorialize, celebrate, and inspire,’ will not only acknowledge the ‘enduring injury and injustice’ faced by Canada’s LGBTQ2+ communities, it will also set out to confront ‘the abuse perpetrated by the Canadian state,’ chief among these abuses being the LGBT Purge.”

This Stunning High-Rise Would Absorb More Carbon Dioxide Than It Produces
— 11/15/21, Fast Company Design
“Wrapping the buildings are algae-filled facades that produce biofuels that can power the building. Inside, structural components made of biological materials and insulation made from hemp sequester carbon throughout the building’s lifetime. Built-in direct air capture systems pull CO2 out of the air and either store it or make it available for industrial use.”

Breathe: Imagining a New Relationship with the Atmosphere

Breathe: Investigations into Our Atmospherically Entangled Future, edited by Klaus K. Loenhart, Birkhäuser

By Grace Mitchell Tada, Assoc. ASLA

According to Klaus K. Loenhart, editor of Breathe: Investigations into Our Atmospherically Entangled Future, most of us have forgotten about air.

In the middle of a global pandemic, fault of a respiratory virus circulating through the air; amid the recent global surge of record-setting wildfires that have sullied air near to them and far; given the blankets of smog that smother places like Delhi, Riyadh, and Beijing, that claim of forgetting air seems unlikely.

Yet, assert many authors in Breathe, we’ve forgotten our one-ness with the air—how all of us are, effectively, “being-in-the-air.” It’s a forgetting inherent in Western metaphysics, from the Enlightenment to Heidegger to the Anthropocene, an outgrowth of the lineage that holds humans as separate from nature. But it is impossible to isolate ourselves from air, Loenhart argues. Simply breathing “means immersing ourselves in a reality that flows through humans just as much as the air and atmosphere of the planet.”

Loenhart invites us to remember both our place literally in air and the agency of it. In twelve essays, contributing authors reflect upon our relationship with the atmosphere: how it can be reformed to match this moment of climatic change, how to coalesce social and cultural understandings of atmosphere with the scientific, how to live more collaboratively within the planet. The overarching gesture of the volume invokes humankind to reframe how we live on earth by creating new interrelationships with “our planetary whole.” And that is where design comes in.

Throughout the volume’s three sections, authors use the words “air,” “atmosphere,” and sometimes “climate” in one sense interchangeably, but also with intention. For instance, literature scholar Eva Horn employs air because of its “rich ontological, social, cultural, and anthropological and aesthetic implications” that the word atmosphere doesn’t include. The variance of vocabulary supports the book’s claim of the ubiquity of air throughout our lives, from the scientific to the spiritual to the aesthetic.

Essays in the book’s first section underline humankind’s intertwining with our atmosphere, and the significance of that relationship. “Through our breath,” writes culture and media scholar Heather Davis, “we become the universe, we begin to understand our connections to the universe.” Yet as much as it unites, Davis reminds us too that the atmosphere reflects “the differential condition under which our lives are prolonged or foreshortened, depending on whether our bodies are valued or not.” Environmental racism or the murders of Eric Garner and George Floyd are a few tragic testaments of that reality.

Horn also emphasizes our relationship with air as based in cultural and social fact. Limiting our understanding of air to scientific knowledge—like atmospheric or climate science—restricts our human experience. She advocates embracing “historically outdated, indigenous, tacit, or imaginative and fictional forms” of knowledge. Doing so can facilitate our understanding of existing in air, “going beyond the divide between organism and environment towards a consciousness of our exchanges with it—the ways we breathe it, feel it on our skins, sweat and shiver, notice the smells and changes of the seasons.”

In the second group of essays, authors write about atmospheric and climatic forces in society. Urban researcher Jean-Paul Thibaud recognizes air as manifesting in four different ways: weather; “sub-nature,” like unpleasant urban byproducts including smoke, smog, or industrial debris; “commodity,” manifesting in aestheticized urban spaces like artificial climate; and ambience.

Some of these manifestations are, according to philosopher Gernot Böhme, examples of design: constructed spatial atmospheres. To illustrate his point, he cites C. C. L. Hirschfeld’s nineteenth-century tome, Theory of Garden Art, which explains how to produce landscapes that “attune” visitors to respond in a certain way or that can appropriately match their mood. Böhme writes that employing landscape architecture in this fashion demonstrates Hirschfeld’s astute understanding of the “phenomenological experiences of nature,” and how they impart a “specific spatial atmosphere.”

This power to make atmospheres, says Böhme, is critical: “it touches human sensibilities, it affects the temper, it manipulates the mood, it evokes emotions.” It’s so important, in fact, that he argues humans have not only a “basic aesthetic need to live in an environment where I feel well but also a basic need…to atmospherically co-determine my surroundings through my presence and be substantially entangled with them.”

In the volume’s final section, Loenhart brings together authors, many of whom are designers, envisioning a world expressing a new relationship with air. It is the design disciplines, writes Leonhart, that must articulate “a drawing together of all existence in the atmosphere.”

One way to do this starts with plants, “the life-giving entanglement of the lithosphere and the atmosphere,” in Loenhart’s words. Landscape architect Rosetta Sarah Elkin advocates increased attention to plant life, asserting that looking to plants and their relationships with other life forms, can exemplify “the potential of working together.” This awareness could, in turn, amend our relationship with plants to be more inclusive, less utilitarian, more communal—not “exempting” our human selves from nature. Elkin, too, advocates uniting science and common knowledge and practices—enabling reciprocal, collective ways to interpret and describe plant life.

This section is likely to be of most interest to readers eager to envision what exactly. the “new imaginary” Loenhart talks of could look like. Within this collection of cerebral essays, a reader may wish for more models of this atmosphere-based world, but the breathe! pavilion offers a vivid example of how we could design for it. The project appeared at the EXPO 2015 in Milan, and Loenhart himself took part in creating it. The 560-square-meter planted forest amplified the inherent cooling effect of trees and plants and highlighted the “biometeorological entanglements” between light, humidity, sound, wind, temperature, and odor. The resultant atmospheric landscape transported visitors into a calm space, cognitively removed from the hectic EXPO. Fittingly atmospheric, evocative photographs of the pavilion illustrate the book.

Visualization of the breathe! pavilion / Image courtesy of Breathe Austria
Floor plans of the breathe! pavilion / Image courtesy of Breathe Austria
Section drawings of the breathe! pavilion / Breathe Austria

Loenhart explains the pavilion invited visitors to see themselves as connected to the “planetary interior,” a vantage from which “the bodily-sensory experience of synergy in the atmospheric naturally activates deeper meanings of our being-in-the-world.”

And it’s from here, Loenhart imagines, that we can rethink how we are living in the world, conceiving of new, collaborate relationships with the planetary whole. Given our current reality, we will only be increasingly in need of new habits, negotiations, and systems that allow us to continue living within our world. For anyone striving to design for our changing planet, especially those dissatisfied with the status quo and in search new inspirations and considerations, this book could be a welcome prompt.

Grace Mitchell Tada, Associate ASLA, is with Hood Design Studio and PGAdesign and co-editor of the book Black Landscapes Matter.

Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (October 1-15)

Landscape Architect Whose Designs Reclaim Toxic Sites Wins International Prize — 10/14/21, The Washington Post
“Landscape architect Julie Bargmann, who for 30 years has transformed postindustrial and sometimes toxic sites into inviting spaces, is the winner of the first Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize, a biennial award of $100,000 given by the Cultural Landscape Foundation.”

A Landscape Architect Who Loves Ruins and Hates Ruin Porn — 10/14/21, Curbed
“Bargmann, who has just been awarded the first $100,000 Cornelia Hahn Oberlander prize in landscape architecture, never lost her taste for such wounded and poisonous places, even after they’ve stopped being productive.”

The Modernist French Garden: Design by the Vera Brothers Highlights the Legacy of André and Paul Vera — 10/11/21, The Architect’s Newspaper
“Although restrained, The Modernist French Garden: Designs by the Vera Brothers presents an informative, yet concise, survey of the brothers’ drawings produced for their 1912 landscape design treatise, Le Nouveau Jardin.”

Could Low-Carbon Trains Cure Europe’s Flying Addiction? — 10/11/21, Next City
“In April, the French government voted to ban short-haul domestic flights where alternatives by train exist. Research by French consumer group UFC-Que Choisir had found that planes emit 77 times more CO2 per passenger than trains on journeys lasting under four hours.”

Biden Restores Beloved National Monuments, Reversing Trump Cuts — 10/08/21, The Guardian
“Biden signed three proclamations that increased the boundaries of Bears Ears to 1.36m acres, while restoring the Grand Staircase-Escalante to 1.87m acres – both spanning large swaths of southern Utah. He also reinstated protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine, about 130 miles off the coast of New England, and extended limits on commercial fishing.”

Trams, Cable Cars, Electric Ferries: How Cities Are Rethinking Transit — 10/03/21, The New York Times
“Today, a quiet transformation is underway. Berlin, Bogotá and several other cities are taking creative steps to cut gas and diesel from their public transit systems. They are doing so despite striking differences in geography, politics and economics that complicate the transformation.”

Maya Lin’s Ghost Forest, a Memorial to Climate Change

Ghost Forest by Maya Lin / Andy Romer

In Manhattan, across the street from the Flatiron building in Madison Square Park, public artist, landscape designer, and architect Maya Lin has created the stark and beautiful memorial Ghost Forest, a set of 49 cut Atlantic white cedar trees that will slowly turn grayer over the course of six months. According to the Madison Square Park Conservancy, which commissioned the project, it represents “a memory of germination, vegetation, and abundance, and a harsh symbol of the devastation of climate change.” The trees, set in a grove within the lawn of the park, are approximately 40 feet tall and were selected to “overwhelm the human scale” and provide a bracing symbol of what the future may hold.

Ghost Forest by Maya Lin / Andy Romer
Ghost Forest by Maya Lin / Andy Romer

Ghost forests are dead woodland, remnants of past vibrant ecosystems, and are sadly becoming more common. They are found where salt water has intruded into coastal ecosystems, where hurricanes and storms have stripped trees bare, where wildfires have left charred trunks. According to Lin and the conservancy, Atlantic white cedar forests on the East Coast are “endangered by past logging practices and threats from climate change.” The trees used in this public art installation were already slated to be cut from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, cleared as part of broader ecological restoration efforts. Lin explains that it’s an “extremely vulnerable site of the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecosystem that encompasses more than one million acres.”

Accompanying the visual experience of Ghost Forest is a soundscape Lin created that uses snippets of sound gathered from the Macaulay Library sound archive at the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology. She highlights the sounds of native animals once found in Manhattan. (See link on lower left side of this page).

Ghost Forest by Maya Lin / Andy Romer

While raising awareness of climate change’s great toll on ecosystems through the bleached-out trunks, the Conservancy will also also host a series of public programs focused on positive nature-based solutions that can help reduce emissions, help communities adapt, restore ecosystems, and support biodiversity. To create a sense of hope as well, 1,000 trees and shrubs will be planted in five public parks in New York City. The Conservancy states that over ten years, the trees will also store 60.5 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, more than ten times the amount produced by shipping and assembling the art work. The installation will become carbon positive over time.

Lin became famous for winning the commission to create the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. at the age of 21. In recent years, Lin’s interactive art works have deeply engaged with environmental and climate issues. In 2014, she created the powerful web-based piece, What Is Missing?, a virtual memorial designed to raise awareness about the biodiversity crisis — a site worth exploring in detail.

What Is Missing? / Maya Lin

And in Unchopping a Tree, a video memorial to the world’s forests, with music by Brian Eno and Brian Loucks, Lin highlights how quickly glorious parks around the world would be cut down if they experienced the same rate of deforestation as Amazonian rainforests. At 90 acres per minute, Central Park would be gone in just 9 minutes.

Lin told Artforum that “one could argue that none of my memorials have been monuments. Rather, they have been anti-monuments—even the Vietnam memorial. I like to reinvent things.”

Ghost Forest will be free and accessible to the public in Madison Square Park until November 14, 2021.

Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (August 16-31)

Reading Forest in South Lake Tahoe, California by Todd Gilen / Todd Gilen

A Landscape Architect’s Outdoor ArtworkHarvard Magazine
“Decades later, that synthesis was part of what propelled him toward a master’s degree in landscape architecture, after 20 years as a curator, graphic-design artist, set designer, and furniture designer. ‘I got to a point in my work as an artist where I felt like I needed some traction in a way that I wasn’t quite finding in the arts,’ [Todd Gilen] says. ‘Landscape architecture has a kind of scientific rigor about it. It’s a discipline that has a basis in both science and the arts.'”

So Long, Traditional Lawn. The New Turf Trends—From Wildflowers to Fescue — 08/27/21, The Wall Street Journal
“‘I have an enormous moss garden just naturally because I don’t do anything to it,’ said Sandra Youssef Clinton, a landscape architect in Hyattsville, Md. Sixteen large oak trees provide constant shade, she said. Though fans of classic turf tell her, ‘Oh, you should get rid of that, it looks so terrible,’ Ms. Clinton finds it quite beautiful. Said Mr. Moore, ‘Even the word ‘moss’ conjures elves and fairies and deep forest.'”

Good News: The Most Popular Material on Earth Is Great for Storing CO2 — 08/27/20, Fast Company
“Our Earth is heating up because of all the carbon dioxide in the air. But even if we can suck that much CO2 out of the atmosphere, there’s still a problem: What do we do with all of it once it’s recaptured? The short answer is, put it into products. The longer answer is, put it into the right products. Specifically, concrete.”

Study Suggests Bike Lanes Do Not Lead to Displacement, Gentrification — 08/27/21, Bike Portland
“The installation of new bike infrastructure in neighborhoods does not lead to displacement of people of color, and low-income areas received more “hard” facilities like buffered or protected bike lanes than high income areas, according to a new study published in July by Elsevier.”

After Years of Failure, California Lawmakers Pave the Way for More Housing — 08/26/21, The New York Times
“Suddenly zoning reform has been thrust to the top of the urban agenda. Cities including Charlotte, N.C.; Minneapolis; Portland, Ore.; and Sacramento have moved to allow multifamily buildings on lots previously limited to single-family houses. The issue is now starting to attract higher-level attention: In the past two years 10 states, including Connecticut, New Hampshire, Montana and North Carolina, have considered bills to reform local zoning rules.”

In Fire Scorched California, Town Aims to Buy the Highest At-Risk Properties — 08/23/21, NPR
“The idea is to connect the burnt out lots to the town’s existing park land. That’s good for adding more recreation but it could also work as a fuel break. Efseaff’s department could strictly manage forests like this with the hopes that the next wildfire might slow down here and give firefighters a chance.”

In a Warming World, Consider the Mist Garden — 08/19/21, Bloomberg CityLab
“Designed by landscape architects Quennell Rothschild & Partners, the new mist garden features 504 evenly spaced fog nozzles atop a new plaza that fills in the 310-foot pool end to end, even keeping the original 1964 stone coping. The new plaza’s edges are paved in a pattern of overlapping triangles, a nod to the Art Deco architecture of the park’s first World’s Fair in 1939, as well as Manhattan landmarks like the Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center. Concrete lounges make it possible to simulate a spa day in the middle of Queens’ largest park.”

How a Pioneering Garden Designer Inspired Vogue’s Fall Fashion Fantasy — 08/17/21, Vogue
“‘Should it not be remembered that in setting a garden we are painting a picture?’ So asked Beatrix Farrand in her 1907 Scribner’s essay ‘The Garden as Picture.’ A pioneering American landscape architect whose career spanned the Gilded Age, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and two world wars, Farrand wrote, ‘The two arts of painting and garden design are closely related, except that the landscape gardener paints with actual color, line, and perspective…while the painter has but a flat surface on which to create his illusion.'”